Monday, June 10, 2013

Briar Hill Lodge: Covington, GA

The Garden Shed

All things Garden Shed happened while we lived in Georgia, without a basement, and with frequent tornadoes.

It started out as a garden shed, but it became pretty obvious, at least to me, that Husband had other intentions from the get go.

Oh, it’s funny how people do that.  Get a small idea or plan or project and before you’ve finished saying, “I guess so,” you’ve got your yard dug up for whatever the scheme is about this time.

Well, this time, it was,  “How about a garden shed, just for a place to keep my tools, you know.  The garage is a mess. I’ve got to get a little order around here.”

He’s right. And I’m not orderly.  Not at all.  The house had no basement.  The garage seemed to be like a one and a half car holder, no matter what you are parking.

If a tornado came, we’d have to pile the two huge dogs with us in the first floor tub, the only room without windows.

Likely you’ve seen small metal garden sheds at the Home Depot. Those guys will come, set it up, and be done with it.

Not what happened.  

I noticed plans, magazines, drawings and downloaded kit info piling up.  Most of them looked like a nice little one room guest house you might see.  Bigger than a kids’ playhouse or tree fort or clubhouse.  Pretty nice digs for a couple of rakes and a wheel barrow.

Our carpenter, Kevin, paid a visit, so I knew things were getting serious.  Cedar shakes were mentioned.  French doors.  A front porch.  Clearly, the man had plans.

I’d seen one such structure before, in Hamilton, Massachusetts where my friend Jim lives.

As part of a kitchen renovation that grew like topsy, Jim added in a Guy Only Place, across a deck and out back as far as he could legally build.

Jim showed me the Guy Only Place one day, when no other guys were around.  It held a few chairs, a small TV with aluminum foil on the antennae, a couple of ship models and nailed up postcards.  It smelled of cigars and spilt beer.  It was A Guy Place for sure.  Also, I noticed a big funnel.

“Jim?  The funnel?”

“Oh, well.  We don’t want to have to go in the house to pee, you know.”

I’m a person who does prefer to go in a house for such things.

As it happens, this funnel fed into a piece of garden hose and disappeared right into his septic tank.  Clever Jim, I guess, but now this construction project in my own back yard was making me nervous.

Cement got poured.  Boards got sawed.  Kevin clambered up to add a green tin roof.  When the acorns fell, it made a person jump.

It contained electricity, a tool bench, peg boards, a 1940’s type radio.  Also, gardening books, a small refrigerator and a space heater.  

Bill was happy.  He made shelves on Saturday afternoosn while listening to opera. He sat on the front porch in the early evening with a Scotch and watched the hawks torment the rabbits and chipmunks. 

He called it Briar hill Lodge, named after the garden shed of his youth.  I  made him a sign for the front door.  It’s all his and he loved it.

The man works hard, and he needs his space.  Plus, he does not have a funnel rigged up, so I’m not complaining.  

No sooner (it seemed) did the new favorite place on the street become the front porch of Briar Hill Lodge, where a Baptist man could score a beer IF no other Baptist man was already there, did we move again.  

We've missed many things about living in small town Georgia.  A Language Wrangler can pick up a lot of new linguistic twists, and a man can build a 'garden shed' by a stream, hoping that the water moccasins don't take an equal liking to the structure.  

On a scary hot New England Day in the middle of a heat wave, it's hard not to think about the five years we lived in the Deep South.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Making Metaphors/Similes



"You need a camera. A real one. Trust me: your pathetic little cellphone will die out there like a whiny vegan in a Vegas steakhouse." --Mark Morford August 22, 2012 SFGate .


To the Teacher: Students are very aware of metaphors and similes in everyday conversation but might not have the vocabulary to conceptualize how they work.

If you intend to make the clear distinction between the two (although we read more often about metaphorical language which includes both) then you might want to change some of the ones below to direct comparisons..

Ex. Our mind is a garden growing new ideas if we feed it well. .

Class query: How do we feed our minds? What would be junk food TV and what would be a balanced meal for our minds? .

Our mind is like a sponge, our eyes and ears help it absorb information. .

Class query: How does the word absorb help the simile to work better?.

It’s important that students register the important point that we are making comparisons between UNLIKE things that might share a poetic or visual connection..

Class query: The ape swung through the trees like a monkey is a poor simile. Why? .
He looks just like his brother is not a simile at all. Can you explain why? .

The exercise below is meant to expand student creativity, to get them to use more figurative language without depending on cliches. Also it is an exercise with no right answers....just some that are more vivid than others. You’ll be able to tell who gets the concept. At the end of the lesson, teach the definitions of abstract and concrete. The students will already have been using both . As students complete the sheet they may volunteer to put their favorite on the board (after showing it to you) or may illustrate one they find amusing to picture (for extra credit, and to keep them occupied while others are still working) .

Forced Comparisons ______________(name) .

Do what you can with the following word challenges....

(Do at least three of the first five) .

l. A teacher is like a squeegie mop because .

2. A politician is like a Christmas stocking .

3. A gun is like a flower .

4. A museum is like an eraser .

5. A stranger is like a melon .

(Do at least four of the following eight).

1. ___________________ is like a Q-tip.

2. _____________________ is like a worn pair of jeans.

3. ______________________ is like Scotch tape.

4. ______________________ is like a popsicle.

(choose an object to compare to the following abstractions and explain each, using a semi colon instead of the word ‘because’) .

5. Time is like ____________________________ .

6. Education is like _______________________.

7. Jealousy is like ________________________.

8. Imagination is like ________________________.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In the Ongoing Search for Words

Down With the Word Search: Up With the Creativity

One of the popular time fillers I’ve seen in Language Arts classrooms is The Word Search.

If a student finishes his work early, or is getting one-on-one reading help, or is annoying a teacher, in grades two through twelve a teacher might say, “Here, work on this.”

