June15:  Parallelism Day

On this day in 1846, the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Oregon, which established the 49th parallel as the international boundary separating British North America and the United States’ Pacific Northwest.  Beginning in 1818, the Oregon Territory — the region which today covers British Columbia and the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho — was jointly occupied by the United States and Britain. In 1844, little known Democratic candidate for president James J. Polk ran a campaign based on the expansion of the United States and the fulfillment of the nation’s manifest destiny.  Polk’s slogan was “Fifty-Four Forty or Fight!” based on his campaign promise of expanding U.S. territory to the northern boundary of the Oregon Territory at latitude 54 degrees, 40 minutes.

Once Polk won the presidency, however, he became less bellicose.  Facing the prospect of a war with Mexico in the south, Polk sought to avoid a potential war with Great Britain by agreeing to a compromise that extended the 49th parallel border from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.  

On a day where we remember how the 49th parallel helped establish harmony between two nations, we should also remember how the concept of parallelism can bring harmony to writing.

Parallelism is a big word for a simple concept:  It simply refers to the repetition of structure within a sentence or paragraph.  Notice, for example, how the following words from John F. Kennedy’s 1960 inaugural address are coherently packed into a single sentence using parallel verb phrases:

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival of the success of liberty.

Notice how each three-word phrase follows the same pattern of VERB – ADJECTIVE – NOUN.  Notice also how the repeated structure creates balance and rhythm and clarity.

The following two famous sentences employ parallelism. The first from Lincoln employs parallel participial phrases, and the second from F.D.R. features parallel adjectives:

This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.  -Abraham Lincoln

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.  -Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Even a simple park sign can demonstrate how parallelism can communicate ideas more clearly.  Notice which part of the list below breaks the parallel pattern:

ATHLETIC FIELD

-NO DOGS

-NO GOLFING

-PICK-UP LITTER

-NO DIGGING

By changing “PICK-UP LITTER” to “NO LITTERING” we now have a more balanced and clear list:

ATHLETIC FIELD

-NO DOGS

-NO GOLFING

-NO LITTERING

-NO DIGGING

Writing a sentence is like packing a suitcase.  There is an art to getting everything in the bag — not just getting it in, but keeping it all organized and accessible.  Parallelism is the secret weapon for writers who pack sentences, not suitcases. It helps them to pack a lot of ideas into a sentence in an orderly, logical way.

Parallelism is more than just a grammatical concept; it’s a rhetorical concept that not only allows the writer to be more clear, but also allows the writer to be more profound.  As Lucile Vaughan Payne says in her book The Lively Art of Writing:

Parallel structure, fully understood and put to use, can bring about such a startling change in composition that student writers sometimes refer to it as “instant style.”  It can add new interest, new tone, new and unexpected grace to even the most pedestrian piece of writing.

Today’s Challenge:  I Came, I Saw, I Conquered Parallelism

What is a movie that you know well enough and like enough to write the text of a movie trailer for?  Write the text of a voice-over for a movie trailer for one of your favorite movies.  Use parallelism to add some rhythm and resonance to your preview. The following example is a movie trailer for Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark:

Mourning his dead father, berating his clueless mother, and continually contemplating the murder of his remorseless, treacherous, and lecherous uncle, Hamlet is not having a good day!  Something, indeed, is rotten in the state of Denmark, and it’s not just the fish from last week’s dinner that has been festering in the corner of the Castle Elsinore’s kitchen.

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  All writers fail, on occasion, to take advantage of parallel structures.  The result for the reader can be the equivalent of driving over a pothole on a freeway.  What if Saint Paul taught us that the three great virtues were faith, hope, and committing ourselves to charitable work? -Roy Peter Clark

1-http://www.historylink.org/File/5247

2- Payne, Lucile Vaughan.  The Lively Art of Writing.  Boston:  Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1970.

June 14:  Pledge Day

Today is Flag Day.  On this day in 1954 the words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

The first Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis M. Bellamy, a writer for The Youth’s Companion magazine. It was officially unveiled on October 19, 1892, the opening day of the World’s Columbian Exposition. On that day teachers across the nation read a proclamation by President McKinley and children practiced the pledge, putting their right hands over their hearts with their palms facing down.

The original pledge read as follows:

I pledge allegiance to my flag and to the Republic for which it stands one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

On Flag Day in 1923, the pledge was revised by the National Flag Code Committee, eliminating the words “my flag” and replacing them with the words “the flag of the United States.”

