Our love of words has been well documented on Phreelance Writers. I often find myself talking to Gage and pausing to find the right word to accurately describe a situation. It’s not just an exercise in pulling esoteric words from my vocab, it’s about picking le mot just, the one word that fits best.

Now, time for something completely different…

Gage and I surround ourselves with people who share our passion for writing and words. This has developed into a community of people who also strive to find the perfect word.

During the past few weeks, many of the students we tutor have been working on an essay about an “academic discourse community.” I won’t bore you with what this means exactly since we, ourselves, are somewhat confused by the terminology, but this link is a decent enough explanation. The students were told to pick a class, other than English, to use as their discourse community. Naturally, we tutors thought some students would pick the Writing Center. We later found out that the Writing Center was not a valid choice because it is not considered a full class.

Really?

This assignment got me thinking about Phreelance Writers and the Writing Center as a discourse community. Looking over the requirements, we appear to fit the bill. Let’s break some of this down:

1) has a broadly agreed set of common public goals.

We all enjoy reading, writing and academic discussion. On top of that, we all work in a writing center, teaching students how to write better. If that isn’t a “common public goal,” I don’t know what is.

2) has mechanisms of intercommunication among its members.

This is the same as “insider knowledge,” and, yes, we have it. Certain words have taken on new or secondary meanings so that we can use them in mixed conversation while smirking at our own wit. We have even developed a way of saying a specific word to denote both a greeting and a fulfillment of the mitzvah.

3) uses its participatory mechanisms primarily to provide information and feedback.

Our main “participatory mechanism” is wit. We treat it like a currency, using it to trade humorous barbs, stories and repartee. We vibe off each other, pushing our jokes and ideas to earn the maximum amount of credit.  We’ve created a space that rewards creativity while simultaneously eliminating the banal.

The point is that the Writing Center would have made for a great academic discourse community. It’s the only class that includes all the students and it’s one of–if not the only–space where students and instructors interact on fairly even terms. A shame it was banned from contention.

Words and wordplay are important at Phreelance Writers and in the Writing Center. Our desire to use them in new and unique ways inspires students to do the same when they write. They learn from listening to us banter. Just because we don’t teach in the traditional sense of a classroom setting doesn’t mean that we aren’t educating the students we see. Respect our vision.

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