Do you recall when or where you heard or read ignominious for the first time?
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter taught me the word ignominious. Sure, it’s scattered here and there in literature, but I’ve never actually heard anyone use the word ignominious. Hawthorne uses ignominious and ignominy throughout the book. They are essential words to the text.
In high school, I had American Lit with one of the most dynamic teachers in the world.
Despite ignominious. And all the other nearly unusable vocab from that book.
I did not know, at 17, that The Scarlet Letter would become a running joke with me, or that the word ignominious would haunt me forever.
You would think that having once read The Scarlet Letter, one would write a paper or take a test and be done with it, as is the case for most high school students. But if your course of study is English Education and your name is Joey, then no, you will suffer The Scarlet Letter endlessly, like catching every illness you’re exposed to in your first few years of teaching.
You must study The Scarlet Letter again as an English major. Maybe even twice, because once in American Lit and again in a writing class, because your prof is obsessed with Puritanism. But perhaps even more, because practicums.
You see, before they hand you a teaching license, they make you practice teaching. I don’t mean the lengthy period of student teaching, which is more like an internship — I mean early on, visiting many schools, teaching gobs of classes in your field, in what feels like a random, haphazard way.
Every time I went to a high school, it was Scarlet Letter time. Fall, winter, or Spring, where I went, I happened into teaching The Scarlet Letter. Sophomore, Junior, Senior, no matter, I would be told “We’re doing The Scarlet Letter.”
It was uncanny. After the second time, I thought, “No no, there’s no way the third time will be The Scarlet Letter.” When it happened the third time, I said, “Third time’s the charm, surely it won’t happen again.” When it happened the fourth time, I questioned God, “Is there something I’m not learning here?!?”
I didn’t even flinch when I got my first high school English sub job and walked into a classroom where the movie poster hung in the center of the blackboard. “Ah, we meet again.”
I could easily list the vocab in alphabetical order without so much as looking at the book, if that tells you anything.
I think Moo is a lot like Pearl, in case you’re wondering how deeply this book is burned into my brain.
I see Dimmesdales everywhere. They like to send dick pics on Twitter and frequently ask for selfies.
Friends began gag-gifting me copies of The Scarlet Letter. I kept one copy. From MIL, circa 1997. It’s merely a small token of my great burden.