October 19:  Letter of Advice Day

On this day in 1860 Abraham Lincoln, in the final day of his run for the U.S. presidency, wrote a letter to a 11-year-old girl from Westerfield, New York named Grace Bedell.  Four days earlier, Grace had written to her favorite candidate with the following specific advice:

I am a little girl only eleven years old, but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you won’t think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am if so give them my love and tell her to write to me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brother’s and part of them will vote for you any way and if you will let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you   you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husband’s to vote for you and then you would be President.

Lincoln’s response to Grace’s letter was brief, yet its words showed that he had read her letter and was considering her advice regarding facial hair:

October 19, 1860

Springfield, Illinois
Miss. Grace Bedell

My dear little Miss.

Your very agreeable letter of the 15th. is received.

I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters. I have three sons — one seventeen, one nine, and one seven, years of age. They, with their mother, constitute my whole family.

As to the whiskers, having never worn any, do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affection if I were to begin it now? Your very sincere well-wisher.

A. Lincoln (1)

As reflected in Grace’s letter, Lincoln was in fact clean-shaven before he become president.  However, by the time he took the oath as the 16th president, Lincoln had grown the beard that he wore throughout his presidency. In fact, prior to taking the oath on March 4, 1861, he made a stop in Westfield, meeting his young campaign adviser.

Today’s Challenge:  Take My Advice
If you were to write a letter of advice to a public figure, to whom would you write and what kind of advice would you give them?  Brainstorm some possible public figures to whom you might write letters of advice:  politicians, celebrities, professional athletes, etc.  Select one and write an open letter of advice.  An open letter is a letter that is written to an individual but is intended to be published publicly and to read by a wide audience.  In addition to your specific advice, give detailed explanation that both shows and tells why your advice is worthwhile. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  Letters have to pass two tests before they can be classed as good: they must express the personality both of the writer and of the recipient. -E. M. Forester

1-http://www.abrahamlincolnonline.org/lincoln/speeches/gracebedell.htm

2-http://readingeagle.com/news/article/after-127-years-beard-making-a-comeback-at-governors-mansion#sthash.6Qmlpt3W.dpuf

 

October 8:  Rebuttal Day

On this date 1917, Wilfred Owen (1893-1918), an English soldier recovering from shell shock, composed the first draft of the poem “Dulce et Decorum Est.” The poem is one of the most vivid, realistic depictions of the horrific trench warfare of World War I and is one of most powerful rebuttals every made to the argument that it is valorous to die for one’s country.

Wilfred Owen plate from Poems (1920).jpgOwen joined the army in 1915, and after he was wounded in combat in France in 1917, he was evacuated to a military hospital in Edinburgh, Scotland.  It is there that he penned the first draft of his poem and sent it to his mother with a note:  “Here is a gas poem done yesterday, (which is not private, but not final).”

The poem begins with an image of the exhausting druggery of life on the front lines:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Druggery and exhaustion then turn to nightmare as Owen describes a gas attack and the horror of watching one of his comrades in arms die before his eyes after too slowly dawning his gas mask:

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.       

The words that end the poem, as well as the words in the poem’s title, are Latin, written by the Roman poet Horace.  The first four words, which also serve as the poem’s title, translate:  “It is sweet and glorious.”  The final three words of the poem that complete the exhortation translate: “to die for one’s country.”

The words from Horace that Owen calls “The old Lie” would have been familiar to his readers since they were often quoted during the frenzy of recruiting at the war’s inception.  These Latin words are also inscribed on the wall of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in Berkshire, England.  In the United States the words are etched in stone above the rear entrance to the Memorial Amphitheater, near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, at Arlington National Cemetery (1).

After his recovery, Owen rejoined his regiment and returned to the trenches of France.  He was killed in battle on November 4, 1918, one week before the war ended on November 11, Armistice Day.

Owen’s poem is a rebuttal — the presentation of contradictory evidence — to an ancient expression of conventional wisdom, as seen in Horace’s Latin exhortation (here translated into English):  How sweet and honourable it is to die for one’s country.