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States and to the Republic for which it stands one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Another change in the pledge was made for Flag Day in 1924 when the committee added the words “of America.”

The final change was made on the same day in 1954 when President Eisenhower established Flag Day. On that day the words “under God” were added.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

There are subtle differences between the words pledge, oath, and vow. The three definitions below are from the American Heritage College Dictionary:

Pledge: A solemn binding promise to do, give, or refrain from doing something.

Oath: A solemn formal declaration or promise, often calling on God or a sacred object as witness.

Vow: An earnest promise to perform a specified act or behave in a certain manner, especially a promise to live by the rules of a religious order.

Pledge, Oath, or Vow?

Read the excerpts below from historic pledges, oaths, and vows. See if you can identify any.

  1. I swear by Apollo, the Physician, and Aesulapius and Hygieia and Panacea and all the Gods and Goddesses that, according to my ability and judgment, I will keep this oath and covenant . . . .
  2. I hereby solemnly promise, God helping me, to abstain from all distilled, fermented and malt liquors, including wine, beer and cider . . . .
  3. In the name of all competitors, I promise that we will take part in these Olympic Games, respecting and abiding by the rules that govern them ….
  4. I, _____, do acknowledge the UNITED STATES of America, to be Free, Independent and Sovereign States, and declare the people thereof owe no allegiance or obedience to George the Third . . . .
  5. I hereby declare, an oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have Heretofore been a subject or citizen.
  6. On my honor I will try to serve God and my country, to help people at all times . . . .

Today’s Challenge:  What’s Your Pledge?

What is an activity or skill that you practice that you think is worth pledging yourself to?  What words would you put in a pledge for people who are practicing this activity or skill?

In the 1987 edition of The English Journal, R. D. Walshe published a Learning Pledge for students of writing:

I PROMISE throughout this day’s learning to handle with respect and pleasure humanity’s greatest invention, language, and in particular, when I reach for a pen or sit at a computer, to remember that I am about to use humanity’s second greatest invention, writing, with which I will take language from the invisible mind and make it visible on paper where I can work on it with full attention until it becomes the best thinking, the best learning, of which I am capable (2).

Select a single activity or skill that you think is worth pledging your passion and devotion to.  Use Walshe’s Learning Pledge as a model, and write the words of a pledge that might be recited by people who are devoting to participating in this activity or practicing this skill.  (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: I also wish that the Pledge of Allegiance were directed at the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, as it is when the President takes his oath of office, rather than to the flag and the nation. –Carl Sagan

Answers:

  1. The original Hippocratic Oath 2. Woman’s Christian Temperance Union Pledge 3. The Olympic Oath 4. Continental Army Loyalty Oath (1778) 5. Oath Taken by Naturalized Citizens of the United States 6. The Girl Scout Promise

1- Burrell, Brian. The Words We Live By: The Creeds, Mottoes, and Pledges That Have Shaped America. New York: The Free Press, 1997.

2-Walshe, R. D. The Learning Power of Writing.  The English Journal, Vol. 76, No. 6 (Oct., 1987), pp. 22-27.

June 13:  Miranda Day

Today is the anniversary of a landmark U. S. Supreme Court case Miranda vs. Arizona, decided in 1966. The case involved a man convicted of rape and armed robbery, Ernesto Miranda. His case was appealed, and his lawyers argued that he had not been advised of his rights before he signed a confession. Miranda’s attorneys won the case by a narrow 5 to 4 vote.

The Miranda case changed the way police operate when taking a suspect into custody, compelling them to advise the accused of his or her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination.

The paragraph that police read to the accused has added a new verb to the English language: Mirandize. The familiar words of the warning read:

You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to talk with a lawyer and have the lawyer present with you during any questioning. And if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning, if you so desire.

In the book The Words We Live, Brian Burrell begins by citing the Miranda warning as an example of a paradox that he has noticed – that some of the best know words and passages like the Miranda warning are so well known that people disregard them. As a result of this paradox, the vast majority of accused people don’t “remain silent”; instead, they try to persuade the authorities of their innocence. Burrell’s book reexamines these “Words We Live By”: the pledges, rules, mottoes, oaths, and creeds that we hear almost every day and too often take for granted (1).

