Zifkin expressed relief at having returned to her senses, but appeared confused and began sobbing as she described her thesis research experience as akin to “giving birth to a full-grown university professor.” MONTREAL, QUE – McGill University student Cassandra Zifkin arrived at her thesis defense Monday to enter a guilty plea for what she described as a “mind numbing” PhD thesis, entitled The Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Used Irrespective of Necessity.
She asked that committee members accept her guilty plea, but insisted that time spent with such pompous diction – not to mention inflicting it upon others – was punishment enough. “I want a normal life again,” she said, “and I need someone to get rid of the thesauruses in my garage so I can park my car.” Zifkin regretted spending four years on a piece of work that “merited no more than a long weekend,” and could have been called Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.
She also asked family members and friends for their forgiveness and hoped they could help her to “shut the fuck up.”
Zifkin explained how her own use of unnecessary vernacular had estranged her from her family. In a telephone interview, her mother said, “I love Cassandra, but listening to her ivory tower mumbo-jumbo has been torturous. I promised my husband that if Cassandra wished to discuss her ‘aesthetic disposition’ or ‘the necessity of diacritics’ that we would invite her for dinner and drown her in the bathtub.”
The implications of …Erudite Vernacular … were lost on most committee members, except for Lawrence Stevenson, who wondered aloud if he shouldn’t “tone it down a bit” himself. Stevenson then opened a tattered Dictionary of Synonyms to find a more scholarly equivalent for “tone it down.”
Frustrated by his inability to lighten up, Stevenson admitted his own guilt before requesting a short break to compose himself. He then suggested he may need a drink, and proceeded to a nearby window where he hiked up his shirt, removed a piece of lint from his belly and requested a moment to submit his findings to intense academic scrutiny.
Zifkin continued to sob.