Grammar Nazi

Integrative Studio Week 1


Our very first Integrative Studio class felt a lot more like a grammar class than a usual Studio class! We were divided into groups of five or six. We started off by being given the following six words:

  • Serendipity
  • Phenomenon
  • Obnoxious
  • Coherence
  • Incorrigible
  • Inscrutable
  • Trepidation
  • Armistice

Writing down these felt like participating in a Spell Bee! After noting them,each group was to choose one word to research on.We were to find synonyms o this word,make sentences,and basically play around with the different meanings of this word.

The word our group chose was ‘Inscrutable’.If I could go back and change something about this class,I’d literally change the word choice! This word is easy to use,but proved to be very difficult to enact.

The word Inscrutable means “impossible to understand or interpret”.it has the following synonyms:

  • Enigmatic
  • Unreadable
  • Impenetrable
  • Mysterious
  • Cryptic
  • Incomprehensible
  • Opaque
  • Obscure
  • Puzzling
  • Perplexing
  • Emotionless
  • Impassive
  • Dispassionate

We realized that these words were splitting into two meanings of the term.One meaning was more about human expressions,and an unreadable face.The other was similar to the word ‘mysterious’.So we came up with two sentences:

  • The doctor’s face was inscrutable when he walked out of the operating room.
  • The police handed over the inscrutable evidence to the detective.

The first sentence inclines more towards the synonyms like unreadable,incomprehensible,perplexing,emotionless,or impenetrable.Replacing the word in the sentence with these synonyms does not change the meaning of the sentence at all. Emotionless and dispassionate are slightly strong/harsh synonyms for the sentence in question.Using mysterious/cryptic here does not make any sense.A substitution with each of the synonyms would look something like this:

  1. The doctor’s face was unreadable when he walked out of the operating room.
  2. The doctor’s face was impenetrable when he walked out of the operating room.
  3. The doctor’s face was incomprehensible when he walked out of the operating room.
  4. The doctor’s face was puzzling when he walked out of the operating room.
  5. The doctor’s face was perplexing when he walked out of the operating room.
  6. The doctor’s face was emotionless when he walked out of the operating room.
  7. The doctor’s face was impassive when he walked out of the operating room.
  8. The doctor’s face was dispassionate when he walked out of the operating room.

Sentences 4,6,8 sound a little weird,even though the words used are correct.The other synonyms fit the sentence as good as the original word.

  1. The police handed over the mysterious evidence to the detective.
  2. The police handed over the cryptic evidence to the detective.
  3. The police handed over the obscure evidence to the detective.
  4. The police handed over the puzzling evidence to the detective.
  5. The police handed over the perplexing evidence to the detective.
  6. The police handed over the incomprehensible evidence to the detective.

All these words worked out well with the sentence.

The two words that I could not fit into either of these sentences were enigmatic,and opaque.In the first case,the word enigmatic is usually used to describe someone charming yet mysterious,like a brooding male celebrity,probably.So clearly it wasn’t a fit for our statements.For the latter,the word Opaque is more of a metaphor than a literal synonym.It connects to the word ‘inscrutable’ by relating ‘not being see through’ to ‘unable to read’. Since it is a metaphor,it becomes difficult to use it in most sentences normally.’The doctor’s face was opaque’ or ‘the opaque evidence’ both sound wrong since one cannot help but consider the literal meaning before the metaphor.

Worked with Case 1Worked with Case 2 Neither

We were also asked to find out words with two completely different meanings and make sentences using both meanings.This is what I came up with:

1.Stick: (i) A twig/broken branch (ii) adhering to something

  • (i) The man threw the stick for the dog to fetch.
  • (ii) The students were asked to stick the festival posters.

2.Ring: (i) A piece of jewelry (ii) Ringing sound(like a bell)

  • (i)On seeing the shiny diamond ring,the girl broke down into tears.
  • (ii) The pupils rushed out of the classroom as soon as they heard the school bell ring.

The second part of the class was to act out the word given to us as a mime skit.Given the vague nature of the word,we were quite clueless about what to do.But we still brainstormed and tried to make up something.

We made up a story about a hooded mysterious person killing a pedestrian and escaping.Two pedestrians spot the victim and carry him to the hospital,where the doctor tries everything to save the patient but to no avail.The doctor comes out of the operating room,and the relatives who are worried to death ask the doctor for an answer as the doctor’s face is expressionless.One of the two relatives wears familiar clothing,and is in fact the killer.

The story represents the word ‘inscrutable’ in two ways,the first in the expression of the doctor,which is the first meaning(unreadable,impassive) and the case of the killer (mysterious,cryptic). Now this makes a lot of sense when I’m typing it down,but it was plain chaos to act it out.We didn’t realize that we’d over complicated our skit,and given the mime and no prop restriction,we just made things worse for ourselves.If there was one mistake I could fix it would be to think how the story would look like in a mime format first and then plan the skit accordingly,instead of doing the opposite.

We had no way to salvage our first skit so we decided to create a new one.This time I kept it simple,showing a game of poker and everyone making unreadable faces/a poker face.This time I hoped people would get it immediately,but thanks to us not being able to maintain poker faces,we couldn’t convey it a second time.Again,the only way to make this easier would’ve been to maybe act better or have a way to show that someone’s cards are better than how they’re acting in the game.

Trying to play poker,clueless.

In conclusion, the irony was that our skit blunders represented the word inscrutable well-no one could understand what we were doing! The class helped me understand how mime skits work,how everyone’s interpretation of the same words and actions differ greatly,and thus how humans have created an unending list of synonyms for every word.Looking at other acts I also understood how my skit could’ve been better.It was definitely a fun and thorough first class!

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