Confessions of a Grad Student: I (Still) Don’t Know What These Words Mean

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I am two seminar papers and one e-portfolio away from finishing my first year of graduate school, and that seems significant. But while reflecting on all the fulfilling, thrilling, liberating, and life-altering stuff I’ve learned this year, I can’t help but think about all the stuff I still don’t know. In fact, I’m beginning to think that the point of education is to teach you things you didn’t know that you didn’t know.

I never knew there were so many things I didn’t know.
If that sounds like nonsensical double speak, well, it’s week fourteen, and I’ve read close to ten thousand pages of text this semester, so right now my brain probably looks like ambrosia salad that sat out too long.

What follows is a list of words—I’m calling them grad student buzz words—that I’ve come across frequently, but—no matter how many times I look them up—still cannot remember what they mean. I’ve defined them here to be a reference*​ ​for myself and any future grad students who experience similar confoundry. **

Ontology –​ The science or study of being; that branch of metaphysics concerned with the nature or essence of being or existence.

Hegemony — ​Political, economic, or military predominance or leadership, esp. by one member of a confederacy or union over other states.

Exegesis –​ An explanation or interpretation of a text, esp. of scripture or a scriptural passage. Also more generally: a critical discourse or commentary.

Epistemology –​ The theory of knowledge and understanding, esp. with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion; (as a count noun) a particular theory of knowledge and understanding.

Epistolary –​ Chiefly ​literary​. Of or relating to letters​ ​or letter-writing.***

Heuristic — Of, relating to, or enabling discovery or problem-solving, esp. through relatively unstructured methods such as experimentation, evaluation, trial and error, etc.

Teleology –​ The branch of knowledge or study dealing with ends or final causes; the study of phenomena which may be explained in terms of intention, design, or purposiveness rather than by prior causes.

If there are words that give you trouble, tangle you up into Gordian-like knots, I invite you to add to this list words that confuse you, that you find yourself looking up Every. Single. Time. ​You. Read. Them.

* All definitions curtesy of the Oxford English Dictionary.

** I totally made this word up. It means: being in a state of never knowing what the F*** is happening or what the F*** anyone in talking about, particularly in the graduate school classroom. 

*** Letters as in, “Dear Mom, I never know what the F*** is happening or what the F*** anyone is talking about.”

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