June 20:  Hot and Cold Running Idioms Day

Today is the anniversary of an important date in the history of communications. On this day in 1963 in Geneva, Switzerland, the United States and the Soviet Union signed what was called the “Hot Line Agreement,” which established a direct communication link between the two superpowers.

After the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, it became abundantly clear that without prompt, direct communication between the heads of state in the East and the West, tragic miscommunication leading to nuclear war might result. During the 1962 exercise in brinkmanship, President John F. Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev were forced to use intermediaries in their communications.

The Hot Line Agreement was the first bilateral agreement between the U.S. and the Soviet Union and the first step in recognizing that cooler heads should prevail when it comes to the Cold War maneuvering of the nuclear powers (1).

It was the Soviet Union that first proposed the hot line in 1954. The word hot line first appeared in print in 1955, and the word brinkmanship, meaning the art of advancing to the very brink of war but not engaging in it, first appeared in 1956 (2).

Probably the most famous demonstration of the red phone comes to us via Hollywood rather than the history books. In the 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, President Merkin Muffley, played by Peter Sellers, struggles to tell Soviet Premier Kissoff that an insane American general has ordered a nuclear bombing mission on Russia:

President Merkin Muffley: . . . Now then, Dmitri, you know how we’ve always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb… The Bomb, Dmitri… The hydrogen bomb!… Well now, what happened is… ah… one of our base commanders, he had a sort of… well, he went a little funny in the head… you know… just a little… funny. And, ah… he went and did a silly thing… Well, I’ll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes… to attack your country… Ah… Well, let me finish, Dmitri… Let me finish, Dmitri… Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?… Can you imagine how I feel about it, Dmitri?… Why do you think I’m calling you? Just to say hello?… Of course I like to speak to you!… Of course I like to say hello!… Not now, but anytime, Dmitri. I’m just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened… It’s a friendly call. Of course it’s a friendly call… Listen, if it wasn’t friendly… you probably wouldn’t have even got it . . . .

Today’s Challenge: Hot ‘N’ Cold

Below are descriptions of expressions that contain either the word hot or cold. Given the number of words in each expression along with a description, see if you can name the phrase:

  1. Four words: Newly printed; sensational and exciting.
  2. Two words: Immediate, complete withdrawal from something, especially an addictive substance.
  3. Two words: Trouble or difficulty.
  4. Two words: Retreat from an undertaking; lose one’s nerve.
  5. Two words: Deliberate disregard, slight, or snub.
  6. Four words: Extremely angry.
  7. Four words: In a position of extreme stress, as when subjected to harsh criticism.
  8. Five words: To cause one to shiver from fright or horror.

What are more examples of common expression or idioms in English that feature the words “hot” or “cold”?  Use one of these expressions as a launching pad for an original composition.  Use the idiom as your title, and write at least 250 words. (Common Core Writing 2/3 Expository/Narrative)

Quote of the Day: Hot heads and cold hearts never solved anything. -Billy Graham

Answers: 1. Hot off the presses 2. Cold turkey 3. Hot water 4. Cold feet 5. Cold shoulder 6. Hot under the collar 7. In the hot seat 8. Make one’s blood run cold.

1 – United States Department of State. Memorandum of Understanding Between The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Regarding the Establishment of a Direct Communication Link

http://www.state.gov/t/isn/4785.htm

2- Ayto, John. Twentieth Century Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

3 – Ammer, Christine. American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1997.

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 2:  D-Day Crossword Day

Today is the anniversary of the publication of a crossword puzzle that might have altered the outcome of World War II. In the spring of 1944 plans were being drawn up for the Allied invasion of France. This highly secretive plan was dubbed Operation Overlord by Winston Churchill, and the invasion was set for June 5, 1944, by the commander of the operation General Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The element of surprise was vital for the success of the invasion, but in May of 1944, British intelligence officers discovered that one of the Daily Telegraph’s crossword puzzles contained two important code names for the beaches of Normandy: Utah and Omaha.

The military became even more concerned when on June 2, 1944, three days before the planned invasion, a crossword puzzle appeared with the name Overlord and NeptuneNeptune was the name of the secret naval operations plan. The author of the puzzle, a schoolmaster by the name of Leonard Dawe, was arrested and questioned. Investigators were unable, however, to determine any explanation, besides coincidence, for the presence of the words in the puzzle.

