September 9:  State Motto Day

Today is the anniversary of California’s admission as the 31st state of the Union. The discovery of gold in California in 1848 caused its population to explode, and in 1849 settlers applied for admission to the Union after drafting a state constitution that prohibited slavery. Because making California a state would upset the balance of free and slave states, statehood was delayed until September 9, 1850, when the Compromise of 1850 opened the door for California statehood.

In addition to a state constitution, Californians adopted a state seal in 1849 with the motto “Eureka,” — The Greek word for “I Have Found It” — an appropriate interjection for a state whose reputation was made on gold strikes (1).

California is not the only state with a motto in a tongue other than English.  In fact, ‘English Only’ proponents might be surprised to learn that more than half of states in the union have mottos in other languages.

Here are the statistics on the polyglot mottos:

Latin: 22

French: 2

Greek: 1

Hawaiian: 1

Spanish: 1

Italian: 1

Native American – Chinook: 1

Six states feature one-word mottos. Only one state, Vermont, has its state’s name in its motto, and Florida is the only state with the same motto as the United States of America: “In God We Trust.”

Today’s Challenge:  Motto Mania
What’s your idea for a new state motto?  Generate some possible new state mottos for your home state or the other 49 states.  Host a state motto contest. The mottos may be funny or serious, but they should all be memorable; after all, they may someday be emblazoned on a license plate.  (Common Core Language 3 – Knowledge of Language)

Quotation of the Day:  The Philosopher’s Motto: I came, I saw, I pondered! –Greg Curtis

 

1-http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/cbhtml/cbgovern.html

September 8:  International Literacy Day

Today is International Literacy Day sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). First observed in 1966, International Literacy Day calls attention to the need to promote literacy and education around the world as an antidote to poverty and as an agent for empowerment and global progress.

UNESCO logo English.svgEducation and literacy are central to the stability, prosperity, and well-being of any country. As explained by Koichiro Matsuura, UNESCO Director-General:

Literacy is not merely a cognitive skill of reading, writing and arithmetic, for literacy helps in the acquisition of learning and life skills that, when strengthened by usage and application throughout people’s lives, lead to forms of individual, community and societal development that are sustainable.

While literacy rates are on the rise around the world, there are still millions of people who are unable to read and write.  The goal of International Literacy Day is to both celebrate literacy and to promote ideas for stamping out illiteracy.

Today’s Challenge: Read All About It
What can people do to celebrate and promote literacy?  Read and reflect on the quotations below about the importance of literacy and education.  Then, write a text of a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to promote literacy and International Literacy Day.  Incorporate a direct quotation on literacy into your PSA. You can use one of the quotations below, or research one of your own. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

-“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”  -Frederick Douglass

-“Learning to read is probably the most difficult and revolutionary thing that happens to the human brain and if you don’t believe that, watch an illiterate adult try to do it.” -John Steinbeck

-“Literacy is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a tool for daily life in modern society. It is a bulwark against poverty, and a building block of development, an essential complement to investments in roads, dams, clinics and factories. Literacy is a platform for democratization, and a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity.” -Kof Annan

-“Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education and free discussion are the antidotes of both.” –Thomas Jefferson

-“One of the greatest gifts adults can give — to their offspring and to their society — is to read to children.” –Carl Sagan

Quotation of the Day: It’s easy to forget what a crippling disability it is to be unable to read. To be illiterate is not like being deprived of television, or any other medium. It is more like being deaf, or being deprived of music. Literacy does not just give us access to knowledge of facts or skills. Some skills and some facts can more easily be taught with pictures or video, and some things can only be learned by practice. Literacy supplies a whole mode of thought. It lets us follow arguments longer and more complex than are available without writing. It allows us to talk across time, with our younger and older selves as well as with other people.  -The Guardian View on the Importance of Literacy (2).

1- UNESCO – Education – Literacy Day 

2-http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/12/editorial-guardian-view-on-literacy

 

September 7:  Words Chiseled in Granite Day

On this day in 1914, the main post office building in New York City opened its doors.  The building’s main claim to fame is the inscription chiseled in gray granite on its enormous facade which reads:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

PO 10001 colonnade nite jeh.JPGAlthough many will recognize these words as the motto of the United States Postal Service, officials are quick to point out that there is no official U.S.P.S motto.  Nevertheless, it would be difficult to find another building in the world that more effectively uses the words engraved on its outside walls to capture and to motivate the mission that is fulfilled inside.

