Tag Archives: English language

Tingo Tuesday: Tell Me Your Iktsuarpok Moment

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It’s Tingo Tuesday!

The first Tuesday of each month, I share a word from The Meaning of Tingo & Other Extraordinary Words From Around the World by Adam Jacot de Boiod.

Today, I’m sharing an Inuit word.

You know that feeling of anticipation when you’re waiting for someone to show up at your house and how you keep going to see if they’re there yet?

The Inuit call that “iktsuarpok.”

I do that all the time!

And, to think, I just thought I was excited!

I love when other cultures have language for the actions and concepts for which we haven’t necessarily got the right words.

So where do you come in?

I’m so glad you asked!

In a moment, I’m going to ask you to leave me a comment.

In fact, you can leave multiple comments. Think of this as a contest you can enter as many times as you’d like.

Just make each entry a different comment.

I will pick the comment I love the most and the winner will get to follow in the shoes of my last winner, Pegoleg. See her over there in my sidebar? Isn’t she cute? Yeah, well she’s consistently funny, too. And prolific!

{I apologize for getting side-tracked, Peg-o. I’m giving you a foot-rub right now. Can you feel it? I knew that you could.}

Non-bloggers, I know you are feeling pouty. You’re like: “What about me? I don’t have a blog.” No worries! You can still win. I will highlight your name in bold and let everyone know how smart you are. Oh, and if you happen to be looking for a new job, you can add “uncanny ability to comment on words with no English equivilent” on your resumé. Feel free to direct prospective employers here. I will totally back you up.

Now, before you all jump ship and head over to Pegoleg’s place…

Tell me the last time you had a (real or fictional) IKTSUARPOK moment. What happened? Who were you waiting for? Was it worth the wait?

Tweet this twit @rasjacobson

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What the Deuce is GRIEVENSTALL?

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Today we continue with Made-It-Up Mondays where I throw out a 100% made-up word and ask you to:

  • define the word
  • provide its part of speech, and
  • use the word in a sentence that indicates how the word could be used.

Why? Because it’s fun. And because someone gave me the book

For example:

The Yupga word “Mamihlapinatapi” from the Yaghan language of Tierra del Fuego refers to a look shared by two people, each wishing that the other will offer something that they both desire but are unwilling to do.

When I can’t find the right word on the word-shelf to fit my mood or predicament, I just make one up.

The last time we did this the word was “fongutter” and I am sad to say, no one was even close. FON was really pronounced PHONE, and this word harks back to the days when Tech Support was still a wee thing who liked to take apart old phones to see how they worked. Now he enjoys taking bigger stuff, so I have to tell him to stop being a “fongutter” and put my shizzle back together.

No worries. We shall plough ahead.

The first person to use the word even remotely close to the way I do shall receive linky-love. And by that, I mean I will announce your identity in the next Made-It-Up Monday post next month and link up to your blog, so folks can head over and check out your stuff.

If you are not a blogger, don’t worry. If you guess the meaning, I will highlight your name in bold and let everyone know how smart you are. If you are looking for a new job, you can put “uncanny ability to define 100% bogus words” on your resumé and direct prospective employers here. I will totally back you up.

Continuing alphabetically, this month’s word is:

GRIEVENSTALL

What the heck is that? Define it. And give me a sentence in which you show me how you would use it.

You know, if it were a real word. 😉

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

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Sexy Semi-Colon Song

A while ago, I posted an email I received from a colleague about sexing up grammar so that people will use it more. I called it “Grammar is a Hussy.”

Since then we have even gotten into interrobanging. Can you imagine?!

Well, these cool kids seem to love them some semi-colons; I think that’s fantastic.

What’s your favorite punctuation mark and why? Or, for the love of Pete, show me that you know how to use a semi-colon properly. Go on; impress me!

Those Who Can’t Teach: Guest Post by Tamara Lunardo

Tamara-Out-Loud

I am beyond thrilled to have Tamara Lunardo as my guest blogger today. Where I sometimes get mired in the details, Tarama is a big picture kind of girl. Tamara’s writing is as fresh, edgy and vibrant as she is. Gentle and compassionate, Tamara (pronounced Ta-MAH-ra) is a wonderful read. Note: Just don’t mispronounce her name or call her Tammy or she’ll punch you in the throat.

