April 8:  Baseball Metaphor Day

On this day in 1974, Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run, eclipsing Babe Ruth’s record that had stood for 47 years.

The figurative use of the term home run, meaning a great success, began to appear in English in the second half of the 20th century. Of all sports, baseball, America’s pastime, has been the most fertile ground for metaphors. In fact, you can list a virtual A-Z of baseball metaphors. Remember though, to qualify for the list, the word or phrase must originate with baseball but also must be used to refer to situations outside of baseball.

The following list is from Christine Ammer’s book Southpaws & Sunday Punches:

All-star, ballpark figure, big league, box score, bush league, catbird seat*, change-up, clean-up hitter, curve ball, doubleheader, extra-innings, foul ball, go for the fences, get to first base, go to bat for, hard ball, in the ballpark, inside baseball, left field, line-up, major league, MVP, no runs, no hits, no errors, off base, on deck, pitch hit, rain check, screwball, southpaw, Tinker’s chance, wait ’til next year, whole new ballgame (1)

Today Challenge:  Field Your Dream Team

What category of person or things might you divide up into a team, using the metaphor of baseball positions?  Brainstorm some different categories of people or things with at least nine members, such as U.S. Presidents, Great Inventors, Great Philosophers, Great Poets, Movie Genres, Architectural Styles, Academic Disciplines, Great Rock-n-roll Bands, Novels by Stephen King, or Great American Novels.  Then, select one category and identify your 9-player line-up.

For example, below is an example using the nine parts of speech:

Nouns – Catcher

Verb – Pitcher

Adjective – 1st Base

Adverb – 2nd Base

Preposition – 3rd Base

Pronouns – Short Stop

Article – Left Field

Conjunction – Center Field

Interjection – Right Field

Quotation of the Day:  Every day is a new opportunity. You can build on yesterday’s success or put its failures behind and start over again. That’s the way life is, with a new game every day, and that’s the way baseball is. -Bob Feller

*For an excellent short story, full of baseball metaphors, see James Thurber’s short story The Catbird Seat.

1-Ammer, Christine.  Southpaws & Sunday Punches.  New York:  Plume, 1992.

March 30:  Pencil Day

On this day in 1858, a Philadelphia stationer named Hyman L. Lipman patented the first eraser-tipped pencil.  One common misnomer about pencils is that they contain “lead.” In reality, pencils contain a mineral called graphite.  Legend has it that in the 16th century a shiny black substance was discovered in England’s Lake District under a fallen tree.  The substance was first used by local shepherds to mark their sheep. Because the black material resembled lead, it was called plumbago (from the Latin word for lead, plumbus — the same root that gave us the word “plumber,” someone who works with lead pipes).

A pencil shortage in 18th century France resulted in the invention of another well-known writing implement.  While at war with England in 1794, Revolutionary France could not access the graphite needed to make pencils.  An engineer named Nicolas-Jacques Conte improvised, combining low-quality graphite with wet clay. Conte then molded the substance into rods and baked it.  This process produced “Crayons Conte” or what we know today as chalk.

Before he lived at Walden Pond, Henry David Thoreau made a significant contribution to the pencil’s evolution.  After graduating from Harvard College, Thoreau went to work at his family’s pencil-making business. Working with material from a New Hampshire graphite deposit, Thoreau developed his own process for making pencils.  He numbered his pencils from the softest to the hardest using a numbering system from 1 to 4. The No. 2 was the Goldilocks of pencils — not so soft that is smudged easily and not so hard that it would break easily.

The origin of the most common color for pencils is another story.  Pencils were commonly painted any number of colors, but in 1889 at the World’s Fair in Paris, a Czech manufacturer Hardtmuth debuted a yellow pencil.  Supposedly made of the finest graphite deposits, the pencil was named Koh-I-Noor, after one of the world’s largest diamonds. The distinct yellow of the Koh-I-Noor became the industry standard for quality, and soon other manufacturers began painting their pencils yellow.

