May 31:  Barbaric Yawp Day

Today is the birthday of American poet Walt Whitman, born in 1819. Like many American writers, Whitman began his career as a printer and journalist, but we know him today because of his poetry. Because he was so revolutionary in his approach to verse, he had trouble finding a publisher for his poetry. He finally published his first book of poetry himself in 1855. It’s this book Leaves of Grass that Whitman edited and expanded throughout his life. Several critics lambasted Leaves of Grass, but Ralph Waldo Emerson celebrated it: “I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed” (1).

Walt Whitman - George Collins Cox.jpgOne of the great contributions that Whitman made to poetry was his experimentation with free verse. Without regular meter or rhyme, free verse combines rhythm, repetition, and parallelism to create music for the reader’s ears. Whitman’s verses with their optimistic, robust tones, celebrated the individual, painted images of democratic America, and reveled in the colloquial language of its common people.

Characteristic of his break with traditional verse, Whitman begins his epic Leaves of Grass with no mention or invocation of a muse; instead, he audaciously focuses on himself:

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,

And what I assume you shall assume,

For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

Who can forget the scene in the movie Dead Poet’s Society (1989), where Mr. Keating, played by Robin Williams, writes one of Whitman’s lines on the blackboard to inspire his students to leave their self-consciousness behind and to embrace their individual creativity?

I sound my barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world.

Whitman died in 1892, but his poetry lived on, inspiring the unique voices of American poets of the 20th century.

Today’s Challenge:   Get in Your Yawping Stance

What are key questions that you can ask to help you comprehend a poem?  In one memorable scene from the film Dead Poets Society, Mr. Keating explains to his students that the greatness of poetry cannot be plotted on a graph by rating a poem’s perfection and its importance; instead, poetry is about a higher purpose:

We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.

To quote from Whitman, ‘O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?’ Answer. That you are here — that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?

Certain essential questions can be asked by any reader of any poem.  These questions don’t promise to unearth a poem’s entire meaning, but they are a good starting place for beginning your comprehension of a poem’s sound and sense:

Who is the speaker in the poem?

What is the situation or subject that the poem is addressing?

What is the speaker’s tone or attitude toward the situation or subject?

What are some universal ideas or themes that are addressed in the poem?

Read the Whitman poem below.  Before you begin asking questions, read it a number of times, and read it out loud.  Then, answer the four questions above. If you’re working with a partner or a group, discuss your answers and compare what you said to what others said.

When I Heard the Learn’d Astronomer

by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,

When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,

When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,

When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,

How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,

Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,

In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

(Common Core Reading 1-3:  Ideas and Details)

Quotation of the Day: Language is not an abstract construction of the learned or of dictionary makers, but something arising out of the work, needs, joys, tears, affections, tastes of long generations of humanity, and has its bases broad and low, close to the ground. -Walt Whitman

1-https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/walt-whitman

 

May 30:  Memorial and Memoir Day

Today is the anniversary of the celebration of the first Memorial Day in 1868.  

After the Civil War ended in 1865, many communities in the North and the South began holding tributes to fallen soldiers.  These commemorations, which were originally called Decoration Day, were held in the spring when flowers were readily available for the decoration of graves.

Graves at Arlington on Memorial Day.JPGOn May 5, 1868, American General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans group, issued General Order Number 11, which said:

The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land.

Decoration Day gradually evolved to be called Memorial Day. And after World War I, it became a day to honor not just fallen Civil War soldiers, but all war dead. Not until 1971 did Memorial Day become an official federal holiday.  In that year, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May, which created a three-day weekend for federal workers (1).

While Memorial Day is a day to remember those who gave their lives in past wars, it can also be a day to remember the power we all have to revisit the past through the genre of memoir.  In memoir, we are given the ability to time travel and vicariously take part in the intimate experiences and thoughts of writers who have documented the significant moments of their lives.

