The 6 Types of Silence You Experience in a Phelps Hall English Section

author-pic at UC Santa Barbara  

Any discussion section at UCSB is rife with silences. The TA saying something, stopping, then all 15-20 people just hanging there in silent limbo, waiting for someone, anyone to say something. In English sections in particular, though, these silences can be so goddamn thick, as it’s abundantly apparent no one actually read chapters 6-21 of Wuthering Heights, that we took the time to rank them. Quietly read this instead of making that dumb face like you’re trying to form an answer. 

6.) The pregnant pause:
The pregnant pause is a several-second long space in an especially passionate TA’s words, so well-timed and dramatically pleasing, that it is described by many as resembling the sensation of being “knocked up.” The crowning anticipation one feels while hanging on to these fleeting moments strengthens the desire to carry this silence-baby to term, because the delivery of the TA’s next words will make the long 9-second journey worth all the tears, self-doubt, and emotional turmoil you experience along with your loyal seatmate.

5.) The hushed tension of “nobody did the reading”:
The classic question, “What did the two articles from last night’s reading have in common?” typically ushers forth a painfully long hush—the result of twenty-five guilty jaws clamped shut. Eyes move side-to-side as it slowly dawns on everyone that every student decided to take a hit of  Nyquil at 7:00 p.m. and grab some sweet REM sleep instead of reading about “woke misogyny.”

4.) The desperate is-that-a-rhetorical-question hesitation:
Does she want us to answer that? thought every English student as Lecturer Kassner asked how many windows there were in Manhattan. The hesitation of every student on the cusp of answering but thinking better of it produces an eerily noiseless room, where a break in the sound could make one appear foolish or eager beaver-esque. Is she factoring in buses, subways, and cars in her estimate?

3.) The inaudible refusal to be a smarty know-it-all like Olivia:
If I say something, will everyone think I’m a smarty know-it-all like Olivia? drifts through the minds all Gauchos in attendance. Independent thought is dangerous enough in your own head. The fear of vocalizing something that another student might not have considered is the star of this dish. Add a pinch of stretching that looks like hand-raising for some heat.

2.) The silent awe of total agreement:
In wake of the perfect analysis of why the author included details of his thinning hair in a think-piece about the statue of David, there can be no rebut as there is simply nothing left to say. The silence following a profoundly reasonable explanation by the course instructor leaves only a sea of pursed lips and nodding heads. There are instances where a second opinion is superfluous, as indicated by this complete and utter silence.

1.) The respectful quiet of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off fans:
“Anyone?… Anyone?” echoes  through Room 1501 as the dead eyes of twenty-five students stare numbly at the black board. This rare but respectful quiet is heard wherever there is a high density of Ferris Bueller fans who know that life moves pretty fast. Reenacting the boredom of teen extras in Ben Stein’s well known teaching scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is one activity fans do to remind themselves that if they don’t stop and look around once in a while, they could miss it.

Awkward silences are the worst, but it’s just something every Gaucho suffers through in their time here at UCSB. Sure you could “do the reading,” and actually “participate in class,” but who’s got time for that??

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