The final key element in the evolution of the pencil came in the 1770s when British polymath Joseph Priestley discovered that a gum harvested from South American trees was effective for rubbing out pencil marks — appropriately he called this substance “rubber.”  Prior to Priestley’s discovery, the most common erasers used were lumps of old bread.

Priestley was also the author of an influential textbook called The Rudiments of English Grammar which was published in 1761 (1).

Today’s Challenge:

What are some examples inventions like the pencil that are everyday ordinary objects?  Brainstorm a list of some ordinary objects that you encounter every day.  Select one of these objects and do some research on its origin. Write a report providing details about the object’s origin and history.  (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  When you write down your ideas you automatically focus your full attention on them. Few if any of us can write one thought and think another at the same time. Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools. -Michael LeBoeuf

1-http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/10/11/492999969/origin-of-pencil-lead

March 29:  Allusions From War Day

On this day in 1975, the last American soldiers left Vietnam, ending a ten-year period in which the United States dropped more bombs than during all of World War II. The many soldiers who fought in Vietnam returned with both metals and scars, but they also returned with new words that reflected their intense experience in Southeast Asia.

In the book I Hear America Talking, Stuart Berg Flexner defines some of the key terms that came out of the Vietnam War:

Charlie: The term Viet Cong (short for Vietnamese Communist) was shortened by soldiers to V.C. Since the international phonetic alphabet used for communication designated the letter C as Charlie, and V for Victor, the enemy from North Vietnam was frequently designated Charlie.

Click: Military term for kilometer, possibly reflecting the sound of the letter K, the abbreviation for kilometer, or the clicking of a gun sight being adjusted for distance.

Defoliate: The spraying of chemicals or the use of bombs on enemy territory to destroy trees or crops, depriving the enemy of concealment or food.

Domino Theory: The belief that if Vietnam fell to the Communists, its neighbors in Southeast Asia would fall one by one, as in a row of dominoes.

Escalation: As the U.S. presence in Vietnam grew under the leadership of President Johnson, this term was used to describe the increase in troop levels. It is derived from escalator, a trademark name for a “moving staircase.”

Firefight: This term to describe a short engagement replaced the common word skirmish.

Fragging: This term is derived from a commonly used weapon of the war, the fragmentation grenade. It became a verb to describe the killing of an officer by use of a grenade or any other means.

Just as the Vietnam War added new words to the English lexicon, it also added new allusions — indirect references to people, places, and events from Vietnam that entered the cultural consciousness.  Today, for example, when we hear or read the names Westmoreland, Viet Cong, Khe Sanh, the Tet Offensive, or the Ho Chi Minh Trail, it is hard not to think of the war in Vietnam.  

In fact, the long history of warfare has added a huge stock of cultural references to the language.  For example, when we read Carl Sandburg’s short poem “Grass,” we understand it is a war poem, not because it mentions war, soldiers, or fighting explicitly, but because the poem makes several allusions to battlefields around the world where soldiers fought and died:

Grass

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.

Shovel them under and let me work—

                                         I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg

And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.

Shovel them under and let me work.

Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor:

                                         What place is this?

                                         Where are we now?

Today’s Challenge: “I Love the Smell of Allusions in the Morning”

What are some examples of allusions that evoke people, places, and events from military history?  Brainstorm some proper nouns that evoke specific people, places, or events from the history of warfare.  Select three proper nouns, research them, and write a brief report that explains the backstory of how each proper noun fits into the timeline of the history of warfare.

The following are some examples of allusions you might research:

Alamo, Achilles, Appomattox, Auschwitz, The Bastille, The Battle of the Bulge, Catch-22, The Cold War, The Cuban Missile Crisis, D-Day, Dunkirk, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Eisenhower, Fort Sumter, The Geneva Convention, The Gettysburg Address, The G.I. Bill, Grant, Hannibal, Hiroshima, Lexington and Concord, Marathon, Minutemen, NATO, Odysseus, Patton, Rough Riders, Stalin, Tripoli, Thucydides, U-boats, V-J Day, Wounded Knee, Yankee Doodle

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: A language is a dialect with an army and a navy.  -Max Weinreich

1- Flexner, Stuart Berg.  I Hear America Talking.

