Thursday, June 08, 2006

June 8: Bill of Rights Day

On this day in 1789 a draft of the Bill of Rights was presented to the First Federal Congress. The United States Constitution had been ratified on September 17, 1787. It established the organization of the central government and the elaborate system of checks and balances on the power of the three branches. What was not included in the Constitution at this time, however, was how the powers of the central government should be balanced against the rights and liberty of the people.

Beginning with the Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215, there is a long history of attempts to balance the power of the state or the Crown against the power of the individual. The Bill of Rights is a high water mark in this history.

Credit for championing the draft of the Bill of Rights goes to James Madison, would later become the fourth President of the United States. Madison had been the major architect of the document that was written at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and in 1789 he demonstrated the same breath of knowledge and the same skill in forming compromises as he argued for the Bill of Rights.

Madison’s first draft of 17 amendments was approved by the House of Representatives, but 5 of the amendments were later shot down by the Senate. The state legislatures would later remove two more amendments. The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution known as the Bill of Rights were finally adopted on December 15, 1791.

Today’s Challenge: Know Your Rights
Today there are a total of 27 amendments to the United States Constitution, but it’s the first ten that are known as the Bill of Rights. Below are 10 descriptions of these fundamental amendments. See if you can label each correctly with its appropriate amendment number.

A. Civil suits

B. Bail and punishment

C. Powers reserved to the people

D. Powers reserved to the states

E. Search and seizures

F. Quartering troops

G. Rights of accused persons

H. Freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly

I. The right to bear arms

J. Right to a speedy and fair trial

Quote of the Day: The only good bureaucrat is one with a pistol at his head. Put it in his hand and it’s good-by to the Bill of Rights. –H. L. Mencken

Answers: A. 7th B. 8th C. 9th D. 10th E. 4th F. 3rd G. 5th H. 1st I. 2nd J. 6th

1- The National Archives:

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

June 7: Quiz Day

Today is the anniversary of the 1955 premier of the $64,000 Question on CBS. Today we take game shows for granted, but in the early days of television these "quiz shows" were high stakes dramas that mesmerized the television audience and posted record ratings. The $64,000 Question spawned a number of successful imitators: The Big Surprise, Dotto, Tic Tac Dough, and Twenty One.

The success of the quiz shows ended, however, in 1958 when a scandal surfaced where evidence showed that the results of the shows were rigged. As a result, the quiz show craze died, and the networks stopped airing game shows (1). Games shows did not gain favor with the public again until the 1960s when shows like Jeopardy began to attract viewers (See Word Daze March 30). In fact it is not until the '60s that the term game show replaced quiz show.

It is interesting that tracking down the history of the word quiz has left lexicographers somewhat quizzical.

One story involves James Daly, a theater manager in Dublin. In 1791, Daly supposedly made a bet with a friend, saying he could introduce a new word into the language within a single day. He then created the nounce (or nonsense) word quiz and paid people to write the word in chalk on walls throughout the city. By the end of the day, the word was on everyone’s lips (2).

Although this is a good story, it probably is not true. Instead quiz is probably just a clipped version of the word inquisitive, an adjective meaning "unduly curious and inquiring."

Today’s Challenge: Quiz VII
On the seventh day of the month, try this quiz relating to various things relating to the number seven.

1. Using the mnemonic device WASPLEG, what are the Seven Deadly Sins?

2. The Seven Seas are frequently referenced in ancient literature. What are the names of the three seas that begin with the letter A?

3. Which of the Seven Wonders of the World is an eponym that originates from the name of an ancient king of Persia?

4. Which month of the year features the Latin root meaning seven?

5. What is the word that means a person between 70 and 79 years of age?

6. According the Book of Genesis, what did God do on the seventh day after creating the world?

7. Which of the seven days of the week is named after the Anglo-Saxon god Woden?

Quote of the Day: Fall seven times, stand up eight. –Japanese Proverb

1. Wrath, avarice, sloth, pride, lust, envy, gluttony 2. Adriatic Sea, Aegean Sea, Arabian Sea 3. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus. It is the gigantic tomb of King Maussollos 4. September 5. Septuagenarian 6. He rested. 7. Wednesday

1- The Museum of Broadcast Communications:$64000quest/$64000quest.htm

2- Manswer, Martin. The Guinness Book of Words (2nd Edition). Middlesex: Guinness Publishing Ltd., 1988.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

June 6: Parallelism Day

Today is the anniversary of D-Day on June 6, 1944. In the largest invasion in history, known as Operation Overlord, the allied armies assaulted the beaches of Normandy, France with 133,000 soldiers from England, Canada, and the United States. The war in Europe would not end until nearly one year after the Normandy assault, but without a successful invasion on June 6th, the progress of the war and the final outcome certainly would have been different. As a result, if you were to talk about the single most influential day or moment in the 20th century, you would be hard pressed to find any more faithful day than June 6, 1944.