To make his rebuttal, Owen structures his poem inductively, with details that move from specific to the general.  Instead of stating his point (his thesis or claim) at the beginning of the poem in a deductive structure, he, instead, begins with detailed imagery to shows rather than tell.  Owen’s use of such powerful figurative language and sensory imagery create such a horrific picture that Owen hardly needs to state his point.  Instead, he lays out such vivid details that readers can infer the point for themselves; even a reader who does not know Latin would be able to make a logical inference regarding the “old Lie.”

Today’s Challenge:  Rebut With Reality
The practice of questioning conventional is a tradition that dates back to Socrates.  It’s an excellent way to discover ways in which common sense is not always perfectly logical and to explore counter-intuitive insights.  It’s also an excellent way to avoid poor decisions.  In 1962, for example, executives at the Decca Recording Company rejected the Beatles because conventional wisdom led them to conclude that guitar music was on the way out. What are some examples of conventional wisdom (widely accepted truisms) that you have encountered, and how might you challenge conventional wisdom with a detailed, evidence-based rebuttal?  Write a rebuttal in either prose or poetry of a single statement of conventional wisdom, such as, “If you work hard you will succeed” or “Pride goeth before the fall.”  Organize your writing inductively, using specific imagery and figurative language to show your point rather than tell it.  If you are successful, you may not even need to state the central claim of your rebuttal at the end. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  

Conventional Wisdom:  My boss doesn’t motivate me.

Reality rebuttal: He shouldn’t have to. It’s exhausting to hug you, burp you, coddle you, and wind you up every day. The best in any business create more motivation from the inside-out, with a compelling purpose; any external pats on the back they get are appreciated but not necessary for them to get or stay motivated. -Dave Anderson, business consultant and author (3)

 

1-http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/wilfred-owen

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

3-http://www.dealerbusinessjournal.com/articleview.php?id=765-83114

 

October 5: Epistrophe Day

On this date in 1988, a candidate for the United States vice-presidency made one of the more memorable and rhetorically nuanced retorts in political history. The candidate was Lloyd Bentsen. His opponent was Dan Quayle, a younger and much less experienced candidate. It was inevitable that Quayle’s lack of experience would come up in the debate. When it did, Quayle made a historical comparison, saying he had as much experience as did John F. Kennedy before he was elected president. Bentsen seemed to anticipate the comparison and pounced:

Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.

Bentsen’s response was not only the most memorable line in the entire debate, it was also the most memorable line ever from any vice-presidential debate. Even more, it might just be the most memorable line ever from a political debate.

It’s not just the repetition of “Jack Kennedy” that gives the quip its force, it’s also the placement of the name. Notice that of the four times “Jack Kennedy” is repeated, three of them are at the end of a clause. Each time Bentsen repeats the name, it echoes, like the sound of gavel pounding on a judge’s bench.

This rhetorical repeater is called epistrophe (eh-PIS-tro-fee), and it’s simply defined as repetition of the same word or phrase at the end of successive phrases or clauses (1).

The best way to understand epistrophe is to see it in action. Here’s an excellent definition and example from Mark Forsyth’s The Elements of Eloquence:

When you end each sentence with the same word, that’s epistrophe. When each clause has the same words at the end, that’s epistrophe. When you finish each paragraph with the same word, that’s epistrophe. Even when it’s a whole phrase or a whole sentence that you repeat, it’s still, providing the repetition comes at the end, that’s epistrophe (2).

Great writers and great speakers use epistrophe to make their sentences more rhythmic and more dramatic.

Here are some examples:

. . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. -Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address

If women are healthy and educated, their families will flourish. If women are free from violence, their families will flourish. If women have a chance to work … their families will flourish. -Hillary Clinton

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!” -Jacob Marley’s ghost in Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol.

Today’s Challenge: Save the Best for Last
Epistrophe is especially effective when you want to emphasize and drum home a concept or idea. What is a basic concept that all children should be taught, either in school or out of school, such as manners, creativity, patience, or dental hygiene? Brainstorm a list of possible concepts. Then, write a catchy, but brief, Public Service Announcement (PSA) on the one concept you think is most important and why you think it is most important. Use epistrophe to make you PSA unforgettable and to leave your concept echoing in the mind of your audience long after they have listened to it. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny compared to what lies within us. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

1-Farnsworth, Ward. Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric. Boston: David R. Godine, 2011: 32.
2-Forsyth, Mark. The Elements of Eloquence. London: Icon Books, 2013: 77.