I’ve watched kids working on these puzzles. The ones with a flair for language might enjoy them for awhile. Or they might humor the teacher. Perhaps they are trying for extra credit. Students with language difficulties struggle, need hints, look bewildered, and scrunch up their eyes as though they are hung over. Some eyes tear up.

You know what I mean, although you might know them by another name.

A square is filled with letters. Look at them up, down, across, and on the diagonal to see what words you can find and bind them up with the pencil for a lasso.

Why are students doing word searches in word jumble form? Beats me.
What these students are not doing, I believe, is improving their reading skills, their spelling skills, or their writing skills. I have no research to back this up. I haven’t bothered to find any. Likely we can all find research to back up any position we decide to take.

Phonics vs. Whole Language not the issue here

Ignoring the phonics vs. whole language debate for the moment, the following occurs to me. A student who has difficulty spelling, decoding, or keeping up with the grade level reading achievement of his classmates should not be trying to find words that are set up in a different pattern than reading itself. It’s not a useful skill. Why waste time on it? To play Tournament Level Boggle?

• We want students reading English to be eye cruising from left to right.

• We want them to be able to clump word groups together, to see complete thoughts, and to pick out details from context.

• We want them to look closely at the words that are already there.


Visible, not hidden.

An Alternative Word Search

In working with your children or students, a more useful activity might be to have them find words within words. At least they (the kids and the letters) are heading in the right direction.

Example: danger without the “d” is anger. Asking a child to read the word danger and asking what he reads when the “d” is covered up is more worthwhile.

(*Phonics fans will note that the “g” sound changes during this, one of the reasons that phonics is useful half the time, context matters the rest of the time.

Context = Whole Language Approach.

A five year government study came to the conclusion that a combination of techniques helps people learn to read.

“Duh,” said most teachers, figuring the money spent on the study could have bought a lot of new books, computers, and software.)

Be an Original Teacher

The concept of helping students practice finding words within words can be used by any teacher who feels like creating flash cards, original work sheets, or captions for pictures and cartoons.

NEW and Inspiring

The Pulitzer Prize winning poet, Richard Wilbur, has written a number of puzzle poems that could enrich and entertain younger learners plus expand the vocabulary of older ones. It also reinforces the idea that language and meaning change dramatically by the adding or subtracting of even one measly letter.


Inside a taxi, why do we find an ax?

It’s because cabs are also known as “hacks.”
A Pig in the Spigot is a charming illustrated book, supposedly for ages 9-12. Students much younger and teachers much older will find something to love and work with in this book.

“Emphatic has a hat inside it. Why?

Because some people, if you doubt them, cry

"By golly, if I'm wrong I'll eat my hat!"

What could be more emphatic, friends, than that?”

—Richard Wilbur

Today, May 16,  is National Flash Fiction Day in the UK.  Lots of words.  Some wayward.   My contribution was called:

 Bondsville Story  1958

It wasn't the burn holes in his shirts, the eyebrows reduced to stubble sometimes, or even that Angelo spent too much money on steel toed boots because he kept giving barely used ones to the Portuguese men who wore theirs with soles flapping, open to the possibilities of molten splatter that got to her.

This got to her.

"You cough sand.  That can't be good. Find something else," Bea said.

"Something else, like where something else?  You tell me where and I will go, but I tell you, clean jobs don't pay.  Dirty jobs.  That's what pays, so I do it."

"I want a baby but not a baby without a father."

"We cannot have a baby without the money from the dirty job."  He clenched his fist.  Just the left one.  The left one had the power for the work.

"Nancy from church said Luis almost lost control of the ladle, and almost got poured with the liquid.  The metal.  He would have died burning."

"Yeah. Almost. But Luis showed up at work today, so that's that. Also, I am stronger than Luis. And I pay attention."

“You want supper?  I made a lamb stew. I can heat it back up.”

“Nah.  I’m too tired to eat. But you are so good to try.  I thank you.  Tomorrow I will eat it before work.”

“Twelve hour shifts.  Why do they do this? Until midnight now?”

“The war.  They make the money from the war.”

Angelo's left arm always felt numb.  Using a twelve pound sledge hammer to shake the inside sand from the castings made his left arm bulge like Popeye’s.  His normal arm felt OK.  His normal arm could shake hands. He often slept in the big padded chair when Bea went to bed.  He could ease his left arm onto the high side of the one cushioned chair, which let it rest. The huge arm looked separate; it had a life of its own but Angelo had to carry it along if he wanted to keep the job.  If he went to bed, with one wrong restless turn over, the arm would sometimes fall out toward the floor, and jolt him awake like a heart attack.

He looked around the three room house.  Some wooden chairs, a table, a bed, and dishes.  This is what they owned.  He’d fixed up a tossed away pipe in the bedroom to hang clothes.  What else could he do?  He could try to ignore the left arm.  He could go to work. Once a week he could go to church.  Angelo could drink two beers on the day of rest.  He could go make a baby. He should go now to bed.  For her.

Bea heard him move, stand beside her, cough hard for a time, and sigh to suck in air. She felt his hand stroke her cheek.  The normal hand. Angelo was on his knees beside her.  He kissed her breast through the blanket.  He gently pulled away the blanket and found her nipple so ripe for kissing.  He could feel Bea moved slowly aside so he could climb in. He could feel how ready he was to make the baby.  He tried to get up, pushing himself with the right hand while still kissing her, wherever he could find to kiss, he would kiss. 

However, he could not feel the left hand around her throat, squeezing too hard.

The left arm belonged to somebody else.

