October 16:  Dictionary Day

Writing in the Boston Globe in 2009, lexicographer Erin McKean presented the following imaginative and idealistic vision for Dictionary Day, the day that celebrates the birthday of the one man synonymous with the dictionary, Noah Webster (1758-1843):

. . . small children placed their dictionary stands by the hearthstone, hoping that Noah himself would magically come down the chimney and leave them a shiny new dictionary (left open to the word “dictionary,” of course). In some places, Dictionary Day is celebrated with bonfires of the past years’ dictionaries, the baking of the traditional aardvark-shaped cookies, and the singing of etymology carols (1).

Noah Webster was born in Hartford, Connecticut on October 16, 1758. He went on to graduate from Yale and to work as a lawyer. His most noteworthy work, however, came as a school teacher. Unhappy with the curriculum materials he was given to teach, he created his own uniquely American curriculum: A three-part Grammatical Institute of the English Language. It included a spelling book, a grammar book, and a reader.

Webster served in the student militia at Yale during the Revolutionary War. He never saw combat, but while he never fought in the literal battle for independence from Britain, he was a key player in the battle to make American English independent from British English.

His spelling book, known as the “Blue-Backed Speller,” became one of the most popular and influential works in American history. Only the Bible sold more copies.  According Bill Bryson in his book The Mother Tongue, Noah’s spelling book went through at least 300 editions and sold more than sixty million copies. Because of the wide use of his spelling book and his dictionary published in 1828, Webster had a significant impact on the spelling and pronunciation of American English. His dictionary contained more than 70,000 words, and it was the most complete dictionary of its time (2).

Many of the distinctive differences in spelling and pronunciation of British words versus English words can be traced back to Webster. For example:

Change of -our to –or as in colour and color, honour and honor, labour and labor.

Change of –re to er as in centre and center, metre and meter, theatre and theater

Change of –ce to se as in defence and defense, licence and license, offence and offense

The change of the British double-L in travelled and traveller to the American traveled, traveler.

Not all of Webster’s spelling changes stuck, however. David Grambs, in his book Death by Spelling, lists the following as examples of words that were retracted in later editions of Webster’s Dictionary: iz, relm, mashine, yeer, bilt, tung, breth, helth, beleeve, and wimmen (3).

After Webster’s death in 1843, the rights to his dictionaries were purchased by Charles and George Merriam. The first volume of their dictionary, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary was published in 1847.

After purchasing the rights for use of the Webster name, the Merriam brothers lost a legal battle to use the name exclusively. As a result, today other dictionaries use the name Webster even though they have no connection to Webster or his original work. Because of this Merriam-Webster includes the following assurance of quality for its dictionaries:

Not just Webster. Merriam-Webster.™

Other publishers may use the name Webster, but only Merriam-Webster products are backed by 150 years of accumulated knowledge and experience. The Merriam-Webster name is your assurance that a reference work carries the quality and authority of a company that has been publishing since 1831 (4).

The following are examples of other spelling changes made by Webster. They, in a large part, account for the differences in spelling that exist today in British English versus American English:

cheque to check

draught to draft

manoeuvre to maneuver

moustache to mustache

plough to plow

skilful to skillful

mediaeval to medieval

mould to mold (2)

Today’s Challenge: Dictionary Day Decalogue

What is your favorite word in the English language?  What kind of information can you find in a dictionary besides just the correct spellings and definitions of words?  Dictionaries tell us much more than just spelling and definitions. To celebrate Dictionary Day brainstorm a list of your favorite words.  Then, grab a good dictionary, and make a list of at least “Ten Things You Can Find in a Dictionary Besides Spelling and Definitions.”  (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quote of the Day:  So we should expand our thinking about dictionaries. Language is power – we understand that words can move us to tears or laughter, inspire us to great deeds or urge us to mob action. Dictionaries are the democratization of that power, and the more words they contain, the more democratic they are. The dictionary is a gigantic armory and toolbox combined, accessible to all. It reflects our preoccupations, collects our cultural knowledge, and gives us adorable pictures of aardvarks, to boot. And it does all this one word at a time. -Erin McKean

1 – http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/ideas/articles/2009/10/18/the_word_the_case_for_dictionary_day/

2- Bryson, Bill. The Mother Tongue. New York: Perennial, 1990.

3 –Reader’s Digest Success with Words: A Guide to the American Language. New York: Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1983.

4 – Grambs, David. Death by Spelling: A Compendium of Tests, Super Tests, and Killer Bees. New York: Harper & Row, 1989: 27.