I’ve Heard that Somewhere

Read the examples below of “Words We Live By” from the various different categories in Brian Burrell’s book. See if you can identify them.

  1. Principle: In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.
  2. Advice: Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
  3. Creed: I believe in God the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
  4. Preamble: We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common Defense ….
  5. Address: Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
  6. Inscription: ….Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free …
  7. Motto: All the News That’s Fit to Print
  8. Oath: I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will, to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.
  9. Code: I am an American fighting man. I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life . . . .

Today’s Challenge:   Court Decision – Verdict

What is an example of a specific Supreme Court decision?  What was the case about and what was the verdict?  Research a specific Supreme Court decision, and write an explanation of what Constitutional issues the case addressed.  Also explain the impact of the verdict. Below are some examples of the most influential cases in American history.

Marbury v. Madison, 1803; McCulloch v. Maryland 1819; Dred Scott v. Sandford, 1857; Plessy V. Ferguson, 1896; Korematsu v. United States, 1944; Brown v. Board of Education, 1954; Gideon v. Wainwright, 1963; New York Times v. Sullivan, 1964; Loving v. Virginia, 1967; Roe v. Wade, 1973; United States v Nixon, 1974; Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, 1978; Bush v. Gore, 2000

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights. -Bishop Desmond Tutu

Answers: 1. Peter Principle 2. Advice from Franklin’s Poor Richard’s Almanac 3. The Apostles’ Creed 4. Preamble to the Constitution 5. The Gettysburg Address 6. Inscription on a plaque mounted in the Statue of Liberty Museum. 7. Motto of the New York Times 8. The Presidential Oath 9. Code of Conduct for Members of the Armed Forces of the United States.

1- Burrell, Brian. The Words We Live By: The Creeds, Mottoes, and Pledges That Have Shaped America. New York: The Free Press: 1997.

 

June 9:  Horse Racing Metaphor Day

On this day in 1973, something happened that had not happened in over two decades: a horse won racing’s Triple Crown. The name of the horse was Secretariat, and he didn’t just win the Belmont Stakes, he annihilated the competition, winning by an amazing 31 lengths. Other horses have won the Triple Crown since, but never has there been such a dominant performance on horse racing’s main stage.

After the race, Secretariat’s jockey Ron Turcotte was as surprised as anyone at his horse’s amazing performance, saying “I know this sounds crazy, but the horse did it by himself. I was along for the ride” (1).

You might say that Secretariat won “hands down.” If you did, you would be using an idiom that means “with no trouble, easily,” and it would be an especially appropriate idiom because the expression originates with horse racing. A jockey who is ahead of the other horses will relax his grip on the reins and drop his hands.

Many other idioms (expressions that mean something different from the literal meaning of the individual words) in English relate to horses and horse racing, such as:

Horse sense, Beat a dead horse, Darkhorse, Hold your horses, A horse of a different color, On your high horse, Straight from the horse’s mouth, Horse around

In addition to horses, English features a whole menagerie of beastly idioms.

Examples:  

As the crow flies, bee in your bonnet, bird’s eye view, can of worms, cold turkey, dog and pony show, dog eat dog, the early bird catches the worm, eat crow, the elephant in the room, fish or cut bait, a fish out of water, a fly in the ointment, hornets’ nest, kangaroo court, lame duck, lone wolf, monkey business, night owl, spring chicken, one-trick pony, puppy love, putting the cart before the horse, rat race, red herring, sacred cow, sitting duck, topdog, ugly duckling, water off a duck’s back, white elephant, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink

Today’s Challenge:  Your Best Beastly Bet to Win, Place, or Show

What are some examples of idioms in English that feature animals?  In horse racing, the terms win, place, and show are betting terms.  If you bet on a horse to “win,” the horse must place first; if you bet on a horse to “show,” the horse must place first or second; and if you bet on a horse to “show,” the horse must finish first, second, or third.  Select your top three animal-related metaphors. Imagine you were writing to a person for whom English is a second language, and write an explanation of the meaning of each idiom. Also, give examples of how each might be used in a sentence. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: Horse sense is a good judgment which keeps horses from betting on people. -W.C. Fields

1 – http://espn.go.com/sportscentury/features/00016464.html

2- Ammer, Christine. Southpaws & Sunday Punches:  And Other Sporting Expressions.

