Sunday, December 31, 2006
On that night not only was a new year born, but also one of the most successful and most recognizable brand names in history came into being: Spam. The winning name was formed from the contraction of
sp(iced h)am; the winner of the contest was awarded $100.
Thanks to a sketch and song from Monty Python's Flying Circus, the word Spam lost its capital letter and became a lower case common noun referring to unsolicited e-mail. In the sketch, which first appeared in 1970, a waitress recites a list of menu items, all including Spam. As the menu is being recited, a song begins where male voices chant the word Spam more than 100 times. It's this seemingly endless, repetitive chant that inspired computer users to select spam as the appropriate appellation for unwanted, disruptive email (1).
Today's Challenge: New Year, New Words
At your New Year's Eve party challenge your guests to create a new word for the coming year. You might even offer cans of Spam as the award. To get your guests warmed up, give them the following challenge:
Each year the American Dialect Society selects a new word or phrase that best typifies the year just passed. The following list contains the Words of the Year for the past ten years, 1996 to 2005. See if you can match up each word with its correct year:
e- (prefix as in e-mail)
weapons of mass destruction (1)
Quote of the Day: If variety is the spice of life, marriage is the big can of leftover Spam. --Johnny Carson
Steinmetz, Sol and Barbara Ann Kipfer. The Life of Language. New York: Random House, 2006.
9/11 - 2001
red state - 2004
metrosexual - 2003
millennium bug -1997
soccer mom 1996
e- (prefix as in e-mail) 1998
weapons of mass destruction 2002
Monday, December 25, 2006
Saturday, December 02, 2006
The first speech, given on December 2, 1823 by President James Monroe, launched the Monroe Doctrine. In his State of the Union Address, Monroe announced that the United States would frown upon any further interference or colonization of the Americas by foreign powers (1).
The second speech, given on December 2, 1845 by President James Polk, launched the term Manifest Destiny. In his State of the Union Address, Polk made it clear that he was committed to the expansion of the United States through the annexation of Texas, the acquisition of the Oregon territory, and the purchase of California from Mexico. Although he did not use the term Manifest Destiny in his speech, the term, originally coined by journalist John L. O'Sullivan, became the operative term to describe the expansion of the young nation, which happened to be the primary subject of Polk's speech (2).
Today's Challenge: Two Words - American History
Manifest Destiny and Monroe Doctrine are just two examples of several two-word appellations for key events/ideas in American history. Given groups of three, two-word terms below, see if you can put them in correct chronological order.
Quote of the Day: The whole enterprise of this nation, which is not an upward, but a westward one, toward Oregon, California, Japan, etc., is totally devoid of interest to me, whether performed on foot, or by a Pacific railroad.... It is perfectly heathenish,—a filibustering toward heaven by the great western route. No; they may go their way to their manifest destiny, which I trust is not mine.... I would rather be a captive knight, and let them all pass by, than be free only to go whither they are bound. What end do they propose to themselves beyond Japan? What aims more lofty have they than the prairie dogs? --Henry David Thoreau
1 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monroe_doctrine
2 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manifest_Destiny
Friday, December 01, 2006
Looking for a rigorous indoor game for his students, Naismith first tried to adapt lacrosse and football, but he didn't have much success until he tried nailing two peach baskets to balconies on either side of the gymnasium court. The success of this game that Naismith called Basket Ball was not assured, however. In fact as recorded in Naismith's own diary the first review for the game was less than enthusiastic: "Huh. Another new game," was the response of one of Naismith's students.
The rules and apparatus of the game evolved over time. Naismith added a backboard so that people in the balcony couldn't swat away the shots of the opposing team. Also, the bottom of the peach basket was eventually removed, significantly increasing the speed and flow of the game. Many of Naismith's students went on to become instructors in newly opened YMCA centers around the country, and although their initial reaction was rather ho-hum, they seemed to like the game enough to teach it to their own pupils (1).
One indication of the popularity of any game is when the game's jargon becomes a metaphor used outside of the game for everyday situations in real life. From basketball there are two significant examples of this phenomenon: slam dunk and my bad.
Slam dunk, which was later shortened to dunk, became the operative basketball term for stuffing the ball into the basket with either one or two hands. The term leapt from the gym to the world of business and government to mean figuratively any sure thing. The most famous example of its use as a metaphor comes from former CIA Director George Tenet. When asked by the Bush administration in 2001 whether or not the public could be convinced to go to war in Iraq, Tenet famously responded: "It's a slam dunk case!"
My bad is a colloquial phrase that originated on the asphalt courts of the inner-city where it is used as pick-up basketball shorthand meaning: Sorry, I make a mistake! This apologetic exclamation entered the off-court vernacular in the 1990s, but further word study will show that a similar expression has been used for centuries, an expression that came not from the sports world, but from the Catholic Church confessional: the Latin expression mea culpa, meaning my fault (2).
Today's Challenge: From Backboard to Boardroom
Below are examples of other basketball terms. What does each term mean? Can you think of a situation in which each term might be used as a metaphor beyond basketball. If you don't know all the terms, check out the Wikipedia entry on Basketball Terms.
pick and roll
buzzer beater (3).
Quote of the Day: Basketball is like war in that offensive weapons are developed first, and it always takes a while for the defense to catch up. --Red Auerback
1 - http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=2660882
2 - http://www.bartleby.com/59/4/meaculpa.html
3 - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Basketball_terminology
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Frequently in English the famous and infamous become enshrined in the language when their last names become common, lower case nouns or verbs (called eponyms). In rare cases, however, a first name becomes a part of the lexicon. The leader of the Gunpowder Plot not only became the subject of burned effigies, but also his first name became synonymous with anyone of odd appearance. Across the Atlantic, the name is used in American English to refer to any male, either bad or good. It is also a handy word used in its plural form to refer to any group of people (2).
Recently, the Gunpowder Plot and its notorious leader became the subject of a graphic novel and movie set in an alternative version of Britain. The title was V for Vendetta (1).
What full name of the leader of the Gunpowder Plot, and what is the common word that he gave us?
See tomorrow's post for the answer.
Quote of the Day:
The Fifth Of November
Gunpowder, Treason and plot
We see no reason
Why gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot
--Chant for the 5th of November celebrations
1 - . . . Fawkes and Bonfire Night. http://www.bonefire.org/guy/gunpowder.php
2 - Word History and Mysteries. (by the editors of the American Heritage Dictionaries). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.
Monday, September 18, 2006
In 1857, the paper lost its hyphen and the word "daily" to become The New York Times. In 1896, the paper was acquired by Adolph S. Ochs, who sponsored a contest to create a motto for the newspaper. Ochs didn't like any of the entries, however, and chose one of his own creation: "All the News That's Fit to Print." The motto first appeared on the editorial page, but was moved to Page 1 on February 10, 1897.
Nicknamed the "Grey Lady" because of its consistent, straight-forward layout, The New York Times is also known as the nation's "newspaper of record" because of its large circulation across the country, its definitive record of current events, and its many awards for journalism, which includes a record number of Pulitzer Prizes (Ninety-four as of this writing) (1).