4-http://www.m-w.com/info/webster.htm

 

October 15:  National Poetry Day

Today is National Poetry Day founded in 1994 by British philanthropist and publisher William Sieghart.  Although this “National” day is celebrated primarily in Britain, there is a definite case for making it a global celebration.  The primary reason for this is that it is the birthday in 70 B.C. of the classical Roman poet Virgil, author of Rome’s national epic, the Aeneid.  Virgil influenced the great Latin poet Ovid, as well as Dante, major Italian poet of the Middle Ages.  In Dante’s epic poem the Divine Comedy, Dante features Virgil as his guide on his travels through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.

Vergilius.jpgIn his own epic, the Aeneid, Virgil traces the travels of the mythical hero Aeneas, a Trojan prince, who becomes Rome’s great hero and father.  Before his death in 19 B.C., Virgil supposedly left instructions for the Aeneid to be burned.  Emperor Augustus, however, wouldn’t allow it to be destroyed; instead, he ordered two of Virgil’s friends to edit it, and two years later it was published (1).

The purpose of National Poetry Day is to encourage the reading, writing, publishing, listening, and teaching of poetry; it’s also a nice day to plan ahead for spring when Poetry Month is celebrated.  Each year organizers select a theme.  This theme is not meant to be prescriptive, but it can help spark one’s memory of poems from the past as well as ignite imagination for creating new poems.

Here is a list of some of the themes from past years:

Song Lyrics, Fresh Voices, Journeys, Celebration, Britain, Food, The Future, Identity, Dreams, Work, Heroes and Heroines, Home, Games, Stars, Water, Remember, Light (2)

One excellent way to celebrate National Poetry Day is by putting together a thematic anthology of poetry or poetic prose.  The word anthology in the original Greek meant to gather flowers:  anthos “a flower” + logia “collecting.”  Today we use the word metaphorically, the flowers being samples of the best verse by various writers gathered into one beautiful bouquet of a book.

Today’s Challenge:  Beautiful Words Bound
What are some themes that you might select if you were putting together an anthology of prose or poetry?  Brainstorm a list of possible themes.  Then, select the one theme you like the best.  Using word association, generate a list of words and phrases you associate with your theme.  Use this list to identify some titles of published works you might include in an anthology or to generate some ideas for new works you might create for your anthology.  Finally, write an introduction to your anthology, explaining why you picked your theme, why your theme is relevant and important, and what kinds of works you plan to put in your anthology. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  A well chosen anthology is a complete dispensary of medicine for the more common mental disorders, and may be used as much for prevention as cure. -Robert Graves

 

1-http://www.britannica.com/biography/Virgil

2-http://www.forwardartsfoundation.org/national-poetry-day/what-is-national-poetry-day/

 

October 9: Imaginary Places Day

On this date in 1899, L. Frank Baum (1856-1918) finished the manuscript of his finest work called The Emerald City, a work that would later bear a more familiar title: The Wonderful World of Oz. To commemorate the occasion, Baum framed his pencil with the following note: “With this pencil I wrote the manuscript of The Emerald City.”

Wizard title page.jpgFor the name of his imaginary setting, Baum claimed his inspiration came from the label on the third drawer of his filing cabinet which read O-Z. Other inspiration came from his boyhood home of Peerskill, New York, which had roads paved with bright yellow bricks imported from Holland.

Unfortunately Baum’s book was not the Harry Potter of its day, and although he wrote 13 sequels, he never earned a lot of money. When he died of heart disease in 1918, he left just $1,072.96 in his will.

Even the film version of the book, The Wizard of Oz, lost money when it was released in 1939, 21 years after Baum’s death. The film did not begin its journey to becoming an iconic classic until the 1950s when it was shown on television. Fourty-five million people watched it the first time is was broadcasted on November 3, 1956 (1).

Today’s Challenge: Go to Your Imaginary Happy Place
What imaginary place would you rate as the greatest of all, either from books, television, or movies? What makes this place so special? Brainstorm a list of all the imaginary places you can think of; then, select one and explain what makes it your top fictional setting. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Today’s Quotation: Imagination has brought mankind through the Dark Ages to its present state of civilization. Imagination led Columbus to discover America. Imagination led Franklin to discover electricity. Imagination has given us the steam engine, the telephone, the talking-machine and the automobile, for these things had to be dreamed of before they became realities. So I believe that dreams – day dreams, you know, with your eyes wide open and your brain-machinery whizzing – are likely to lead to the betterment of the world. The imaginative child will become the imaginative man or woman most apt to create, to invent, and therefore to foster civilization. -L. Frank Baum

1-http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/5949617/L-Frank-Baum-the-real-Wizard-of-Oz.html

 

October 2:  Thirteen Ways Day

Today is the birthday of American poet Wallace Stevens (1879-1955).  Wallace won the Pulitzer Prize in 1955 even though he never worked as a full-time poet.  His day-job was as an executive for an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut.