Forty years after D-Day the mystery was finally solved when National Geographic discovered that one of Leonard Dawe’s pupils had been eavesdropping on the conversations of Allied soldiers and had noted the words, not for malicious reasons, but simply because he thought the words were odd enough to work well in his teacher’s crossword puzzles (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Micro-Crossword Puzzles

What are some examples of related words that have an odd number of letters and that share the same middle letter?  The following are examples of Micro-Crossword Puzzles:  two related words that each have an odd number of letters and that share the same middle letter.  This shared middle letter allows the words to be crossed.

-What are two countries with five-letter names with the middle letter I?  Answer: China and Haiti.

-Who are two Nobel Prize-winning American authors with nine-letter last names with the same middle letter N?  Answer: Steinbeck and Hemingway.

-Who are two American presidents with five-letter last names with the same middle letter A?  Answer: Grant and Obama

Write at least three of your own Micro-Crossword Puzzles.  Begin by selecting a category; then, brainstorm some words in that category.  Your words don’t have to have the same number of letters, but the two words do have to have an odd number of letters and they need to share the same middle letter.

Sample Categories:

Mythological Characters, U.S. Capitals, Literary Characters, Classic Movies, Grammar Terms, Poetry Terms, Computer Jargon, Rhetorical Devices, Holidays, Elements on the Periodic Table

(Common Core Language 1 and 2)

Quotation of the Day:  As human beings, we have a natural compulsion to fill empty spaces. -Will Shortz

1 – National Geographic. http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0206/feature1/

May 29:  Words for Words Day

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

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

Here are some examples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s Challenge:  More Words For Words

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

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

(Common Core Language 3 – Knowledge of Language)

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

May 28:  Eponym Day

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

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

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

Today’s Challenge:  Off With Their Head Letters

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

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

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

May 23:  Defenestration Day

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

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

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

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

Today’s Challenge:  To Coin a Verb

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

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

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

 

May 22:  Words From the Sea Day

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

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

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

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

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

Nausea: From the Greek nausia, meaning seasickness.

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

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

Here’s a list of more expressions:

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

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

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

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

(Common Core Language 4 – Knowledge of Language)

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

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

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

May 17:  Collective Noun Day

Today is the anniversary of a landmark United States Supreme Court decision that changed American Education. On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, announced its decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education. The decision was to end the segregation of public schools and reverse the 1896 ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson that established the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine. In the Plessy case, an African American named Homer Plessy was tried for his refusal to sit in a separate railroad car. Plessy v. Ferguson segregated blacks and whites in many areas of common life from water fountains to the school house. The Court’s decision in Brown started the slow march toward desegregation of American schools by stating: “Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal” (1).

The word segregation and desegregation share the common Latin root greg which means flock, as in people coming together in a group. Below are other words that relate to people or things coming together or, in the case of egregious, things standing out, outside of the flock.

Aggregate: A sum total or mixing together to constitute a whole (ag-, toward + greg, flock)

Congregate: To gather together into a crowd or group (con-, together + greg, flock)

Egregious: Extremely bad. Flagrant. Standing out from the group (e-, out + greg, flock)

Gregarious: Tending to live in flocks or herds; Sociable (greg, flock)

The word flock is a collective noun, which The American Heritage College Dictionary defines as, “A noun that denotes a collection of persons or things regarded as a unit.”

You run into collective nouns most often when you are talking about groups of animals, as in a pride of lions or a school or shoal of fish. In an earlier age when hunting was more common, the knowledgeable sportsman could correctly identify not only individual species but also the appropriate collective noun. In 1486, Dame Juliana Berners compiled a book of more than one hundred collective nouns called The Book of St Albans (1).