Welcome to Twisted Tales; a  collection of flash fiction which explores the twisted existence of love, family and relationships as characters seek a sense of self and identity.
It is filled with a mixture of stories, some which will make you think , others smile and others reach for your security blanket.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Making the Smart Moves

Hands on learning. Competition.  Focus.   Sitting in one's seat for long periods of silence.  Problem solving.  Being able to see the Big Picture.  Low tech.  Budget friendly. 

About the only thing this proposal requires, is thinking inside the box.  All sixty-four of them.

Proposal: All public schools, starting in grade three through middle school, should offer chess as an activity within the school day.  In high school, it becomes an elective taken for academic credit.  I'm not talking about a Chess Club.  I'm talking about a class open to any interested student, even the ones who sign up only because they need the credits.  Making it a required course would ruin it, as most requirements make a certain percentage of any student body cranky.  As an after school activity it becomes less likely that students in large numbers will be able to avail themselves of this dramatic learning experience.  In high school, athletics, jobs, social lives, the benefits gained from learning the discipline of chess can and has been proven in a variety of studies.

In fact, at the risk of inciting insurrection, I would like to see any parent who feels dismay at the intensive pressure of their schools to teach to the test, or thinks that standardized tests are not helping their child learn, to do the following:

Opt out.  Opt out in favor of kids spending practice test time learning chess.  Chess playing teachers may be thrilled at the idea.

It's just a suggestion, but one I've been thinking about for quite awhile.

More on that subject can be found on the following link:


Monday, November 15, 2010

Spending and Saving

Waiting for Superman advertises its documentarian self on many websites I visit.

"A powerful and alarming documentary about America's failing public school system," according to the NYT Movie Review

As a life long educator, I was eager to see it. If you are a parent, feeling dismayed about your local schools, please don't see this movie. Volunteer in your schools instead.

While the stories of four wonderful, endearing primary school students are touching, real, and sad, the movie itself blames teacher unions and teachers themselves for.......pretty much everything. That view may confirm what a lot of people believe, but don't accept it as anything more than one more nail in the coffin of public schools, awaiting the bodies of the discouraged teachers who care.

Read the following, then consider the subtle and not so subtle misdirection and phony numbers used in the film: The convert from the NCLB charter school voucher system bandwagon article

It makes me very happy when people who are committed to holding one strong opinion, change their mind.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Kindles for Kindling: A Dangerous Fire

I cannot imagine owning a Kindle, a Nook, or whatever the next Not Book might be. Then again, I was a late adapter of the microwave, so I should talk. While I do not miss the physical card catalog in the library, and love ordering books on line, empty bookshelves in my home would be a sad sight. Worse, what if those shelves started filling up with ceramic elves, fake plants or Webkins? No real legacy there.

But you might enjoy this send up of
The Early Help Desk.

I hope we don't forget actual reading in books, that we can pass along in favor of renting words.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Frog Joy

Frog Joy

Now that it's May, we are safe.

Each year New England winter seems to last into spring, insulting the calendar and our need to get rid of the gloom. It's impossible for me to predict when to celebrate Frog Joy Day. Every once in awhile it will appear in mid-March. Usually, it's sometime in April.

Some years, due to quirky meteorological manifestations that would make a weather prognosticator weep, a late snow in what should be spring, postpones the party.
The wood frogs have come to the swamp to mate and in their quacking frenzy, they sound like mini mallards in a terrible, wonderful sex crazed heat. Stand there and smile because it’s really, really spring now. In fact, if you are out for a drive in the rural night, pull the car over and listen to the peepers. They are tiny, but the song is spectacularly huge.

Don't say anything. Close your eyes and picture what all is going on out there.

Studies show there is indeed a syndrome called S.A.D. An acronym for Seasonal Affective Disorder, people who suffer depression during the winter months need special lamps and warmth to shake off long weeks of depression.

I feel as though I can introduce myself as brand new in spring because the winter me is beastly and because even I wouldn’t want to know me then—crabbing about the grayness and whether the plow guy will show up on time. No one wants to hear me uselessly prattling about how January second through April Fool’s Day should be recalculated out of existence even though we all know there is a perverse correctness to that time chunk being there. I just don’t want to be anywhere in it, unless of course I could be in Brisbane or Sydney.

Living ten years in the American South helped. Camellias can skip past Thanksgiving. Lenten roses (Hellebore) appear in late January. Did you know that some trees start blossoming in February? It makes a girl giddy.

But, on the day in New England, when the frogs begin their roiling in the swamp, I laugh purely with no snide irony, no snickering cynicism or gloomy snort. Spring finally showed its candy-assed face and I can be me once more: the one who is profoundly hopeful, even though they still won’t give us a raise; the one who feels like cavorting, skipping a few steps in the back yard, even though the pasta and devil dog indulgences show more each year; the one who runs out immediately and buys charcoal, even though it might be two months before we can start to cook supper outside
Take a minute to think about the moments and ceremonies you use to mark the passage of time, and the seasonal things that create personal glee.

No matter what, I am more me than I’ve been in months, on the day the frogs start fornicating.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Real March Madness

If you live in New England, this is the month that can make you crazy. I should say, to be accurate, it makes me crazy. Snow, maybe. Freezing rain, sure. Potholes. A teaser sunny day? Of course. Mud. Potholes. Harsh winds that seem to be leftover from New Years. And potholes.

The only thing to do is find yourself the nearest bulb show and head there. In this case, the photos come from Smith College two days before official spring, the vernal equinox, promises that soon, out in the real world that is not under glass, blooms will happen.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Crime and Punishment

Creative Sentencing

During the first week of October, 2001, only nine years ago, Georgia finally declared the use of the electric chair to be “cruel and unusual punishment.”

A state that moved from the Hanging Solution to the Wonders of Electricity now uses lethal injection to carry out capital punishment.

FYI, lethal injection was first used in the state of Texas in the early 1980s. Since then, Texas has executed more people than any other state in the union. No correlation is implied here between the method and the madness. It’s just a fact.

