Archive for the ‘Language Arts’ Category
Via Elizabeth at Charlottesville Words: The Eggcorn Database.
The word eggcorn was coined collectively by the linguists who write at the excellent group blog Language Log.
Linguists collect usage examples. Unlike language teachers or the often
self-styled grammar experts who complain in the press about the decay
of English, they are not picky: the actual, real-life use is what
counts, and the most interesting bits — those that might reveal
something about how real people apprehend their language — often
stretch the received rules of correctness.
In September 2003, Mark Liberman reported (Egg corns: folk etymology, malapropism, mondegreen, ???)
an incorrect yet particularly suggestive creation: someone had written
“egg corn” instead of “acorn”. It turned out that there was no
established label for this type of non-standard reshaping. Erroneous as
it may be, the substitution involved more than just ignorance: an acorn
is more or less shaped like an egg; and it is a seed, just like grains
of corn. So if you don’t know how acorn is spelled, egg corn actually makes sense.
Other examples of eggcorns are:
"for all intensive purposes"
"here, here" (instead of "hear, hear")
"coming down the pipe"
The aforementioned Elizabeth gets credit for spotting a new eggcorn in common usage, and it is now included in the dictionary: "half-hazard."
Eggcorns are different from malapropisms, which can also be fun to watch for. A malapropism is a word used in place of the correct word, where the substitution sounds similar to the intended word but means something vastly different, often resulting in quite comical sentences. A famous example is the line uttered by Curly of the Three Stooges: "I resemble that remark!"
(The link takes you to WikiPedia, where there are many more examples of malapropisms and eggcorns, including a malapropism that made me laugh out loud: "New Scientist also reported the first-ever malapropism for
"malapropism", when, having become aware of his error, the office
worker apologized, saying he had committed a "Miss Marple-ism." No doubt he was thinking of Mrs. Malaprop, the character in Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s play, The Rivals, whose comical linguistic errors gave rise to the term.)
So a malapropism is a wrong word used in place of a word that sounds similar, but not identical, and has a totally different meaning. An eggcorn is a substitution that sounds the same or almost the same as a word or phrase—so similar, and making just enough sense, that it often passes into common usage: "blatantly obvious" instead of "patently obvious."
Don’t you just love the English language?
Calling all young wordsmiths! Children’s book author Tabatha Yeatts is holding a writing contest for kids. Can you tell the story behind the picture at that link? Entries due April 1, 2007.
And how cool does Tabatha’s book on forensics sound??
Ha! I knew I was being optimistic when I talked about continuing my narration post "tomorrow." My poor little Bean. Still running a highish fever, now on antibiotics. So no long post today, but a kind reader wrote in with a very good question, which I can answer quickly:
When your children narrate to you and you want to write
it down for them, how do you go about it? My computer with at printer
is busted right now so no typing… They just narrate so quickly I
hate to slow them down and have them lose their ideas… any thoughts?
Also, how often are you writing it down for them?
Answer: I’m not. I don’t write down their narrations, pretty much ever. Here’s my explanation of that from a Bonny Glen post I wrote last year:
Charlotte Mason recommends waiting until age ten or so to begin
asking the child for written narrations. Until that point, all
narration is oral. When Jane was little, I did (as many homeschooling
moms do) a lot of transcribing the narrations she dictated to me; I
printed them out, got her to illustrate them, put them together in a
notebook. I know this works beautifully for a lot of people, and I
don’t want to discourage anyone from doing it if it brings joy to you
and your child.
But I’ll say this: don’t feel obligated to
write down your child’s oral narrations. Don’t feel like you have to
make a notebook or else you’re not doing it properly. After a year or
two of compiling Jane’s narration notebook, I realized the whole
process had become for us an exercise in creating a product.
Jane was beginning to be proud of her notebook, or perhaps "prideful"
is a better word; she had seen me show it off enough times that she too
began to view her work as something to be shown off, something done for
the purposes of impressing one’s friends and relations. I was horrified
by this little epiphany. Of course it was completely my fault. I
ditched the habit of typing out her oral narrations; for a time, I
ditched narrating altogether. When we returned to it, it was to the
simple Charlotte Mason method of asking the child to "tell it back"—no
notebook, no product to display.
What I found that was that in addition to curing our mild show-off
problem, this took away the pressure that had turned narration into a
burden. No longer was it necessary for me to be prepared to scribble
down her words as fast as she said them: I could listen to her narrate
with a baby in my arms. And instead of the type—print—illustrate—bind
production line, narration could lead to discussion. The whole
experience became warmer, richer, and her narrations improved. Her
memory improved; her appetite for ideas increased. I’d read aloud, she’d tell it back, we’d chat about the people in the stories and the problems they encountered.
