Brian Bailey Preface to the Revised Edition

Albeit Stuffy

One of my absolute favorite, defining moments in college was a single comment by one of my political theory professors at Michigan State, Dr. Stephen Esquith, that I have never had the chance to share. (It's only appropriate that he forever be tied to this story in the Google searches of tomorrow.) This was my second course with him and he had become one of my favorite professors. I turned in a paper (these were fairly regular, short papers) and when I received it back, it had one of my all-time favorite comments written on the top:

This is a good, albeit stuffy, essay.

Now, even though I received a good grade on the paper, I was dumbfounded by that line. First, I thought Stephen Esquith was terrific, but he was easily one of the more guarded and formal of the generally younger and hipper political theory profs at James Madison. He always seemed a little distant and uncomfortable around students, stuffy really, even though he was probably in his late 30's.

Second, what could possibly be more stuffy than a phrase like albeit stuffy? I kept wanting to ask him if he was being ironic, or better yet, send an email:

Dr. Esquith, I greatly appreciated your helpful, albeit ironic, comments on my recent essay.

What is so funny about this to me, however, is how I have thought about that line at least once a month ever since then, which, if I was being honest, is quite a long time. To this day, I actually love the word albeit and get great joy whenever I can use it. And nearly everytime I write, particularly since I started this weblog, I look at what I've written and think, "Is this good, albeit stuffy?"