The words of the inscription originate from the Greek historian Herodotus and refer to Persian mounted postal couriers who served faithfully in the wars between the Greeks and the Persians (500-449 B.C.).

In 1982, New York’s main post office building was officially designated The James A. Farley Building, in memory of the nation’s 53rd Postmaster General.  The building’s ZIP code designation is 10001 (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Words Worth Setting in Stone
What words do you think are important enough to chisel in stone?  What motto would you etch on the outside of your school or your place of business?  Hold a contest to determine the best motto.  Either research a quotation by another person to use as your motto, or write your own using your own original words.  Remember that a motto must be pithy and must express a rule to guide the behavior of persons who inhabit the building. 
(Common Core Language 3 – Knowledge of Language)

Quotation of the Day:  I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.  -Words chiseled on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial in Washington, D.C.

1- https://about.usps.com/who-we-are/postal-history/mission-motto.pdf

 

September 6:  Reduplicative Day

On this date in 1916, Piggly Wiggly, the first self-service grocery store, opened in Memphis, Tennessee.  The store pioneered several of the features that we take for granted when grocery shopping today, such as individually priced items, checkout stands, and shopping carts.

Piggly Wiggly logoIn addition to its unique in-store features, the store also had a unique name. The store’s founder, Clarence Saunders (1881-1953) never explained how he came upon the rhyme “Piggly Wiggly,” but there is little doubt that the unusual name contributed to making his store memorable (1).

Many words in English feature this supersonic, sing-song sound effect.  There are so many, in fact, that this class of words has its own name:  reduplicatives.  These words come in three basic varieties:  rhyming reduplicatives, like hocus-pocus, fuddy-duddy, and helter-skelter; vowel shift reduplicatives, like flip-flop, Ping-Pong, and zig zag; and repetitive reduplicatives (also know as tautonyms), like can-can, never-never, and yo-yo.

There are over two thousand reduplicatives in English.  Here is an alphabetically arranged list of examples:  

bye-bye, chitchat, dilly-dally, flim-flam, flip-flop, fuddy-duddy, hoity-toity, higgledy-piggledy, hanky-panky, hokey-pokey, hob-nob, heebie-jeebiesy, hocus-pocus, hugger-mugger, hurly-burly, hodge-podge, hurdy-gurdy, hubbub, hullabaloo, harumscarum, hurry-scurry, hooley-dooley, Humpty Dumpty, mishmash, nitty-gritty, riffraff, seesaw, shilly-shally, so-so, super-duper, teeny-weeny, willy-nilly, wishy-washy

Today’s Challenge:  Words Heard by Word Nerds
What’s your favorite reduplicative?  Write an extended definition that provides the word’s meaning, examples of the how the word is used, and an explanation of how the word’s sound relates to its memorability and uniqueness. (Common Core Writing 1 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  “Flip-flop has sound symbolism:  we can hear in the fl- clusters the sound of flipping in one direction and flopping in another.  It is also visually suggestive, evoking the image of things that flip and flop, as a pair of sandals flip-flopping in sand on the beach.  But perhaps most importantly, the word is compelling because of its emphatic doubling of the syllable fl-.  This doubling of a syllable or word element to strengthen or emphasize meaning is called by linguists reduplication.”  -Sol Steinmetz and Barbara Ann Kipfer

 

1- https://www.pigglywiggly.com/about-us

2- Steinmetz, Sol and Barbara Ann Kipfer.  The Life of Language. New York:  Random House, 2006:  282-290.

 

September 5:  Two Voices Day

Today is the birthday of children’s author and poet Paul Fleischman.  Born in 1952, Fleischman grew up in Santa Monica, California.  His father, Sid Fleischman, was also an award-winning author of children’s books.

Fleischman graduated from the University of New Mexico in 1977, and before he became a full time writer, he worked as a bookstore clerk, library shelver, and proofreader.  His work as a proofreader led to the founding of two grammar watchdog groups:  ColonWatch and The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to English (1).