June 8:  Bill of Rights Day

On this day in 1789, a draft of the Bill of Rights was presented to the First Federal Congress. The United States Constitution had been ratified on September 17, 1787. It established the organization of the central government and the elaborate system of checks and balances on the power of the three branches. What was not included in the Constitution at this time, however, was how the powers of the central government should be balanced against the rights and liberty of the people.

Bill of Rights Pg1of1 AC.jpgBeginning with the Magna Carta, signed by King John on June 15, 1215, there is a long history of attempts to balance the power of the state or the Crown against the power of the individual. The Bill of Rights is a high water mark in this history.

Credit for championing the draft of the Bill of Rights goes to James Madison, who would later become the fourth President of the United States. Madison had been the major architect of the document that was written at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, and in 1789 he demonstrated the same breadth of knowledge and the same skill in forming compromises as he argued for the Bill of Rights.

Madison’s first draft of 17 amendments was approved by the House of Representatives, but 5 of the amendments were later shot down by the Senate. The state legislatures would later remove two more amendments. The first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution known as the Bill of Rights were finally adopted on December 15, 1791.

Today’s Challenge: Know Your Rights

What are the 10 amendments that make up the Bill of Rights, and what makes those rights so important?  Today there are a total of 27 amendments to the United States Constitution, but it’s the first ten that are known as the Bill of Rights. Read each of the 10 amendments below.  Then, research one of the amendments that you think is particularly important.  Write an explanation of what this right means and why you feel is so important.

Amendment I – Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly, and Petition

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II – Right to Bear Arms

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III – Quartering of Soldiers

No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV – Search and Seizure

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V – Right of the Accused

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI – Requirements for Jury Trial

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII – Rules of Common Law

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII – Limits on Criminal Punishments

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX – Rights Kept by the People

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X – Lawsuits Against a State

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.  

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day: If we can’t think for ourselves, if we’re unwilling to question authority, then we’re just putty in the hands of those in power. But if the citizens are educated and form their own opinions, then those in power work for us. In every country, we should be teaching our children the scientific method and the reasons for a Bill of Rights. With it comes a certain decency, humility and community spirit. In the demon-haunted world that we inhabit by virtue of being human, this may be all that stands between us and the enveloping darkness. -Carl Sagan

1- The National Archives: http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/bill_of_rights.html

 

June 7:  Quiz Day

On this day in 1955, the quiz show the $64,000 Question premiered on CBS. Today we take game shows for granted, but in the early days of television these “quiz shows” were high stakes dramas that mesmerized the television audience and posted record ratings. The $64,000 Question spawned a number of successful imitators: The Big Surprise, Dotto, Tic Tac Dough, and Twenty One.

QuizShowPoster.jpgThe success of the quiz shows ended, however, in 1958 when a scandal surfaced where evidence showed that the results of the shows were rigged. As a result, the quiz show craze died, and the networks stopped airing game shows (1). Game shows did not gain favor with the public again until the 1960s when shows like Jeopardy began to attract viewers (See March 20: Answer in the Form of a Question Day). In fact, it was not until the ’60s that the term game show replaced quiz show.

It is interesting that tracking down the history of the word quiz has left lexicographers somewhat quizzical.

One story involves James Daly, a theater manager in Dublin. In 1791, Daly supposedly made a bet with a friend, saying he could introduce a new word into the language within a single day. He then created the nonce (or nonsense) word quiz and paid people to write the word in chalk on walls throughout the city. By the end of the day, the word was on everyone’s lips (2).

Although this is a good story, it probably is not true. Instead, quiz is probably just a clipped version of the word inquisitive, an adjective meaning “unduly curious and inquiring.”

Today’s Challenge:  Pop Goes the Quiz Questions

What are some interesting facts that you have learned from previous Word Days’ entries?  For Quiz Day, the 7th of June, make a seven-question quiz made up of seven separate questions based on seven separate Word Days’ entries.  Make sure to record the answers to each of your questions. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  There is always a place I can take someone’s curiosity and land where they end up enlightened when we’re done. That’s my challenge as an educator. No one is dumb who is curious. The people who don’t ask questions remain clueless throughout their lives. –Neil deGrasse Tyson

1- The Museum of Broadcast Communications:

http://www.museum.tv/archives/etv/S/htmlS/$64000quest/$64000quest.htm

2- Manswer, Martin. The Guinness Book of Words (2nd Edition). Middlesex: Guinness Publishing Ltd., 1988.