Tamara has an essay featured in Alise Wright’s book Not Alone: Stories Of Living With Depression, a compilation of a wide range of experiences, voices, and opinions of individuals who have lived with and continue to live with depression. And whether she’s writing about depression or tattoos, Tamara makes you think. She makes this little Jewish girl think about Jesus a lot. And that’s something.

You can find Tamara at HERE or Twitterstalk her at @tamaraoutloud.

• • •

Those Who Can’t Teach

It was my senior year of high school, and I was a frequent skipper of my coast-able classes, as bored, brainy teens are wont to be. One class in particular was on my skip list, partly because it was the last period of the day and partly because I felt I could gain nothing from it whatsoever: Yes, I hated English.

To be accurate, I loved English; I hated that English class. I hated hearing the assistant principal use the pseudo-word “irregardless” when he visited our classroom, and I hated seeing the teacher blink blankly as I railed against it in intellectual-teen angst. I hated her insecure explanations and her flimsy lessons. I hated being so ill instructed in a subject I so well loved. And so I opted out of attendance when I could, and I snapped out right answers when I couldn’t. I was not high in the running for teacher’s pet.

And then I had a change of heart.

I took my SATs and got a near-perfect score on the verbal portion, which resulted in letters of courting from various collegiate English departments. So I decided that this was the time and way to make amends, to offer this teacher evidence that perhaps I’d listened to and learned something from her after all, even though we both knew the truth. I approached her after class with uncharacteristic zeal and shared my exciting news.

“Yes,” she vocally shrugged, “that happens sometimes.”

• • •

I walked into a restaurant in my old hometown last year, and I saw that teacher eating alone at a table. She was thinner, fainter, and still as blank. My heart went out to her, and I had to say, “Hello.”

I reintroduced myself and let her know of my modest successes with the English language since my 12-year departure from her class. I offered my degree and freelance writing and editing career as evidence that perhaps I’d listened to and learned something from her after all, even though we both knew the truth. She blinked worn eyelids toward my contrite face and said without a shred of remembrance or interest, “Oh, that’s nice.”

And I walked away with uncharacteristic zeal because I thought, It really is.

And we both knew the truth.

Did you have a teacher you could’ve done without? Were you a class-skipper or a teacher’s pet? And on a scale of 1-10, how much does “irregardless” piss you off?

• • •

If you have writing chops and are interested in submitting a memory about a teacher you had and can explain how that person helped you (or really screwed things up for you), as well as the life lesson you took away from the interaction, I’d love to hear from you! Contact Me. Essays should be around 700-800 words.

If you write for me, I’ll put your name on my page of favorite bloggers!

What the Heck is a Castanurgle?

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Today I continue with my sort-of new feature: Made-It-Up Mondays.

I am throwing out a 100% made-up word and asking you to a) define the word, and b) then use the word in a sentence that indicates how the word could be used.

Why? Because someone recently gave me the book The Meaning of Tingo: And Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World.

For example:

“Faamiti” is a Samoan word, a verb, meaning to make a squeaking sound by sucking air past the lips in order to gain the attention of a dog. Or a child.

We don’t really have a word for that in English, do we?

When I can’t find the right word on the word-shelf to fit my mood or predicament, I often just make one up.

The last time we did this the word was “brissue” and two people came closest: Carol H. Rives and Save Sprinkles guessed that the word had something to do with a “bra issue.” And they are right. Kind of.

It is definitely a ladies’ issue.

I use the word to indicate the problem when a woman finds a fabulous garment on a sale rack, but she immediately notices that she will have difficulty finding just the right undergarment to wear underneath it. Basically, she will have to decide if she wants the fabulous garment — knowing full well that she will likely spend hours searching for just the right bra — or if she should walk away from the amazing bargain, thus saving herrself a lot of time and aggravation.

Trust me, men, this is a major brissue!

Continuing alphabetically, this week, the made up word is:

CASTANURGLE

What the heck is that? When would you say it? Define it and give me a sentence in which you show me how you would use it.

You know, if it were a real word. 😉

Brissue

Cover of "The Meaning of Tingo: And Other...

Cover via Amazon

Today I am continuing with my new feature: Made-It-Up Mondays.

