There are people out there who actually read textbooks, but I’m not one of them. I’m nerdy enough to be thrilled when I get this semester’s books. I skim a chapter or two early in the school year, but eventually I devolve into looking at the book, thinking about reading it, and ignoring it for the next four months except for the night before a test. (Because I’m a scholastic winner, that’s why.)
Every so often though, I open a book to study and I come across a sentence that’s so profoundly ridiculous that I have to write it down so I can remember it forever. It’s sentences like these that make me think textbooks authors assume no one is actually reading their content. I honestly won’t be surprised if one day I read a book for class and find an entire chapter that consists solely of “blah blah blah” over and over again.
I’m not the only one who’s noticed this. There’s a whole page on Television Tropes dedicated to ridiculous textbook sentences. Maybe it’s sad being a textbook author. Maybe they put dumb sentences in there just to mess with people. Maybe these textbooks were steppingstones into literature for them. I don’t have all the answers. All I know for sure is that occasionally I read something so funny it’s hard to stay in my seat and keep the giggles to a minimum.
My High School Physics Book:
“A woman with horizontal velocity jumps off a dock into a stationary boat…” I don’t know why this sentence makes me want to die laughing. I imagine one physicist saying, “Check out that woman’s horizontal velocity”, and another responding, “I’m more of a vertical velocity kind of guy.”
“If you take R crossed into F, what is the direction?” This actually makes sense in the context, I’m just really bad at physics. (My answer to this question was “…South?”)
“What is the freezing point of a chicken?” This is the sentence that made me realize I was never going to be good at physics.
“What is the angle of your depression?” This is the sentence that made me wonder how a textbook knew about my teenage angst.
“…Where does the man from problem #15 live– the moon, or France?” I don’t… I can’t even… What?
“Tim and Sue are holding hands when they are given a charge while standing on an insulating platform. Tim is larger than Sue. Who has the larger amount of charge, or do they both have the same amount?” Why are Tim and Sue on an insulating platform? Why are they holding hands there? Why did they allow themselves to be charged? Are they romantically involved, or are they just scared of the charge they’re about to be given? Who put them up to this? I have so many questions.
“One of the bulbs in the previous problem burns out.” Now in my head the previous problem looks like a marquee or a dying neon sign that’s buzzing and getting dimmer and dimmer. (That right there. That’s why I’m bad at physics.)
My High School History book:
“Pursuing the sharp-toothed beaver ever deeper into the heart of the continent, the French trappers and their Indian partners hiked, rode, snowshoed, sailed, and paddled across amazing distances.” This isn’t a textbook. This is poetry. There are at least five, less-silly ways to write that.
“Not a single person in Harper’s Ferry had any idea that history was about to explode in their midst.” I hope the authors of this book invented a time machine to test that out.
Time-Travelling Author: “History is about to explode in your midst!”
Citizen of Harper’s Ferry: “Nah.”
Time-Travelling Author, taking notes: “Just as I thought.”
“Eisenhower… was serenely above the petty partisan fray. He also shrewdly knew that his greatest asset was his enjoyment of the ‘affection and respect of our citizenry’, as he confided to his diary in 1949.” I love this one. It’s probably in the top three sentences I’ve ever read. I imagine bald little Eisenhower lying on his stomach in pink silk pajamas with his feet kicking in the air, like a 13-year-old girl at a sleepover, confiding to his diary with a feathery pen. So cute.
My College Law & Ethics Book:
“While the brief-lived ban [of a kid’s book depicting nudity] suggests a humor-challenged library system in southern Mississippi that couldn’t handle the naked truth, book banning is no laughing matter.” Oh, textbook authors, you’re so funny. I bet you giggled while writing that one.
“There would certainly be few content-based objections to an individual presenting a speech on how to grow mushrooms.” There certainly would be, textbook. There certainly would be.