Regardless of what your position is on the death penalty, evidence of uneven sentencing for all manner of crimes and misdemeanors befuddles even the most fair minded of people.

What a fair penalty for___Crime To Be Designated Later__is, varies from county to county, state to state, school system to school system, and politics in general.

Sentencing varies dependent on

• who the sitting judge might be

• how good one’s lawyer is

• how jury selection is handled

• how high profile the case is

• the mood of the nation

• whether a vice principal is more sympathetic to one student’s circumstances, as opposed to another.

• myriad other complications.

All we have to do is point to OJ Simpson, who is finally off the golf course, to convince someone serving time for non-violent behavior that Life is Just Not Fair. Even in the justice system.

Zero tolerance seems to indicate a bottom line. While all absolutes have inherent problems involved for particular cases, zero tolerance itself is a questionable stance, and often undermined by the terminally literal mind.

EX: A six grade girl is suspended for two weeks for having a Tweety Bird key chain on her backpack. In her school, the new code of conduct banned “chain possession” under their weapons definition. No warning, no personal letter home to the folks saying, “I know it seems silly, but in our efforts to be consistent, would you please help us by find a different key chain for Amanda?”

Creative Sentencing

1. I was reading the newspaper about a young man in Ohio. Only coincidentally was the the driver named Law. Anyway, he was busted for driving through town with his windows down and speakers turned up so high to some kind thudding sounds that small animals were having seizures.

His punishment for this noise offense was to listen to polka music turned up high for four hours. The judge probably safely assumed that Mr. Law would not find the songs catchy. The horror, the horror.

2. In Knoxville, TN a seventeen year old boy pled no contest to vehicular homicide. Part of the plea agreement for Pelham McMurry includes planning his own funeral. He must meet with a funeral director, write his own obituary, choose the clothes he would wear to be buried in. Many other appropriate restrictions are included in the year long probation—200 hours of community service, mandated counseling, random drug and alcohol testing. The victim’s father was profoundly dissatisfied with the judge’s decision to keep the case in juvenile court.

Which brings us to the concern of the day.

Let’s forget ‘an eye for an eye’ as in the Old Testament, or lopping off the hand of a thief, as in the Queran (Koran). No tit for tat (whatever that means).

Let’s think of some creative ways to punish non-violent offenders so that the punishment really fits the crime in some delightful, ironic, or useful fashion, and clears out the jails of the country who has the highest population of incarcerated individuals in the world..

Let’s really consider Poetic Justice.

Not everyone deserves the slammer. Or detention. Or a fine. Or humiliation.


Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Obama Wins; We Win

The Language Wrangler is very happy. Thrilled. Hopeful.

Even though, in scattered places across the land (Florida? Arizona?) people voted to amend their constitutions to permanently restrict the rights of gay citizens, and Minnesota re-elected a congresswoman who is more reminiscent of 1950's McCarthyism in her view of the many ways one can love one's country, Barack Obama is our president-elect, and we have a chance to regain our moral standing in the world and our moral compass in public policy.

The following is the text of the speech Obama gave at the end of a long (long) political race. I love the language and I love the message and I believe these are not the empty words, like "compassionate conservative" and "I'm a uniter, not a divider," that describe the past eight years of war, debt, loss of constitutional rights, exploitation, and secrecy.

Full Text of Obama's Election Day Speech

PRESIDENT-ELECT BARACK OBAMA: If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

Its the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

Its the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

Its the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

Its been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and hes fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nations promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nations next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy thats coming with us to the White House. And while shes no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what youve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didnt start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generations apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didnt do this just to win an election and I know you didnt do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how theyll make the mortgage, or pay their doctors bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who wont agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government cant solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way its been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, its that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if Americas beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one thats on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. Shes a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldnt vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that shes seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we cant, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when womens voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we cant, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can. Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Bailout? What Bailout? Bailout What?

Everything Old Is New Again

The Language Wrangler loves words. Sometimes it's difficult to cut through the useless verbiage to get to the meat. Not to mention, one's appetite changes.

Many sites on the web offer vocabulary enrichment. A Word a Day doesn't bounce or blink, or float suspect advertisements. I like that. Take a look at Word a Day.

Given the events in Washington DC in the past weeks, weeks in which the words 'panic' 'meltdown' 'political posturing' and 'predatory lending' were used with great frequency, it's time to step back and think ahead.

My vocabulary is now enriched by the portmanteau 'politicaster.'

"The politicaster is looking for small opportunities -- for such pickings and stealings as a careless public may leave for those of his kind. The great politician is looking for great opportunities."
Samuel McChord Crothers; In Praise of Politicians; The Wall Street Journal (New York); Jan 5, 2004.

Also, if you have never read The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, the best cynic I never knew, consider the following:

Corporation: n. An ingenious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility. -Ambrose Bierce, author and editor (1842-1914)


Monday, September 15, 2008

The Media. Who is that, again?

Punching Bag Deflated

I'm bewildered when anyone says "The Media" while dipping into the Blame Bag. Sometimes they say "The Liberal Media" or "Right Wing Media" which might narrow things down, but not by much. No matter who is speaking, it's evidence of more lazy thinking. "The Media" means nothing.

The Media is conservative, liberal, centrist, apolitical. The media is TV broadcast news with little more than factual highlights. The media is a variety of testy talking heads. Bill O'Reilly, and Howard Stern, and Rush Limbaugh, and Pat Buchanan, and Andrea Mitchell, and Cokie Roberts and Paul Harvey and Tavis Smiley, and Rachel Maddow and Charlie Rose and Keith Olbermann---good grief, aren't they a disparate bunch.

With all the voices on the blogosphere squatting on a political spectrum like birds on a wire, are we to assume that The Media is of One Voice?