Wallace Stevens.jpgOne of Stevens’ best known poems is “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.”  The poem captures the essence of poetry, a form of writing that challenges both the writer and the reader to “look” at the world from different perspectives and to see it in new ways.  In the tradition of Imagism, a poetic movement that emphasizes precise imagery and clear, concrete diction, Stevens presents thirteen numbered stanzas, each featuring a different way of seeing the ordinary blackbird (1).

As you can see in stanzas 1 and 5 below, Stevens’ language in influenced by the haiku form, combining concrete descriptions of nature with philosophical contemplation:

I

Among twenty snowy mountains,   

The only moving thing   

Was the eye of the blackbird.   

V

I do not know which to prefer,   

The beauty of inflections   

Or the beauty of innuendoes,   

The blackbird whistling   

Or just after.  

Today’s Challenge:  Ways of Looking – the Seven “Sees”
What are ways you can see the world in a new way and from different perspectives even on an ordinary day in an ordinary place?  Writing itself, in its various forms, is an excellent way of looking at the world from different perspectives.  The different modes of writing described below mirror the various ways our brain organizes and processes information.  Select one topic — a person, place, object, or idea — to examine; then, explore that one idea in at least 7 of the 13 ways listed below:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Writing Topic

  1. Description:  Create a picture in words of what it looks like, sounds like, feels like, smells like, and/or tastes like.
  2. Comparison and Contrast:  Explain what is it like and what it is not like.
  3. Cause and Effect:  Explain where it came from and how it impacts the world.
  4. Definition:  Explain exactly what is it called, what it means, and what makes it distinctive from other things.
  5. Narrative:  Tell as story related to it that involves real people in conflict.
  6. Exemplification:  Make a generalization about it; then, support the generalization by giving specific examples that illustrate and explain it.
  7. Argumentation:  State a claim related to it, and provide your reasoning and evidence to prove your claim is valid.
  8. Problem and Solution:  Explain conflicts that arise because of it, and how those conflicts can or might be resolved.
  9. Process:  Explain how something happens related to it by giving a step by step sequence.
  10. Division and Classification: Identify its different parts and its different types.
  11. Poetry: Explore ideas related to it in verse, imagery, and/or figurative language.
  12. Fiction:  Create a story about it that has a narrative point of view, characters, conflict, climax, resolution, and themes.
  13. Drama:  Create a dramatic situation around it, with characters, conflict, and dialogue. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  It is not every day that the world arranges itself in a poem.  -Wallace Stevens

1-http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/wallace-stevens

October 1:  A Book Can Save a Life Day

On this day in 1901, Rudyard Kipling’s novel Kim was published.  The novel is an adventure story set in 19th century India, a time of British colonial rule.  The adventure in the book, however, pales when compared to the adventure surrounding what happened when a soldier in the French Foreign Legion acquired a French edition of the novel in 1913.  

KimKipling.jpgThe soldier’s name was Maurice Hamonneau, and his decision to take Kipling’s book into combat saved his life.  Shot in the battle, Hamonneu lay unconscious for hours.  When he regained consciousness he realized that the book which he was carrying in his breast pocket had deflected the bullet.  The bullet had pierced the book, leaving a hole that stopped 330 pages into the book, leaving only 20 intact pages between the bullet and Hamonneu’s heart.

In gratitude Hamonneu sent the bullet-pierced book to Kipling along with the medal he was awarded for his bravery in battle.  Kipling was moved by the gesture, but later when he learned that Hamonneu had become a father, he returned the book and the medal with a note to Hamonneu’s son, advising him to always carry a book of at least 350 pages in his breast pocket.

Today the book and Hamonneu’s medal are preserved in the rare book section of the United States Library of Congress (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Books Not Bullets
What one book is so good that it’s worth taking into battle — a book that everyone should read as if his or her life depended on it?  What makes the book so special, so inspirational?  Explain your choice, and assume you are writing to an audience who has not read the book. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  A book is good company. It is full of conversation without loquacity. It comes to your longing with full instruction, but pursues you never. -Henry Ward Beecher

1- http://www.history.com/shows/history-originals/videos/the-book-that-saved-a-life

 

 

September 30:  Mnemonic Device Day

On this last day of September we focus on not forgetting one of the more famous mnemonic rhymes in English:

Thirty days hath September,

April, June, and November.

