Will Baude passes along a quotation from a book he’s skimming:

Under the old scholarly method was constantly under correction; one’s mental knuckles, so to speak, smarted continuously. Today, by contrast, I suspect that the typical experience of a student in an English university is of a sort of matey neutrality: “Yes, that’s very interesting,” says the tutor: a dreadful word, that “interesting.” Iago would have used it, if it had been available in Shakespeare’s time. One of the advantages of being told when you are wrong is that you gradually build up a sense of what it might mean to be right. — A.D. Nuttall, Dead From The Waist Down

I’m particularly amused by this because of the commentary on the word “interesting” rather than the actual meaning of the excerpt (although I tend to agree with that sentiment as well).

“Interesting” is a word that often comprises the entirety of the commentary on blog posts:

So-and-so says such and such. Interesting.

It’s a frequent device here on OTB as well, useful for when the quotation speaks for itself, of course, but also when I really don’t have a lot to add or know what to write about it. I don’t necessarily intend to stop this practice, merely to note it.

Update (2132): As to the issue of pedagogy, I would note that I seldom used the “interesting” device in my professorial days. Both my then-colleague Steven Taylor and I used what became a catch-phrase, “not so much,” to signal to students that their response to the question, while certainly appreciated, could use some polishing.

James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. John Lemon says:

    Yes, I believe that it is illegal nowadays to correct a student. Interesting.

  2. bryan says:

    Yes, and I really dislike it when a professor writes “good” on a paper, or “nice” at different places. WTF? Tell me *what’s* good or nice. I’ve done it myself before, and it’s just a way to say: “this isn’t chopped liver, but it’s not up to snuff. Since I don’t have the time or the inclination to really point out what’s wrong with it, you get ‘nice’.”

  3. John Lemon says:


    Nice comment. Good.

  4. Dr. Lemon,

    Not so much the giving-up-blogging.

    –LMA (who should by now be getting points for persistence, if nothing else)

  5. PoliBlog says:

    Grading Comentary and Such
    James Joyner notes some things that sometimes get said to students when professors grade essay. One of my favorites, and apparently one that gets the students’ attention is when I simply write “No” in the margin, or, occassionally: “No!”. One…

    Both James Joyner and Steven Taylor is talking about things professors write in the margins of papers: Joyner:As to the issue of pedagogy, I would note that I seldom used the “interesting” device in my professorial days. Both my then-colleague…