Then there's the delicious irony of Sarah Palin, journalism major, complaining about The Media. Does she understand what The Media means? There's John McCain backing out of a gig on Larry King (who is not exactly known for his hardball questions) because a different CNN interviewer asked a McCain rep a tough question.

Spin doctors are on the payroll of both camps. A press release is not reporting. Gee, it's so tough to be part of the media--which includes US and People and The Enquirer. They must use a lot of Ben-Gay to help ease the pain of media bashing.

So, what "Media" enemies are we talking about, again? Help me out here.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Ham and Eggs

Got Any Spare Ribs?

When my late mother told me stories about growing up poor, her main beef, was the lack thereof. Big family, not much food.

Before the chain stores came to town with their fancy roll your own shopping carts, my grandfather owned a local market. What's wrong with that picture? His insistence that his home be kept kosher. His store, however, was not. So, while he generously provided credit for customers during the Depression, he would not bring home the goods to feed his family. Kosher food cost more, was harder to find, and the seven kids were pretty fed up with oatmeal and kasha.

As a result, my mother soured on large families, the difficulty and expense of maintaining two to four sets of dishes, and Hebrew school for her only child. I didn't mind. Being an only child was fine, one set of unbreakable Melmac was enough, and I figured the tap dancing lessons might be more fun than learning a language that would set me apart from my friends.

Skip ahead a few decades. Mom died, dad remarried, and kosher was not part of anyone's reality. Until. Until age and illness required assisted living. My father developed dementia; both needed walkers and someone to do the cooking. They decided on a place that catered primarily to Jewish people. It is a kosher facility.

Try to explain to a dad with not much memory and reasoning skill just why it is that he can't have ice cream for dessert after the pot roast. Sorry, but shrimp scampi is out of the question. Cheesecake after the chicken? Nuh, uh. He doesn't get it. He's disappointed. Then he forgets and things are OK for awhile, until the next time he's in the mood for butter on the brisket.

Last week he fell. He doesn't remember how, but with a bump the size of a naval orange on his head, blackened eyes, and two fingers with stitches, my 92 year old father had to enter a rehab facility to get strong enough for a return to assisted living. Every one in the family dreaded this day. Dad is fussy, fastidious, and treasures his privacy. Sharing a room with a stranger, being in a different building with no familiar attendants, unable to tell time, oh--this was a bad development.

Two days after his placement, I drove down to see him. I was bringing chocolate. Chocolate cheers him. I dreaded what I would find.

What I found was an elderly man in the activity room, kicking a huge ball around the circle of wheelchairs. He was happy to see me, although my name escaped him. Instead of complaining or begging me to take him with me, he smiled, said the people were nice, and he was feeling pretty good. I looked him in his black and blue eyes and asked him what he had for supper the night before. He managed a sly grin and answered, "Pork. It was delicious."


Monday, July 14, 2008

Big Mistake

The New Yorker Cover of July 21

It wasn't on the stands yet, but the cover was tooling around cyberspace as if Wall-E had plucked it from a garbage dump. It's awful. But exploring the reasons it's awful is worth more than a news cycle of thought.

If only The New Yorker had PRINTED A BANNER SOMEWHERE ON THE COVER that said, "The Politics of Fear." People of any political stripe could then be left to their own reactions. Context could then be asserted, debated, and munched upon.

The upcoming election is too important to have a discussion of either candidate devolve into a combo platter of Danish inspired fatwah and country-fried Miley Cyrus . The New Yorker editor should have realized a large part of the population don't get most satire. They don't get Stephen Colbert.

People of all intelligence levels are confused by irony and hoaxes all the time. Very smart friends of mine try to warn me about scams. I almost always send an appropriate link to right back at them. College student 'research papers' reveal this terrible truth to me with great frequency. In fact, were I to visit a white supremacist website I would never expect to see this real New Yorker cover posted on it. I would be certain that it was a cruel caricature.

Most people do not read The New Yorker (sorry to say) nor Vanity Fair, but they watch the reactions when there is a kerfluffle.

The assumptions made by the artist and the editor were unwise.

Much of the superiority of the debate comes from those who say people are stupid if they don't get the joke. What if the joke is not funny?

I lived in Arkansas for five years--during the last election cycle, in fact.

I lived in Georgia when Max Cleland was smeared.

The 'satire' would work much better if those imagining the cartoon were political operatives, NOT, as cartoonist Bob Cesca suggests at the Huffington Post.

"In order to preserve the integrity of the drawing, while emphasizing the point, Blitt [the artist] could've used the same illustration but drawn it within a large comic book speech bubble emanating from the mouth of an exaggerated, fat, inbred, toothless hillbilly sitting at his toothless hillbilly computer."

Arkansas and West Virginia were targeted as states being 'stupid enough' to believe that a Kerry victory would mean the loss of all guns and the banning of all bibles. A full page ad appeared in the AR state paper of record, The Arkansas Democrat.

Both liberals and GOP tricksters wind up in the same camp when insulting southerners as hillbillies (yet another kind of slur). I sure would not be comfortable sitting around that campfire.

But is so often the case, it's The Daily Show that eases my blood pressure, gives me perspective, and the hope that just maybe, Jon Stewart makes more sense than most pundits.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Money Matters

Getting and Spending

You know the feeling. You work. You get paid.

You get the check or the direct deposit slip and you feel a bit...flush. You also have plastic.

Oh, and that stimulus check. Now it’s patriotic to go spend it?

Best to have only one or two credit cards lest you get yourself into trouble when for some reason you think your life will be significantly better if you:

• Get an even bigger TV
• See what's up with this iPhone thing
• Order the 247 piece set of T-Fal from a shopping channel
•Upgrade your computer
•Maybe check in at a day spa for a tune up, and trot on home with about $500 worth of makeup you'll never quite get the hang of.
•Or even ...uh oh...decide to become an urban warrior and join the legions of SUV owners. Purely for self defense of course. You can get a “bargain” on one with gas over four bucks.

