Tuesday, July 28, 2015

"Weird Al" gives his cutting-edge student-centric lesson on business buzzwords

"Weird Al" Yankovic (en.wikipedia; ru.wikipedia) believes one good cliche deserves another ... or so you might believe from the number of popular buzzwords he has crammed into this one video. If you can't see the video, it might work here.)

This song, "Mission Statement," is from his album Mandatory Fun, and parodies the musical style of Crosby, Stills & Nash. You may already have seen "Word Crimes," whose style parodies Robin Thicke. Please let me know if you have questions about any of the phrases used in the song, or if you need counseling after this video!! As usual, I would love to know how many of these cliches you already know and how many are unfamiliar. Also: which of these will still be in use in five years?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Tea with Johan and Judy ... Tuesdays during our current visit

We want to see you and talk with you! Judy and I will be at the Institute on Tuesday, April 28, and possibly some of the following Tuesdays as well depending on interest.

We'll be there after the end of the fourth pair, about 2:40 p.m. We'll post the location on the main bulletin board.

We want to know what you're working on, what you hope to do this coming summer and next year, and so on. You can ask us questions, too. If we have time, we can play Hangperson or Dixit.

See you Tuesday!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Fun with negative words and phrases: "How I Met My Wife"

English has a number of "lonely negatives"--words (usually adjectives) that have negative or uncomplimentary meanings. They usually appear to be formed by adding a negative or intensifying prefix to a positive word, but the positive word is either never used or very rarely used.

In the story below, "How I Met My Wife," how many of these "lonely negatives" are represented by their rare or nonexistent positive partners?

In addition to the negative words, the story includes several negative phrases--that is, colloquial phrases that are built around a negative word or prefix such as "no" or "un-" or "neither." Example from the story below: "make [NO] bones about it" and "[UN]heard of."

Enjoy! And if you like, write to me with as many of the lonely negatives as you can find.

(I found the term "lonely negative" here. Need some hints?--see the link at the bottom of the page.)

"How I Met My Wife"

Jack Winter, The New Yorker, July 25, 1994. (Source.)

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate.

I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, [or should that be hevelled?—BES] and she moved in a gainly way.

I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I'd have to make bones about it, since I was travelling cognito. Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn't be peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do.

Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might cause was evitable.

There were two ways about it, but the chances that someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata or a sung hero were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at, someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused bridled passion.

So I decided not to risk it. But then, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make heads or tails of.

I was plussed. It was concerting to see that she was communicado, and it nerved me that she was interested in a pareil like me, sight seen. Normally, I had a domitable spirit, but, being corrigible, I felt capacitated—as if there were something I was great shakes at—and forgot that I had succeeded in situations like this only a told number of times. So, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings.

Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had no time to prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. Wanting to make only called-for remarks, I started talking about the hors d'oeuvres, trying to abuse her of the notion that I was sipid, and perhaps even bunk a few myths about myself.

She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savory character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. "What a perfect nomer," I said, advertently. The conversation became more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party together and have been together ever since. I have given her my love, and she has requited it.

See the list of words supplied by Adam Merberg at this page.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Ursula K. Le Guin: An extraordinary writer speaks out

Portland's own Ursula K. Le Guin receives the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters at the 65th National Book Awards on November 19, 2014. The video shows her accepting the award.

Ursula K. Le Guin on Wikipedia in English, in Russian.

Her acceptance speech:
Thank you Neil [Gaiman], and to the givers of this beautiful reward, my thanks from the heart. My family, my agent, editors, know that my being here is their doing as well as mine, and that the beautiful reward is theirs as much as mine. And I rejoice at accepting it for, and sharing it with, all the writers who were excluded from literature for so long, my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction—writers of the imagination, who for the last 50 years watched the beautiful rewards go to the so-called realists.

I think hard times are coming when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies to other ways of being, and even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom. Poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality.

Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between the production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. Developing written material to suit sales strategies in order to maximize corporate profit and advertising revenue is not quite the same thing as responsible book publishing or authorship. (Thank you, brave applauders.)