 

June 4:  Repetition for Effect Day

On this date in 1940, Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons and the British people.  France had fallen to Nazi Germany, but all was not lost: over 300,000 allied soldiers had been successfully evacuated from Dunkirk.  Churchill’s purpose in this speech was to buoy the spirits of the British people. Europe had fallen, but the British Empire would not give up and would not go down without a fight.

In the final paragraph, or preoration, of his speech, Churchill unleashed one of history’s most dramatic finishes:

We shall fight on the seas and oceans,

 we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,

 we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be.

We shall fight on the beaches,

 we shall fight on the landing grounds,

 we shall fight in the fields and in the streets,

 we shall fight in the hills;

 we shall never surrender . . . .

There’s a fine line between repetition and redundancy, but as demonstrated by Churchill, when employed at the right time and at the right place, repetition can create the kind of dramatic emphasis that rolls and resonates like ocean waves repeatedly crashing on the rocky shore.  Churchill, a master of rhetoric, knew what he was doing. He knew just when and just where to employ this echo effect for maximum impact.

Another element of Churchill’s mastery is his use of succinct, simple language.  As he explains in his “Scaffolding of Rhetoric,” published when he was 23 years old:

The shorter words of a language are usually the more ancient. Their meaning is more ingrained in the national character and they appeal with greater force to simple understandings than words recently introduced from the Latin and the Greek. All the speeches of great English rhetoricians–except when addressing highly cultured audiences–display a uniform preference for short, homely words of common usage–so long as such words can fully express their thoughts and feelings…

Today’s Challenge:  You Can Say That Again

Some of the best-known sayings, expression, titles, and aphorisms in the English language use repetition for effect:

No pain, no gain

First come, first served

United we stand, divided we fall

Put up or shut up

Never Say Never Again

What are some examples of great quotations that repeat at least one significant word?  What would you say is the best thing ever said with repetition? Read the quotations below as examples; then, research a quotation that you think is particularly well stated.  In addition to presenting the quotation and the name of the speaker, explain why you like the quotation based on both what it says and how it says it.

Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them. -William Shakespeare

There are two great days in a person’s life – the day we are born and the day we discover why. -William Barclay

The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity. -Ellen Parr

When a person can no longer laugh at himself, it is time for others to laugh at him. -Thomas Szasz

Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that. Martin Luther King Jr.

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.Albert Einstein

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  Repetition is based on body rhythms, so we identify with the heartbeat, or with walking, or with breathing. -Karlheinz Stockhausen

1-https://www.winstonchurchill.org/resources/speeches/1940-the-finest-hour/we-shall-fight-on-the-beaches

June 3:  Casey at the Bat Day

Today is the anniversary of the publication of one of the most popular of all American poems. Casey at the Bat was first published in the San Francisco Examiner on June 3, 1888. The author of the poem was Ernest L. Thayer, a college friend of Examiner editor William Randolph Hearst. Thayer had worked with Hearst in college as a member of the staff of the Harvard Lampoon. When the poem was published it did not have Thayer’s name; instead, his Lampoon nickname “Phin” was used. This lead to future disputes about the actual author of the poem.

While Thayer was certainly the writer, another man should probably be given credit for popularizing the poem. The actor William De Wolf Hopper first performed the poem to an audience that included members of the New York and Chicago baseball clubs in August 1888. Hopper’s recitation was met with enthusiastic reviews, and he continued to share “Casey” with audiences around the country until it became not just America’s favorite poem about baseball, but one of America’s favorite poems period.

Casey at the Bat by Ernest L. Thayer

The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville nine that day:
The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,
And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,
A pall-like silence fell upon the patrons of the game.

A straggling few got up to go in deep despair. The rest
Clung to the hope which springs eternal in the human breast;
They thought, “If only Casey could but get a whack at that—
We’d put up even money now, with Casey at the bat.”

But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake,
And the former was a hoodoo, while the latter was a cake;
So upon that stricken multitude grim melancholy sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey getting to the bat.

But Flynn let drive a single, to the wonderment of all,
And Blake, the much despisèd, tore the cover off the ball;
And when the dust had lifted, and men saw what had occurred,
There was Jimmy safe at second and Flynn a-hugging third.

