If you ever find yourself sitting in a lecture or precept at Princeton Theological Seminary, take the opportunity to tune your ears towards the subtle, but audible sound of students saying “mmmmm.” While this warming resonance is often associated with mouth-watering culinary delights or the nostalgic response to mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies right out of the oven, at Princeton Seminary the sound is an indication of concurrence.
You see, Princeton seminarians like saying “mmmmm” to show that they not only agree with a statement, but also to pretend they find it cathartic. Although you might think that keeping one’s consent in the innermost depths of one’s mind might be the most appropriate response, for Princeton seminarians, saying “mmmmm” is essential for trying to accomplish two things. First, by saying “mmmmm” Princeton seminarians think they are demonstrating that they are more engaged in the discussion or lecture than their classmates. Second, by offering a “mmmmm” at the precise moment, Princeton seminarians also think they earn points with the professor or preceptor by championing their astute assessment of the topic.
Furthermore, if Princeton seminarians really want to convey solidarity with the professor, they are also accustomed to adding a slight nod of the head for further emphasis. The nod, however, is only employed on occasion and with caution, as offering both sends a strong message to those involved in the theological discourse. By offering both, they communicate that they not only read for class, but that what is being shared also strikes a cord deep within their hearts. Though the nod has been attempted on its own, its isolated usage is looked upon as dangerous, as the professor might think the seminarian has developed a socially-awkward tick in their neck.
If you are visiting a class and want to show that you agree with an assertion, feel free to offer a short “mmmmm.” It’s important to note though, the length of your “mmmmm” must be precise and intentional. If it’s too short, it might be perceived as an attempt to clear your throat before interjecting a comment, forcing you to say “uhhh… sorry” after everyone looks in your direction with anticipation. Saying “mmmmm” too long is also dangerous, as it raises questions as to what you’re really thinking about, especially if you’re smiling.
You should know, however, that if you decide to offer an “mmmmm,” you will evoke jealousy in many of the students present. You see, Princeton seminarians don’t like to be outdone. If you’re successful in offering your “mmmmm,” you’re likely to spawn several successive “mmmmm” from other seminarians. This will typically escalate until the professor or preceptor furrows her brow, as if to say, “what the hell is wrong with all of you?” At that point, all “mmmmm-ing” should cease for that class session. Even if you don’t participate, it’s a fascinating and note-worthy phenomenon to observe in the life of Princeton seminarians.