The New York Times' motto All the News That's Fit to Print is the most famous newspaper motto, but it's certainly not the only one. A newspaper's motto serves as a kind of mission statement -- a statement the paper's principles.
The website of Dr. Larry Lorenz, a journalism professor at Loyola University, features a collection of newspaper mottos from papers across the United States, including the following:
Haec olim meminisse juvabit [It will profit us to remember these things in the future. Virgil.]
--Niles' Weekly Register
The Oldest Daily Newspaper In The United States--Founded 1771 / An Independent Newspaper For All The People
--The Philadelphia Inquirer
The only good sacred cow is medium rare with fries.
--The Putnam Pit (Cookeville, Putnam County, Tennessee)
Today's Challenge: From the Front Page
A newspaper's motto, like it's writing, must be clear, concise, and captivating. See if you can match up each of the newspapers listed below with its motto.
The Atlanta Journal
(New Orleans) Daily Truth
The New York Sun
Tombstone (Ariz.) Epitaph
(New Orleans)Evening Chronicle
1. 116 Years In the Town Too Tough To Die/No Tombstone Is Complete Without Its Epitaph
2. It Shines For All
3. Covers Dixie Like The Dew
4. World's Greatest Newspaper
5. The Truth is Always Fair
6. The Best Paper, the Brightest Paper, the Cheapest Paper
Quote of the Day: Trying to be a first-rate reporter on the average American newspaper is like trying to play Bach's "St. Matthew's Passion" on a ukulele. --Ben Hecht
1. Tombstone (Ariz.) Epitaph 2. The New York Sun 3. The Atlanta Journal 4. Chicago Tribune 5. (New Orleans) Daily Truth 6. (New Orleans)Evening Chronicle
1 - New York Times Company
2 - http://www.loyno.edu/~lorenz/nupmottoes.html
Sunday, September 17, 2006
In his book Made in America, Bill Bryson explains that the delegates selected a Committee of Detail to polish the final draft of the Constitution and put it on paper. It was one of these committee members, John Rutledge, who influenced the opening words of the Constitution's Preamble. As Bryson explains:
[Rutledge] was an admirer of the Iroquois and recommended that the committee familiarize itself with the treaty of 1520 that had created the Iroquois Confederacy. It begins: "We, the people, to form a union . . . ." (Bryson).
It was, in fact, these words that were chosen as the introduction for what has become the single most influential document in history:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Today's Challenge: A More Perfect Union
Celebrate the miracle of the Constitution by reading each of the quotes below that mention the Constitution. See if you can identify the speaker of each quote.
1. I also wish that the Pledge of Allegiance were directed at the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as it is when the President takes his oath of office, rather than to the flag and the nation.
2. The U. S. Constitution doesn't guarantee happiness, only the pursuit of it. You have to catch up with it yourself.
3. The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.
4. The American constitutions were to liberty, what a grammar is to language: they define its parts of speech, and practically construct them into syntax.
5. The Constitution is not neutral. It was designated to take the government off the backs of the people.
6. To live under the American Constitution is the greatest political
privilege that was ever accorded to the human race.
7. The United States Constitution has proven itself the most marvelously elastic compilation of rules of government ever written.
Quote of the Day: Some events define and shape history with the force of plate tectonics, moving the world onto a new path. On September 17, 1787, just such an event occurred when the Constitution of the United States was signed. --Robert Byrd
Answers: 1. Carl Sagan 2. Benjamin Franklin 3. George Washington 4. Thomas Paine 5. William O. Douglas 6. Calvin Coolidge 7. Franklin D. Roosevelt
1 - http://usgovinfo.about.com/blconstday.htm
2 - Bryson, Bill. Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States. New York: Perennial, 1994.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Peter's insights into the organizational structures of businesses were so well-received that The Peter Principle has gone well beyond just the title of a popular book; it has entered the language as an adage, immortalizing its creator. The American Heritage Dictionary records the following definition of the Peter Principle:
The theory that employees within an organization will advance to their hightest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent (1).
Laurence Peter is not alone in the world of eponymous adages (a proverbial insight that is named for a person). If you've ever been a victim of Murphy's Law, for example, you know that certain rules for living have the signature of the person who first identified them.
Today's Challenge: An Adage by Any Other Name
See if you can match up each of the eponymous adages listed below with its correct definition:
Stigler's Law of Eponymy
1. Explanations should never multiply causes without necessity. When two explanations are offered for a phenomenon, the simplest full explanation is preferable.
2. If anything can go wrong, it will.
3. The most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.
4. It [a task] always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter's Law.
5. Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
6. We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.
7. No scientific discovery, not even Stigler's law, is named after its original discoverer (2).
Quote of the Day: A pessimist is a man who looks both ways before crossing a one-way street. --Laurence J. Peter
Answers: 1. Ockham's Razor 2. Murphy's Law, ascribed to Major Edward A. Murphy, Jr. 3. Dilbert Principle, coined by Scott Adams, author of the comic strip Dilbert. 4. Hofstadter's Law, named after Douglas Hofstadter. 5. Parkinson's Law, coined by C. Northcote Parkinson. 6. Amara's Law, proposed by Roy Amara. 7. Stigler's law of eponymy
1 - American Heritage Dictionary
2 - List of adages named after people
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
The website Word Spy, founded by Paul McFedries, searches out all kinds of new words and phrases that have appeared in print but not yet in the dictionary. McFedries site documents hundreds of the neologisms, several of which are defined beginning with: "A person who . . . ." Here are a few examples:
-mucus trooper (MYOO.kus troo.pur) n. An employee with a cold or the flu who insists on showing up for work.
-salad dodger (SAL.ud daw.jur) n. An overweight person; a person who shuns healthy foods.
-thresholder (THRESH.hohl.dur) n. A young person on the threshold of adulthood, especially one who is anxious or depressed about leaving home or taking on adult responsibilities.
-zinester (ZEEN.stur) n. A person who writes, edits, and publishes a zine; a person who reads only zines (1).
Today's Challenge: A Visit to the -er
The words below are all examples of neologisms that refer to different types of people. See if you can match up each word with the definitions below.
1. A person who donates five percent of their income to charity and/or spends five hours per week doing volunteer work.
2. The person for whom a ghostwriter writes a book.
3. A fastidious, detail-oriented person.
4. An adult son or daughter, particularly one aged 30 or more, who still lives with his or her parents. From kids in parents' pockets eroding retirement savings.
5. A person who uses phrases or quotes that were coined by other people.
6. A person who uses a wireless Internet connection without permission.
7. A chess player of limited skill.
8. A person who registers one or more Internet domain names based on the most common typographical errors that a user might commit when entering a company's registered trademark name (e.g., amazom.com) (1).
Quote of the Day: One company, Amsterdam-based www.trendwatching.com, has a global network of more than 7,000 "springspotters" who troll their own neighborhoods and report back which trends, products and behaviors are brewing. --Shawna Vanness
Answers: 1. fiver 2. fleshwriter 3. i-dotter 4. kipper 5. phrasemoner 6. piggybacker 7. woodpusher 8. typosquatter
1 - www.wordspy.com
Monday, September 11, 2006
Just as the date and the images associated with it have changed us, the events of 9/11 and the post-9/11 world have also changed our language.
