Tag Archives: Writing

The Author’s Tale (beware…)

I like odd things and this little poem qualifies (I found it here).  Think The Jabberwocky:

The Author’s Tale

‘Twas potter, and the little brown
Did simon and schuster in the shaw;
All mosby were the ballantines,
And the womraths mcgraw.

“Beware Jovanovich, my son!
The knopfs that crown, the platts that munk!
Beware the doubleday, and shun
The grolier wagnallfunk!”

He took his putnam sword in hand,
Long time the harcourt brace he sought;
So rested he by the crowell tree
And stood awhile in thought.

And as in harper thought he stood,
Jovanovich, with eyes of flame,
Came houghton mifflin through the wood
And bowkered as it came!

Dodd mead! Dodd mead! And from his steed
His dutton sword went kennicatt!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went quadrangling back.

“And hast thou slain Jovanovich?
Come to my arms, my bantam boy!
Oh, stein and day! Giroux! McKay!”
He scribnered in his joy.

‘Twas potter, and the little brown
Did simon and schuster in the shaw;
All mosby were the ballantines,
And the womraths mcgraw.

– Anonymous

Enjoy!

What Would You Attempt To Do?

It’s a new year – full of possibilities, dreams, potential, and reality.  I realize that we live in an imperfect world, however…

Enjoy!

If you can… (how to survive in a dog eat dog world)

I found this (here) the other day and it spoke to me in a way my dog couldn’t:

If You Can..

If you can start the day without caffeine;
If you can get going without pep pills;
If you can always be cheerful, ignoring aches and pains;
If you can resist complaining and boring people with your troubles;
If you can eat the same food every day and be grateful for it;
If you can understand when your loved ones are too busy to give you any time;
If you can forgive a friend’s lack of consideration;
If you can overlook it when those you love take it out on you when,
through no fault of your own, something goes wrong;
If you can take criticism and blame without resentment;
If you can ignore a friend’s limited education and never correct him;
If you can resist treating a rich friend better than a poor friend;
If you can face the world without lies and deceit;
If you can conquer tension without medical help;
If you can relax without liquor;
If you can sleep without the aid of drugs;
If you can honestly say that deep in your heart you have no prejudice
against creed or color, religion or politics; then, my friend, you are
almost as good as your dog.

customs_dog

Enjoy!

English is Crazy

Does the English language sometimes drive you nuts?  We have done some fascinating things with this language.  You really must be almost a native speaker to understand all the nuances of the language.  For example, I had a friend of mine from Chile who had trouble understanding the concept of “breaking wind.” 

The examples below might be even more subtle that that.  You can find the original here:

Crazy English

1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

2. The farm was used to produce produce.

3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4. We must polish the Polish furniture.

5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10. I did not object to the object.

11. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

12. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

13. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

14. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

15. They were too close to the door to close it.

16. The buck does funny things when the does are present.

17. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

18. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

19. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

20. After a number of injections my jaw got number.

21. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm goes off by going on. English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn’t a race at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

Enjoy!

When Children Read Fantasy

I found a wonderful article about Fantasy Literature (it’s been around for quite some time) and thought it good enough to share.  It’s a bit long (for this blog), but you can either find it (here), or read it below:

When the Children Read Fantasy

Terry Pratchett (1994)

There’s a feeling that I think it’s only possible to get when you’re a child and discover books. It’s a kind of fizz. You want to read everything that’s in print before it evaporates.

I had to draw my own map through this uncharted territory. The message from the management was that, yes, books were a good idea, but I don’t actually recall anyone advising me in any way. I was left to my own devices.

I’m now becoming perceived as a young people’s writer. Teachers and librarians say, “Your books are really popular among children who don’t read.” I think this is a compliment; I just wish they’d put it another way.

The aforesaid school librarians tell me that what the children read for fun, what they’ll actually spend their money on, are fantasy, science fiction and horror and, while they offer up a prayer of thanks that the kids are reading anything in this electronic age, this worries them.

It shouldn’t.

Not long ago I talked to a teacher who, having invited me to talk at her school, was having a bit of trouble with the head teacher who thought that fantasy was morally suspect, irrelevant to the world of the nineties, and escapist.

Morally suspect? Shorn of its trappings, most fantasy would find approval in a Victorian household. The morality of fantasy and horror is, by and large, the strict morality of the fairy tale. The vampire is slain, the alien is blown out of the airlock, the evil Dark Lord is vanquished and, perhaps at some loss, the Good triumph — not because they are better armed, but because Providence is on their side. Let there be goblin hordes, let there be terrible environmental threats, let there be giant mutated slugs if you really must, but let there also be Hope. It may be a grim, thin hope, an Arthurian sword at sunset, but let us know that we do not live in vain.