It's a rush to think about, picture ahead of time, call around, go take a look, maybe even Do It. Even if you can't exactly afford it, you feel as though you deserve it. And, life being stressful enough in so many ways, you probably do.

All of the above possible purchases have potential for ongoing pleasure. It's sort of fun when you are watching something you love on TV and realize, wow! That's a big honking picture. What clarity. Visitors may echo these sentiments. They might go home with screen envy.

You can host a fabulous deck party because you now have 247 pots of all sizes in which to make things. Guests will talk among themselves trying to figure out where/how you store it all. They will want your recipes. Plus you look good, what with the day spa glow still evident.

The Ute in the driveway is pretty impressive. The neighbors are eyeing it and you no longer have highway driving anxiety attacks. Life is good. Even though the bills will come in, some how you feel as though you are getting a Hunk o the Good Life.

The thing about life, economically speaking, that can be most discouraging, however, is when Something Goes Very Wrong with Something That is Very Necessary to Everyday Living. When these kinds of thing go wrong they always cost lots of money to take care of, disrupt the household with lots of noise and inconvenience, and while life is truly better when they are taken care of, it just doesn't quite qualify as a psychological boost, a physical afterglow.

Think septic system. Think water stains on your ceiling, which means a leaky roof, which means putting on a new roof and getting the ceilings painted. Think underground oil tank which will have to be dug up to meet new regulations, while you pray there is no leak polluting the local ground water because if there is you will be an indentured servant for the rest of your life.

Think...the furnace has died.

You are a grownup. You have to take care of these things. But while you get hit with huge bills and may have to take out an equity loan, you CANNOT say to a guest, "Hey. Want to see my new full house air conditioning unit in the attic? It's mint." You CANNOT say to a neighbor, "Drop by and I'll show you the greatest sump pump on the market."

While I don't pretend to understand economics, I do understand that spending money is like riding a hydraulic lift. Sometimes you are up there looking over the territory of possibilities; sometimes the hydraulic principle means you wind up below the floor of the garage, looking up at all those Service Guys who are shaking their heads and shrugging, while they all chant in unison, "Lady, this is gonna cost ya."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Forgetting Stuff

Here’s Why You Don’t Have Alzheimer’s

You worry about it though. I worry. Sometimes I can’t come up with the word or my thoughts wander in the middle of a sentence. Uh, oh. Is my mind too busy or too spongy. So goes the dilemma. What am I without my words?

Glance over there to the next check out line. (Don’t be obvious) A woman is looking through her pocketbook with THAT LOOK on her face. She’s worried.

Has she lost her wallet?

Did someone steal her wallet when she was feeling up the cantaloupes?

Is the wallet still on the counter in the kitchen? She’d had it out to give her son five bucks for a field trip at the last minute. Maybe she forgot to put it back in her purse.

A mountain of food has already been scanned and bagged, and she’s saying things like,

“I don’t know where it is...

I was sure I....

Maybe I....

I could call....

AH-HA! Here it is, in my pocket. Never mind. Sorry. Grabbed it on my way out the door. I didn’t forget."

To herself she might be muttering, What if it’s Alzheimer’s.

It’s not just the hypochondriacs and phobics among us that worry about this one looming over our heads.

Anyone who sees the documentaries, reads the articles, loves someone who has been afflicted, can chill themselves into the sub-zero zone really easily at the thought of a future with no mind left and a healthy heart pumping.


Here’s what we are really forgetting. We are forgetting that everyone forgets stuff.

Our lives are full, busy, and scattered. Lots of people come and go, in and out of our radar on a regular basis. You went to a couple of meetings for something a year ago. On the street you see a vaguely familiar face.

You say,

“Should I know this person?

I think I know this person.

I have NO idea where I know this person from.

No name is attaching itself to this person.

What if this person recognizes me? Remembers me? I’ll hurt this person’s feelings."

And all of those thoughts are happening in a mind that is, at the very same time, hearing the music coming from the town square, smelling the muffins from Sugar Babe’s wafting out into the street, the same mind that is reminding you to buy batteries and a new mop (as you are walking past the hardware store) plus you’ve got to get a gift for Rebecca’s wedding shower. You wouldn’t forget that.

I swear it’s a miracle that we CAN walk and chew gum at the same time.


Kids forget things all the time. Permission slips. Gym shorts. Deadlines. Pencils. Homework. Where they left their jacket over the weekend.

Young adults forget things all the time. Thank you notes. Phone numbers. Billing cycles. Credit limits. Chores. Manners. Lots of things you thought you taught them.

Even when you live alone, it doesn't mean there's no sensory overload in your life. The phone, the TV, the newspapers, the chores, the neighbors, the ideas, memories, all fill up our senses. We've been around awhile. We're full to overflowing with information and images. If we get distracted, and forget ONE thing, ONE word.....are we thinking "Uh, oh. This is it. Tomorrow I'll forget where my shoes are, and how to parallel park.

So, the next time you find yourself in the pantry, wondering why you happen to be in there, instead of in the comfy chair or planting a petunia, reach for the raisins, or the cashews, or the chocolate. It’s just your body trying to tell you something.

You were sorta, kinda, maybe a tad hungry.

Yeah. That’s it.


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

10 Steps of the Public Lie

Everyone does it. Oh, really?

The scene is so familiar.

Someone in the public eye, often a politician, but not always (OJ) is connected to a disappearance, a bludgeoning, a break-in, dirty tricks, larceny, whatever.