All the rest have 31,

Except for February all alone,

It has 28 each year,

but 29 each leap year.

This verse is attributed to Mother Goose, but it’s only one of many versions of the poem.  One website, for example, lists and astonishing 90 variations of what has come to be called The Month Poem (10.

Mnemonic rhymes are just one type of mnemonic device. No, you can’t buy them in stores. A mnemonic device is a method of remembering something that is difficult to remember by remembering something that is easy to remember.

The word mnemonic is an eponym, originating from the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the Muses, Mnemosyne.

In his book WASPLEG and Other Mnemonics, Bart Benne catalogs hundreds of mnemonic devices. To make things easy to remember, these mnemonic devices use different methods such as rhyme, acrostics, or acronyms. Another method is the nonsense sentence made up from the initial letters of what it is you are trying to remember. Here’s an example of a sentence that was created to remember the most important battles of Julius Caesar’s career:

Is Perpetual Zeal The Means?

I Ilerda

P Pharsalus

Z Zeta

T Thapsus

M Munda

Generations of school children have used the rhyme from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” to remember the start date of the American Revolution:

Listen my children and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

Rhyming couplets are also helpful in remembering key dates in English history:

William the Conqueror, Ten Sixty-Six

Played on the Saxons oft-cruel tricks.

The Spanish Armada met its fate

In Fifteen Hundred and Eighty-Eight

The acronym “BIGOT” helps in remembering the Pacific campaigns in the Unites States Marines in World War II:

Bougainville

Iwo Jima

Guadalcanal

Okinawa

Tarawa

Another mnemonic device helps both soldiers and civilians remember the order of the major rank structures in the U.S. Army from lowest to highest ranking.

Privates Can’t Salute Without Learning Correct Military Command Grades:

Private,

Corporal,

Sergeant,

Warrant Officer,

Lieutenant,

Captain,

Major,

Colonel,

and General (2).

Today’s Challenge:  Remember, Remember the Mnemonics of September
What are some examples of important information that needs to be committed to memory?  Think of something you need to remember, or something that everyone should remember, and create your own original mnemonic device. Use rhyme, acrostics, acronyms, and/or nonsense sentences to package your device in a handy, easy-to-remember format. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good. –Friedrich Nietzsche

 

1 – http://leapyearday.com/content/days-month-poem

2- Benne, Bart. WASPLEG and Other Mnemonics. Dallas: Taylor Publishing

Company, 1988.

September 25:  Convocation Day

On this date in 1991, Professor Jacob Neusner, a historian of religion, delivered the convocation address to students at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania. Unlike a commencement speech, which is presented at a graduation ceremony at the end of a school term, a convocation is a speech to incoming students at the beginning of a school term.

The purpose of a convocation, therefore, is to call a student body together and to spark the students’ quest for knowledge as they stand poised at the beginning of a new school year.  Neusner clearly is qualified to speak about acquiring knowledge, having played a part in the publication of over 1,000 books, either as an author, editor, or translator.  In his convocation, Neusner evoked examples of history’s great teachers, teachers who helped their students to discover truth for themselves:

Socrates was the greatest philosopher of all time, and all he did was walk around the streets and ask people irritating questions.  Jesus was certainly the most influential teacher in history, and his longest “lecture” — for instance, the Sermon on the Mount — cannot have filled up an hour of classroom time or a page in a notebook.  

Professor Neusner ended his speech by calling students to look not only to their teachers for learning, but also to look within themselves:

Your imagination is our richest national resource; an open and active mind, our most precious intangible treasure.  That’s what we try to do at our universities and colleges in this country:  teach people to teach themselves, which is what life is all about — during the coming year, and during all the years of your lives and mine.

Today’s Challenge:  School’s Cool! You’d Be a Fool to Miss a Single Day at School
What is the purpose of education?  What would you say to welcome, motivate, and inspire students to make the most of their learning in the coming year?  Write the text of your convocation speech giving your audience the best advice you can about how not to take their education for granted. (Common Core Writing 1 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  Professors are there to guide, to help, to goad, to irritate, to stimulate.  Students are there to explore, to inquire, to ask questions, to experiment, to negotiate knowledge. –Jacob Neusner

 

1- Safire, William.  Lend Me Your Ears:  Great Speeches in History.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 1997.