On the morning of June 6, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces General Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered the following "Order of the Day" to the Allied forces as they awaited their appointment with history:

Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Forces: You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world.

Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.

But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory!

I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full victory!

Good Luck! And let us all beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking.

As well as planning for victory on D-Day, Eisenhower also had the unpleasant task of preparing for defeat. One day before the D-Day, Eisenhower wrote out the following brief message on a piece of paper:

Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone (1).

In his instructions to the sailor, soldiers, and airmen of the Allied forces, Eisenhower employed a specific rhetorical device to give his message punch and to make it memorable. This rhetorical strategy is called parallelism. Parallelism is a big word for a simple concept. Our brains work naturally to recognize patterns, and our ears appreciate rhythm. Parallelism is not just the repetition of words, it is the repetition of grammatical patterns.

For example when Eisenhower wrote: "Your enemy is well trained, well equipped and battle-hardened" he was using parallelism by repeating the adverb-adjective pattern in: "well trained, well equipped, and battle-hardened."

Another example of parallelism in Eisenhower’s message comes in the last sentence of his first paragraph: "In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world." Here Eisenhower uses the parallel nouns, destruction, elimination, and security, and he follows each noun with a prepositional phrase to elaborate on his ideas.

Good writers and good speakers know the power of parallelism to expand their ideas, to add rhythm to their writing, and to make their writing more coherent and memorable.

Today’s Challenge: I Came, I Saw, I Conquered Parallelism
Combine each of the following groups of sentences into a single sentence that features parallelism.

1. Last summer I built a log home. I ran a marathon. I organized my stamp collection.

2. I am the kind of person who likes listening to music. I am the kind of person who enjoys watching TV. I am the kind of person who loves eating out.

3. A good English teacher needs three things. He needs a dependable stapler. He needs an up-to-date dictionary. He needs an iron will.

4. Every child should have a pet. Pets provide companionship. Pets teach compassion. Pets encourage responsibility.

Quote of the Day: In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable. --Dwight D. Eisenhower

1. Last summer I built a log home, ran a marathon, and organized my stamp collection.

2. I am the kind of person who likes listening to music, enjoys watching TV, and loves eating out.

3. A good English teacher needs three things: a dependable stapler, an up-to-date dictionary, and an iron will.

4. Every child should have a pet, because pets provide companionship, teach compassion, and teach responsibility.

1 -

Monday, June 05, 2006

June 5: Complex Sentence Day

On this day in 2004, Ronald Reagan died at his home in Bel-Air, California. Certainly much has been written about Reagan’s political career as governor of California and the 40th president of the United States, but after his career in politics was over, Reagan accomplished something unique. On November 5, 1994, he announced to the world that he had Alzheimer’s disease.

In a short handwritten letter, Reagan explained his desire for privacy, but also his desire to raise public awareness for the millions afflicted with Alzheimer’s. With his characteristic candor and optimism, Reagan closed the letter by saying: "I now begin the journey that will lead me into the sunset of my life. I know that for America there will always be a bright dawn ahead" (1).

The May 14, 2001 edition of Time magazine contained a cover story tracing the search for the causes and potential cure for Alzheimer’s. One study of particular interest involved a group of more than 6oo nuns. Scientist David Snowdown of the University of Kentucky began studying the nun's personal and medical histories looking for clues that might solve the mystery behind why some people get Alzheimer's and other don't.

Snowdown became interested in autoiographical essays that the nuns had written when they entered the order in their early 20s when they first took their vows. He analyzed each essay for its idea density and grammatical complexity, and the results provided some interesting insights. Snowdown discovered that the nuns whose essays contained grammatically complex sentences were the same nuns who six or more decades later were free of any signs of Alzheimer’s. Conversely, those nuns who used relatively simple sentences were the same nuns who contracted Alzheimer’s. With the nuns' early writing, Snowden was able to predict with 85% to 90% accuracy which nuns would have the disease 60 years later (2).