It’s exhausting to watch. At every step, we view:

The First Announcement
(babble, babble, guess, guess, assume, wonder, theorize)

The Second, slightly different ‘hastily called news conference.’
(babble, babble, guess, guess, assume, wonder, theorize some more)

We have been in the middle of many such political shenanigans, especially during the last year, but it’s all so familiar. It's exhausting. Oh, Spitzer, Foley, Craig, Vitter: What were you thinking? Really.

The Ten Steps of The Public Lie:

1. No information. “The Big Whatever has come as a complete shock.”

2. No useful information. “Whatever contact we had was professional.”

3. No germane information that would help the authorities. “Would help if I could.”

4. Eager to cooperate. “Except I’ve told you all I know.”

5. Would be inappropriate to say more at this time.

6. Eager to cooperate at the appropriate time. “But upon advice of counsel, I cannot say anymore.”

7. Accuse the press of harassment

8. Admit a little. “I was not completely forthcoming at first out of respect for.....”

9. Stall the big lie even more. “I did not have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinsky.”

10. Eager for the truth to come out. “Where I will be completely vindicated.”

THEN admit and apologize, sort of, but for only part of it, and there were extenuating circumstances, and say something like, “Mistakes were made.” Roger Clemens.

Plea bargain or request immunity. Make big bucks on speaking fees.
Except for OJ


Friday, March 21, 2008


Fear of Spam

When the word Spam was extended from a tinned concoction of pork-like product to its internet meaning of "junk mail," it all made sense.

Good metaphor. Icky unappetizing meat like filler. Especially the ones that assure all readers their penis can be widened, stretched, and turned to stone for long periods of time.

Gmail has a good spam filter. It captures euphemisms and dumps them in a fetid heap to be disposed of at some future date.

love rocket

trouser trout

Monty's python

Stay away from my inbox.

Here's the new spam assault problem.

Every time one goes into gmail to get rid of the junk, as it were, a threatening recipe for the original Spam appears at the top.

Hey! Why do this to us after perfecting such a good filter?

None of them are appetizing. They are hideous; yet, somehow, I cannot look away.

They tell me to click for Spam Skillet Casserole: Broil until golden

Spam Veggie Pita Pockets - Serves 8

Spam Vegetable Strudel - Bake 20 minutes or until golden, serve with soy sauce

Spam Primavera - Toss with linguini, serve immediately

Spam Swiss Pie - Bake 45-55 minutes or until eggs are set

Vineyard Spam Salad - Combine grapes, spam, peapods and onions in large bowl

Are you hungry yet?

Go to Hawaii and eat well:

Look for local treats, even at national chain stores. Spam musubis
can be found at every 7-11 and in most places that sell plate lunches.

Have a poetic side?

Read some Spam Haiku

Spam Facts include the following: Among the 50 foreign countries where Spam is sold, the UK and South Korea are the largest markets.

Spam this article to your thousand best friends, urge them not to break the chain, and something good will happen to you at some point within the next fifteen years. I assure you the good fortune will not include tinned meat.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lost in Translation

Tripping Over Our Own Ideas

Most of us know that certain messages lose their meaning in translation.

If you try to explain a joke or a witty remark to someone, it stops being funny the instant you try.

Thud. Strike out.

Take a sip of wine, move along and try it on the next bunch of folks at the party. Better yet, don't risk it. The moment has evaporated.


The Tower of Babel is the architectural hubris of King Nabopolassar and his son Nebuchadnezzar II. If they built a tower that could reach Heaven, it would be easy to drop in, or drop up, or drop over.

According to Biblical legend, God considered this a pretty obnoxious way to gain entrance. All of the people who were working on that structure spoke the same language. By destroying the Tower of Babel, all the people were scattered, woke up speaking in different tongues, and could not understand one another. As a metaphor that describes any difficulties we all have in mutual understanding, the idea is huge.

Language Dangers~Red Alert

Idioms contain such richness of language, yet don’t translate into a sensible message from one culture to another. You try to explain whether "the icing on the cake" means an extra good thing added onto a good thing, or whether it's the last straw. Now explain "the last straw."

When Jimmy Carter was President he was assigned someone to translate during his trip to Poland, who apparently had a very poor understanding of the language.

The poor quasi-linguist wound up announcing to the official delegation his understanding of what the President was saying, which came out something like, “I promise to support your overcoats. You have engaged our potatoes with hope.” (Don't quote me.)

Babel Fish

What a cool web site. It translates things for you. Previously it featured only the Romance Languages, German, and Russian. Now two kinds of Chinese are covered here, as well as Korean and Japanese. but what a great place to start. Sorry, Finns. Hungarians are on hold.

You can use it to translate a web page written in a language other than your own, that might hold the very thing you are looking for in your quest for arcane knowledge.

Let’s say you are fresh out, and need to know where the really good leiderhosen can be purchased, or you need a beret from the source, so you must learn what’s going on with the Basques these days. Bookmark Babel Fish, and you can find out. Babelfish can't 'do' Basque, but most speak Spanish or French as well.

ALSO you can type something in English into the text box and........
Babblebabble Kazam! it will appear in the language of your choice.

For fun or for caution, have it translate right back to English so you can see if there are any surprising changes.

Example: Starving writer looking for European magazines who pay big bucks for humorous columns about the American scene and culture.

In Spanish: Programa de escritura muerto de hambre que busca los compartimientos europeos que pagan los bucks grandes columnas chistosas sobre la escena y la cultura americanas.

Back to English: Program of hunger writing died that looks for the European compartments that great chistosas? columns pay bucks on the American scene and the culture.

Example: Please don't think all Americans thought Freedom Fries were a good idea. And the comment about "cheese eating surrender monkeys" makes most of us wince.

In French: Svp ne pensez pas que toutes les fritures de liberté de pensée d'Américains étaient une bonne idée. Et le commentaire au sujet "fromage des marques mangeant de reddition singes" plus de nous crispation.