There is no greater example of this than in Marcel Proust’s The Remembrance of Things Past, a seven-volume memoir published over a period of fourteen years (1913-1927). Proust’s flood of memories is launched in a single remarkable moment, as he is sitting drinking a cup of herbal tea with a madeleine:  

And as soon as I had recognised the taste of the piece of madeleine soaked in her decoction of lime-blossom which my aunt used to give me (although I did not yet know and must long postpone the discovery of why this memory made me so happy) immediately the old grey house upon the street, where her room was, rose up like a stage set to attach itself to the little pavilion opening on to the garden which had been built out behind it for my parents (the isolated segment which until that moment had been all that I could see); and with the house the town, from morning to night and in all weathers, the square where I used to be sent before lunch, the streets along which I used to run errands, the country roads we took when it was fine.

Through his sense of taste, Proust’s memory is magically unlocked, and he is involuntarily transported in an instant to a vivid remembrance of his past.

Proust’s work is just one example of many brilliant memoirs that allow us to see, smell, taste, feel, and hear what others have experienced in their past.

Here are a few examples:

Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt

Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin

Boy by Roald Dahl

Confessions by Augustine

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

Diary by Samuel Pepys

Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell

My Left Foot by Christy Brown

Stop Time by Frank Conroy

The Story of My Life  by Hellen Keller

Reading Lolita in Tehran:  A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi

This Boy’s Life: A Memoir by Tobias Wolff

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Today’s Challenge:  Past Is Prologue

What are some of the most significant moments from your past that are vivid enough that you could describe them in detail?  Brainstorm some specific moments from your life that you remember vividly.  Select one moment and write about it, describing it as vividly as possible with sensory imagery.  Also, reflect on why the incident remains meaningful to you today and why it lingers in your memory. (Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

Quotation of the Day:  Own only what you can always carry with you: know languages, know countries, know people. Let your memory be your travel bag. –Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

1-http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/memorial-day-history

May 29:  Words for Words Day

On this day in 1997, 13 year-old Rebecca Sealfon of Brooklyn, New York won the Scripps National Spelling Bee.   The winning word was euonym, which means “a name well suited to the person, place, or thing named.”  For example, the name Bill Mansion would be a euonym for a realtor.

Scripps National Spelling Bee Logo.svgThe Greek suffix –onym, meaning “name or word” is found in many words that identify categories of words.  In short, these words ending in –onym are “words for words.”

Here are some examples:

Acronym:  Words made up of the initials of other words, such as NASA or SCUBA.

Antonym:  Words with the opposite meaning, such as love and hate.

Capitonym:  Words that change pronunciation and meaning when capitalized, such as august or nice.

Contronym:  Words that are their own antonyms, such as bolt or weather.

Eponym:  Words derived from proper names, such as quixotic, which derived from the literary character Don Quixote.

Heteronym:  Words that are spelled the same but have different meanings and pronunciations, such as produce and entrance.

Pseudonym:  A pen name, such as Mark Twain for Samuel Clemens.

Retronym:  An adjective-noun pairing that evolves because of a change in the noun’s meaning, such as acoustic guitar.  The adjective acoustic became necessary with the development of the electric guitar.

Toponym:  Words derived from the names of specific geographic locations, such as the word bikini, which was named after Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands.

Synonym:  Words with the same, or nearly the same, meaning, such as buy and purchase.

Today’s Challenge:  More Words For Words

Besides words that end with the suffix -onym, what are some other words that identify categories of specific words?  Below are some examples of categories of specific words.  Select three of the categories below (or some other word categories you can think of) and research the definitions of each, along with at least four example words for each category.  Make sure to explain what makes each category distinctive.

abstract noun, archaism, blend, collective noun, conjunctive adverb, contraction, count noun, definite article, euphemism, gerund, interjection, interrogative pronoun, loanword, malapropism, palindrome, reduplicative, univocalic word

(Common Core Language 3 – Knowledge of Language)

Quotation of the Day:  A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one. -Baltasar Gracian

May 28:  Eponym Day

An eponym is a word derived from the name of a real or imaginary person. For example, the word shrapnel evolved from Henry Shrapnel, an English artillery officer who developed an exploding shell that sent out bits of metal. Most often the capitalized proper noun that refers to the specific person becomes lowercase as it is transformed into a general noun, adjective, or verb.  Other examples of eponyms are boycott, cardigan, and silhouette.