I am throwing out a 100% made-up word (that I actually use in real life) and I am asking you to a) define the word, and b) then use the word in a sentence that indicates how the word could be used.

Why? Because someone recently gave me the book The Meaning of Tingo: And Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World.

For example:

“Slampadato” is an Italian word, a noun, meaning one who is addicted to the UV glow of tanning salons.

We don’t really have a word for that in English, do we?

When I can’t find the right word on the word-shelf to fit my mood or predicament, I just make one up.

When we last played this game, the word was ARBORCADE, and the person who came closest to defining the word the way I actually use the word was Brian Henke. He guessed that an arborcade was:

that well-intended planting of trees across the back of your yard that you pictured as a beautiful, well-maintained sanctuary for people and wildlife that has grown into a wild, impenetrable tangle of growth that could swallow small children and now has barricaded you from some of your favorite neighbors.

We have, in fact, planted a boat-load of trees in the back of our house in an attempt to “arborcade” ourselves off from the enormous school that looms in our backyard.

Continuing alphabetically, this week, a made-up word that I often use is:

BRISSUE

What the heck is that? When would you say it? Define it and give me a sentence in which you show me how you would use it.

You know, if it were a real word. 😉

Whoever comes closest to defining it the way I actually use it will get a mention and a link to his or her blog, if applicable.

From Zhaghzhagh to Arborcade

Cover of "The Meaning of Tingo: And Other...

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Today marks the beginning of a new feature for me: Made-It-Up Mondays.

On Mondays when I’m in the mood, I am going to throw out a 100% made-up word and ask you to a) define the word, and b) then use the word in a sentence that indicates how the word could be used.

Why? Because someone recently gave me the book The Meaning of Tingo: And Other Extraordinary Words from Around the World.

(Of course, it is my new favorite book.)

I read that that there are approximately 1,010,649.7 words in the English language. And while this seems like a really enormous lexicon, many nuances of human language sometimes leave us tongue-tied.

Sometimes it is necessary to turn to other languages to find a word to find le mot juste.

As Bill DeMain noted in his article “15 Wonderful Words With No English Equivalent”:

“Zhaghzhagh” is a Persian word, a noun, meaning the chattering of teeth from extreme cold or rage.

We don’t really have a word for that in English, do we?

When I can’t find the right word on the word-shelf to fit my mood or predicament, I just make one up.

It will be fun to see what other people come up with.

Remember, you can’t be wrong because the word I throw out will be a 100% fictional word.

If you’d like to submit a made-up word of your own, feel free to contact me. (My info is under the “Contact Me” tab.)

I’m starting alphabetically.

This week, the made up word is:

ARBORCADE

What the heck is that? When would you say it? Define it and give me a sentence in which you show me how you would use it.

You know, if it were a real word. 😉

Much Disagreement About Agreement

About a week ago, everyone in my neighborhood received this green postcard from the newly opened Huntington Learning Center. Very eye-catching.

Truth be told, normal people probably tossed it right into the recycle bin. But because I read anything and everything of/or related to education, I flipped over the card.  And I proceeded to do a little dance. Because I knew I had a blog.

Here is the back of the card. Can you spot the error?

The scene of the crime!

What? What do you mean you don’t see it?

Don’t worry, you are not alone. Almost no-one catches this error. In fact, it has gotten so that this “error” isn’t really considered an error at all. So today’s “Who-Gives-A Crap” moment is brought to you courtesy of this twit.

For those of you who are still looking at the postcard going: “I still don’t see the problem,” don’t be ashamed.

The problem is in the sentence:

Help your child learn skills they’ll use all year.

The issue is that “child” is singular. How many kids? Unless you also have a secret love-child unbeknownst to your wife, the answer is one.

But the folks at Huntington linked that singular child to the pronoun “they.”

Whaaaat? Where did all those extra kids come from? I thought there was only one kid.

To be sure, a person can deploy the “singular-they” in his or her speech, and it will likely pass without objection. People do this all the time. Spoken language is more casual than written language because of the speed at which we speak. We can forgive our newscasters, our reality TV hosts, our Snookis.

(We can forgive Snooki, right?)

But careful writers try to avoid using the “singular-they” whenever possible.