Classical written fantasy might introduce children to the occult, but in a healthier way than might otherwise be the case in our strange society. If you’re told about vampires, it’s a good thing to be told about stakes at the same time.

As for escapism, I’m quite happy about the word. There’s nothing wrong with escapism. The key points of consideration, though, are what you’re escaping from, and where you’re escaping to.

As a suddenly thirsting reader I escaped first of all to what was then called Outer Space. I read a lot of SF, which as I have said is only a 20th century subset of fantasy. And a lot of it was, in strict literary terms, rubbish. But the human mind has a healthy natural tendency to winnow out the good stuff from the rubbish. As far as I am concerned, escapist literature let me escape to the real world.

Irrelevant? I first came across any mention of Ancient Greek civilisation in a fantasy book. But in the fifties most schools taught history like this: there were the Romans who had a lot of baths and built some roads and left. Then there was a lot of undignified pushing and shoving until the Normans arrived, and history officially began.

We did science — in a way. Yuri Gagarin was spinning around above our heads. I don’t recall anyone at school ever mentioning the fact. I don’t even remember anyone telling us that science was not, as we might have been led to believe, all that messing around with chemicals and magnets, but rather a way of looking at the Universe.

SF looked at the Universe all the time. I make no apology for having enjoyed it. We live in an SF world. Two miles down there you’d fry and two miles up there you’d gasp for breath, and there’s a small but, given the consequences to us, significant chance that in the next thousand years a large comet of asteroid will smack into the planet. I’m not making it up. I don’t lose sleep worrying about it. But finding this out when you’re 13 or so is a bit of an eye opener. It puts acne in its place, for a start.

Them other worlds out there in space got me interested in this one down here. It is a small mental step from time-travel to paleontology, from sword ‘n’ sorcery fantasy to mythology and ancient history. Truth is stranger than fiction; nothing in fantasy enthralled me as much as reading of the evolution of humankind from proto-blob to newt, reptile, tree shrew, Oxbridge arts graduate, and eventually to tool-using mammal. I first came across words like ‘ecologist’ and ‘overpopulation’ in SF books in the late fifities and early sixties, long before they’d become fashionable.

I also came across the word ‘neoteny’, which means ‘remaining young’. It’s something which we as humans have developed into a survival trait. Other animals, when they are young, have a curiosity about the World, a flexibility of response, and an ability to play which they lose as they grow up. As a species we have retained these. As a species, we are forever sticking our fingers into the electric socket of the Universe to see what’ll happen next. It’s a trait that’ll either save us or kill us, but by god it’s what makes us human beings. I’d rather be in the company of people who look at Mars than people who contemplate humanity’s navel — other worlds are better than fluff.

So let’s not get frightened when the children read fantasy. It’s the compost for a healthy mind. It stimulates the inquisitive nodes, and there is some evidence that a rich internal fantasy life is as good and necessary for a child as healthy soil is for a plant, for much the same reasons.

Here’s to fantasy as the proper diet for the growing soul. All human life is there — a moral code, a sense of order and, sometimes, great big green things with teeth. There are other books to read and I hope children who start with fantasy go on to read them. I did. But everyone has to start somewhere.

One of the great popular novelists of the early part of this century was G.K. Chesterton. Writing at a time when fairy tales were under attack for pretty much the same reason as books can now be covertly banned in some schools because they have the word ‘witch’ in the title, he said: “The objection to fairy stories is that they tell children there are dragons. But children have always known there are dragons. Fairy stories tell children that dragons can be killed.”

book-stuffed-animals

Enjoy!

Unfortunate Headline

I’m not sure if the editor was trying to be funny or just chose an unfortunate string of words, but this made me laugh:

Enjoy!

Sure to be a Best Seller – How To Pose Like This

Now this is my kind of humor (dry) – and a Cat-in-the-Hat book to boot:

Enjoy!

How to Write Real Good

I recently posted How to Write Wicked Good Papers (from the Biology Department of Union College) and just found an expanded version from plainlanguage.gov, who’s motto is “Improving Communication from the Federal Government to the Public.”  All of these seem to have originated with William Safire through his New York Times Magazine Column, On Language, and his recent book, How Not to Write: The Essential Misrules of Grammar (Norton, 2005).