Gillotine-JosephIgnace crop.jpgSo, what makes May 28 a date related to the de-capitalization of words? Well, it just happens to be the birthday of the “Father of Decapitation,” Joseph Ignace Guillotin (1738-1814), the inventor of the guillotine. Ironically, this French physician was against capital punishment. He suggested his invention to the French Legislative Assembly with the hope that a more humane and less painful form of execution would be a logical stepping stone to the elimination of capital punishment altogether.

The words capitalization and capital punishment share a common etymology; Cap in Latin means head. Capital as it refers to letters, therefore, means head letter. Capital, as it refers to capital punishment, means execution by decapitation.

Today’s Challenge:  Off With Their Head Letters

What are some examples of English words that might have originated from the names of people?  Use a good dictionary to lookup the meanings of at least two of the following eponyms. Then, do some research to find the complete capitalized first and last names of the people from whom they are derived.  Also, give some of the biographical details about the individuals and what made them influential enough to be immortalized in the dictionary.

amp, braille, bowdlerize, braille, chauvinism, clerihew, diesel, doily, galvanize, gerrymander, leotard, lynch, maverick, mesmerize, nicotine, ohm, pasteurize, quisling, sandwich, saxophone, spoonerism, tawdry, teddy bear, volt, watt, zeppelin  (Common Core Language 4 – Knowledge of Words and Language)

Quotation of the Day: Two men look through the same bars; one sees the mud, and the other the stars. –Frederick Langbridge

May 27:  Green Day

Today is the birthday of biologist Rachel Carson (1907-1964). Carson’s book Silent Spring, published in 1962, is credited with launching the environmental movement. Carson became concerned with the increased use of pesticides, especially D.D.T., after World War II. Her book brought to light the harmful effects of these chemicals on the chain of life.

SilentSpring.jpgCarson’s book was not without its critics, but it did lead to a heightened public awareness of conservation issues, and it also lead to Congressional hearings into the impact of pesticides on the environment and human health. Within 10 years of the publication of Silent Spring, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was founded, Earth Day was established, and the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts had become law (1).

The words below are examples of words that emerged in the 20th Century to describe issues related to the environment. For example, Greenpeace, an international organization that campaigns for the protection of the environment, was founded in 1971. Its activities contributed a new definition to the adjective green: “relating to or supporting environmentalism, especially as a political issue.”

conservation (1922)

D.D.T (1943)

eco- (1969)

ecofreak (1970)

green (1972)

environmentalism (1972)

global warming (1977)

eco-terrorist (1988)

eco-friendly (1989) (2)

Today’s Challenge: It’s Easy Being Green

How many words or phrases (expressions, idioms, titles, names, quotations, etc.) can you think of that contain the word “green”?  Brainstorm at least ten words or phrases that contain “green.”  Then, use one of your words or expressions as a title and a launching pad for an original composition of at least 250 words.  

The following are some green words and expression:

The Green Mile, The Green Berets, The Green Door, How Green Was My Valley, Mr. Green Jeans, The Green, Green Grass of Home, Green Eggs and Ham, The grass is always greener, green room, greenback, greenhorn, green about the gills, green-eyed jealous, green with envy, green thumb, green light, Green Eyed Lady, Greensleeves, Greenback Dollar, Bowling Green, The Ballad of the Green Berets,  Little Green Apples, Anne of Green Gables, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Big Green Monster, Soylent Green, Greenpeace, greenbelt

Quotation of the Day: When you’re green, you’re growing. When you’re ripe, you rot. –Ray Kroc

1 – Raftery, Miriam. 100 Books that Shaped World History. San Mateo, California: Bluewood Books, 2002.