Not since December 7, 1941 and Pearl Harbor, has a term so quickly entered the English lexicon. And 9/11 was not a term that would disappear soon; it was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" by the American Dialect Society in 2001, meaning lexicographers predict that the term will be used long past its origin. (1).
In addition other terms have entered the common lexicon since 9/11, such as:
Axis of Evil
Shock and awe
Today's Challenge: New World - New Words
The definitions below are for two-word expressions that have become a part of our everyday vocabulary since 9/11. Some are new -- others were around before 9/11, but have taken on added meaning since the attacks on September 11, 2001 and the events that followed it.
1. The United and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.
2. Site of the destroyed World Trade Center.
3. Plainclothes law-enforcement officers on airplanes.
4. Alternative name for French fries promoted when France resisted military force against Iraq.
5. British national Richard Reid tried to blow up a trans-Atlantic airplane in December 2001 with explosives in his shoes.
6. The prison noted for mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces.
7. A conventional bomb that disperses radioactive material.
8. Massive collecting of information that is then sifted for specific information.
Quote of the Day: America is not like a blanket -- one piece of unbroken cloth, the same color, the same texture, the same size. America is more like a quilt -- many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread. --Henry M. Jackson
Answers. 1. Patriot Act 2. Ground Zero 3. Air marshal 4. Freedom fries 5. Shoe bomber 6. Abu Ghraib 7. Dirty Bomb 8. Data mining
1 -Paul McFedries. Word Spy: The Word Lover's Guide to Modern Culture. New York: Broadway Books, 2004.
2 - Latazio, George. "New World Requires New Vocabulary." The Seattle Times. 10 Sept. 2006, A15.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
One West Wing episode in particular is of special interest to language lovers. It was called "Shibboleth" and appeared in the show's second season.
In the episode President Bartlett (Martin Sheen) must determine whether a group of Chinese stowaways should be given asylum in the U.S. or be returned to China. One key to his decision is determining whether their claim to be Christians is true or just a ploy to stay in the U.S. When President Bartlett tells his staff that he will find out the truth by employing a shibboleth, everyone in the room is puzzled (1).
A shibboleth is a kind of linguistic password, where a person's pronunciation or language usage indicates his or her background. It originates in a story from the Old Testament in the Book of Judges, Chapter 12. In the story two tribes, the Ephraimite and the Gileadites, are at war. The Gileadites use the word shibboleth (which means "ear of corn") as a password to tell friend from foe. In ancient Hebrew dialects some groups pronounced it with an 'sh' sound while others pronounced it with an 's.' Using the shibboleth, the Gileadites where able to identify and kill the Ephraimites, who did not have an 'sh' sound in their language.
President Barlett's use of a shibboleth is probably more cultural than linguistic. In his interrogation of the Chinese Christian representative, he asks questions about the group's religious practices and knowledge of the Bible. He comes to the realization that the Chinese are true Christians when they turn the tables on him, saying that faith, not knowledge, is the true test of the Christian faith: "Faith is the only Shibboleth."
Shibboleths used in these kind of life or death circumstances are rare today; however, pronunciation and word choice can be an especially telling marker of a person's background. The writers of The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) attempt to document the varieties of American English in the different regions of the U.S. Because "standard" English is most common in written language, the bulk of regional differences are found in oral language.
The following are some of the regional terms recorded by DARE:
-While most people recognize poached eggs, dropped eggs is a regional term used for these eggs in New England.
-The game of hopscotch is sometimes referred to as Sky Blue in Chicago, Illinois.
In the Gulf States and Texas, a chill or shiver is known as a rigor (3).
Today's Challenge: From Shibboleth to Shining Shibboleth
Visit the website for PBS's series Do You Speak American? and take their quiz on regional terms for food, health, and recreational terms used throughout the U.S. Are there any special regional words or expressions that characterize the people who live in your region of the country?
Quote of the Day: In small things as in large [the American] exercises continually an incomparable capacity for projecting hidden and often fantastic relationships into arresting parts of speech. Such a term as rubberneck is almost a complete treatise on American psychology; it reveals the national habit of mind more clearly than any labored inquiry could ever reveal it. It has in it precisely the boldness and contempt for ordered forms that are so characteristically American, and it has too the grotesque humor of the country, and the delight in devastating opprobriums, and the acute feeling for the succinct and savory. —H. L. Mencken
1 - http://www.westwingepguide.com/
2 - http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~kemmer/Words/shibboleth.html
3 - http://www.pbs.org/speak/seatosea/americanvarieties/DARE/wordpower/dare.html
Saturday, September 09, 2006
In addition to a state constitution, Californians adopted a state seal in 1849 with the motto "Eureka," (The Greek word for "I Have Found It.") an appropriate interjection for a state whose reputation was made on gold strikes (1).
Today many things make California distinctive and influencial: the influence of Silicon Valley and Hollywood to name two huge influences on the culture of American and the world. Another influence comes under the category of language. Val Speak, the speech pattern of the California "Valley Girl" has captured the imagination of linguists and lexicographers and has crept into the lingo of people who speak English all over the world.
In 1982, Moon Unit Zappa, daughter of Frank Zappa, recorded the hit "Valley Girl" with lyrics that mock frenetic patter that waf first used by California surfers and gradually moved inland to the California's suburban shopping malls:
So like I go into this like salon place, y'know
And I wanted like to get my toenails done
And the lady like goes, oh my god, your toenails
Are like so grody
It was like really embarrassing
She's like oh my god, like bag those toenails
I'm like sure...
She goes, uh, I don't know if I can handle this, y'know...
I was like really embarrassed... (2)
Certainly some of the lyrics of Valley Girl are a exaggerated for effect and humor, but there is no denying the fact that Val Speak is having an impact on American English, especially among people below the age of forty.
The website for the recent PBS series Do You Speak American reports that one interesting target for linguists is the speech of young white Californians, particularly their use of the discourse marker "I'm like." Known as a quotative, "like" is used to report quoted speech, such as: He was like, "Where do you wanna go?" Unlike the word "said," "like" allows the speaker to paraphrase what was stated instead of making a literal, exact rendering.
"Like" is the offspring of an earlier quotative "goes" that appeared in the 1940s: He goes, "Do you know the make and model of your phone?"
The like quotative was once the exclusive jargon of young Californians, but in the short span of the last twenty-five years it has so rapidly spread throughout American and beyond that sociolinguist William Labov has called it a linguistic "tsunami." But whether or not it is here to stay is uncertain; just as "like" replaced "goes," it appears that the word "all" may replace "like" as the hip quotative, used in sentences like this: Then, after a while, I was all, “See you later, good luck!” (3).
Today's Challenge: Like, Gag Me With Youth Speak
The words below are from the "Track That Word!" section of the Do You Speak American website under the category of Teen/Youth words and expressions. See if you can match up each of the ten words/expressions below with its correct definition.