Epic Welcome

September 23:  Pathos Day

On this date two emotionally charged speeches about dogs were given more than 50 years apart.

The first was a closing argument from a trial in 1870.  Attorney George Graham Vest was representing a client whose hunting dog, Old Drum, had been killed by a neighboring sheep farmer.  Instead of addressing the specific facts of the case, Vest took another approach, an emotional appeal to the faithful nature not just of Old Drum, but all dogs:

Gentlemen of the jury: A man’s dog stands by him in prosperity and in poverty, in health and in sickness. He will sleep on the cold ground, where the wintry winds blow and the snow drives fiercely, if only he may be near his master’s side. He will kiss the hand that has no food to offer, he will lick the wounds and sores that come in encounters with the roughness of the world. He guards the sleep of his pauper master as if he were a prince. When all other friends desert, he remains. When riches take wings and reputation falls to pieces, he is as constant in his love as the sun in its journey through the heavens.

Vest won the case and Old Drum’s owner was awarded $50.  Today a statue of the dog and a plaque with Vest’s speech are located in front of the courthouse in Warrensburg, Missouri (1),

The second canine-theme talk was a nationally televised speech by vice-presidential candidate Richard Nixon in 1952.  As the running mate for Dwight D. Eisenhower on the Republican ticket, Nixon faced a challenge when a story broke that he had taken money from a secret fund set up by a group of millionaires from his home state, California.  Nixon’s reputation and his political future was on the line, so on September 23, 1952 he went on national TV, a relatively new medium at the time, to deny the accusations.  One major tactic Nixon used in his speech was to appeal to his audience’s sympathies by talking about his humble background, his modest income, and most importantly, his family dog:

But Pat [Nixon’s wife] and I have the satisfaction that every dime that we have got is honestly ours.

I should say this, that Pat doesn’t have a mink coat. But she does have a respectable Republican cloth coat, and I always tell her she would look good in anything.

One other thing I probably should tell you, because if I don’t they will probably be saying this about me, too. We did get something, a gift, after the election.

A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog, and, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore, saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was?

It was a little cocker spaniel dog, in a crate that he had sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted, and our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it Checkers.

And you know, the kids, like all kids, loved the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it. (2).

Nixon’s speech was a great success.  Letters and telegrams of support poured in, and Eisenhower decided to keep him on the presidential ticket, a ticket that six weeks later won in a landslide.  Today Nixon’s speech is known as “The Checkers Speech.”

Both of these speeches — coincidentally presented on September 23rd — exemplify the power of pathos in writing.  The Greek philosopher Aristotle wrote about three key components of persuasive rhetoric:  ethos, logos, and pathos.  Ethos is the writer’s credibility, and logos is the writer’s reasoning.  The third, and perhaps most important component, is pathos, the writer’s appeal to emotion.  Both Nixon and Vest knew that to persuade their audience they needed more than just reasonable arguments and facts; in addition,  they needed to move their audience’s emotions by tugging at their heart strings.  By using their words to create moving and specific images, and to tell specific, personal anecdotes, Vest and Nixon crafted cogent and convincing cases.

Today’s Challenge:  Pathos-Powered PSA
What is something specific that can be done today by you or by anyone to make the world a better place?  Write a Public Service Announcement (PSA) making your case.  Craft it as a logical argument, but also pour on the pathos by thinking about not just your audience’s head, but also its heart.  Use specific imagery, figurative language, anecdotes, and personal insight to make a connection and to move your audience to act. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  To his dog, every man is Napoleon; hence the constant popularity of dogs. -Aldous Huxley

1- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Graham_Vest

2- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Checkers_speech

3 – Gallow, Carmine.  Talk Like TED:  The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds.  New York:  St. Martin’s Press, 2014.

 

September 18:  Lexicographer Day

Today is the birthday Samuel Johnson (1708-1784), the writer of the first scholarly researched English dictionary.  His work A Dictionary of the English Language was published in two volumes on April 15, 1755.  Johnson’s dictionary was not the first dictionary in English, but what made it special was its use of illustrative quotations by the best writers in English.  

Samuel Johnson by Joshua Reynolds.jpgA lexicographer is a writer of dictionaries, and Johnson set the standard for the basic principle that lexicographers use even today, that is deducing the meaning of a word based on how it is used by accomplished, published writers.  Instead of creating meanings of words, the lexicographer reads prodigiously, gathering examples of words used in context in published works.  Only after gathering these examples does the lexicographer write a definition of a word.  Thus, instead of prescribing the definitions of words, the work of a lexicographer is descriptive.  Working objectively, like a scientist, a lexicographer observes (describes) the way words are actually used in the real world by real writers, rather than declaring by fiat (prescribing) what words mean (1).