 

May 26: Replete With Ts Day

On this day in 1927, Henry Ford watched as the last Ford Model T rolled off the assembly at his factory in Highland Park, Michigan.  Introduced in 1908, the Model T was the first car that was mass-produced on an assembly line. Its 20-horsepower, four-cylinder engine could reach a maximum of 45 miles per hour. 

By 1918, one of every two cars on U.S. roads were black Model Ts.  As Ford famously said, “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.”  In 1999, the Ford Model T was named The Car of the Century by the Global Automotive Elections Foundation (1).

Just as the Model T was at one time ubiquitous on U.S. roads, the letter T remains the most ubiquitous of all consonants in written English.  In fact, Ts are so prevalent that writing students might attempt to write compositions replete with Ts.

Today’s Task:  Composition Replete With Ts Contest

What types of writing compositions contain Ts?  Attempt to write a composition in which every word contains at least one T.  Brainstorm composition types first; then, try to construct the most tremendous, t-ladened masterpiece written this century.

Composition Types to Try:

Tall Tales, Narratives, Descriptions, Editorials, Creative Non-fiction, Skits, Worksheets, Advertisements, Diatribes, Tongue-Twisters, Letters, Fact Sheets, Timed Tests, Textbooks, Telegrams, Detective Stories, Fantasies, Gothic Tomes, Metaphors, Mysteries, Eyewitness Accounts, Reflections, Arguments, Tragedies, Reports, Interviews, Abstracts, Short Stories, Sonnets, Alliterative Poetry, TV Sitcom Scripts

Contest Criteria:  creativity, clarity, jocularity, lucidity, timeliness, style, originality, plot, character development, tone, diction, detail, organization, craftsmanship, editing, syntax, sentence variety, grammatical correctness.

Caution:  Writing compositions replete with Ts might turn tragic.  Students often get addicted. They can’t stop writing with Ts.  Therefore, trust this caveat: try to contain writing to ten contest entries tops.  Thanks.

Quotation of the Day:  Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason why so few engage in it. -Henry Ford

1-https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/fna/us/en/news/2013/08/05/model-t-facts.html

 

May 25:  Towel Day

Today fans of Douglas Adams, the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, honor his life and work by wearing or displaying towels. Why towels? Well, the explanation can be found in an excerpt from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy:

H2G2 UK front cover.jpgA towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or to avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindboggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have “lost”. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still knows where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.

Adams was born in Cambridge, England in 1952. His publishing career began with a short story that was published in a comic book called Eagle when he was 11 years old. His best known work, the comic sci-fi novel The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy began as a BBC Radio 4 series in 1978. The novel was published in 1979. The original novel spawned four sequels and a cult following that bought more than 15 million books. The Hitchhikers Guide was made into a movie in 2005.

Towel day was established in 2001 after Adam’s unexpected death of a heart attack on May 11, 2001. He was 49 at the time, living in California with his wife and daughter.

The following proclamation is from the official Towel Day website:

You sass that hoopy Douglas Adams? Now there’s a frood who knew where his towel was. You are invited to join your fellow hitchhikers in mourning the loss of the late great one. Join in on towel day to show your appreciation for the humor and insight that Douglas Adams brought to all our lives.

Today’s Challenge:  The Catalog of Literary Swag

If you were putting together a catalog of physical objects from various great literary works, what are some of the items you would include?  Brainstorm some physical objects that would be included in a catalogue featuring items from great literary works, such as Adams’ Towel, Yorick’s Skull, Huckleberry Finn’s Raft, Scout’s Ham Costume, Romeo’s Vile of Poison, or Hester Prynne’s Scarlet Letter.  Select and name three specific items from three separate works. Next to the name of each item, write a brief description, the kind of description you would find in a catalog to entice buyers. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  But the point which drew all eyes, and, as it were, transfigured the wearer–so that both men and women who had been familiarly acquainted with Hester Prynne were now impressed as if they beheld her for the first time–was that SCARLET LETTER, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom. It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself.