September 26:  Debate Day

On this date in 1960, the first ever televised presidential debate was held in Chicago.  Democratic candidate John F. Kennedy and Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon squared off before an audience of more than 65 million viewers.

This debate revealed the power of television as a modern medium for politics.  Radio listeners awarded the debate to Nixon, but the much larger television audience gave the prize to Kennedy.  In contrast to Kennedy’s relaxed, confident appearance, Nixon looked glum and sweaty.  In addition to a more youthful, vigorous appearance, Kennedy also seemed more at ease with the new medium, looking at the TV camera to address the American viewers.  Nixon, however, instead of looking into the TV camera, turned to Kennedy, addressing his comments solely to his opponent.  

It’s these small factors that probably gave Kennedy the edge, not only in the debates, but also in the election.  He won the presidency in November 1960 by one of the smallest margins in U.S. presidential history (1).

Today’s Challenge:   Abecedarian Debate Topics
Abecedarian as an adjective meaning “of or related to the alphabet.”  On this 26th day of the month it’s appropriate to turn to the alphabet, covering your subject from A to Z.  What are the best topics for a debate — timely or timeless topics that are controversial enough to spark a two-sided argument?  Your challenge is to generate at least 26 different possible debate topics, one topic for each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  It is better to debate a question without settling it than to settle a question without debating it. -Joseph Joubert

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

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 22:  Proclamation Day

On this day in 1862, Abraham Lincoln issued the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which warned the Confederate states that if they did not rejoin the Union by January 1, 1863, all slaves in those states would be freed.  The Civil War was still raging, but the Union had just claimed a victory at the Battle of Antietam on September 17th, the single bloodiest single-day battle in American history.

Prior to the Proclamation, Lincoln had not issued any anti-slavery proclamations, maintaining that the war was more about preserving the Union than about ending slavery.  Issuing the Proclamation changed this.  Now support for the Confederacy translated to support for the institution of slavery.  This discouraged anti-slavery countries like England and France from intervening in support of the South.

When the Proclamation took effect on January 1, 1863, no slaves were actually freed because it applied only to the Confederate states that were still at war with the Union.  It did, however, change the moral tone of the war, making it not just a struggle to save the Union, but also a battle to support human freedom.  It also set the stage for the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1865, which put a permanent end to slavery in the United States (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Whereas and Therefore
A proclamation is a public or official announcement dealing with a matter of great importance.  It can be written to commemorate a specific anniversary or event, to honor an individual or group, or, as in the case of the Emancipation Proclamation, to advocate a specific cause.  If you were the president, what proclamation would you make?  Support your proclamation with “Whereas” statements that provide evidence to support your case — in other words, details that show why your proclamation is important and timely.  Then, end your proclamation with a “Therefore” statement that clearly states what you are confidently proclaiming. (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth. -John Adams

1-http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/emancipation-150/10-facts.html

2-http://www.ehow.com/how_2223337_write-a-proclamation.html

 

 

September 19:  Balloon Debate Day

On this date in 1783 the first hot air balloon was sent aloft in Annonay, France. The balloon was engineered by two brothers, Joseph-Michael and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier.

This first flight, however, was not a manned flight. Because of the unknown effects of high altitude on humans, the brothers decided to experiment with animals.  The first passengers in the basket suspended below the balloon, therefore, were a sheep, a duck, and a rooster.  The 8 minute flight travelled about two miles and was witnessed by a crowd of 130,000, which included King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (1).

Today’s Challenge:  More Than Just Hot Air
Today is the perfect day to hold a balloon debate, a debate where at the end of each round, the audience votes on one or more speakers to eliminate.  In this debate the audience is asked to imagine that the speakers are travelling in a hot air balloon.  The balloon is sinking, so in order to save everyone, one or more of the speakers must be “thrown out.”