 

March 28:  Thought Experiment Day

Today is the birthday of Daniel C. Dennett, American philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1942.

Dennett wearing a button-up shirt and a jacketIn 2013, Dennett published his book Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking.  Dennett begins his book by acknowledging that thinking is hard work.  But just as a shovel makes it easier and more efficient for us to dig a ditch, thinking tools make cognition easier and more efficient.  

One specific category of thinking tools used frequently by philosophers is thought experiments.  Dennett calls them intuition pumps (a term he coined in 1980), the philosophical equivalent of Aesop’s fables.  These thought experiments present vivid vignettes, hypothetical situations that allow thinkers to explore and examine ideas.  Like parables, thought experiments are micro-narratives, making ideas more practical and easy to remember (1).

One ancient thought experiment comes from Plato’s The Republic:  

The Allegory of the Cave

Imagine three prisoners who have been chained in a cave their entire lives.  They are chained in such a way that all they can see is the wall of the cave in front of them.  Behind them, there is a fire and a raised walkway. As people walk along the walkway carrying things like books, animals, and plants, the prisoner sees nothing but the shadows of the people and the items they carry cast on the wall in front of them.  Because the prisoners see only the shadows, these shadows become their reality. When they see a shadow of a book, for example, they take the shadow as the real object, since it is all they know.

Imagine that one of the prisoners escapes his chains and leaves the cave.  Leaving the darkness of the cave, he is first blinded by the light. As his eyes slowly adjust and as he becomes more used to his new surroundings, he begins to realize that his former understanding of the world was wrong.  Returning to the cave, the enlightened prisoner tells the other prisoners what he has learned of the real world. The others, noticing that the returning prisoner is groping around in the darkness as his eyes readjust to the darkness, think he is insane. They can’t imagine any other reality but the shadows they see before them, and they threaten to murder anyone who would drag them out of the cave or annoy them with supposed insight into what a “real” book or a “real” tree actually looks like (2).

Plato’s Cave allows us to address and discuss the abstract ideas of knowledge versus ignorance and perception versus reality.  It doesn’t just tell us that philosophy will improve our lives; instead, it shows us: most of us live our life watching the shadows in the cave; philosophy and education, however, offer us a way out of the darkness and into the light of reason.

Today’s Challenge:  Pump Up Your Tired Thinking

What are some examples of philosophical questions that might be debated about universal topics, such as the nature of reality, of knowledge, of morality, of consciousness, of free will, or of government?  Research a specific thought experiment (see the list below).  Summarize the key elements of the thought experiment in your own words; then, discuss what specific philosophical ideas the thought experiment addresses.

The Whimsical Jailer, The Nefarious Neurosurgeon, Infinite Monkey Theorem, Buridan’s Ass, The Brain in a Vat, The Trolley Problem, Schrodinger’s Cat, Ship of Theseus, The Chinese Room, The Lady or the Tiger

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  You can’t do much carpentry with your bare hands and you can’t do much thinking with your bare brain. -Bo Dahlbom

1- Dennett, Daniel C.  Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking.  New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 2013.

2-Plato’s Republic.  http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/republic.1.introduction.html

 

March 26:  Dead Poet’s Day

On this day in 1892, American poet Walt Whitman died in his home in Camden, New Jersey.  Whitman was America’s first great poet, and today his poems live on, expressing one of the most distinctive and democratic of all American voices.   

Dead poets society.jpgWhitman was a pioneer of free verse, which abandons traditional poetic forms and meter.  Instead, free verse is inspired by the music, rhythm, and natural cadences of the human voice.  As Edward Hirsch puts it in his book A Poet’s Glossary, “The free-verse poem fits no mold; it has no pre-existent pattern.  The reader supplies the verbal speeds, intonations, emphasis.” (1)

Whitman published the first edition of his great work Leaves of Grass in 1855, and throughout his life he returned to the work editing poems in the collection and adding new ones.  When he lay dying at the age of 72, he received the final, ninth edition of Leaves of Grass.  Virtually every American poet of the 20th century, as well as many others around the world, was inspired by and influenced by Whitman’s poems.