Looking for linguistic affirmation, I went over to the folks at Let’s eat, Grandma’ or ‘Let’s eat Grandma’: Grammar Saves Lives’ on Facebook to see if I might get some help from the moderators there.

I asked someone – anyone – to show me a page from a Style Book that says it is correct – even acceptable – to use this construction. Mike Workman showed up at Grandma’s and declared:

I figured someone might say language is always changing and the non-gender specific use of the word “they” is just easier. It sounds more natural, and we don’t have to fuss with any of that “he/she” stuff. But I didn’t expect someone to tell me that “most style guides accept ‘they’ as a gender neutral collective noun that could also be used as a singular noun.”

Whaaaaat?

Throughout the thread, Mike kept insisting that it was fine to use “singular-they.” He quoted famous authors who had done so from Shakespeare all the way up to the 1930’s. I gritted my teeth. To me, all that meant was that famous, dead authors made errors that, sadly, went into their books. (It seemed unfortunate that those great authors didn’t have better copy editors.)

Every time Mike said it was okay to use the “singular-they,” I kept thinking: Eating with our hands seemed more natural than using cutlery until someone taught us how to use forks and knives, no? I felt like I was getting linguistic advice from a Deadhead who had eaten way too many ‘shrooms. His message seemed to be: “Oh go ahead, it’s all right – nobody cares – do whatever you want, dude!”

So I went looking for these sources to which Mike was referring. (Because I am that geeky.)

And, frankly, because I was scared that I have been teaching it wrong.

And then, Charles Young showed up, my knight in shining armor. Or my Grammar Geek in white underpants. It didn’t matter. He swooped in to rescue me. He parried Mike Workman with his linguistic sword:

Okay, so I didn’t totally understand Charles, but I knew he was trying to agree with me. In a really fancy way.

Fifty comments later, Mike and Charles were having a serious cyber fist-fight. Each man was equally passionate about his (their?) love for me feelings about the use of “singular-they.” One man said, “Yea!” The other said, “Absolutely no friggin’ way.”

I figured things would die down at Grandma’s. I went to bed. And then I went away for the entire weekend. And when I came home, I saw the thread was still going strong!

At post 192, people were beginning to wonder if the thread would ever end. I thought I might be blocked from the group for causing such dissension among the ranks.

It was a runaway train. I had to try to stop it.

I left “Grandma’s” again, thinking: What is an English adjunct to do? I mean, I understand Mike’s point. The whole he/she thing is really cumbersome, and didn’t the lucky recipients of those shiny green postcards completely understand the intended meaning? I mean, we knew what we were being offered, right? So what’s the harm?

Well, here’s my issue. This place offers tutoring for SAT testing. And, as of today, if the following fill-in-the blank question showed up on the SATs —

Help your child learn skills ______ will use all year long.

— and the possible choices were:

(A) he

(B) they

(C) he or she

(D) who friggin’ cares?

as it stands right now, choice (A) would be considered sexist; (B) would be considered an example of  poor agreement, and (C) would be considered the correct answer. Although I recognize, at this point, most of you are leaning strongly toward choice (D).

I discussed this with two Advanced Placement high school English teachers and Most Excellent College Department Chairperson: a veritable holy trinity of English educators. And while Mike kept insisting the practice of using “they” is “widely accepted,” I was unable to find one single Style Book that stated it was “grammatically correct” to use this construction in formal essay writing.

I mean, some of us have to teach Comp-101. We have to explain the rules.

The nuances of language are complicated. It isn’t easy to master all these rules, especially the ones that feel archaic and forced. Come September, I am going to explain to my students that they need to have a speaking vocabulary and a writing vocabulary. I am going to try to convince them that we have to be poly-lingual. We need to know how to speak one way to friends and another way to teachers. We may write one way in texts, but (hopefully) that is different from the way we correspond to our parents and educators. On Twitter we have to Tweet it in under 140 characters, which requires a lot of creative abbreviation that would not be acceptable in a formal paper. Ever. The reality is, each of us needs to be literate in every one of these vocabularies (and others, too). We all need to be able to move between these worlds effortlessly and with expertise.

Call me old-fashioned, but until the folks at the Modern Language Association tell me otherwise, “singular-they” shall be considered sloppy usage.