Chop it up
1. Major preoccupation, concern, obsession
3. To Steal
4. Talking with friends with great interest, enthusiasm
5. Strong, solid, loyal
6. Twenty, pertaining to twenty dollars
7. Old, wrecked automobile
10. Everything is going well (4).
Quote of the Day: Nothing is wrong with Southern California that a rise in the ocean level wouldn't cure. --Ross MacDonald
Answers. 1. Drama 2. Buggin' 3. Chalk 4. Chop it up 5. Firme 6. Dubs 7. Hooptie 8. Jargon
9. Kicks 10. Jake
1 - http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=23856
2 - http://www.lyricsfreak.com/f/frank+zappa/valley+girl_20056834.html
3 - Singler, John. "Like, Quote Me." Do You Speak American?
4. Track That Word - Do You Speak American?
Friday, September 08, 2006
According the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, more than 100 million girls and boys never enroll in school. At the minimum 860 million adults worldwide are illiterate.
Education and literacy are central to the stability, prosperity, and well-being of any country. As explained by Koichiro Matsuura, UNESCO Director-General:
Literacy is not merely a cognitive skill of reading, writing and arithmetic, for literacy helps in the acquisition of learning and life skills that, when strengthened by usage and application throughout people’s lives, lead to forms of individual, community and societal development that are sustainable.
According to UNESCO figures, 32 countries have literacy rates smaller than 50%. These include Bangladesh 35.3, Afghanistan 29.4, Somalia 24.1, and Nepal 20.1 (1).
Today's Challenge: Read All About It
The eight quotes below each say something important about literacy. See if you can match up each quote with its speaker.
John F. Kennedy
E. D. Hirsch, Jr.
1. Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people may be engaged in. That everyone may receive at least a moderate education appears to be an objective of vital importance.
2. Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource.
3. Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education and free discussion are the antidotes of both.
4. We have ignored cultural literacy in thinking about education. We ignore the air we breathe until it is thin or foul. Cultural literacy is the oxygen of social intercourse.
5. One of the greatest gifts adults can give -- to their offspring and to their society -- is to read to children.
6. The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
7. Education is a human right with immense power to transform. On its foundation rest the cornerstones of freedom, democracy and sustainable human development.
8. True literacy is becoming an arcane art and the United States is steadily dumbing down.
Quote of the Day: Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family. --Kofi Annan
Answers. 1. Abraham Lincoln 2. John F. Kennedy 3. Thomas Jefferson 4. E. D. Hirsch, Jr. 5. Carl Sagan 6. Alvin Tofler 7. Kofi Annan 8. Isaac Asimov
1 - UNESCO - Education - Literacy Day -
2 - http://www.literacyday.net/
Thursday, September 07, 2006
As Richard Lederer points out in his book The Word Circus, some of the longest common univocalic words use the vowel 'e':
Lederer also cites a univocalic translation of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" by Paul Hellweg from Word Ways magazine:
Meg kept the wee sheep,
The sheep's fleece resembled sleet;
Then wherever Meg went
The sheep went there next;
He went where she needed her texts,
The precedent he neglected;
The pre-teen felt deep cheer
When the sheep entered there.
But 'e' is not the only vowel for constructing univocalics. Dave Morice in his book Alphabet Avenue quotes a univocalic haiku by Howard Bergerson that uses only the vowel 'i':
The Haiku of Eyes
In twilight this spring
Girls with miniskirts will swim
In string bikinis (2).
Today's Challenge: One Vowel Howl
Pick a vowel and make a list of words that contain only that vowel.
Then, put those words together in a sentence or a Haiku in which you only use a single vowel. Here's a famous example concerning the Ten Commandments:
Preserve these perfect tenets, men;
Ever keep these precepts ten.
Quote of the Day: Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell the name will carry. --Bill Cosby
1 - Lederer, Richard. The Word Circus. Springfield, Massachusetts, Meriam-Webster, Incorporated, 1998.
2 - Morice, Dave. Alphabet Avenue: Wordplay in the Fast Lane. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 1997.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Lafayette argued on behalf of the American colonists, persuading King Louis XVI of France to send French troops to aid the colonists' struggle for independence from Britain. George Washington gave him command of an army at Virginia, and he fought valiantly on the American side at both Valley Forge and Yorktown.
Lafayette returned to France in 1782. Clearly influenced by his experience in the American Revolution, he became active in French politics drafting the "Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen" which was adopted by the National Assembly in 1789. During the French Revolution he protected the royal family from attack at Versailles, but he lost popularity in his homeland when his soldiers fired on a crown of demonstrators who were demanding that King Louis XVI abdicate his throne. During the tumultuous revolution, he fled to Austria but returned later when Napoleon Bonaparte rose to power.
President George W. Bush, on July 24, 2002, made Lafayette an honorary citizen of the United States, making him only the sixth person ever to receive such an honor (1).
Just as the United States benefited from borrowing Lafayette from the French, so too has the English language benefited from its liberal borrowing from the French language. With the invasion of Britain in 1066, the French language took a prominent role, especially in the language of government, law, and the military. Since that time and under more peaceful circumstances, English has continued to borrow hundreds of words from French.
Below are some examples of common English words that have their origins in French:
Today's Challenge: Be a Borrower and a Lender
The ten words below are more examples of common English words borrowed from French. See if you can match each work up with its correct definition.
2. Extraordinary insight or perception
3. Optical illusion
4. A collection of animals
5. Lighthearted and carefree
6. A trite, overused saying
7. Poise, self-assurance
8. Curt, abrupt in manner
10. Reminiscence; a personal record
Quote of the Day: I stand and listen to people speaking French in the stores and in the street. It's such a pert, crisp language, elegant as ruffling taffeta. --Belva Plain
Answers: 1. facile 2. clairvoyance 3. mirage 4. menagerie 5. jaunty 6. cliche 7. aplomb 8. brusque 9. lampoon 10. memoir
1 - The Teacher's Calendar of Famous Birthdays (The Editors of McGraw Hill). New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.
2 - http://www.krysstal.com/borrow_french.html
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Travelling farther away from Earth than any other human-made object, Voyager is the ultimate message in a bottle, carrying the 12-inch golden record that contains recorded sound and pictures. Someday this recording might just be the first glimpse an alien race gets of life and culture on planet Earth. For more details on Voyager and the contents of the Golden Record, visit the NASA's Voyager web site.
Back on Earth another message in a bottle project has been going on since April 2001 when Ron Hornbaker founded BookCrossing.com. Taking the idea of PhotoTag.org, a site that tracks disposable cameras, and WheresGeorge.com, which tracks U.S. currency, Hornbaker had the idea of creating a site where readers could register a book and then deposit it in some public place: a park bench, a laundromat, or a coffee shop. The BookCrossing.com website provides an ID number for each book and a registration card that can be attached to the inside cover of the book. The card briefly explains the BookCrossing mission and directs finders of books to the online journal page of the website where they can document where and how they found the book and, if they read it, what they thought of the book.
To date nearly half a million people have become bookcrossers. The practice has become so popular that it has been added as a word in the August 2004 edition of the Concise Oxford English Dictionary:
bookcrossing n. the practice of leaving a book in a public place to be picked up and read by others, who then do likewise.
