October 8: Rebuttal Day

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On this day in 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.

A plate from his 1920 Poems by Wilfred Owen, depicting him.Owen 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)” (1).

The poem begins with an image of the exhausting drudgery 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.

Drudgery and exhaustion turn to nightmare as Owen describes a gas attack and the horror of watching one of his comrades in arms die before his eyes:

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.  
(2)
 

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 Owen’s readers since they were often quoted during the frenzy of recruiting at the beginning of World War I.  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.

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 honorable it is to die for one’s country.

To make his rebuttal, Owen structures his poem inductively, with details that move from the specific to the general.  Instead of stating his point at the beginning of the poem in a deductive structure, he, instead, begins with detailed imagery to show 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. The vivid details allow readers to 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 wisdom 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 counterintuitive 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)

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

2- Owen, Wilfred. Dulce et Decorum Est. 1921. Poetry Foundation.org. Public Domain. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46560/dulce-et-decorum-est.

October 7: Gender-neutral Pronoun Day

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Today is the birthday of C.C. Converse (1832-1918), an American attorney and composer of church music who is perhaps best known for his attempt to fix a glitch in the English language:  its absence of a gender-neutral singular pronoun (1).

The glitch that Converse was attempting to repair can be seen in the following sentences.  Which one sentence would you select as correct?

  1. When a person arrives at work, he should check his phone messages.
  2. When a person arrives at work, she should check her phone messages.
  3. When a person arrives at work, he or she should check his or her phone messages
  4. When a person arrives at work, s/he should check his/er phone messages.
  5. When a person arrives at work, they should check their phone messages.

This is a bit of trick question because each sentence has its own problems.

Sentence A uses the pronoun he, assuming the gender of a person is male.  Although some in the past have argued that the masculine pronoun should become the default generic pronoun, most people today see this as an unacceptably sexist usage.

Sentence B has the same problem as Sentence A.  Some writers will randomly alternate the use of the masculine and feminine pronouns to avoid charges of sexism, but this can be confusing and distracting to the reader.

Sentence C, while attempting to avoid exclusive use of either one or the other pronoun, adds an element of clunkiness by adding the conjunction “or,” especially when used repeatedly.

Sentence D is just plain awkward.

Sentence E creates an ungrammatical situation in which the antecedent of the singular noun person is the plural they and their.

In an attempt to solve the problem, Converse coined the word thon in 1858, blending the two words “that one.”   If we apply Converse’s coinage to our sentence it becomes:

When a person arrives at work, thon should check thons phone messages.

Obviously Converse’s new pronoun didn’t stick; instead, it joined the pool of other pathetic, failed pronouns of the past, such as:  ne, co, xie, per, en, hi, le, hiser, ip.  However, credit is due Converse in that thon is the most successful attempt at a solution to date.  Thon made it into two dictionaries and was actually adopted by some writers, as we can see by this example from a psychology textbook published in 1895 by Henry Graham Williams:

Every student should acquaint thonself with some method by which thon can positively correlate the facts of thons knowledge (1).

As of today we are still stuck without a solution to our pronoun glitch. So, when a person comes upon this thorny thicket in his/her/his or her/their writing, he/she/he or she/they remain without many good options.

Today’s Challenge: Playing with Pronouns & Points of View

When creating a fictional narrative, authors must consider point of view, the lens through which the reader sees and hears the story.  Point of view in fiction correlates to the grammatical point of view of pronouns:

First Person – I:  In the first person point of view, a character in the story is the narrator, which allows the reader to see and experience the plot intimately.  However, just as in our own lives, this can be limiting since we are only privy to the thoughts, experience, and perspective of that single character.

Second Person – You:  In the second person point of view, a character directly addresses “you” the reader, as if the story is a letter.  Like a letter, the effect is a feeling of intimacy, of being talked to directly by the narrator.  The limitation, however, is that you only see and hear what that narrator reveals.

Third Person – He or She:  The third person point of view involves a narrator outside the story who reveals either the thoughts of a single character (3rd person limited) or the thoughts of more than one character (3rd person omniscient). With third person, the voice of the narrator becomes a vital element of revealing a story’s setting and the thoughts of its characters.

If you were to write a story, from what narrative point of view would you tell the story?

Read the Aesop Fable below called “The Cat and the Fox”; then, rewrite it from three different points of view:

1:  First Person – The Cat as narrator.

2:  Second Person – The Cat speaking to the Fox’s family

3:  Third Person Omniscient – A narrator that reveals both the thoughts of the Cat and the Fox.

The Cat and the Fox

A Fox was boasting to a Cat of its clever devices for escaping its enemies. “I have a whole bag of tricks,” he said, “which contains a hundred ways of escaping my enemies.”