-Nathaniel Hawthorne, description of Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter

May 24:  Toastmasters Day

On this day in 1905, the very first Toastmasters meeting was held in Bloomington, Illinois.  The idea for the club was hatched by Ralph C. Smedley, an education director with the YMCA, who wanted to teach speaking skills to the young men in his community.  

Toastmasters 2011.pngToday, Toastmasters clubs span the globe in 142 countries, providing men and women opportunities to practice their public speaking.  The major focus of Toastmasters International, a nonprofit agency, is to develop leaders through the teaching of effective communication skills.  At weekly Toastmasters meetings, members present a range of different talks, gaining valuable speaking experiences.

As stated at the Toastmaster International website, the collaborative nature of the clubs are an essential ingredient in their success:

By regularly giving speeches, gaining feedback, leading teams and guiding others to achieve their goals in a supportive atmosphere, leaders emerge from the Toastmasters program. Every Toastmasters journey begins with a single speech. During their journey, they learn to tell their stories. They listen and answer. They plan and lead. They give feedback—and accept it. Through our community of learners, they find their path to leadership.

Don’t let speaking drive you nuts.  Use PECAN

One way to improve your public speaking skills is to identify the specific elements that lead to a successful presentation.  PECAN is a mnemonic device that will help you remember five key elements of a successful presentation:

Pace, Eye Contact, Control, Articulation, and Non-verbal Communication

PACE: Think Goldilocks

The timing and pace of any speech is an essential element. Remember, your audience hears your speech only once, so practice your speech with an ear to your rhythm and your pace.  As you practice, try not to go too fast or too slow; instead, aim to make it just right. When people get nervous, they tend to speed up, so practice with a stopwatch until you get your time down within a 10-second window of your predicted time.  Always mark your speech to remind you to vary your speed, pacing, and pauses. Use pauses at appropriate times and avoid any pauses that don’t compliment your message. Watch out for verbal ticks (um, like, ya know); again, practice will help you eliminate these so that they don’t distract from your message.

EYE CONTACT:  Engage Your Audience and Get Feedback

Make eye contact with your audience and smile a little at the very beginning of any speech.  Eye contact is essential to make human contact with your audience. Look at your audience so that each person in the room feels involved.  You cannot connect with the audience without eye contact, and if you don’t connect with the audience, you can’t get your message across to them.  Eye contact will also give you instant feedback about your performance.

Don’t try to memorize your speech, but practice it so that you know it so well that you can say it, not read it.  Make marks on your speech to remind yourself to look up; at the very minimum, you should be able to do this at the end of every sentence. As you gain experience and confidence with eye contact, practice moving your head to look at each person in the room.  Strive to make as much eye contact as possible and try to spend more time looking at the audience than looking at your speech.

CONTROL:  Keep Calm and Carry On  

Public speaking is not easy and having fear and anxiety before and during your speech is natural.  The key is to harness the nervous energy and use it to motivate your preparation and practice. The goal is to appear calm and confident so that the audience can focus on the content of your speech and to avoid being distracted by anything that is not relevant to your message.  

Use the tree as your metaphor for control.  Trees are natural, and they have a solid base below – a trunk.  A tree also has branches that move naturally in the wind. Like the tree, keep your feet planted, stand up straight, and balance your weight evenly.  Use your upper body – your arms, hands, and head – to compliment your message, moving them naturally like the limbs of the tree in the wind. Everyone has idiosyncrasies of speech and behavior, the problem is that these get exaggerated when we get nervous.  This is why you must practice. Be aware of shuffling, fidgeting, wiggling or nervous gestures that might distract from your speech. As you gain experience you will become more aware of your weaknesses and will become more confident with strategies to eliminate them.