Of those on this list, I particularly like (and often use): number 6 (see?); nombre diez es muy bueno; as Safire himself would have said “Number 12“; it also behooves me to list number 15; I like number 17 a little, but I like number 18 big time ; who wouldn’t like number 24; I think numbers 32 and 33 are redundant; but I like number 32 because I dislike being repetitive and number 33 for the same reason as the previous number; 36; number 42!!; and finally 

At any rate, and without further ado, here’s the skinny [list] on How to Write Real Good:

  1. Always avoid alliteration.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid cliches like the plague-they’re old hat.
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. Parenthetical words however must be enclosed in commas.
  8. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  9. Contractions aren’t necessary.
  10. Do not use a foreign word when there is an adequate English quid pro quo.
  11. One should never generalize.
  12. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.”
  13. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  14. Don’t be redundant; don’t use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous.
  15. It behooves you to avoid archaic expressions.
  16. Avoid archaeic spellings too.
  17. Understatement is always best.
  18. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  19. One-word sentences? Eliminate. Always!
  20. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  21. The passive voice should not be used.
  22. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  23. Don’t repeat yourself, or say again what you have said before.
  24. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  25. Don’t use commas, that, are not, necessary.
  26. Do not use hyperbole; not one in a million can do it effectively.
  27. Never use a big word when a diminutive alternative would suffice.
  28. Subject and verb always has to agree.
  29. Be more or less specific.
  30. Placing a comma between subject and predicate, is not correct.
  31. Use youre spell chekker to avoid mispeling and to catch typograhpical errers.
  32. Don’t repeat yourself, or say again what you have said before.
  33. Don’t be redundant.
  34. Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed.
  35. Don’t never use no double negatives.
  36. Poofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  37. Hopefully, you will use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
  38. Eschew obfuscation.
  39. No sentence fragments.
  40. Don’t indulge in sesquipedalian lexicological constructions.
  41. A writer must not shift your point of view.
  42. Don’t overuse exclamation marks!!
  43. Place pronouns as close as possible, especially in long sentences, as of 10 or more words, to their antecedents.
  44. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
  45. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
  46. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.
  47. Everyone should be careful to use a singular pronoun with singular nouns in their writing.
  48. Always pick on the correct idiom.
  49. The adverb always follows the verb.
  50. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixing metaphors.
  51. If you reread your work, you can find on rereading a great deal of repetition can be by rereading and editing.
  52. And always be sure to finish what
Write good.

...add to list: Learn to write real good.

Enjoy!

Rules for Writing Wicked Good Papers

Writing seems to be a minor theme this week.  I found these wicked good rules at the Union College site.  They were posted by the Biology Department.  I hope they will help:

  1. Shun and avoid the employment of unnecessary, excess extra words.
  2. Make certain all sentences are full and complete. If possible.
  3. Avoid cliches like the plague.
  4. Take pain’s to spell and, punctuate correctly.
  5. BE Consistent.
  6. Don’t approximate. Always be more or less precise.
  7. Sedulously eschew obfuscatory hyperverbosity or prolixity.
  8. Avoid pointless repetition, and don’t repeat yourself unnecessarily.
  9. Always try to remembr t he/E extreme importance of being accurit; ne at, and carfful.
  10. Don’t use no double negatives.
  11. Don’t never use no triple negatives.
  12. All generalizations are bad.
  13. Take care that your verb and subject is in agreement.
  14. A preposition is a bad thing to end a sentence with.
  15. Don’t use commas, which aren’t necessary.
  16. “Avoid overuse of ‘quotation’ marks.”
  17. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
  18. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.
  19. Reserve the apostrophe for it’s proper use and omit it when its not necessary.
  20. Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.
  21. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
  22. Never use that totally cool, radically groovy out-of-date slang.
  23. Avoid those long sentences that just go on, and on, they never stop, they just keep rambling, and you really wish the person would just shut up, but no, they just keep on going, they’re worse than the Energizer Bunny, they babble incessantly, and these sentences, they just never stop.

Good writing!

Writing to Intimidate (or Academia, Here I Come!)

I had a professor during my teacher education days who loved to use many obscure words (I really do mean many) in very long sentences, then summarize what he just said by saying “…in other words,” and then use about five or six (simple) words to summarize.  Now, I realize that he was likely trying to increase our vocabulary by adding context to unfamiliar words, but I couldn’t help but think, “couldn’t you just use the other words?”

Although I believe the vast majority of professors really do have the best interest of their students in mind, I do believe there are some academic bullies out there as well.

 

The cartoon below seems to capture my thinking:

Enjoy!