“I have only one,” said the Cat; “but I can generally manage with that.” Just at that moment they heard the cry of a pack of hounds coming towards them, and the Cat immediately scampered up a tree and hid herself in the boughs. “This is my plan,” said the Cat. “What are you going to do?” The Fox thought first of one way, then of another, and while he was debating the hounds came nearer and nearer, and at last the Fox in his confusion was caught up by the hounds and soon killed by the huntsmen. Miss Puss, who had been looking on, said:

“Better one safe way than a hundred on which you cannot reckon.” (2)

(Common Core Writing 3 – Narrative)

1- Dickson, Paul.  Authorisms:  Words Wrought by Writers.  New York:  Bloomsbury, 2014:  166.

2-Aesop Fables. The Harvard Classics 1909-14. Bartleby.com.  Public Domain. https://www.bartleby.com/17/1/38.html.

October 6:  Xerox Day

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On this day in 1942, Chester F. Carlson (1906-1968) received a patent for his invention, electrophotography.  His discovery was a giant leap in the history of publishing.  For centuries making a copy of a single document was arduous and time-consuming.  Electrophotography, or xerography as it came to be called, is fast and easy.

Unlike previous wet copy processes, Carlson’s process was “dry.” First an electrostatic image of the original document was created on a rotating metal drum; then, with the help of toner – powdered ink – a copy was transferred to a piece of paper and the print was sealed in place by heat (1).

To differentiate the name of his invention – electrophotography –  from print photography, Carlson searched for a new term. He settled first on the word xerography from the Greek xeros (meaning “dry”) and graphein (meaning “writing”). Xerography later became xerox because of Carlson’s admiration for the name Kodak, the iconic American photography company. Carlson especially liked the fact that the name Kodak was nearly a palindrome (a word that is spelled the same frontwards and backwards).  Adding an “x” at the end of his invention’s name, Carlson reasoned, would give it the same memorable ring.  Thus, Xerox, the word that would become synonymous with duplication, was born (2).

Today’s Challenge:  Copywork, Not Copy Cat

Long before Xerox, copying by hand – or copywork – was a popular method of teaching writing in America.  As children, we learn to talk, at least in part, by imitating others, so the rationale behind copywork is that we can also learn to write by imitating others.

In their article on copywork’s historic roots, Brett and Kate McKay trace how great American writers like Robert Louis Stevenson, Benjamin Franklin, and Jack London used copywork to learn their craft (3).

By zeroing in and copying the words, phrases, and clauses of a single exemplary model, you discover elements of style you wouldn’t otherwise notice.  Like a cook who samples and dissects the dishes of a master chef, you become both inspired to produce your own recipes and equipped to combine the ingredients more artfully.  What is a short passage of published writing that you admire for its rhetorical craft, the kind of passage that might be held up as an exemplary model for writers?  Select a published passage of at least six sentences, and, following the principles of copywork, reproduce the writing verbatim — that’s Latin for “word for word.”  Make sure to write the author’s name and the title of the work at the top of your paper.  The purpose here is not to plagiarize; rather, it’s to use your pen to help you pay better attention as you read and write. (Common Core Reading 1)

1-Thompson, Clive. How the Photocopier Changed the Way We Worked — and Played. Smithsonian Magazine March 2015.

2- Owen, David. Copies in Seconds:  How a Lone Inventor and an Unknown Company Created the Biggest Communication Breakthrough Since Gutenberg.  New York:  Simon and Shuster, 2008:  146.

3-McKay, Brett and Kate. Want to Become a Better Writer? Copy the Work of Others! Art of Manliness.com. 26 Mar. 2014.

October 5:  Epistrophe Day

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On this day in 1988, a candidate for the United States vice-president made one of the more memorable and rhetorically nuanced retorts in political history.  The Democratic candidate was Lloyd Bentsen.  His opponent was Republican candidate Dan Quayle, a younger and much less experience candidate than Bentsen.  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.  It’s the exact opposite of anaphora, repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of successive phrases or clauses (See August 28: Anaphora Day)(1).

If you want to write well, learn to use epistrophe.  If you want your sentences to resonate with your reader, learn to use epistrophe.  If you want to add a pleasing rhythm to your sentences — punctuating them with a key idea — learn to use epistrophe.

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

Here are two examples:

. . . that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.  -Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg Address (1863)

“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 (1843)

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)

1-Farnsworth, Ward.  Farnsworth’s Classical English Rhetoric.  Boston:  David R. Godine, 2011:  32.

 

October 4 – Elevator Speech Day

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On this day in 1911, the first public elevator began service at the Earl’s Court Metro Station in London.  In England an elevator is called a “lift,” but whatever it’s called, an elevator ride is a short trip that puts you in a confined space, often with total strangers (1).

People who work in the business world make frequent trips on elevators.  Maybe that’s why the elevator has become such a powerful communication metaphor in business the past few years.  The “elevator pitch” is a short speech put together by salespeople, entrepreneurs, or other business people to capsulize their ideas and to communicate them clearly to potential clients and investors.  The idea is to know your project, idea, or product so well that you can “sell” it to anyone on a short elevator ride.