Below is the list of the current top five most registered titles:
1. Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
2. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown
3. The Lovely Bones: A Novel by Alice Sebold
4. A Painted House by John Grisham
5. The Pelican Brief by John Grisham (2).
Today's Challenge: If You Love Your Book, Let Them Go!
Write your own literary message in a bottle. If you were to select on book title that you would consider releasing to the world, which book would it be? And what brief note would you write inside the book to entice the reader to take the time to read it?
Quote of the Day: A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold. --Henry Miller
1 - McCrum, Robert, William Cran, and Robert MacNeil. The Story of English. New York: Penguin Books, 1987.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
The document began as follows:
In the name of the most holy and undivided Trinity.
It having pleased the Divine Providence to dispose the hearts of the most serene and most potent Prince George the Third, by the grace of God, king of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, defender of the faith, duke of Brunswick and Lunebourg, arch- treasurer and prince elector of the Holy Roman Empire etc., and of the United States of America, to forget all past misunderstandings and differences that have unhappily interrupted the good correspondence and friendship which they mutually wish to restore, and to establish such a beneficial and satisfactory intercourse , between the two countries upon the ground of reciprocal advantages and mutual convenience as may promote and secure to both perpetual peace and harmony . . . . (2).
From the beginning of the Revolutionary War until the end, from the Declaration of Independence to the Treaty of Paris, two synonymous words were paramount in the Americans' struggle against the British: freedom and liberty. Since the French served as midwife for American independence, it's appropriate that one of these words is of French origin: liberty is from Old French via Latin. Freedom is of Anglo-Saxon origin.
The dictionary definitions from the American Heritage Dictionary are so similar as to practically indistinguishable:
Freedom: The condition of being free of restraints.
Liberty: The condition of being free from restriction or control.
Today's Challenge: Freedom's Just Another Name for . . . Liberty
Memorable quotes don't resonate with the reader by accident. They are crafted using stylistic devices (also known as rhetorical techniques) that make them stand out like italicized passages. The eight quotes below all refer to either freedom or liberty. Each quote also features one of the seven rhetorical techniques defined below. From the three options given for each quote, see if you can identify the most prominent rhetorical technique.
Allusion: A passing reference to a proper noun from history, the Bible, mythology, or literature.Antithesis: Contrasting ideas used in a parallel structure in the same line or same sentence.
Irony: Saying the opposite of what is meant or expected.
Metaphor: A comparison of two unrelated nouns.
Parallelism: Repetition of grammatical structures in writing.
Personification: Using human attributes to describe things.
Simile: A comparison of two unrelated nouns using "like" or "as."
1. Liberty, when it begins to take root, is a plant of rapid growth. --George Washington
Metaphor, Allusion, Parallelism
2. Freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed -- else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die. --Dwight D. Eisenhower
Irony, Allusion, Simile
3. Another thing: What has liberty done for us? Nothing in particular that I know of. What have we done for her? Everything. We've given her a home, and a good home, too. And if she knows anything, she knows it's the first time she every struck that novelty. --Mark Twain
Parallelism, Allusion, Personification
4. Liberty, n. One of Imagination's most precious possessions. --Ambrose Bierce
Irony, Allusion, Parallelism
5. We Americans are the peculiar, chosen people--the Israel of our time; we bear the ark of the liberties of the world. --Herman Melville
6. We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. --Thomas Jefferson
Irony, Personification, Parallelism
7. Nothing brings more Pain than too much Pleasure; nothing more bondage than too much Liberty --Benjamin Franklin
Metaphor, Antithesis, Allusion
8. As long as men are free to ask what they must, free to say what they think, free to think what they will, freedom can never be lost, and science can never regress. --John F. Kennedy
Metaphor, Parallelism, Antithesis (3).
Quote of the Day: What other liberty is there worth having, if we have not freedom and peace in our minds -- if our inmost and most private man is but a sour and turbid pool? --Henry David Thoreau
1. Metaphor 2. Metaphor 3. personification 4. irony 5. allusion 6. parallelism 7. antithesis 8. Parallelism
2 - Klos, Stanley L. Treaty of Paris.
3 - The Book of American Values and Virtues (Edited by Erik A. Bruun and Robin Getzen). New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 1996.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Samuel Pepys, a naval administrator and Member of Parliament, kept an extensive diary from 1660-1669. In the following excerpt from his September 2, 1666 entry, he recount events during the early hours of the fire:
Some of our maids sitting up late last night to get things ready against our feast today, Jane called up about three in the morning, to tell us of a great fire they saw in the City. So I rose, and slipped on my night-gown and went to her window, and thought it to be on the back side of Mark Lane at the farthest; but, being unused to such fires as followed, I thought it far enough off, and so went to bed again, and to sleep. . . . By and by Jane comes and tells me that she hears that above 300 houses have been burned down tonight by the fire we saw, and that it is now burning down all Fish Street, by London Bridge. So I made myself ready presently, and walked to the Tower; and there got up upon one of the high places, . . .and there I did see the houses at the end of the bridge all on fire, and an infinite great fire on this and the other side . . . of the bridge. . . . (2).
In the 17th century there were no fire brigades in London, a city that had one year previously been devastated by the Great Plague. The best hope for containing the fire was to pull down houses in the fire's path to create firebreaks. Despite the lord mayor's orders to do so, many property owners refused to sacrifice their homes. By the time the fire finally died out it had claimed 13,000 houses, 87 churches including St. Paul's Cathedral. There were only five documented deaths; however, nearly 200,000 people were left homeless (1).
Today's Challenge: Idioms on Fire
Many English expressions (idioms) feature fire. Given the number of words in the expression and the literal translation of the idiom from The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, see if you can identify the expression.
1. 2 words: To start to talk or ask questions.
2. 5 words: To worsen an already bad situation, as by increasing anger, hostility, or passion.
3. 2 words To become inflamed with enthusiasm.
4. 4 words: To combat evil or negative circumstances by reacting in kind.
5 3 words: A severe ordeal or test, especially an initial one.
6. 6 words: To pressure someone to consent to or undertake something.
7. 3 words: To take part in a dangerous undertaking.
8. 4 word: To function very well (3)
Quote of the Day: If the Almighty were to rebuild the world and asked me for advice, I would have English Channels round every country. And the atmosphere would be such that anything which attempted to fly would be set on fire. Winston Churchill
1. fire away
2. add fuel to the fire
3. catch fire
4. fight fire with fire
5. baptism of fire
6. hold someone's feet to the fire
7. play with fire
8. fire on all cylinders
1 - http://www.channel4.com/history/microsites/H/history/fire/map.html
2 - Samuel Pepys Diary. 1665-55. Bibliomania.
3 - Ammer, Christine. The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
From 1958 to 1960 he taught English at Montana State College and the University of Illinois, but in 1961 to 1963 he battled mental illness, spending time in mental institutions in Chicago and Minneapolis and undergoing Electro-Convulsive Shock Therapy (1).