In the 1989 film Dead Poets Society, the English teacher Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams) is also influenced by Whitman. In an inspirational short speech to his students, Mr. Keating explains why they read and study poetry:

We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race, and the human race is filled with passion. 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 you may contribute a verse.

Mr. Keating also asks his students to refer to him as “O Captain, My Captain,” an allusion to the poem Walt Whitman wrote after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.  The poem is an elegy, a funeral song or lament for death, and it is written as an extended metaphor where Lincoln is the ship captain who directed his ship of state safely through the stormy Civil War.

O Captain! My Captain! our fearful trip is done;

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:

But O heart! heart! heart!

O the bleeding drops of red,

Where on the deck my Captain lies,

Fallen cold and dead. (2)

Today’s Challenge:  Dead Poet and Living Verse

Who are the greatest poets from the past?  Write an elegy or brief speech dedicated to the memory of a great poet from the past.  As you might expect, many such poets are referenced and quoted in the film Dead Poet Society, including Lord Byron, William Shakespeare, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Robert Frost — who, coincidentally, was born on this day in 1874. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  There is only one way to be prepared for death: to be sated. In the soul, in the heart, in the spirit, in the flesh. To the brim. -Henry De Montherlant

1-Hirsch, Edward.  A Poet’s Glossary.

2-The Academy of American Poets – Walt Whitman

 

March 24:  Mash-up Day

According to Newsweek, the word “mash-up” was coined in 2001 by DJ Freelance Hellraiser who used Christina Aguilera’s vocals from the song ‘Genie in a Bottle’ and “recorded [them] over the instrumentals from ‘Hard to Explain.’” Mash-up is not just a musical term, however. A mash-up applies to any combination of two or more forms of media: music, film, television, computer program, etc.

So what does March 24 have to do with this strange new term? Well, on this date in 1973, Pink Floyd released its groundbreaking Dark Side of the Moon album. Later — no one really knows when – someone came up with the crazy idea of combining, or ‘mashing,’ the Pink Floyd album with the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The fans of this mash-up claim over a 100 different moments where Pink Floyd’s music and lyrics oddly coincide with events and actions in the film. For example, when Mrs. Gulch first appears riding her bicycle, the bells and chimes at the beginning of the song “Time” begin to sound.

WIZARD OF OZ ORIGINAL POSTER 1939.jpg“Mash-up” is just one example of a neologism, a new word that is created to describe some kind of phenomenon, concept, or invention. Some of these words have the lifespan of a common housefly, but others, if they are used enough, eventually are cataloged and included in the English lexicon (1).

Wordsmiths at the Oxford English Dictionary, for example, have the “rule of five” to guide their decision about whether or not to publish a neologism in the dictionary. According to the rule, the word must be published in at least five different sources over a five-year period. As a result, lexicographers are always reading, searching for potential new additions to the dictionary.

A prism refracting white light into a rainbow on a black backgroundIf you want to be ahead of the curve on new words, check out the website Wordspy.com. The site is maintained by Paul McFedries, a technical writer with an obvious love of language. Here is the description of his site in his own words: Wordspy “is devoted to lexpionage, the sleuthing of new words and phrases. These aren’t ‘stunt words’ or ‘sniglets,’ but new terms that have appeared multiple times in newspapers, magazines, books, websites, and other recorded sources” (2).

Today’s Challenge:  The Old Man and the Dictionary

What are some examples of words that fit the following categories:  abstract noun, plural noun, common noun, possessive noun, adjective?  Make a list of at least three words in each category.  Then, use words from your list to complete the titles below.  By doing this, you’ll slightly alter the title of a classic work by mashing it up your new words.  Select one of your titles and image it is a novel you have written. Write the blurb for the novel, a brief description of the story’s plot that you would place on the back cover of the book to attract and interest readers in the story.

