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How The Language Of Special Education Is Evolving

The words we use and the ways we refer to people mirror — and shape — our perceptions, our attitudes, our behavior. So where to begin? The “r” word has fallen out of use and good riddance. “Handicapped,” too, for the most part. Generally we don’t refer to people as “disabled,” as in “he’s a disabled student.” One good rule of thumb: avoid adjectives. They too easily become labels. Instead,…

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Stupid Puns For the Win

My daughter just trounced me in a pun war. In high school, I often tried masking my social awkwardness by making puns. Not just random puns, but stupid chains of rapid-fire puns, all on the same general subject. I had these mental lists of puns related to bland subjects like photography (“Lens be serious.” “That joke really shutter up.”) or shoes (“It’s the lace I can do.”)   Whenever one…

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What’s a Snollygoster? Even lexicographers are wrong sometimes

This is an amusing little story about how politics affects the English language. An obscure word that politicians and pundit like to use to refer to their opponents has faded in and out of use. The “wrong” move was removing the word from the dictionary recently, after which it made a comeback. (I’d still never heard of it.) As the dialectal furor faded, so too did snollygoster—so much so that…

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Using “Strive” as a Noun

Obviously I know what my students mean when they use “strive” as a noun, in phrases like “the strive for success.” I have noticed this more frequently in recent years. I do not think they are mishearing “strife” (which has the same linguistic root, but has negative connotations of violence and opposition, whereas the verb “strive” connotes dedication and progress). Is this a regionalism, like “that table needs washed,” or…

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from “The Poet” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

The poets made all the words, and therefore language is the archives of history, and, if we must say it, a sort of tomb of the muses. For, though the origin of most of our words is forgotten, each word was at first a stroke of genius, and obtained currency, because for the moment it symbolized the world to the first speaker and to the hearer. The etymologist finds the…

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Male Supporting Characters in Recent Disney Princess Films Dominate the Dialogue

The silly click-baity headline in the Washington Post says “Researchers have found a major problem” with Disney princesses films. I almost didn’t click on it — learned behavior after being burned by too many silly, low-value listicles (split up into 15 different pages). But the article is actually an interesting read. Starting with The Little Mermaid, Disney took greater care to make their princesses more active, but they still do…