Yet I see sales departments given control over editorial; I see my own publishers in a silly panic of ignorance and greed, charging public libraries for an ebook six or seven times more than they charge customers. We just saw a profiteer try to punish a publisher for disobedience and writers threatened by corporate fatwa, and I see a lot of us, the producers who write the books, and make the books, accepting this. Letting commodity profiteers sell us like deodorant, and tell us what to publish and what to write. (Well, I love you too, darling.)

Books, you know, they’re not just commodities. The profit motive often is in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words.

I have had a long career and a good one. In good company. Now here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want—and should demand—our fair share of the proceeds. But the name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.

Thank you.

Monday, September 22, 2014

British Islands? British Isles?

"In the News: The United Kingdom Remains United," a post on the popular copyediting.com site, explains that the various devices we've used to keep track of British Isles country and island names, remain valid for the present.

The article includes a list of online reference sites for names and facts about countries around the world.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Word Crimes" by "Weird Al" Yankovic

A handy guide to popular sins of English usage. Aren't you glad I'm not using this for a gapfill exercise?


(Background information.)

Everybody shut up, WOO!
Everyone listen up!
Hey, hey, hey, uh
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

[Verse 1:]
If you can't write in the proper way
If you don't know how to conjugate
Maybe you flunked that class
And maybe now you find
That people mock you online

Okay, now here's the deal
I'll try to educate ya
Gonna familiarize
You with the nomenclature
You'll learn the definitions
Of nouns and prepositions
Literacy's your mission
And that's why I think it's a

Good time
To learn some grammar
Now, did I stammer
Work on that grammar
You should know when
It's "less" or it's "fewer"
Like people who were
Never raised in a sewer

I hate these word crimes
Like I could care less
That means you do care
At least a little
Don't be a moron
You'd better slow down
And use the right pronoun
Show the world you're no clown
Everybody wise up!

[Verse 2:]
Say you got an "I","T"
Followed by apostrophe, "s"
Now what does that mean?
You would not use "it's" in this case
As a possessive
It's a contraction
What's a contraction?
Well, it's the shortening of a word, or a group of words
By the omission of a sound or letter

Okay, now here's some notes
Syntax you're always mangling
No "x" in "espresso"
Your participle's danglin'
But I don't want your drama
If you really wanna
Leave out that Oxford comma
Just keep in mind

That "be", "see", "are", "you"
Are words, not letters
Get it together
Use your spellchecker
You should never
Write words using numbers
Unless you're seven
Or your name is Prince

I hate these word crimes
You really need a
Full time proofreader
You dumb mouth-breather
Well, you should hire
Some cunning linguist
To help you distinguish
What is proper English

[Verse 3:]
One thing I ask of you
Time to learn your homophones is past due
Learn to diagram a sentence too
Always say "to whom"
Don't ever say "to who"
And listen up when I tell you this
I hope you never use quotation marks for emphasis
You finished second grade
I hope you can tell
If you're doing good or doing well
About better figure out the difference
Irony is not coincidence
And I thought that you'd gotten it through your skull
What's figurative and what's literal
Oh but, just now, you said
You literally couldn't get out of bed
That really makes me want to literally
Smack a crowbar upside your stupid head

I read your e-mail
It's quite apparent
Your grammar's errant
You're incoherent
Saw your blog post
It's really fantastic
That was sarcastic (Oh, psych!)
'Cause you write like a spastic

I hate these Word Crimes
Your prose is dopey
Think you should only
Write in emoji
Oh, you're a lost cause
Go back to pre-school
Get out of the gene pool
Try your best to not drool

Never mind I give up
Really now I give up
Hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey
Go Away!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Обман (a post for educators)

Дорогие педагоги!

Помогите мне, пожалуйста--я пишу статью об обмане в контексте тестирования и домашних заданиях. Мне было бы очень полезно включать ваш опыт и ваши предложения в статью. Я организовал свои вопросы в этом вопроснике, но вы можете сообщаться со мной прямо, если удобнее. Не надо отвечать на каждый вопрос; вы можете выбирать самые интересные вам вопросы....

Я очень благодарен Елене Малашенко за перевод вопросов. И я благодарен ВАМ за внимание и любые ответы и предложения.