In July 1968 Pirsig took a motorcycle trip from Minnesota to San Francisco with his 11-year-old son Chris. It's this trip that forms that basis of the novel's plot. From the very beginning of the novel the philosophical voice of the unnamed narrator captivates the reader:
I can see by my watch, without taking my hand from the left grip of the cycle, that it is eight-thirty in the morning. The wind, even at sixty miles an hour, is warm and humid. When it's this hot and muggy at eight-thirty, I'm wondering what it's going to be like in the afternoon.
In the wind are pungent odors from the marshes by the road. We are in an area of the Central Plains filled with thousands of duck hunting sloughs, heading northwest from Minneapolis toward the Dakotas. This highway is an old concrete two-laner that hasn't had much traffic since a four-laner went in parallel to it several years ago. When we pass a marsh the air suddenly becomes cooler. Then, when we are past, it suddenly warms up again.
I'm happy to be riding back into this country. It is a kind of nowhere, famous for nothing at all and has an appeal because of just that. Tensions disappear along old roads like this. We bump along the beat-up concrete between the cattails and stretches of meadow and then more cattails and marsh grass. Here and there is a stretch of open water and if you look closely you can see wild ducks at the edge of the cattails. And turtles. -- There's a red-winged blackbird.
I whack Chris's knee and point to it.
"What!" he hollers.
He says something I don't hear."What?" I holler back.
He grabs the back of my helmet and hollers up, "I've seen lots of those, Dad!"
"Oh!" I holler back. Then I nod. At age eleven you don't get very impressed with red-winged blackbirds . . . .
You see things vacationing on a motorcycle in a way that is completely different from any other. In a car you're always in a compartment, and because you're used to it you don't realize that through that car window everything you see is just more TV. You're a passive observer and it is all moving by you boringly in a frame.
Pirsing wrote Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in 1968 but it was not published until 1974. In fact, he holds the worlds record for rejections: 121 publishing houses rejected the book before William Morrow and Company agreed to publish it. Since its publication, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance has achieved cult status and sold more than 4 million copies.
Here are some other examples of authors who did not let publisher rejections discourage them:
-Richard Bach's book Jonathan Livingston Seagull was rejected by 26 publishers before it was finally accepted. It sold 30 million copies worldwide.
-J.K. Rowling received 14 rejections for her first Harry Potter book.
-Stephen King received more than 30 rejections for his first novel Carrie.
-Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time received over 30 rejections.
Today's Challenge: Authors' Last Laughs
The book titles and authors below all received rejection slips along with uncomplimentary words about their writing. See if you can match up the rejection with the author/title.
Carrie by Stephen King
The Diary of Anne Frank
Catch – 22 by Joseph Heller
Crash by J G Ballard
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Lust for Life by Irving Stone
1. ‘The author of this book is beyond psychiatric help.'
2. ‘The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the “curiosity” level.’
3. ‘ A long, dull novel about an artist.’
4. 'We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.'
5. ‘I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.’
6. ‘It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.’
1. Crash by J G Ballard
2. The Diary of Anne Frank
3. Lust for Life by Irving Stone
4. Carrie by Stephen King
5. Catch – 22 by Joseph Heller
6. Animal Farm by George Orwell
Quote of the Day: Metaphysics is a restaurant where they give you a thirty thousand page menu, and no food. --Robert Pirsig
1- This Day in History - September 1 - Literary - The History Channel
2 - Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Online version
3- Rotten Rejections
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
With the popularity and longevity of Seinfeld, you might think success was assured for Jerry Seinfeld, but few people know that he was dropped from an earlier sitcom Benson in 1980 after appearing in three episodes (1).
Looking back at the text of the Shapiro's letter -- only three sentences long -- it's hard to believe it was the spark that set of a powder keg of comedy that dominated American TV ratings from nearly ten years.
Call me a crazy guy, but I feel that Jerry Seinfeld will soon be doing a series on NBC, and I thought you'd like to see this article from the current issue of People Magazine.
Jerry will be appearing in concert in New York City at Town Hall on Saturday, September 10. If any of you will be in New York at that time I'll be happy to arrange tickets for you and your guests.
When the show ended in 1998, it was still at the top of the ratings, and Jerry Seinfeld made it into The Guinness Book of World Records under the category "Most Money Refused" when he turned down an offer of $5 million dollars per episode to continue the show. In addition to ratings success, the sitcom also made an impact on American vernacular with catchphrases such as "Yada, Yada, Yada."
Seinfeld's Agent George Shapiro, who later became on of the show's executive producers, had the gift for writing a short but strong letter of recommendation for his client (2).
Unlike an email, a short letter is likely to get the attention of your audience. If you want something done or you want an answer to a question, a short letter is a great way to guarentee a response. However, unlike the sitcom Sienfeld you can't write a letter about nothing; you need a specific subject and purpose for your letter. Below are four important guidelines for a successful letter.
The Four S's of Business Letters:
Keep it Short
Cut needless words, needless information, stale phrases, and redundant statements.
Keep it Simple
Use familiar words, short sentences and short paragraphs. Keep it simple, and use a conversational style.
Keep it Strong
Answer the reader's question in the first paragraph, and explain why. Use concrete words and examples, and stick to the subject.
Keep it Sincere
Answer promptly, be friendly in tone, and try to write as if you were talking to your reader (3).
Today's Challenge: Short, Simple, Strong, and Sincere Snail Mail
Write a short letter to a specific person about a specific question or request. For an example of a letter and the seven things you should include in the format, see Word Daze August 3.
Quote of the Day: The second button literally makes or breaks the shirt. Look at it. It's too high. It's in no-man's land. You look like you live with your mother. --First line from the first episode of Seinfeld and the last line from the last episode. In both cases Jerry is speaking to George.
1- Jerry Seinfeld.
2 - Grunwald, Lisa and Stephan J. Adler (Editors). Letters of the Century: America 1900-1999. New York: The Dial Press, 1999.
3. Business Letter Writing - Business Letter Writing Checklist
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Many aspects of Letterman's show follow the basic pattern of the late night talkshow genre, established and perfected by Johnny Carson. Letterman has added a few new wrinkles of his own that have become staples of his show and focus points for his fans.
One of Letterman's trademarks is "found comedy": people, places, and things found on the streets of the city that become the subject of Letterman's ironic wit. These consist of actual items found in the newspaper, viewer mail, "stupid pet and human tricks" performed on the show, esoteric videos, or person on the street interviews (1).
But perhaps Letterman's best know feature is his nightly Top Ten List. Based on a topic from current events, each list counts down ten hilariously warped responses. The very first list, for example, featured TOP TEN WORDS THAT RHYME WITH "PEAS":
While this was probably not the funniest top ten list, it is interesting to note that the Top Ten began on a poetic note.
Today's Challenge: TOP TEN TOP TENS
Below are some of the list topics from David Letterman's first book of Top Ten Lists. Select one of the topics and try your hand at comedy writing. Visit the Top Ten List Archive for inspiration. You can also create your own topic and list, or visit The CBS Lateshow with David Letterman website and enter the weekly Top Ten List Contest.