Then from five thousand throats and more there rose a lusty yell;
It rumbled through the valley, it rattled in the dell;
It pounded on the mountain and recoiled upon the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.

There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place;
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile lit Casey’s face.
And when, responding to the cheers, he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt ‘twas Casey at the bat.

Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt;
Five thousand tongues applauded when he wiped them on his
    shirt;
Then while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip,
Defiance flashed in Casey’s eye, a sneer curled Casey’s lip.

And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the
    air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there.
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That ain’t my style,” said Casey. “Strike one!” the umpire said.

From the benches, black with people, there went up a muffled
    roar,
Like the beating of the storm-waves on a stern and distant shore;
“Kill him! Kill the umpire!” shouted someone on the stand;
And it’s likely they’d have killed him had not Casey raised his
    hand.

With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone;
He stilled the rising tumult; he bade the game go on;
He signaled to the pitcher, and once more the dun sphere flew;
But Casey still ignored it and the umpire said, “Strike two!”

“Fraud!” cried the maddened thousands, and echo answered
    “Fraud!”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed.
They saw his face grow stern and cold, they saw his muscles
    strain,
And they knew that Casey wouldn’t let that ball go by again.

The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip, his teeth are clenched in hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light;
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children
    shout,
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has struck out.

Today’s Challenge:  Strike Out for a Good Story

What are some examples of good narrative poems?  “Casey at the Bat” is an example of a narrative poem, a poem that tells a story.  Like any good story, a narrative poem should have characters, a plot, a setting, and a conflict.  Some of the oldest known poetry is narrative, such as the Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad, and Beowulf.  These poems existed in the oral tradition long before writing was invented and were sung aloud.  Whether short ballads or long epics, these poems celebrated heroes and passed cultural values, ideas, and knowledge from one generation to the next.  Research some narrative poems, either long epics or short ballads. Select one narrative poem that you would recommend, and write a paragraph explaining some of the background of your selected poem.  Identify what details from the poem make it a narrative, and why you feel it is an important story. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  The most powerful person in the world is the story teller. The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come. – Steve Jobs

1-https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poets/detail/ernest-lawrence-thayer

 

June 1:  Commencement Day

Today is the anniversary of a commencement address that really was not a commencement address at all. The story begins with Mary Schmich, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Chicago Tribune. On June 1, 1997, she published a column that was so insightful that it took on a life of its own.

Somehow an urban legend evolved that Schmich’s words were a commencement address by author Kurt Vonnegut to the 1997 graduates of MIT.  The truth is, however, Vonnegut did not present a commencement address to MIT in 1997, nor did he have anything to do with the writing of Schmich’s column.

The title of Schmich’s column was Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young, and here is an excerpt:

Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’97:

Wear sunscreen.

If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists, whereas the rest of my advice has no basis more reliable than my own meandering experience. I will dispense this advice now. Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth. Oh, never mind. You will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they’ve faded. But trust me, in 20 years, you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked. You are not as fat as you imagine.

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

Do one thing every day that scares you.

Sing.

Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts. Don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours.

Floss.

Don’t waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you’re ahead, sometimes you’re behind. The race is long and, in the end, it’s only with yourself . . . .

Be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it. Advice is a form of nostalgia. Dispensing it is a way of fishing the past from the disposal, wiping it off, painting over the ugly parts and recycling it for more than it’s worth.

But trust me on the sunscreen (1).

The word commencement comes to English via Latin. It simply means a beginning or a start. This probably explains the tone of most commencement speeches, which honor the accomplishments of graduates but focus primarily on what is to come in the real world. As a result, most commencement addresses are full of advice.

Today’s Challenge: Commence with the Advice

What advice would you give to graduates?  Imagine that have been asked to dispense commencement advice to a crowd of high school or college graduates.  What advice would you give them? As you write, select your verbs carefully. Good advice hinges on vivid, precise verbs. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quotation of the Day:  I have two last pieces of advice. First, being pre-approved for a credit card does not mean you have to apply for it. And lastly, the best career advice I can give you is to get your own TV show. It pays well, the hours are good, and you are famous. And eventually some very nice people will give you a doctorate in fine arts for doing jack squat.

–Stephen Colbert, 2006 Knox College Commencement Address

1- Schmich, Mary. Advice, like youth, probably just wasted on the young.  Chicago Tribune. 1 June 1997.

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