Dance Lesson

One of my anthropology professors was a sociolinguist who seemed unaware that hour-long debates on terms like indegenous vs. indigenous could be boring. But it was his seminar, and we all obediently put smiles on our faces while we napped.
I once saw him stop an entire drinking session with an erudite rant on “Scott-free” at a party. And, no, it had nothing to do with the Dread Scott Decision or Scottish cheapness. Instead, it derived from skatt, an antique word for a tax in Scottish or Old Norse; I don’t remember. Eventually, many of us just went home—a depressing night.

One way to thwart the linguistic rambles was to divert him to talking about his World War II experiences as a Coast Watcher in the Pacific. To get him to do this required more than a bit of lubrication with good Scotch, but it was worthwhile. Finally, at a certain point, if you asked what he most enjoyed about that year, he’d confess that it was the local dances. Then if you were lucky, a demonstration would ensue.

these were interesting because they could be a bit ribald in nature. One night he offered free instruction, and a line of about ten of us learned the basic steps of one of his favorites.
Later on, I realized just how maneuvered we had all been. With the cost of the Scotch, we had certainly not got off scot-free. He also received an outsized pleasure from seeing many of his serious grad students making fools of themselves as we shook our hips, awkwardly stepped, and incompetently rotated.
Ahhh, the good old days!

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