Lord of the Flies

Lord of the __________ (plural noun)

War and Peace

War and __________ (abstract noun)

The Strange Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

The __________ (adjective) Incident of the _________ (noun) in the Nighttime

Lord of the Rings

Lord of the ___________ (plural noun)

The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet ___________ (noun)

The Grapes of Wrath

The __________ (plural noun) of Wrath

A Farewell to Arms

A Farewell to ___________ (plural noun)

Snow Falling on Cedars

Snow Falling on __________ (plural noun)

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

Zen and the Art of _____________ (noun) Maintenance

The Call of the Wild by Jack London

The Call of the ___________ (adjective)

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

One Flew Over the ____________  (possessive noun) ____________(noun)

The Old Man and the Sea by  Ernest Hemingway

The __________ (adjective) Man and the __________ (noun)

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. -Nathaniel Hawthorne

1-http://www.newsweek.com/technology-time-your-mashup-106345

http://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/movies/greatest-moments-dark-side-rainbow-article-1.2752178

2-Paul McFedries. Word Spy: The Word Lover’s Guide to Modern Culture. New York: Broadway Books, 2004.

March 21:  Serial Comma Day

Today is the birthday of American editor and writer Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who was born in Mesa, Arizona in 1956.

Hayden is credited with one of the most famous examples cited in the serial comma debate, a debate about whether to use or omit the comma that comes before the final conjunction in a list.  For example, should you write, “I bought some apples, oranges and bananas,” or should you write, “I bought some apple, oranges, and bananas”? To exemplify her case for using the serial comma, Hayden presents the following exhibit, a hypothetical book dedication:  

“To my parents, Ayn Rand and God.”  

As proponents of the serial comma argue, the omission of the comma before the conjunction results in ambiguity.  As illustrated in Hayden’s example, a reader might misinterpret the “Ayn Rand and God” as an appositive, identifying the writer’s parents.

Those who argue for eschewing the serial comma — also known as the Oxford comma or the Harvard comma — claim that the presence of the final conjunction makes the use of the comma superfluous.  Most proponents of the serial comma will concede that in most cases omission of the comma does not create ambiguity; however, they promote consistent use in order to avoid the unintended confusion and hilarity that can sometimes occur when it is left out.  To illustrate this Teresa Nielsen Hayden cites another example she found in a newspaper article reviewing a documentary about Merle Haggard. The article stated, “Among those interviewed were his two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall” (1).

Another argument for the consistent use of the serial comma comes from a 2017 court case in Maine.  The delivery drivers for the Oakhurst Dairy contended that the law regarding overtime pay was ambiguous.  The law stated that overtime rules did not apply to:  “The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution.”

The drivers argued that the omission of the final comma indicated that the phrase addressed only the packing of the goods “for shipment or distribution,” not the actual distribution of the goods by truck.  Their conclusion, therefore, was that the omission of this single comma made them eligible for overtime compensation. In its 29-page court decision, the United States Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the delivery drivers, awarding them their overtime compensation.  For lack of a single comma, the Maine dairy was forced to pay out nearly $10 million (2).

Today’s Challenge:  Think in Threes – Ready, Set, Go!

What are some examples of things that come in threes?  The most frequent use of the serial comma is for lists of three.  Brainstorm some examples of well-known trios, trilogies, or triads.  Consider people, places, things, or ideas. Once you have generated a good list, select and rank your top three threes.  You might say your gold, silver, and bronze medal trios. Identify and define each of your trios, and explain why each is worthy of three cheers. (Common Core 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again. -Oscar Wilde

1-http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/012652.html

2-https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/us/oxford-comma-lawsuit.html?_r=2

 

March 20:  Answer in the Form of a Question Day

On this day in 1964, the popular game show Jeopardy made its debut. The show was created by Merv Griffin who also composed the show’s famous theme song. In the introduction to Alex Trebek’s The Jeopardy Book, Griffin explains that he wanted to create a trivia game show, but he was worried about the backlash from the 1950s quiz show scandals. On a plane flight in 1963, Griffin’s wife had a breakthrough idea, when she said off the cuff: “Why not just give them the answers to start with?”