In Johnson’s Dictionary he define his job as follows:

Lexicographer: A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original, and detailing the signification of words.

In his preface to his dictionary, Johnson stated his purpose:  not to fix the language by defining its words in print, but to display its power by arranging it for easy alphabetical access:

When we see men grow old and die at a certain time one after another, from century to century, we laugh at the elixir that promises to prolong life to a thousand years; and with equal justice may the lexicographer be derided, who being able to produce no example of a nation that has preserved their words and phrases from mutability, shall imagine that his dictionary can embalm his language, and secure it from corruption and decay, that it is in his power to change sublunary nature, or clear the world at once from folly, vanity, and affectation. (198-9)

Today’s Challenge:  Lexicographer for a Day

What are the key elements of writing a definition?  The act of writing the definitions of words allows you to see the many facets of language that often go unnoticed.  Begin your definition with your word and its part of speech.  Then, identify a general category or class that the word fits into.  Finally, provide details that show what differentiates the word from the other words in its class — in other words, details that show how it is distinct from other words in its general category.

Here’s an example:

Pencil (Noun):  a type of writing or drawing instrument that consists of a thin stick of graphite enclosed in a thin piece of wood or fixed in a case made of metal or plastic.

Open a dictionary to a random page and write down the first four words you find.  Then, without looking at the definitions, write your own.  Then, compare your definitions to the ones published in the dictionary. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure.  –Samuel Johnson

 

1-http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/dic/johnson/1755johnsonsdictionary.html

September 16:  Eponymous Law Day

Today is the birthday of Laurence J. Peter (1919-1990), the author of the book The Peter Principle. Peter was an education professor at the University of Southern California and the University of British Columbia, but he became famous in the field of business when he published The Peter Principle in 1969. The book is full of case histories that illustrate why every organization seems to fall short of reaching maximum productivity and profit. His explanation relates to the corporate mentality that promotes productive workers upward until they achieve positions beyond their ability to perform competently.

Peter’s insights into the organizational structures of businesses were so well-received that The Peter Principle has gone well beyond just the title of a popular book; it has entered the language as an adage, immortalizing its creator. The American Heritage Dictionary records the following definition of the Peter Principle:

The theory that employees within an organization will advance to their highest level of competence and then be promoted to and remain at a level at which they are incompetent (1).

Laurence Peter is not alone in the world of eponymous lawsa principle or general rule that named for a person.  Below are some examples of other eponymous laws or principles:

Ockham’s Razor:  Explanations should never multiply causes without necessity. When two explanations are offered for a phenomenon, the simplest full explanation is preferable.

Murphy’s Law:  If anything can go wrong, it will.

The Dilbert Principle:  The most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.

Hofstadter’s Law:  A task always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

Parkinson’s Law:  Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Amara’s Law:  We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.

Stigler’s Law of Eponymy:  No scientific discovery, not even Stigler’s law, is named after its original discoverer (2).

Today’s Challenge:  Laying Down the Law
What are some general rules or principles that you have noticed based on your experience of living in the real world?  Attach your name to the one that you think is the most original and most insightful.  Then, explain and define your law, and give examples of when and where the law comes into play and how it can assist people in living better lives. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Example:

Backman’s Law of Student Speeches:   The likelihood of a sudden, unexpected and unexplainable attack of laryngitis increases the closer a student approaches the period or time when he or she is required to give a speech.

This law helps one anticipate the strange phenomenon which renders students incapable of giving their assigned speeches.  Debilitated by the sudden onset of speechlessness, a student will hobble into class and approach the teacher.  Pointing to his throat and frowning pathetically, the student will then bravely make an attempt to utter a single sentence.  Risking further throat injury, the student will whisper, “I don’t think I’m going to be able -cough! cough! – to go today.” The student will then turn and limp to his seat.  The bout of laryngitis usually ends at the tolling of the class’s final bell, miraculously disappearing just as suddenly as it appeared sixty minutes earlier.  Multiple medical studies by reputable research centers have failed to determine a reasonable cause for this debilitating yet temporary affliction; however, a team of research scientists at John Hopkins is currently conducting a study that promises to produce some breakthrough findings.

Quotation of the Day: A pessimist is a man who looks both ways before crossing a one-way street. –Laurence J. Peter

 

1 – American Heritage Dictionary

2-https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_eponymous_laws