1. Top Ten Ways Life Would Be Better If Dogs Ran The World
2. Top Ten Ways To Pronounce "Bologna"
3. Top Ten Unsafe Toys for Christmas
4. Top Ten Prom Themes
5. Top Ten Questions Science Cannot Answer
6. Top Ten Things We As Americans Can Be Proud Of
7. Top Ten Interview Questions Asked Miss America Contestants
8. Top Ten Reasons To Vote
9. Top Ten Reasons Why TV Is Better Than Books
10. Top Ten Rejected Provisions Of The U.S. Constituions
Quote of the Day: Based on what you know about him in history books, what do you think Abraham Lincoln would be doing if he were alive today?
1) Writing his memoirs of the Civil War.
2) Advising the President.
3) Desperately clawing at the inside of his coffin.
1 - LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN. The Museum of Broadcast Communications
2 - Letterman, David and the "Late Night with David Letterman Writers. The Late Night With David Letterman Book of Top Ten Lists. New York: Pocket Books, 1990.
The film is an off-shoot of the 1999 Oscar-nominated documentary and surprise hit Spellbound, which profiled a number of the competitors in the National Spelling Bee. After the success of Spellbound, the Scripps National Spelling Bee was broadcast on network television for the first time in May 2005. The growing popularity of spelling has even entered the adult world with spelling competitions in bars around the country and even a senior national spelling bee sponsored by the AARP.
In addition, in 2005 the film Bee Season was released, and spelling even hit Broadway with the 2005 musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Today's Challenge: Prize Winning Bees
The eight words below are the winning words for the Scripps Howard National Spelling Bee for the years 1998-2005. See if you can match up each word with its definition.
1. 2005: grace note: an embellishing note usually written in smaller size.
2. 2004: of rocks, deposits, etc.; found where they and their constituents were formed.
3. 2003: Indifferent; apathetic.
4. 2002: prevision: seeing ahead; knowing in advance; foreseeing.
5. 2001: (medicine) something that can be used as a substitute (especially any medicine that may be taken in place of another.
6. 2000: a move or step or maneuver in political or diplomatic affairs.
7. 1999: pathologically excessive (and often incoherent) talking
8. 1998: a painter who cares for and studies light and shade rather than color (2, 3).
Quote of the Day: They spell it Vinci and pronounce it Vinchy; foreigners always spell better than they pronounce. --Mark Twain
Answers: 1. apoggiatura 2. autochthonous 3. pococurante 4. prospicience 5. succedaneum 6. demarche 7 logorrhea 8. chiaroscurist
1 - http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=17112481&BRD=1142&amp;PAG=461&dept_id=568956&rfi=6
2 - http://www.spellingbee.com/bwg/statschamp.shtml
3 - wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Early in his speech King invokes Lincoln and the unfulfilled promise of the Emancipation Proclamation:
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free (2).
King went on to cite two other vital American documents, the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Using the metaphor of a bad check, King argued that the United States would not be a truly free nation, until it fulfilled these promissory notes for all of its citizens, ending segregation, "withering injustice," and the persecution of black Americans.
An ordained Baptist Minister and a doctor of theology, King new how to craft a sermon and how to deliver a speech. His choice of nonviolent protest meant that his words and his rhetoric would determine the success of failure of his civil rights mission. King was up to the task. There is probably no more telling example of the power of words to persuade, motivate, and change the course of history than the speech King delivered on August 28, 1963.
Rhetoric is the use of language to persuade. Aristotle defined it as "the faculty of discovering in any particular case all of the available means of persuasion." Martin Luther King, Jr. used many of these "means of persuasion" (also known as rhetorical devices) to persuade his audience. He used metaphor: beacon of hope and manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. He used alliteration: dark and desolate, sweltering summer, and Jews and Gentiles. He used antithesis: will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.
But more than any other device, King used repetition and anaphora, the repetition of one or more words at the beginning of a phrase or clause.
Certain words echo throughout his speech. Unlike redundancy, this repetition is intentional. These words ring like bell, repeatedly reminding the listener of key themes. In the I Have a Dream speech the words justice and dream both ring out eleven times. But one word is repeated far more than any other; the word freedom tolls 20 times. In King's dream there is no crack in the Liberty Bell; instead, it rings out loudly and clearly, a triumphant declaration that American has finally lived up to its potential.
Anaphora comes from the Greek meaning "I repeat." It's the kind of repetition at the beginning of a line or a sentence that you see in the Psalms or in the Sermon on the Mount:
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
(Matthew 3:3-6 King James Version)
King uses anaphora for six different phrases that echo throughout his speech:
One hundred years later . . .
We refuse to believe . . .
Now is the time . . .
With this faith . . .
I have a dream . . .
Let freedom ring . . . (3)
King also chose one of these examples of anaphora as the title of his speech. The repeated clause I have a dream comes at the climactic moment in the speech which is probably why it is the most frequently quoted part:
I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together (2).
Today's Challenge: Three-Peat After Me
Sometimes writers repeat the same word in succession to get the reader's attention. In each of the following quotes, the same word is repeated three times. See if you can guess each word.
1. There are three things which the public will always clamor for, sooner or later: namely, ________, _______, and _______. --Thomas Hood
2. Three things in human life are important. The first is to be _____. The second is to be _____. And the third is to be _____. -- Henry James
3. To succeed as a conjurer, three things are essential -- first, _______; second, _______, and once again _______. --Gian Giacomo Di Trivulzio
4. Dancing is just ________, ________, _______.
5. Three things make you a winner in business: _______, _______. And, of course, _______. --Harry Benson
6. The world rests on three things: _______, _______, and _______.
Quote of the Day: Have no unreasonable fear of repetition. . . . The story is told of a feature writer who was doing a piece on the United Fruit Company. He spoke of bananas once; he spoke of bananas twice; he spoke of bananas yet a third time, and now he was desperate. "The world's leading shippers of the elongated yellow fruit," he wrote. A fourth banana would have been better. --James J. Kilpatrick
Answers: 1. scandal 2. kind 3. courage 4. practice 5. sales 6. love
1 - Nammour, Chris. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom Online Newshour Posted: 8/27/03
2 - King, Martin Luther, Jr. "I Have a Dream"
3 - http://www.speaklikeapro.co.uk/MLK_dream.htm
Saturday, August 26, 2006
Flexplace is just one example of the many neologisms, new words, that emerged and continue to emerge from the constantly evolving workplace
Flexplace is the offspring of an earlier neologism flextime (also flexitime) which appeared in print in 1972 to describe working conditions in which employees could vary their starting and finishing times as long as they worked the contracted number of hours in a week.
As early as 1974 Economist magazine forcasted the technological explosion that would allow office staff to work from home. The word used here was telecommute:
As there is no logical reason why the cost of telecommunications should vary with distance, quite a lot of people by the late 1980s will telecommute daily to their London offices while living on a Pacific island if they want (2).
The radical changes in the workplace over the last thirty years have spawned all manner of neologisms. A prime source for tracking these changes is the book and website called Word Spy. Founded by Paul McFedries, Word Spy searches out new words and phrases that have appeared in published sources multiple times. These neologisms are candidates for the dictionary. They won't all make it; nevertheless, these linguistic new kids on the block have their moment in the sun, used by people trying to communicate with each other in clear and concise ways about emerging ideas and new trends.