Another key element of control is staying focused and ignoring distracts.  Don’t allow anyone in the audience to distract you. Maintain the tone that is appropriate for your speech.  If you lose focus or burst out in inappropriate laughter, it is your fault. You are responsible for being in control of your speech from beginning to end.

ARTICULATION:  Your Audience Hears Your Speech Just Once

To articulate means to express yourself as fluently, as coherently, and as eloquently as possible.  Part of articulation is the volume of your voice. You do not need to yell, but you do need to speak loudly enough for everyone in the room to hear you.  If you naturally speak at a low volume, practice raising it a bit. Also, make sure to enunciate your words so that they are as clear as possible. If you speak too softly, mumble, or blur words together, your audience will not be able to understand your speech.  

Another key element of articulation is the variety of your voice.  Mark your speech to ensure that you include vocal variety. Consider where you will pause and where you will emphasise certain words and phrases.  You must build-in vocal variety to avoid just reading your speech in a monotone manner. You must try to make your written words sound as natural as possible.  To do this vary your sentence lengths and types, and practice your speech out loud. The other thing you must do is to practice your speech enough so that it doesn’t sound scripted.

The final key element of articulation is the tone of your voice. Putting together a clearly organized speech with cogent reasoning is vital, but the best speeches combine reason (logos) with emotion and passion (pathos).  With passion, you will be able to animate your message and transfer it to your audience. If you care and believe what you are saying, there is a more likely chance that your audience will accept what you are saying. Consider the tones of your speech, and as you practice make those tones come alive with your voice.  If you just read your speech with no passion, emotion, or feeling, it will sound as if you don’t care about what you’re saying. If you don’t care, your audience won’t either. And remember, one of the major purposes of any speech is to move your audience to think and to feel.

NONVERBAL CUES: Match Your Movements to Your Message

The advantage of spoken language over written language is that you can include nonverbal gestures to enhance the understanding of your message.  The key is to use body language, gestures, and facial expressions that enhance your message instead of distracting from it. As you practice, think about what you will do with your hands.  Placing them on the podium is better than fidgeting. Again, everything you do should serve your speech and your audience, so any gestures that distract should be eliminated. This is why you must practice so that you include gestures that work and eliminate gestures that don’t.  

Wear appropriate clothing for your presentation.  Just like gestures and body language, what you wear should complement your speech.   

Today’s Challenge:  PECAN Pie

What are the most important elements of effective public speaking?  Watch a Ted Talk or other public presentation, and use the elements of PECAN to evaluate the effectiveness of the presentations.  Use the metaphor of a pecan pie, and identify each of the five elements as a slice of the presentation. Draw a circle and make specific notes on the speaker’s Pace, Eye Contact, Control, Articulation, and Non-Verbal Cues (Common Core Speaking and Listening)

Quotation of the Day:  Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue . . . -William Shakespeare

May 23:  Defenestration Day

It’s not often that we can trace the precise day that a word was born, but one particularly interesting word was born on this day in 1618. The word is defenestration which means: The act of throwing something or someone out the window.

Just before the beginning of The Thirty Years War, a war in which Roman Catholics and Protestants battled for political and religious power, Protestant nobles threw two members of the Roman Catholic royal council and their secretary from a window in Hradcany Castle in Prague. The good news concerning this momentous defenestration is that no one was hurt — the three victims fell into the waters of the castle’s moat (1).

The word defenestration comes to us from Latin: de-, out + fenestra, window.

The word window comes to English via Old Norse vindauga: vindr, wind + auga, eye. Window is also a kenning, a figurative device used figuratively in Old English and Old Norse where a compound expression is used in place of a noun, such as oar-steed for ship or whale road for sea. They are found frequently in poetic epics like Beowulf, but we also create them today. For example, here are some modern kennings: boob tube, fat pill, gas guzzler, and gut bomb.