Here are some examples of collective nouns:

An array of hedgehogs, A brood of hens, A cloud of grasshoppers, A dray of squirrels, An exaltation of larks, A fall of woodcocks, A gaggle of geese (in flight: a skein of geese), A herd of deer, A leap of leopards, A mumble of moles, A nye of pheasants, A parliament of owls, A rout of wolves, A shrewdness of apes, A tittering of magpies, An unkindness of ravens, A watch of nightingales

Today’s Challenge:  Create Your Own Colony of Clever Collective Nouns

What are some different types of everyday objects or different types of people that could be labeled with some original collective nouns?  Brainstorm a list of different types of objects and different classifications of people.  Then, generate some of your own collective nouns to cleverly identify the group. Below are some examples:

A stretch of rubber bands, A squabble of siblings, A flush of toilets, A speedo of swimmers, A trip of klutzes, A ton of weightlifters, A chew of gummy worms, A keg of drunkards, A headache of homework, A crash of computers

(Common Core Language 4 – Knowledge of Language)

Quotation of the Day: You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of discussion. –Plato

1 – Crutchfield, Roger S. English Vocabulary Quick Reference. Leesburg, VA: LexaDyne Publishers, Inc., 1999.

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

May 15:  Beatles Trivia Day

What do Jesus Christ, San Francisco, and a Russian spacecraft have in common? The answer is: The Beatles, who released their last album, Let It Be, in the United States on this day in 1970.

Beatitudes

The story of this odd Fab-Four related threesome begins with Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount where he issued his Beatitudes (from Latin beatitudo for ‘happiness’). These statements are found in the books of Matthew and Luke, and each begins with the word Blessed (or Happy), as in “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.”

San Francisco

Flash forward to the West Coast in the 1950s. A group of young writers and artists attempt to rattle the conventional cages of their elders. Through self-expression and social protest, they make a name for themselves, and one of them, American writer Jack Kerouac, coins the term beat generation in 1952. As cited in Twentieth Century Words, Kerouac associated the word beat with beatitude: “Beat means beatitude, not beat up.”

Sputnik

Five years later, the Russians shock the world with the launch of the first artificial earth satellite. They call their satellite Sputnik, meaning ‘traveling companion.’ When news of the satellite’s launch on October 4, 1957 hits the newspapers, this Russian word is instantly absorbed into the English lexicon.

In 1958, San Francisco columnist Herb Caen blends the ‘beat generation’ with ‘Sputnik’ to create beatnik, a catchy term to describe young bohemians like Jack Kerouac.

Two years later across the Atlantic, a fledgling group of musicians from Liverpool, England settle on the name The Beatles. Despite John Lennon’s claim that the name came to him in a vision of a man riding on a flaming pie, it appears more likely that the name was influenced by one of John’s favorite bands, Buddy Holly and the Crickets. Looking for something catchy, they originally used Beetles, but no doubt the pun value of ‘beat’ got the better of them, influencing them to become The Beatles with an A.

Unlike Sputnik, the British band’s name did not become an instant household word. Their launch had to wait until 1963 when Beatlemania became first a British epidemic and later, in 1964, an American and worldwide pandemic (1).

In 1970, however, the world mourned as The Beatles came crashing to earth. John, Paul, George, and Ringo dissolved what was without a doubt the most popular, successful, and influential band of all time.

Even though decades have passed since the breakup of the Beatles, there is no waning of the passion for their music; for example, in the year 2000, 30 years after their breakup, The Beatles’ greatest hits CD The Beatles 1 hit number one on the Billboard Album Charts. For Beatles fans, the term Beatles trivia is a contradiction in terms. For them, reading about and listening to The Beatles is anything but a trivial pursuit. For a fan of The Beatles, knowledge about the Beatles is just as important as any other category of E.D. Hirsh’s Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. (See March 1: Cultural Literacy Day)

The word trivia has an interesting history in its own right that relates to its roots. Originating from the Latin trivialis, it is made up of tri meaning three and via meaning roads. What do three roads have to do with the modern sense of ‘unimportant tidbits of information’? Where else than at the crossroads would common people meet to exchange weather reports, small talk, and gossip?

Today’s Challenge:  Pursuit for the Trivial and Not So Trivial  

What are some examples of important organizations, groups, or clubs?  Brainstorm a list of groups of people that come together for a specific purpose.  It could be a musical group, a political (special interest) or religious group, a community group, or a business organization.  Select a single group, and research the group’s background, history, and purpose. Write a brief report for an audience who knows little about the organization.  Try to give them the vital details about the organization as well as some trivial details that might be interesting. (Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

Quote of the Day: Why tell me why did you not treat me right? Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight! — from The Beatles’ song “I’m Looking Through You”

1- Ayto, John. Twentieth Century Words. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.