Fleischman won the most prestigious awards in children’s literature in 1989, the Newbery Medal, for his book Joyful Noise:  Poems for Two Voices. In Joyful Noise, Fleischman popularized a new poetic genre, the poem for two voices. Written to be read aloud by two people, each poem is written in two columns. Each reader is assigned a single column, and the two readers alternate, reading the lines in turn from the top to the bottom of the page.  Reader’s join their voices whenever words are written on the same line in both columns.

How to Read a Poem for Two Voices

I’m the first reader. I’m reading

only the lines in the left column.

                                                                 I’m the second reader.

As you can see, I waited my turn to read.

If words appear on the same

Line in both columns,

 Both readers read them aloud,        Both readers read them aloud,

Simultaneously.                                 Simultaneously.    

One voice on the right.

   Plus another on the left

Makes two voices                                Makes two voices

Today’s Challenge:  Compose, Collaborate, Compare, and Contrast
Given poetic license, what two people, places, things, or ideas would you like to see hold a conversation?  Write your own poem for two voices.  Begin by brainstorming some contrasting ideas:  people, places, ideas, or things.  You have poetic license to give voices to anyone or anything.  Here are some ideas to get you started:  father and son, dog and cat, protagonist and antagonist, summer and winter, success and failure, noun and verb, football and baseball. Craft your poem in the two column format, and when you have a solid draft, work with a partner to bring the poem to life by reading it aloud.  Revise and practice until you have a poem that’s ready to be shared with a larger group.

Quotation of the Day:  A picture tells a thousand words. But you get a thousand pictures from someone’s voice. – Paul Fleischman

 

1- http://www.paulfleischman.net/events.htm

 

September 4:  “Brand” New Words Day

On this day in 1998, two Ph.D. students from Stanford University, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, formally incorporated their new company Google.  Page and Brin’s search engine began as a research project in 1995.  Today, Google is the world’s most popular search engine.

Google's homepage in 1998The story of the word Google, however, long pre-dates the internet.  In 1938, while on a walk with his nephew in the New Jersey Palisades, mathematician Edward Kasner challenged the nine-year-old, Milton Sirotta, to come up with a name for a 1 followed by 100 zeroes.  Milton’s ready response was “googol.”  Kasner liked the word so much he introduced it to the world in 1940 in his book Mathematics and the Imagination (1).

The change of the word’s spelling from googol to Google happened more than fifty years later.  Page and Brin originally called their search technology “BackRub”; however, in September 1997 they had a meeting to brainstorm ideas for a new name.  The story goes that at that meeting the name googol came up, but when it was typed into a computer to search for available domain names, it was misspelled as google.  The name was available and was purchased before the misspelling was discovered, so Google stuck.

Another change happened on June 15, 2006 when the Oxford English Dictionary added the lower-case word “google” as a verb, meaning “To use any search engine.”

Today’s Challenge:  Brand Name Hall of Fame
The paradox of the trademarked names of companies, products, and services is that the most successful ones become generic, losing their distinctiveness as an exclusive brand name.  For example, the words aspirin, band-aid, cornflakes, escalator, and zipper were at one time capitalized, legally protected brand names.  What currently capitalized trademarked brand name of a company, product, or service would nominate for the Brand Name Hall of Fame?  Make your case based on the name’s distinctive sound, its clever derivation, its metaphoric meaning, and/or its memorability. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  The deeper power of the name Apple comes from our everyday experiences with actual apples.  They are, in a sense, the perfect consumer commodity:  they’re ubiquitous and inexpensive, you grasp them in your hand and literally consume them, and they’re delicious.  For almost everyone, they’re old childhood friends:  cut into little pieces and cooked into sauce for babies, put into school lunch boxes and toted around, and baked into pies.  It’s these deeply rooted sensory memories of apples that make Apple a great name.  Nothing is more familiar, more accessible, or less intimidating than an apple.  –Christopher Johnson in Microstyle (2)

 

1 – Steinmetz, Sol and Barbara Ann Kipfer.  The Life of Language. New York:  Random House, 2006:  167.

2 – Johnson, Christopher.  Microstyle:  The Art of Writing Little.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 2011:  63.