There is no evidence yet that teaching students to incorporate complex sentences into their writing will prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s in later years. However, one thing is certain, a healthy menu of intellectual persuits, including writing, in your younger years doesn't hurt. Another certainty is that good writers use a variety of sentences, and understanding the difference between simple sentences and complex sentences is a starting point to adding variety to your sentences.

By definition a simple sentence has one independent clause, while a complex sentence has one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. For example, the sentence "Mary washed the car." is a simple sentence. Similarily the sentence "Mary ate dinner." is a simple sentence. Combining the two sentences using the subordinating conjunction "after" creates a complex sentence: After Mary washed the car, she ate dinner. Notice that the start of the sentence is a dependent clause that begins with the word after. The second clause in the sentence is an independent clause.

Today's Challenge: Syntax Sense
Read the sentences below and see if you can tell the difference between the simple sentences and the complex sentences. As you analyze the sentences, notice how subordinating conjunctions are used to connect phrases and clause. Examples of subordinating conjunctions are: after, although, as, because, even though, if, since, unless, when, and while.

1. When I write poetry, my mind is active and creative.

2. I write poetry to keep my mind active and creative.

3. She plays the drums well because she practices a lot.

4. The family will get together while they are in town.

5. The family will get together while in town.

6. If the sun comes out today, we plan to go to the beach.

7. Talking on the phone after school with his friend, Jerry remembered he had not paid the phone bill.

8. Since there are 85 billion different possibilities for the first four moves of a chess game, alternative moves are not hard to find.

Quote of the Day: Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
–Ronald Reagan

Answers: 1. Complex 2. Simple 3. Complex 4. Complex 5. Simple 6. Complex7. Simple 8. Complex

1 -

2- Lemonick, Michael D. and Alice Park Mankato. "The Nun Study." Time 14 May 2001: 54-64.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

June 4: Triple-Threat Day

As the saying goes "good things come in threes" or is it "bad things come in threes"? Well, today two disparate events illustrate both perspectives. First, today is the birthday of King George III(1738-1820), the notorious King of England whose tax policies sparked a rebellion in America. After acknowledging defeat with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, George III began a bout with mental illness that eventually caused him to tranfer his crown to his son Prince George in 1811.

A second "three" event for June 4th is anniversary of one of the greatest playoff games in NBA history. In game five of the 1976 NBA finals at Boston Garden, the Phoenix Suns and the Boston Celitcs battled to a tie in regulation. Finally after three overtimes and several dramatic shots, the Boston Celtics won 128-126. Boston would go on to win the championship in six games. For fans of professional basketball the Boston-Phoenix triple-overtime game is one of the most memoral games in history.

Today's Challenge: Three-Point Shot
For each group of three words below, see if you can determine one word that will go with all three to form a compound. For example, for the three words span, boat, jacket, the word life would form lifespan, lifeboat, and life jacket.

1. hide, boy, bell
2. out, elephant, sauce
3. news, sand, fly
4. scape, walk, beam
5. love, business, chain
6. aid, stand, wagon
7. Latin, skin, iron
8. chime, sock, surf
9. light, stand, hunter
10. storage, turkey, feet

Quote of the Day: There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. --W. Somerset Maugham

Answers: 1. cow 2. white 3. news 4. moon 5. letter 6. band 7. pig 8. wind 9. head 10. cold

Friday, June 02, 2006

June 2: D-Day Crossword Day

Today is the anniversary of the publication of a crossword puzzle that might have altered the outcome of World War II. In the spring of 1944 plans were being drawn up for the Allied invasion of France. This highly secretive plan was dubbed Operation Overlord by Winston Churchill and the invasion was set for June 5, 1944 by the commander of the operation General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The element of surprise was vital for the success of the invasion, but in May of 1944, British intelligence officers discovered that one of the Daily Telegraph’s crossword puzzles contained two important code names for the beaches of Normandy: Utah and Omaha.

The military became even more concerned when on June 2, 1944, three days before the planned invasion, a crossword puzzle appeared with the name Overlord and NeptuneNeptune was the name of the secret naval operations plan. The author of the puzzle, a schoolmaster by the name of Leonard Dawe, was arrested and questioned. Investigators where unable, however, to determine any explanation, besides coincidence, for the presence of the words in the puzzle.