Who would you argue is the most important or influential person in history? You may hold a balloon debate on any topic, but traditionally a balloon debate revolves around each speaker arguing the case of a famous person from history.  Each speaker, then, attempts to persuade the audience why his or her individual is the most important and, therefore, the least likely candidate for elimination.  Precede the debate by holding a draft, where each participant selects an individual to research and to argue for.  Their task then is to write a speech that answers the following question:  Why is this person the most important and influential person in history? (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day: Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate. -Hubert H. Humphrey

 

1- http://m.space.com/16595-montgolfiers-first-balloon-flight.html

 

September 15:  Opposing Argument Day

On this date in 1982, USA Today, the American daily newspaper, was first published.  Besides the fact that it was launched to be the newspaper for the entire nation — not just one city — several other characteristics made it unique.  Its news stories were written to be short and easy-to-read.  Each section featured extensive use of color, including an eye-catching infographic in the lower left-hand corner called a “Snapshot.”  Critics derided the paper, dubbing it “McPaper.”  Today, however, USA Today is still published five days a week and has one of the widest circulations of any newspaper in the United States.

USA Today 2012logo.svgAnother unique feature pioneered by USA Today is its “Our View”/”Opposing View” editorials.  In addition to presenting the USA Today Editorial Board’s position on an issue (“Our View”), the paper presents an additional editorial on the same issue that argues an alternative point of view written by a guest writer and expert in the field.  One example of this is on the issue of Testing for U.S. Citizenship.  The Our View editorial headline read, “Make Schoolkids Pass the Same Test As New Citizens,” while the “Opposing View” headline read, “Good Citizenship Transcends a Test.”

Today’s Challenge:  
What are the opposing arguments on an issue that you care about?  One of the best ways to truly understand an issue is to look at it from the opposing point of view and consider the arguments made from the other side.  Doing this will help you see the issue from a broader perspective and will help you avoid narrow mindedness or groupthink.  Looking at contrary arguments will also help you solidify your own thinking, equipping you to anticipate objections, counter with strong rebuttals, and even concede certain arguments if necessary.  This does not come naturally to most people, but if you practice, it will help you craft arguments that are more forceful, more cogent, and more credible.  

Write an editorial that summaries the opposing argument on an issue you care about.  Begin by thinking about your actual position on the issue; then, anticipate the strongest objections to your argument that would be made by the opposing side.  Make a real effort to climb into the shoes of your opposition and to argue the issue fairly and respectfully from that point of view.  (Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

Quotation of the Day:  If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.  -Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird

 

August 30:  Top 10 Day

Today is the anniversary of the The Late Show with David Letterman which premiered on CBS on August 30, 1993 and ended on May 20, 2015. Letterman had previously spent eleven years as the host of Late Night with David Letterman, but after he was passed over as the host of the The Tonight Show when Johnny Carson retired, he signed a multi-million dollar deal to move to CBS. This put him in direct competition with Jay Leno, who took over for Johnny on The Tonight Show.

Latenightdllogo.pngMany aspects of Letterman’s show followed the basic pattern of the late night talk show genre established and perfected by Johnny Carson. Letterman added a few new wrinkles of his own that became staples of his show and focus points for his fans.

One of Letterman’s trademarks was “found comedy”: people, places, and things found on the streets of the city that become the subject of Letterman’s ironic wit. These consist of actual items found in the newspaper, viewer mail, “stupid pet and human tricks” performed on the show, esoteric videos, or -person-on-the-street interviews (1).

Letterman’s best known feature is one that is originally “found” in the Old Testament, a list of ten — sometimes called a “decalogue.”  This list of ten is best known as The Ten Commandments.  The Book of Exodus records Moses bringing the commandments, which are carved on two stone tablets, down from Mount Sinai and delivering them to the people of Israel.

Of course Letterman’s Top Ten lists are meant not to deliver the law but to deliver laughs. Based on a topic from current events, each list counts down ten hilariously warped responses. The very first list, for example, featured TOP TEN WORDS THAT RHYME WITH “PEAS”:

  1. Heats
  2. Rice
  3. Moss
  4. Ties
  5. Needs
  6. Lens
  7. Ice
  8. Nurse
  9. Leaks
  10. Meats

While this was probably not the funniest top ten list, it is interesting to note that the Top Ten began on a poetic note.