So this is how narration works in our house today. Rose is narrating
now, too, and Beanie frequently chimes in, unsolicited. When Jane
turned ten I began asking for occasional written narrations.
She is 11 1/2 now, and I ask for about three written narrations a week.
Hope that helps!
Rose’s reading list
A CM term (Jane’s list)
CM on nourishing the mind
Big CM post
When I posted not long ago about our passion for the Snoopy CD, a couple of commenters recommended a Peanuts DVD set I had never heard of.
"Have you heard about the recently released DVD This Is America, Charlie Brown; It is eight American History episodes done Peanuts
style and it’s only $15.00 on Amazon. My daughter LOVES it."
So naturally when I had an Amazon coupon burning a hole on my desk (a searing black hole; really I had to do SOMETHING about it, didn’t I?), I doused that fire with good old Charlie Brown. And wow, wow, wow. We love it. Very good stuff. There are episodes on the Mayflower, the writing of the Constitution, and the history of NASA. Among others.
One thing I’ve been impressed by is how NOT dumbed-down these shows are. The Constitution one has you listening in on the Founders’ debates, and it’s complicated, fascinating stuff. Should lawmakers be elected by the people? The Peanuts gang is riveted by the debate, and so are we. Mighty refreshing to see makers of kids’ shows assuming the kids actually have functioning brains.
The other DVD set we’ve been enjoying lately is something I ordered from Netflix. I’ve been waiting thirty years for this. OK, maybe not exactly thirty, but pretty much since I was old enough to notice that it had disappeared from my PBS line-up. Oh yes, that’s right. The Electric Company. They turned it on, and they gave me the power.
Unlike, say, Captain Crunch, The Electric Company is every bit as magnificent as I remembered from childhood. This is where I met Bill Cosby, Morgan Freeman, and Rita Moreno. Also that nice guy with the glasses, and the funny girl with the long dark hair. And Letterman! And commas! And the plumber who has come to fix the sink!
My kids think it’s a riot the way I keep hollering HEY! I REMEMBER THAT!!!!!! from the next room. But more than the groovy (oh so very groovy, with those clothes, those hideous orange and brown sets) cruise down memory lane, these DVDs score points with me for their really classy way of approaching reading instruction. It’s fun, funny, smart, and simple. Good reinforcement for spelling and punctuation ("Punct-punct-punct- PUNCT-uation! They are the little marks that use their influence to make a sentence make more sense!"), too.
I’ve been letting the girls watch one episode a day. Beanie has just recently progressed from hesitant sounding-out of Bob Books to honest-to-goodness reading with Henry & Mudge. The Electric Company came along at just the right time to help her make the leap. For example, in episode one, two of the characters have an argument (mediated by Bill Cosby) over whether the letter G says guh or juh. They take turns presenting examples for their respective sides. I’ll hear Beanie muttering under her breath, repeating the words the characters say. "Game. Gym. Gum. Large."
Meanwhile, Rose is picking up some quite useful spelling and grammar reinforcement. A sentence appears on the screen (in adorably archaic graphics): "The boy who is sitting is sleepy." A comma drops down from above. (It only wobbles a little.) It plops behind the word boy, and then another comma follows suit, landing next to sitting. Simple and effective, and since this occurs in the middle of an engaging song, the lesson isn’t boring.
And that’s the first episode, which is clumsier than subsequent ones. The graphics get (a little) better; the commas get less wobbly; the skits get funnier; the improv gets more polished. And the clothes? Even groovier.
One quick question…
Language arts…looking at your day, do your kids write, do dictation, read etc. or is this in tides (besides the reading, it is obvious that is the lifestyle in homes where literature is loved..)
I can tell you what we do, but I’m not sure I’m the best person to go to for advice on this subject because I think Scott and I tend to take a lot for granted when it comes to helping our children become good writers. Writing is a way of life around here. The kids see us writing, read our writing at various stages of completion, and hear a lot of talk about story structure, characterization, and revision. It’s difficult for me to parse out exactly what they’re learning. It’s like trying to pick onions out of your soup: they’ve already imparted their flavor to the broth.
So that’s the disclaimer, but here are some things we have done. First and by far the most important: the reading aloud. I absolutely cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of reading aloud, lots and lots and lots, even after the child is a fluent and eager reader herself. Just keep picking books a little beyond her reading ability; keep stretching her powers of comprehension. This is how to expand the vocabulary and instill a sense of what ‘sounds right,’ which takes one a long way toward the mastery of correct grammar.
Next most important (in my opinion): Narration. Even at my unschooliest, I am an advocate of gently eliciting narrations from your children. Get them to tell a story back to you after you’ve read it aloud, or after a child has read it to himself. “Tell me what you remember,” “Tell me everything you know about volcanoes,” “What happened to Tintin after he got on the boat?” Narration improves the memory and accustoms the speaker to putting events and ideas into words.