Forty years after D-Day the mystery was finally solved when National Geographic discovered that one of Leonard Dawe’s pupils had been eavesdropping on the conversations of Allied soldiers and had noted the words, not for malicious reasons, but simply because he thought the words were odd enough to work well in his teacher’s crossword puzzles (1).

Today’s Challenge: Not Quite Crosswords
Given a clue and the number of letters, try to determine the words in the ten problems below. For example: "Presidential Plant – 4 letters" would be Bush; "Presidential Car – 4 letters" would be Ford.

1. French Dressing - 5 letters

2. Musical Bikini – 7 letters

3. Crazy Bunch – 7 letters

4. "I found a palindrome!" – 3 letters

5. Silent Staple – 9 letters

6. Storm or Drain – 5 letters

7. Fruity Gossip – 9 letters

8. Peanut’s Gallery – 6 letters

9. King’s Peril – 9 letters

10. Month that Inspires Awe – 6 letters

Quote of the Day: Coincidences are spiritual puns. - G. K. Chesterton

Answers: 1. beret 2. G-string 3. bananas 4. aha 5. paperclip 6. brain 7. grapevine 8. comics 9. checkmate 19. August

1 – National Geographic

Thursday, June 01, 2006

June 1: Commencement Day

Today is the anniversary of a commencement address that really was not a commencement address. The story begins with Mary Schmich, a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. On June 1, 1997 she published a column that was so insightful that it was shared by people all over the world, and it was also posted on the Internet where it took on a life of its own. Somehow word spread that the contents of Schmich’s column were from the text of an actual commencement address given by author Kurt Vonnegut to the graduates of MIT. The truth is, however, that Vonnegut did not present a commencement address to MIT in 1997, nor did he have anything to do with the writing of Schmich’s column.

The title of Schmich’s column was Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young, and here are her words that inspired so many:

Inside every adult lurks a graduation speaker dying to get out, some world-weary pundit eager to pontificate on life to young people who'd rather be Rollerblading. Most of us, alas, will never be invited to sow our words of wisdom among an audience of caps and gowns, but there's no reason we can't entertain ourselves by composing a Guide to Life for Graduates.

I encourage anyone over 26 to try this and thank you for indulging my attempt.

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of '97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now.Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they've faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you'll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can't grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don't worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.


Don't be reckless with other people's hearts. Don't put up with people who are reckless with yours.


Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself.

Remember compliments you receive. Forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how.

Keep your old love letters. Throw away your old bank statements.


Don't feel guilty if you don't know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn't know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don't.Get plenty of calcium. Be kind to your knees. You'll miss them when they're gone.

Maybe you'll marry, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll have children, maybe you won't. Maybe you'll divorce at 40, maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary. Whatever you do, don't congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else's.

Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don't be afraid of it or of what other people think of it. It's the greatest instrument you'll ever own.Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.

Read the directions, even if you don't follow them.

Do not read beauty magazines. They will only make you feel ugly.

Get to know your parents. You never know when they'll be gone for good. Be nice to your siblings. They're your best link to your past and the people most likely to stick with you in the future.

Understand that friends come and go, but with a precious few you should hold on. Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle, because the older you get, the more you need the people who knew you when you were young.

Live in New York City once, but leave before it makes you hard. Live in Northern California once, but leave before it makes you soft. Travel.

Accept certain inalienable truths: Prices will rise. Politicians will philander. You, too, will get old. And when you do, you'll fantasize that when you were young, prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.

Respect your elders.

Don't expect anyone else to support you. Maybe you have a trust fund. Maybe you'll have a wealthy spouse. But you never know when either one might run out.

Don't mess too much with your hair or by the time you're 40 it will look 85.

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it's worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen

The word commencement comes to English via Latin. It simply means a beginning or a start. This probably explains the tone of most commencement speeches which honor the accomplishments of graduates but focus primarily on what is to come in the real world. As a result, most commencement addresses are full of advice.

Writing advice is a good exercise in selecting solid, precise verbs. Most advice is written in the form of a command – that is instead of starting with a subject, like most English sentences, commands begin with a verb, as in Schmich’s advice to "stretch" and "Respect your elders."

Today’s Challenge: Commence with the Advice
Write at least five pieces of advice for graduates. Imagine that you are asked to dispense commencement advice to a crowd of high school or college graduates, what advice would you give them? As you write, select your verbs carefully; look for strong and precise verbs.

Quote of the Day: I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite. --G. K. Chesteron

1- Chicago Tribune:,0,4664776.column