Today’s Challenge: TOP TEN TOP TENS
What would be the topic of your Top Ten list? Below are some of the list topics from David Letterman’s first book of Top Ten Lists. Select one of the topics, or create your own topic.  Then, complete your list. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

  1. Top Ten Ways Life Would Be Better If Dogs Ran The World
  2. Top Ten Ways To Pronounce “Bologna”
  3. Top Ten Unsafe Toys for Christmas
  4. Top Ten Prom Themes
  5. Top Ten Questions Science Cannot Answer
  6. Top Ten Things We As Americans Can Be Proud Of
  7. Top Ten Interview Questions Asked Miss America Contestants
  8. Top Ten Reasons To Vote
  9. Top Ten Reasons Why TV Is Better Than Books
  10. Top Ten Rejected Provisions of The U.S. Constitution

Quotation of The Day:  Based on what you know about him in history books, what do you think Abraham Lincoln would be doing if he were alive today?
1) Writing his memoirs of the Civil War.
2) Advising the President.
3) Desperately clawing at the inside of his coffin. -David Letterman

1 – LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN THE LATE SHOW WITH DAVID LETTERMAN. The Museum of Broadcast Communications

2 – Letterman, David and the Late Night with David Letterman Writers. The Late Night With David Letterman Book of Top Ten Lists. New York: Pocket Books, 1990.

 

August 17:  Subjunctive Mood Day

On this date in 1929, James Thurber (1894-1961), the celebrated American cartoonist and short story writer, published an essay entitled “The Subjunctive Mood” in The New Yorker. In the essay Thurber used the context of a marital disagreement to explore the importance of maintaining the proper mood — the proper grammatical mood that is.  The essay begins as follows:

The importance of correct grammar in the home can not be over-estimated. Two young people should make sure that each is rhetorically sound before they get married, because grammatical precision, particularly in mood, is just as important as anything else. (1)

James Thurber NYWTS.jpgAn understanding of mood in English grammar means understanding the different ways we use verbs.  Most of the time we make statements; this is the indicative mood:  “The student arrived on time to first period.”  Sometimes we ask questions; this is the interrogative mood:  “Is there any homework tonight?”  Other times we are a bit more stern or imperious; this is the imperative mood:  “Take your seats so we can begin class.”  And finally, we sometimes use our imaginations to talk about things that are contrary to fact, such as dreams or fantasies; this is the subjunctive mood: “If I were to take that class, I’d make sure to schedule it after lunch.”

What makes the subjunctive mood tricky, however, is its strange conjugation. When using the verb to be in the subjunctive mood, the verb used is were, even when the subject is first person singular, as in the previous example:

If I were to take that class, I’d make sure to schedule it after lunch.

or the song from Fiddler on the Roof: “If I Were a Rich Man”:

If I were a rich man,

Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.

All day long I’d biddy biddy bum.

If I were a wealthy man.

Today’s Challenge:  Assume the Position
What are some examples of positions of power or authority you might aspire to, and imagining that you did assume one of those positions, what would you do once you attained it?  Write at least 100 words in the subjunctive mood about what you would do if you were in a specific position or occupation, such as “If I were the king of the world I would . . . ” or “If I were the CEO of Microsoft, I would . . ..” (Common Core Writing 2)

Quotation of the Day:  The thing is, proper use of the subjunctive—once you learn it and get over that difficult-sounding word, subjunctive, which has absolutely nothing to do with pinkeye—is one of the most easily deployed copy editing techniques that will put you in good stead with word nerds. Essentially, you’re altering a verb to reflect what is or is not fact.Jen Doll

 

1-http://grammar.about.com/od/readingsonlanguage/a/The-Subjunctive-Mood-By-James-Thurber.htm

2-http://www.thewire.com/entertainment/2012/09/if-one-were-use-subjunctive-mood-properly/56739/