Back to English: Please do not think that all the cracklings of freedom of American thought were a good idea. And the comment on the subject "cheese of the marks eating of rendering monkeys" more us crispation.

There, now. Wasn’t that educational?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The Language Wrangler Rides Again

Beverly's Big Bad List of Homonyms

Three of the things that can drive people crazy about English spelling and meaning is continual confusion over homonyms, homophones, and homographs.
If you care enough to research what seems to be a simple truth about English--some words are spelled the same, sound the same, but have different definitions depending on context--you've got a great lesson for people who defend the Whole Language Approach. Context matters. The use of phonics doesn't help when it comes to homonyms and stretching our use of simple words.

That's why it's important that both techniques be used in the classroom. That fallacy of either/or causes problems.

The trouble is, perfectly reputable sources define the word homonym differently. That's quite disconcerting when folks defend their viewpoint by noting that, "The dictionary says...." What does one do when the dictionaries are having a brouhaha over meaning? When linguists are getting all huffy?

While reading an academic exploration of the issues called

I found true the following author note: (note is a homonym, by the way)

"Strangely, I have not been able to find any true homonym lists -- words that are pronounced and spelled the same way." -- Fred W. Riggs

I'd been searching all morning for some handy examples. Alan Cooper's list kept bubbling up on many search engines and links, but he's using homophones. ex. ate, eight and wear, where. Homophones are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently. Phone/sound. Get it? Some texts agree with Cooper, others do not.

• Our working definition is that homonyms sound the same and are spelled the same. Each word has multiple meanings, however. •

The meaning must be figured out in context. A good dictionary will help in showing wordsmiths how many different meanings a seemingly ordinary word might have. The most useful dictionary site I've found is One Look because it contains immediate access to mainstream and discipline specific dictionaries.

I'm starting a list because I can't find a long one. Yet they are everywhere in common usage. If you can add to it, please do so in the comments section and I'll post it.

Note: I'm pretty sure the homonyms, run and set, are the two words in English with the most definitions and uses, especially if you don't mind idioms.

Here we go: Beverly's Big Bad List of Homonyms

Metaphorical use is welcome. Slang is fine, too.

*This list is meant to be a jump start, not a definitive collection.



crop (thanks, Kyle)
























Monday, January 28, 2008

Apostrophe Police: We need more officers

It’s the Thing About Its

The most common error I notice in writing involves the pesky apostrophe.

Signmakers mess up.

Advertising copy editors mess up.

Students mess up big time.

I’ve been worried that an entire percentage of the population has been traumatized by someone barking a spelling rule such as:

I before E
Except after C !!!!!!

(Except when you say
Neighbor or weigh)

...Not to mention the day
Someone gives you a lei

Or you strain your brain
When spelling reign)

English is peculiar that way.


Most kids were in school the day the teacher taught “Apostrophe Ess.”

Most kids were absent when The Reason Why got tacked on.

That day, week, month, the talk turned to possessives and plurals. But they were absent.

Hence, students who remember that a plural needs an ESS get all confused if a possessive word (mine) ends with an ESS (yours)

If ‘yours’ is possessive, then doesn’t it need an apostrophe? Like, “Is that Godsey’s dog or yours?” Is it already plural? What’s going on here?

What’s going on is those exceptions to the rules we were taught.

Sometimes it is hard to explain what the distinction is. Especially if we said, “Is that the Godseys’ dog?” Both Godseys claim to be the parents of Toby the Black Lab, you know. “Oh, no....ESS apostrophe???”

But here is the easy way to help people remember when to use ITS and when to use IT’S.

IT’S only ever means ‘IT IS.’ No exceptions.

The Contraction=It Is

IT’S the wrong time and the wrong place; the face is charming, but IT’S the wrong face.

IT’S my party and I’ll cry if I want to.

That’s the way IT’S going to be, and I don’t want to hear anymore whining.

I’m telling you, IT’S definitely her, only with a face lift.

Plain old ITS is possessive, just like HIS and HERS. Both HIS and HERS end in ESS, you see. Neither cause the confusion that ITS does.

ITS tires need rotating.

Her hair lost ITS curl.

The door fell off ITS hinges

The restaurant lost ITS license after the health inspector saw what was going on in the kitchen.

Please go forth and call these errors to the attention of all confused souls. IT'S one small thing we can do for people in times of turmoil and general confusion.

03/07/08------The Language Wrangler likes to be jarred out of complacency

Diane notes:
Great post, Beverly, but it's come to my attention that you've forgotten one other possible meaning of "it's;" while almost never mentioned, it's also commonly used to stand in for "it has."

"That package you were waiting for? It's arrived."


Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Party of One

Life on the Edge

Why do I not know about so many things I am interested in before I find out about them? Not to go all Zen, or anything, but too often I feel like a latecomer to the party. The party still has the conversations hanging in the air, more than a few crumpled napkins remain stuffed behind the couch cushions, but the honored guests are likely off to some other salon talking about other big ideas with people way bigger than me.

Fortunately for me and my budget, not to mention the lack of my appearance on the A-list, the D-list, or the XYZ-list, the Internet lets me attend a lot of heady parties.

Perhaps the conversations about Blu-Ray vs. HD are getting on your nerves. Maybe you realize the poll question: Do you think this country is headed in the right or wrong direction, provides one of the more useless statistics to what passes for political discourse. You might be spending most of your time trying to avoid high fructose corn syrup. That's a full time job, right there.

The residue from this year's question posed by Edge does not read like leftovers. Rich in intellectual calories, you can sate yourself with the obvious: smart people change their minds. When we consider candidates of both parties, let's hope that the opinions expressed are real, dependable, yet open to changes in circumstances.

Edge Question

You are registered to vote, aren't you?

Party on.