August 12: Fifty Words Day

On this date in 1960, Green Eggs and Ham was published by Dr. Seuss (pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel).  One of the most popular children’s books of all time, Green Eggs and Ham was written on a $50 bet between Seuss and his editor, Bennett Cerf.  After Seuss wrote his popular book The Cat in the Hat using a mere 225 words, Cerf challenged Seuss to write a book using only 50 words.

In the 1950s debate swirled concerning early childhood literacy and the lack of liveliness in children’s books, such as the traditional Dick and Jane primers. Seuss’ response was to create books that captivated children as they learned to read. Combining his talent for illustration with his talent for writing, Seuss crafted great stories that brought children back the printed page again and again.

Seuss won his bet, using the following 50 words:

a, am, and, anywhere, are, be, boat, box, car, could, dark, do, eat, eggs, fox, goat, good, green, ham, here, house, I, if, in, let, like, may, me, mouse, not, on, or, rain, Sam, say, see, so, thank, that, the, them, there, they, train, tree, try, will, with, would, you (1).

Today’s Challenge:  One Syllable Story

Can you write with short words?  Try to write your own tale with short, clear words like these.  For an added challenge try some rhyme or alliteration like Dr. Seuss.  Legend has it that before Seuss began writing The Cat in the Hat, he looked at a list of the most common words in English and selected the first two that he saw that rhymed.  You might be able to guess what they were:  cat and hat.  If you need some inspiration, check out a list of the Most Common Words in English.

Quotation of the Day:  When you speak and write, there is no law that says you have to use big words.  Short words are as good as long ones, and short, old words — like “sun” and “grass” and “home” — are best of all.  –Richard Lederer


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