In the book Word Spy, McFedries uses an excellent analogy to describe the volatile nature of the English language:
I view language not a solid mountain to be admired from afar, but rather an active volcano to be studied up close. This volcano is constantly spewing out new words and phrases; some of them are mere ash and smoke that are blown away by the winds; others are linguistic lava that slides down the volcano and eventually hardens as a permanent part of the language. But although volcanoes have periods of intense activity followed by periods of inactivity, word creation never stops (3).
Today's Challenge: Words at Work
The 8 words below are workplace neologisms being watched by Word Spy. See if you can match up the term with its definition.
1. noun. An employee whose job entails performing the personal tasks—such as making dinner reservations and taking in dry cleaning—of other employees who have no time to do these things themselves.
2. verb. To perform office-related tasks, such as photocopying and faxing.
3. present participle. An office setup in which mobile workers do not have permanent desks or cubicles and so must reserve a workspace when they come into the office.
4. noun. A person who lives and works out of a home located in the country.
5. noun. A desk that is not assigned to a particular employee, but rather is available for use and can be reserved in advance by a mobile worker whenever they are required to be in the office.
6. noun. A facility where business travelers can make calls, plug in their notebook computers, and connect to the Internet.
7. present participle. Designing a building or area to make it more attractive to and compatible with the people who use it.
8. noun A manager who directs employees from a remote location such as home or a central office.
Quote of the Day: The rapidity with which new verbs are made in the United States is really quite amazing. Two days after the first regulations of the Food Administration were announced, to hooverize appeared spontaneously in scores of newspapers, and a week later it was employed without any visible sense of its novelty in the debates of Congress. —H. L. Mencken
Answers: 1. corporate concierge 2. to office 3. hotelling 4. modem cowboy/cowgirl 5. hot desk
6. touchdown center 7. placemaking 8. virtual manager
2. Ayto, John. Twentieth Century Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press,1999.
3. Paul McFedries. Word Spy: The Word Lover's Guide to Modern Culture. New York: Broadway Books, 2004.
Coming in the aftermath of World War I, women's suffrage was a result of the key role that women played in the war, their work in the factories and their active participation in the war effort. In September 1918, a speech by President Wilson revealed that he was behind the movement to give women the vote:
We have made partners of the women in this war. Shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of right?
In 1919 the House of Representatives passed a proposed amendment by a vote of 304 to 90. Then in June 1919, the U. S. Senate voted 56 to 25, sending the amendment to the states.
The fight for ratification was not easy. Thirty-six states had to vote yes before it became a full-fledged amendment, and there was substantial opposition to the amendment, especially in the South.
On August 18, 1920, in a close vote, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. The 19th Amendment was then made official in Washington, D.C. on August 26, 1920:
Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Section 2: Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Today's Challenge: Puttin' It to the Man
The Online Writing Lab (OWL) of Purdue University has a number of guidelines for non-sexist language. One particularly sticky area is the generic use of MAN. For example, because many women deliver mail for the post office, using the term postman as a generic term for all workers is inappropriate; a better choice is postal worker or mail carrier. Given a number of terms below that contain the generic MAN, see if you can come up with a suitable alternative that is more inclusive.
2. man's achievements
4. the common man
5. man the stockroom
6. nine man-hours
9. steward or stewardess
Quote of the Day: Taught from infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison. --Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792)
Answers: 1. humanity, people, human beings 2. human achievements 3. synthetic, manufactured, machine-made 4. the average person, ordinary people 5. staff the stockroom 6. nine staff-hours 7. business executive 8. firefighter 9. flight attendant 10. congressional representative
1 - http://womenshistory.about.com/od/suffrage1900/a/august_26_wed.htm
2 - http://owl.english.purdue.edu/handouts/general/gl_nonsex.html
Friday, August 25, 2006
Shortz was born in 1952 in Indiana. He attended Indiana University, studying Enigmatology, the study of puzzles. To earn his degree, Shortz had to persuade his professors that puzzles were a legitimate course of study. Once he got the go ahead, he then designed his own curriculum. He successfully completed his degree in 1974 and is the only person in the world with a degree in the field.
He is the former editor of Games magazine and current director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, which he founded in 1978. Shortz has been heard each week on National Public Radio stations since 1987, where he is known as the Puzzle-Master.
On June 16, 2006 a documentary called Wordplay profiles Shortz and his passion for crossword puzzles.
The following synopsis of the film is from the Wordplay movie site:
WORDPLAY focuses on the man most associated with crossword puzzles, New York Times puzzle editor and NPR puzzle-master Will Shortz. Director Patrick Creadon introduces us to this passionate hero, and to the inner workings of his brilliant and often hilarious contributors, including syndicated puzzle creator Merl Reagle.
Along the way, the film presents interviews with celebrity crossword puzzlers such as Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, Jon Stewart, Ken Burns, Mike Mussina and the Indigo Girls, who reveal their process, insight and the allure of the game. In addition to deconstructing this uniquely American institution, Wordplay takes us though the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament where almost five hundred competitors battled it out for the title “Crossword Champ” and showed their true colors along the way (1).
Today's Challenge: Crosswords Shortz-cuts
Below are definitions of words that commonly appear in crossword puzzles, but they are not necessarily common in everyday speech. Given the clues below, see if you can come up with the words.
1. 4 letters: A solo vocal piece with instrumental accompaniment, as in an opera.
2. 5 letters: The main trunk of the systemic arteries carrying blood from the left side of the heart to the arteries of all limbs and organs except the lungs.
3. 3 letters; A gradual decline or the outward flow of the tide.
4. 4 letters: A mild, yellow Dutch cheese, pressed into balls and usually covered with red wax.
5. 5 letters: Any of several large sea ducks especially of the genus Somateria of northern regions, having soft, commercially valuable down and predominantly black and white plumage in the male.
6. 3 letters: An indefinately long period of time; an age.
7. 4 letters: A fencing sword with a bowl-shaped guard and a long, narrow fluted blade that has no cutting edge or tapers to a blunted point.
8. 3 letters: A female sheep, especially when full grown.
9. 4 letters: A pitcher, especially a decorative one with a base, an oval body, and a flaring spout.
10. 4 letters: A very small amount; a bit. Jai-alai: A handball-like game of Spanish Basque origin.
11. 3 letters: Yen: A strong desire or inclination; a yearning or craving (1).
Quote of the Day: We try to do a Shakespeare play every year, because I feel that it provides the best tool for actor training. It's challenging in performance and language, physicality, analytical skills, and this particular one is along the serious lines, which seemed to fit the bill in terms of the kind of genre we wanted to explore. I call this the Sunday Times Crossword Puzzle for actors. --Jack Cirillo
Answers: 1. aria 2. aorta 3. ebb 4. edam 5. eider 6. eon 7. epee 8. ewe 9. ewer 10. iota 11. yen
1 - http://www.wordplaythemovie.com/.