Pushing the boulder up the hill

This week’s inspiring words on the social progress front, from Gloria Ladson-Billings, circulated on Facebook by H. Sami Alim on the 22nd:

I know that I am 4 generations out of chattel slavery, 3 generations out of sharecropping, 2 out of legalized apartheid, and I’m an endowed university professor. Not because I’m great, but because people kept on pushing the boulder up the hill.

Social progress happens through group efforts, however important the contributions of some notable individuals might be:

Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.
— “Lift Every Voice and Sing” (AZBlog link)

But especially, those of us who benefit from progress do so because of the efforts of many before us, people who kept pushing that boulder up the hill.

About Ladson-Billings, from Wikipedia:

Gloria J. Ladson-Billings (born 1947) is an American pedagogical theorist and teacher educator on the faculty of the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Education and researcher at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research. She is currently Assistant Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs. Ladson-Billings is known for her work in the fields of culturally relevant pedagogy and critical race theory. [Note especially her book The Dreamkeepers: Successful Teachers of African-American Children.] She was born in Philadelphia, Pa. and was educated in the Philadelphia public school system. [And she’s a 1984 Stanford Ph.D.] Ladson-Billings served as president of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in 2005-2006. During the 2005 AERA annual meeting in San Francisco, Ladson-Billings delivered her presidential address, “From the Achievement Gap to the Education Debt: Understanding Achievement in U.S. Schools”, in which she outlined what she called the “education debt”, highlighting the combination of historical, moral, socio-political, and economic factors that have disproportionately affected African-American, Latino, Asian, and other non-white students.

endowed university professor. Having just posted on Adj + N + N nominals — on 3/23/19 in “Consumer advocacy in Florida”, about gay consumer advocate — and having an abiding interest in sexual and sexually-tinged vocabulary, I could scarely let endowed university professor pass without comment.

First, the parsing, giving the alternative readings ‘university professor who is endowed’ (the outer-Adj reading) and ‘professor at an endowed university’ (the inner-Adj reading). Senses of endowed, from NOAD:

verb endow: [with object] [a] give or bequeath an income or property to (a person or institution): he endowed the church with lands. [b] establish (a college post, annual prize, or project) by donating the funds needed to maintain it. [c] (usually be endowed with) provide with a quality, ability, or asset: he was endowed with tremendous physical strength.

Since universities in general are endowed (sense b), that is, have endowments, the inner-Adj reading is uninformative, so the outer-Adj reading is surely the intended one: Ladson-Billings is an endowed  (sense b) professor, that is, a professor who has an endowment; in fact, she holds the Kellner Family Chair in Urban Education at UW-Madison.

Then, a racy sense of endowed in endowed professor — a sense beyond the three in NOAD:

[d] = well endowed [not in the OED or GDoS, much less the shorter dictionaries I’ve consulted]

From NOAD:

adj. well endowed: [a] having plentiful supplies of a resource: the country is well endowed with mineral resources. [b] well provided with money; wealthy. [c] informal (of a man) having large genitals. [d] informal (of a woman) large-breasted.

GDoS has the euphemism well-endowed with its first clear reference to male genitals in a 1951 quote from Nicholas Montsarrat’s The Cruel Sea that has a play on senses b and c:

‘I’m not rich.’ … ‘You are doubtless well-endowed’ … ‘A lot of women think so.’

(The next quote, from Bruce Rodgers’s 1972 Queen’s Vernacular, takes well endowed to be more than 7 inches — the conventional minimum for pornstars.) GDoS has well-endowed referring to women’s breasts beginning with a 1968 quote from Peter Barnes’s The Ruling Class; OED3 (Dec. 2014) now has earlier quotes, going back to 1951.


4 Responses to “Pushing the boulder up the hill”

  1. Gadi Says:

    “Endowed university professor” makes me giggle!

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      A friend who is an endowed university professor (in the innocuous sense) enjoyed this posting as well. I noted to him that I am not an endowed university professor in either sense. I am officially Distinguished (at Ohio State), but not Endowed anywhere. Guffaw.

  2. Gadi Says:

    Maybe we can start a gofundme campaign to get you (innocuously) endowed?

  3. [BLOG] Some Tuesday links | A Bit More Detail Says:

    […] Zwicky writes about progress in […]

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