Jeopardy! logo.pngGriffin originally called his show “What’s the Question?” but that changed when he showed his game to a network executive. The executive was concerned that the game lacked drama since once a player had a sizable lead, he could play it safe. The executive commented, “I like what I see, but the game needs more jeopardies!” It’s that comment that changed the show’s title and the show’s format. After the executive’s comment, Griffin added the climactic moment that makes or breaks the show: Final Jeopardy (1).

Appropriately enough, the word jeopardy began as a French gaming term from chess, meaning a divided or even game. It evolved, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, to mean any game in which the chances of winning or losing were even (2). So when the executive told Merv Griffin, “The game needs more jeopardizes,” he was most likely not referring to the modern sense of the word, meaning danger or peril, but to the gaming sense of the word, meaning, “Let’s keep the final outcome in doubt until the end.”

Today’s Challenge:  “Five Funky Facts for Five Hundred, Please”

What is a general category that you know enough about to write quiz questions for?  Brainstorm some Jeopardy categories, such as Authors, Novels, The Beatles, or Game Shows.  Then, write 5 answers and questions in the Jeopardy format.

For example:

Answer: This game show debuted on March 20, 1964.

Question: What is Jeopardy?

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: Anyone who has begun to think, places some portion of the world in jeopardy. -John Dewey

1-Trebek, Alex and Peter Barsocchini.  The Jeopardy! Book: The Answers, the Questions, the Facts, and the Stories of the Greatest Game Show in History, 1990.

2-https://www.ahdictionary.com/word/search.html?q=jeopardy

March 19:  Listicle Day

Today is the birthday of American writer Irving Wallace (1916-1990). Wallace parents emigrated from Russia and settled in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where Irving grew up.  From an early age, Irving, whose father was a clerk in a general store, dreamed of being a writer. When he was still in high school, he sold his first published article to Horse and Jockey Magazine for $5.

After graduating from Williams Institute in Berkeley, California, Wallace began writing full time in 1937, selling freelance fiction and nonfiction to magazines.  He also wrote for Hollywood, producing a number of screenplays for major studios.

Wallace is best known, however, for his books — both fiction and nonfiction, which he began writing in the 1950s.  His 16 novels and 17 nonfiction books have sold more than 120 million copies.

In 1977, working with his son and daughter, Wallace published The Book of Lists.  It was the perfect book for the dawning information age and quickly became a bestseller (1).

The Book of Lists is more than just a compilation of lists.  Each of the book’s lists is annotated with fascinating facts and storylines.  Here’s a small sample of some of the tantalizing titles of the book’s lists:

10 Famous Noses,

6 People Whose Names Were Changed by Accident,

13 Mothers of Infamous Men,

Rating the Effects of 51 Personal Crises,

14 Highly Unusual Recipes,

33 Names of Things You Never Knew Had Names,

17 Pairs of Contradictory Proverbs,

5 Famous People Who Invented Games,

9 People Who Died Laughing

27 Things That Fell From the Sky (2)

The Book of Lists inspired hundreds of imitation volumes, and with the advent of the World Wide Web in 1990, the list article (or listicle) has become a staple method for writers to deliver information.

Today’s Challenge:  It’s the Listicle You Can Do

What are ten possible topics for interesting listicles?  Brainstorm at least ten specific topics that you might package as a listicle.  Use the words below to help you determine some possible organizing principles for your lists, such as 10 Reasons to Read More, or 10 Secrets to Getting an A in English:

ways, reasons, things, places, people, principles, rules, secrets, lessons, keys, habits, tips, myths, best, worst, mistakes, steps

Once you have some ideas, select the one list you like the best, and expand it into a listicle.  Make sure you have an engaging title that includes the number of items on your list. The number ten seems to be a number that resonates with readers; in fact, there is a single word in English, that means “a list of ten.”  Decalogue is from the Greek deca, meaning “ten,” and logos, meaning “words.”  Make sure to number each item on your list, and follow each numbered item with details that will engage your audience.