Today’s Challenge:  To Coin a Verb

What are some examples of acts for which there are no single verbs?  The verb form of defenestration is defenestrate – “To throw something or someone out of a window.”  Imagine you were to come up with some new verbs in English to describe very specific actions, such as “to jump into a pile of autumn leaves” or “to laugh so hard while drinking milk that it comes shooting out your nose.”  You might also think of some types of actions that are relatively new, such as: “to get stuck in a fast food drive through lane without enough money to pay for your meal.” Don’t worry about coming up with the actual verbs; instead, focus on the wording of at least three separate definitions. (Common Core Language 4 – Knowledge of Words and Language)

Quotation of the Day: Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window. -Steve Wozniak

1 – Ammer, Christine. Fighting Words: From War, Rebellion, and Other Combative Capers. New York: Paragon House, 1989.

 

May 22:  Words From the Sea Day

Today is National Maritime Day established in 1933 by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The date was established as May 22nd based on the first successful transoceanic voyage under steam propulsion. The steamship The Savannah set sail from Savannah, Georgia, on May 22, 1819 (1).

National Maritime Day is the perfect day to acknowledge and recognize the large number of English words that have washed up on shore and been adopted into everyday speech.  Many words we use today have their origins in the salty talk of sailors. Below are some examples from An Ocean of Words: A Dictionary of Nautical Words and Phrases by Peter D. Jeans:

Blowhard: Sailor’s slang for a wind-bag.

Debacle: Referred to the break-up of ice on a river or navigable channel.

Filibuster: Originally a term for a buccaneer, pirate, or other person who obtained plunder. It later evolved to refer to the use of obstructive tactics in the legislature.

Nausea: From the Greek nausia, meaning seasickness.

Vogue: From the French, voguer, ‘to be carried forward on the water.’ No doubt it comes from the figurative sense of being in fashion – that is being in the swim, going with the flow or current, or moving with the tide (2).

In addition to words with nautical origins, there are boatloads of idioms and common expression we use every day.  For example, if one of your co-workers is a “loose cannon,” it means he or she does not conform to the rules and might say or do something at any time that might hurt the company. Few people realize that this term originates from the actual heavy metal cannon that were tied and secured to a ship’s side. If a cannon became loose, it could cause a lot of damage to the ship and the crew.

Here’s a list of more expressions:

All hands on deck , Ship shape , Full steam ahead, Like a fish out of water, Turn the tide, To make Waves, To Stem the Tide, To run a tight ship, Rock the boat, To have bigger fish to fry, Two ships that pass in the night , In deep water, A big fish in a small pond, The coast is clear, The tip of the iceberg, The world is your oyster, Happy as a clam, Above board, Don’t rock the boat, We’re all in the same boat

Today’s Challenge:  A Net-full of Nautical Words

What are some examples of words in English that you associate the sea?  Although there are many words like tide, wave, and vessel that have clear associations with the ocean, many of the words we use frequently have a hidden nautical history.  Select two of the words below, and research each word’s etymology to find out how its origin or former meaning was sea-related. Contrast any former uses of the words with current dictionary definitions.

Ahoy, Bamboozle, Cranky, Derelict, Exonerate, Fairway, Guzzle, Handsome,  Idler, Junk, Kickback, Listless, Mayonnaise, Noggin, Over-rated, Posh, Quarter, Rummage, Scope, Trick, Victuals, Wash-out, Yarn

(Common Core Language 4 – Knowledge of Language)

Quotation of the Day: There is no frigate like a book to take us lands away. –Emily Dickinson

1-https://www.marad.dot.gov/education/national-maritime-day/a-short-history-on-national-maritime-day/

2- Jeans, Peter D. An Ocean of Words: A Dictionary of Nautical Words and Phrases. Secaucus, New Jersey: Birch Lane Press, 1993.