Charlotte Mason recommends waiting until age ten or so to begin asking the child for written narrations. Until that point, all narration is oral. When Jane was little, I did (as many homeschooling moms do) a lot of transcribing the narrations she dictated to me; I printed them out, got her to illustrate them, put them together in a notebook. I know this works beautifully for a lot of people, and I don’t want to discourage anyone from doing it if it brings joy to you and your child. But I’ll say this: don’t feel obligated to write down your child’s oral narrations. Don’t feel like you have to make a notebook or else you’re not doing it properly. After a year or two of compiling Jane’s narration notebook, I realized the whole process had become for us an exercise in creating a product. Jane was beginning to be proud of her notebook, or perhaps “prideful” is a better word; she had seen me show it off enough times that she too began to view her work as something to be shown off, something done for the purposes of impressing one’s friends and relations. I was horrified by this little epiphany. Of course it was completely my fault. I ditched the habit of typing out her oral narrations; for a time, I ditched narrating altogether. When we returned to it, it was to the simple Charlotte Mason method of asking the child to “tell it back”—no notebook, no product to display.
What I found that was that in addition to curing our little show-off problem, this took away the pressure that had turned narration into a burden. No longer was it necessary for me to be prepared to scribble down her words as fast as she said them: I could listen to her narrate with a baby in my arms. And instead of the type—print—illustrate—bind production line, narration could lead to discussion. The whole experience became warmer, richer, and her narrations improved. Her memory improved; her appetite for ideas increased. I’d read aloud, she’d tell it back, we’d chat about the people in the stories and the problems they encountered.
So this is how narration works in our house today. Rose is narrating now, too, and Beanie frequently chimes in, unsolicited. When Jane turned ten I began asking for occasional written narrations. Currently she is writing two or three a week. I give her something to read, a chapter of Famous Men of Rome, perhaps, and ask her to read it only once, carefully, and then write out everything she can remember. We go over any spelling or grammatical errors together.
I don’t use spelling or grammar curricula; I simply keep an eye on what sort of mistakes the children make and offer bits of instruction as indicated. (And of course grammar comes up in our Latin and ASL studies.) Rose, however, is one of those workbook-loving kids, so I keep a spelling workbook on hand to satisfy her occasional cravings for nice little blanks to fill in.
We go through spells of doing copywork, all of us: if the children see me taking the trouble to copy out quotes into my commonplace book, they become interested in doing it themselves. I encourage them to record their favorite poems, but I very seldom require it. I find that supplying them with nice notebooks and enticing gel pens is incentive enough.
As for writing curricula, I have reviewed many of them and have disliked most. Scripted writing exercises leave me cold. The program I do like is BraveWriter; you can read my thoughts on that here. I have just received a copy of Classical Writing (the Homer book) and will talk more about it after I’ve had a chance to read it (and work with it) a bit.
Last thing: we are big fans of word games around here! Mad Libs, Scrabble, crossword puzzles, riddles, and so on. And Schoolhouse Rock!
Capital Community College Foundation offers a sentence diagramming tutorial on its website, including an extremely cool Power Point presentation you can download. For free. Diagramming never made my heart go pitty-pat before, but I think I’ve just been swept off my feet.
Classical Home has compiled a list of blogs dedicated to grammar and punctuation gaffes. Funny stuff!
This is a game we played in the car yesterday, all the way to town and back. I assigned each of the girls a part of speech: noun, verb, adjective, adverb (one girl had to take two parts in each round). From there it went something like this:
Me: Miss Noun, what is it?
Beanie: A giraffe!
Me: Miss Adjective, what kind of giraffe?
Jane: A hungry giraffe.
Me: Miss Verb, what did the hungry giraffe do?
Rose: It bounced!
Me: Miss Adverb, how did the hungry giraffe bounce?
All together: THE HUNGRY GIRAFFE BOUNCED ENTHUSIASTICALLY!
A while back I wrote about how Jane was unwittingly honing her spelling skills while crushing me at iSketch. This time it’s Rose, who will be seven in August. She wanted her own email account and has been gleefully firing off five or six notes a day to me, Scott, and Jane.
Dear Mommy I am more afraid of flies than lions.
She wants to do it all on her own: I mustn’t look over her shoulder. After a day or two, she disclosed to me her method for figuring out how to spell words she doesn’t know: she looks through books until she finds the word she wants.
“When I find it, I copy it down,” she explained.
I asked how long it takes her to find the words she wants. She isn’t using a dictionary for this; she is turning to her favorite novels and picture books.
She shrugged as if the question was hardly worth considering. “I just think of a story with the word in it and I find that page.”