I would have written about this sooner, but I was too busy basking.
Here is a chart from WonkBlog, confirming what I thought was a fairy tale, one of those legends concocted solely to give me false hope, like “A Person Exists Who Looks Good In Jeggings” or “You Can Convince A Cat To Regard You With Anything More Than Strong Indifference.”
English majors are not the kings of underemployment. In fact, compared to those who majored in BUSINESS MANAGEMENT, employers are beating down our doors.
How can such things be?
I majored in English. I am not saying that usually this is the kiss of job death, but there is literally a song about English majors in “Avenue Q” that runs as follows:
What do you do with a BA in English?
What is my life going to be?
Four years of college
And plenty of knowledge
Have earned me this useless degree!
I can’t pay the bills yet
‘Cause I have no skills yet.
The world is a big scary place.
But somehow I can’t shake
The feeling I might make
A difference to the human race!
But now it turns out that this was not the idle dream we thought it was. This, compared to business, was practical.
“Look, I know you have a passion for business,” anxious parents say, seeing the stats, “but passion doesn’t pay the bills. Try learning a skill with real applications, like your sister, who is double-majoring in English and sociology. Or we won’t pay for it.”
Take that, business majors. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. All this time you thought you were pulling one over on us, ready to spend a life surrounded by filthy lucre while we starved in garrets, and it turns out that we have what employers really want.
Yes, we English majors have the REAL marketable skills.
I can close-read the pants off a passage! I can read it so close that the passage becomes very uncomfortable and tries to leave the room. I can scrutinize and analyze and undress that passage with my eyes. I can identify a comma splice at twenty paces! Strangers on the Internet routinely describe me as a joyless buzzkill (or is that a buzzless killjoy?) because of my excessive attention to grammatical minutiae. I know the word minutiae.
I can identify a pathetic fallacy at 20 paces, even when it is raining and I am also sad. I know a participle from a gerund and I have a mnemonic device to back me up. I can rescue a dangling participle and modify almost any noun you throw at me, provided you don’t throw it very hard. Just try splitting an infinitive around me and see what happens. Just try it.
I may not know my figures, but I know figures of speech. I use iambs and trochees like a boss. I’m writing in pentameter RIGHT NOW! THAT LAST SENTENCE WAS IN IAMBIC PENTAMETER!
You don’t get this kind of skill from a business major or a paleontologist, who wouldn’t know a pterodactyl from a double dactyl. He might be able to tell whether it is better to be in the red or in the black (I keep forgetting this) but I can tell you that that is a figure of speech, and I was once assigned “The Red and the Black” and skimmed it quickly, and furthermore I can recite the first few lines of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales.” “Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote / The droghte of Marche hath perced in the roote …”
And these are just a few of the useful skills I have to gladden the heart of any employer. SHALL I GO ON? I CAN.
I have read Aristotle’s “Poetics” THREE TIMES for UNRELATED COURSES!
I thought this major was largely decorative. I thought these skills were about as handy as a knowledge of ancient Greek (which I have, but that was my minor) or a mastery of the rain stick (I still haven’t mastered the rain stick) or the knowledge of where exactly to put a period when you are using a lot of parenthetical statements of complete thought in a sentence (Do you know? I’m going to put one on both sides just to be sure, but it looks wrong.).
But no. All along, it was practical. Now employers are just salivating over us.
“I know you can do business,” they tell applicants, “but have you ever made a very tenuous case that Oscar Wilde read and based sections of ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ on Maupassant’s ‘Pierre et Jean’? That is the skill we need right now.”
We’re so in demand, we’re even ahead of physics majors! See the chart? And — oh, never mind. I see. Well. That is not what it says at all.
We are still ahead of business majors, though. I am fairly sure of that. Charts are resistant to my usual close-reading.
Hey, look, I don’t know these things. I was an English major, okay?