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: A listicle feels more democratic than a hierarchically structured argument, as well as more in tune with a conception of history and the world as just one damn thing after another. The foundational text of Protestantism was a listicle nailed to a church door: Martin Luther’s “95 Theses” posted at Wittenberg. So it makes sense that in our culture, which makes a fetish of anti-authoritarianism, the listicle should have spread everywhere, like mold. -Steven Poole

1-http://www.nytimes.com/1990/06/30/obituaries/irving-wallace-whose-33-books-sold-in-the-millions-is-dead-at-74.html

2-Wallechinsky, David, Irving Wallace, and Amy Wallace.  The Book of Lists, 1977.

March 18:  Reasoning Day

On this day in 1923, the New York Times published an article about the English mountaineer George Mallory (1886-1824) who was pursuing his goal of climbing Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain (29,029 feet).  When asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, Mallory famously answered, “Because it’s there.”

George Mallory 1915.jpgAt the time Mallory gave his answer, no expedition had ever successfully summited the world’s highest mountain.  Mallory, himself, had participated in two previous expeditions and was preparing for his third.

On the morning of June 8, 1924, Mallory and his climbing partner Andrew Irvine set out for the summit from their camp at 26,800 feet, but they never returned.  The disappearance of the two climbers was a mystery for 75 years, until Mallory’s body was found on the mountain in 1999. No one knows for sure whether or not Mallory and Irvine made it to the summit.

Twenty-nine years after the disappearance of Mallory and Irvine, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers to successfully reach the summit of Mount Everest on May 29, 1953 (1).

Mallory’s simple three-word answer, “Because it’s there,” became his epitaph and captured the imagination of generations of explorers and risk takers.  It also shows the power of giving a reason — any reason.

A psychological study completed in 1977 demonstrated the power of the word “because.”  People waiting in line to make copies were asked by someone behind them to skip ahead in line.  The people who gave a reason to skip, saying, “Excuse me, may I use the copy machine because I’m in a rush” were 30% more likely to be allowed to skip ahead in line than those who gave no reason.  This worked even for people who gave a nonsensical reason, saying “May I use the copy machine because I have to make copies.” Readers are more likely to accept your claims if you provide clear reasons that support them.  Appeal to your reader’s logical side by laying down the clear reasons behind your claims. For even better results, string your reasons together using parallelism to add rhythm, repetition, and resonance (2).

The persuasive nature of reasoning is nothing new.  In the fifth century, the philosopher Aristotle wrote the first textbook explaining the art of persuasion, On Rhetoric.  Aristotle made logical argument accessible through a device he called the enthymeme, a sentence that explicitly states a claim and a reason.  The additional essential element of an enthymeme is an assumption, which is implicit rather than stated.

For example, as an enthymeme, Mallory’s justification for attempting to climb Mount Everest might be stated as follows:

Claim:  I should climb Mount Everest.

Reason: because it exists.

Assumption:  The existence of a mountain is sufficient justification for climbing it.

With the enthymeme, Aristotle emphasized the role of logic (or logos) in making a sound argument.  He also emphasized, however, that effective persuasion takes more than just pure logic. Any successful writer or speaker must consider his or her audience and establish the audience’s trust (ethos).  Furthermore, the speaker or writer must not only make the audience think, he or she should also make the audience feel something (pathos).(3)

Today’s Challenge:  Unpack Your Enthymemes

What are some current issues that people are arguing about at the local, national, or international level? What are the core claims, reasons, and assumptions that make up a specific argument? Brainstorm some general issues of controversy and find a recently published editorial that addresses one of the issues. Read the editorial carefully and analyze the writer’s argument by identifying the claim, reasons, and assumptions.  Also identify how the writer appeals to the audience by establishing trust and credibility, as well as how the writer appeals to the emotions of the audience. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  We think, each of us, that we’re much more rational than we are. And we think that we make our decisions because we have good reasons to make them. Even when it’s the other way around. We believe in the reasons, because we’ve already made the decision. -Daniel Kahneman

1-https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Mallory

2-http://jamesclear.com/copy-machine-study

3-https://www.theguardian.com/media/mind-your-language/2015/apr/09/enthymeme-or-are-you-th