About one or twice a week a student I had in a for-credit information literacy class last semester will drop by the reference desk when I’m working it and she’s studying in the library to stop and chat with me. She’s an international student living in America (and Los Angeles (God help her)) for the first time, so often we’ll not only chat about her schoolwork, but whatever issues may come up for her as an ESL student.
The other day she came by and, as we were talking, mentioned that one of her instructors swears quite frequently and that she thinks it’s amusing. She asked me what I thought about that and I told her that I don’t swear in class or at work because it can be alienating to people (though in my personal life I can barely go a sentence without saying fuck (a fact that I didn’t mention for professional reasons)).
We kind of got talking about this, and language differences between her home country and L.A., and she asked me what the equivalent swear-word was in English for a particular phrase referring to saying something not especially nice about someone’s mother.
I jokingly said something along the lines of, “Well, there’s no way I’m going to tell you but it does present an interesting dilemma … How would you go about searching for a phrase like that when you don’t actually know the exact phrase?”
Her response: “Oh! You mean like keywords!!!!” after which she began typing quickly into her laptop.
After about thirty seconds she looked up at me.
“Professor Klipfel! I figured it out.”
“Cool,” I said.
“IT’S MOTHERFUCKER!!!!!” she said.
“Very good. But what did you type in.”
“I typed in “English” “Mother” and “Bad Word” into Google. I even used your keyword chart!”
Just another information literacy triumph.