Excited by my epiphany, I decided to pop in to “Grandma’s” and – to my horror – the thread was still going strong with over 400 comments! And even though I totally wanted some of the cookies that I knew were baking in the oven, I turned my back on “Grandma’s” house. It was getting ugly in there. I’m telling you, they were bringing out the Bazookas. And I don’t mean the bubble gum. Who’da thunk I’d get so much mileage outta dat ‘they’ question?

Do I need to tell the folks at The Huntington Learning Center about this? And seriously, what do you think they’ll say? Did anyone even make it to the bottom of this post?

Tweet this Twit @rasjacobson

Grammar is a Hussy

I got this little gem from a colleague who was in the midst of grading three sections of English 101 mid-term papers. Upon completing one full section of essays, he decided to reward himself.

(I usually reward myself by eating a bag of Snickers.)

Anyway, he found this little gem and sent this around via department mail:

My colleague took pause to wonder:

Do you think if we “sexed it up” (as the British say), we could ever get everyone to use it?

Let me be the first to say that I am a Grammar Pimp and proud of it.

I use Grammar all the time.

And she has never failed me.

Ever.

Grammar is slick.

She is tireless, and she never lets me down.

She has never asked me for anything, and I have only benefited from my relationship with her.

Seriously, who wouldn’t want in on that kind of action?

Grammar, you have a bag full of tricks, you dirty girl.

You aren’t afraid of anything: noun-pronoun agreement, misplaced modifiers, dangling modifiers. Colons don’t scare you and –  Grammar, you little trollop – you love when people use their hyphens properly.

Don’t you?

Yes you do.

Knowing Grammar is great.

But using Grammar is excellent.

I’m telling you: Use Grammar.

She wants you to.

If we approached grammar as if it were a reality TV show, do you think it would make kids more psyched to learn their grammar rules? Or would a whole bunch of teachers just get fired?

If My Kid Writes One More Book Report…

 

Sleeping Student

Sleeping Student

Monkey has been writing a helluva a lot of book reports this year.

In an English class, a student can — of course — write a formal essay in response to a piece of literature. And they must know how to do this competently. But let’s face it: Writing five paragraph (or two paragraph or three paragraph) essays after every book, can be a real drag. And there is no reason for this when there are a skillion (yes, a skillion) other ways to evaluate a student’s comprehension that are about 100 times more engaging than any book report.

Students could create a piece of art in any medium that represents a character, situation or theme from the story; they might compose a poem or a monologue which explores a situation or character or which develops a theme from the literature; they could write a script for a scene in the story and perform it before the class, or imagine a scene that could have been in the story/play but wasn’t; they could offer an alternate ending or imagine the characters in the future. A musical student could write a song that explores a situation or a theme from the literature and sing/play it for the class. A dancer might choreograph a piece that represents a situation, character, or theme from the literature. Someone could create a diary for a character, not just chronicling the facts of plot, but the character’s emotions regarding his/her experiences. A budding historian might want to research a historical reference he or she noticed in the literature and was intrigued by. Hell, a student could bake something symbolic which links to the literature. I’ve had students bake highly symbolic (and very delicious) cookies!

With any performance based assessment, there always has to be a written explication that accompanies the more creative project in which the student explains his or her intention and explores how the project helps his or her peers understand something important about the literature. Ideally, the assessment process informs the teacher and the learner about student progress and, simultaneously, contributes to the student’s learning process.

I could go on about some student projects that I have received over the years. One of my favorites involves a student who upon completing Lord of the Flies, made a trip to the local farmer’s market and bought a whole pig’s head and recreated the scene where the terrified boys, beat and unintentionally kill their classmate, Simon, and then put a pig’s head on the stick.

I still have the video (which I’ve had switched over to DVD) and I still watch it. And that kid makes movies now.

I know that No Child Left Behind supports “standards-based education”and is based on the belief that setting high standards and establishing measurable goals can improve individual outcomes in education. The Act requires states to develop assessments in basic skills to be given to all students in certain grades, if those states are to receive federal funding for schools.

So I get it. My school district clearly wants our kids to pass the standardized test.

They want a slice of the pie.

But our kids are dying of boredom.

So please, for this mother.

No. More. Book. Reports.