When constructing an elevator pitch, remember the mnemonic device PITCH:

P = Point:  Make sure you have a clear main point, a clear claim.

I = Imagery:  Use language that goes beyond just telling your point; instead, use imagery that shows – the kind of language that will captivate your listener’s imagination.

T = Time:  Timing is central for an elevator pitch.  Practice it until you get it down to an exact time that is no more than two minutes.

C = Concrete: Watch out for language that is too abstract.  It’s okay to talk about your ideas, but try to make them as specific as possible by including concrete nouns that will ground your ideas in tangible, real things.

H = Human Interest:  Remember that your audience is made up of real people, and real people are always interested in other real people.  Bring your ideas alive by showing how they relate to and impact real people.

Today’s Challenge:  Up-to-the-Minute Pitch

How would you complete the following title with an idea that would make a compelling speech:  “Why You Should . . . “ ? Brainstorm some ideas; then, select your best one, and write an elevator pitch that follows the principles of PITCH.  Be prepared to share your pitch, attempting to get as close as you can to the two-minute time limit. Work with a partner to practice, time, and perfect your pitch.

Examples of elevator pitch topics:

Why you should floss.

Why you should go to college.

Why you should not be afraid of failure.

Why you should become an organ donor.

Why you should take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Why you should make your speeches short and to the point.

Why you should take notes by hand instead of with a laptop.

(Common Core Writing 1 – Argument)

1- The History Calendar. October 4. http://www.thehistorycalendar.com/oct/october-4th.html.

October 3:  Read an Essay Out Loud Day

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On this day in 1890, Harvard Professor Barrett Wendell read an essay aloud to his class of 50 undergraduate English students.  The essay was written by one of the students in the class, a student who would go on to become one of the most important African-American intellectuals and leaders of his generation.  The essay’s author was W.E.B. Du Bois, who signed up for the class because he realized that without the ability to write well, his ideas would never be taken seriously.

Du Bois’ essay was the only one that Professor Wendell read aloud that day.

Formal photograph of W. E. B. Du Bois, with beard and mustache, around 50 years oldDu Bois went on the say many things well as an activist, a sociologist, and a historian.  In 1895, he became the first African American to earn a Ph.D. at Harvard, and in 1909 he co-founded the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  He worked his entire life for the cause of civil rights, and he died on August 27, 1963 — one day before Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. (1).

Today’s Challenge:  Extra-Sensory Reading

What is the value of reading out loud as a way of reading and of revising your writing?  Reading words aloud or hearing your words read aloud by someone else allows you to experience them in a different way than just seeing them.  Listening and speaking the words involve different senses than just reading with your eyes, allowing you to catch nuances or areas for revision that you might not catch otherwise.  Exchange some of your writing with a partner.  Read each other’s writing with your eyes first, highlighting the parts you particularly like. Then, take turns reading and listening to each other’s writing. (Common Core Writing 5 – Writing Process)

1-W.E.B. Du Bois (Bloom’s Modern Critical Views) Harold Bloom, editor. Chelsea House Publications, 2002.

October 2:  Thirteen Ways Day

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

One of Stevens’ best-known poems is “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird,” published in 1917.  The poem captures the essence of poetry, a form of writing that challenges both the writer and the reader to “look” at the world from different perspectives and to see it in new ways.  In the tradition of Imagism, a poetic movement that emphasizes precise imagery and clear, concrete diction, Stevens presents thirteen numbered stanzas, each featuring a different way of seeing the ordinary blackbird (1).

Wallace Stevens.jpgToday’s Challenge:  Ways of Looking – the Seven “Sees”

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

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Subject

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

(Common Core Writing 2 – Expository)

1-Poetry Foundation. Wallace Stevens.

 

October 1:  A Book Can Save a Life Day

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

The soldier’s name was Maurice Hamonneau, and his decision to take Kipling’s book into combat during World War I saved his life.  Shot in battle near Verdun, Hamonneu lay unconscious for hours.  When he regained consciousness, he realized that the book which he was carrying in his breast pocket had shielded him from the bullet. Piercing the book, the bullet left a hole that stopped 330 pages into the book, leaving only 20 intact pages between the bullet and Hamonneu’s heart.

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

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

Today’s Challenge:  Books Not Bullets

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

1-History.com. The Book That Saved a Life.

September 30:  Mnemonic Device Day

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

Thirty days hath September,

April, June, and November.

All the rest have 31,

Except for February all alone,

It has 28 each year,

but 29 each leap year.

This verse is attributed to Mother Goose, but it’s only one of many versions of the poem.  One website, for example, lists an astonishing 90 variations of what has come to be called The Month Poem (1).

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

The word mnemonic is an eponym (See May 28 – Eponym Day), originating from the Greek goddess of memory and mother of the Muses, Mnemosyne.

To make things easy to remember, mnemonic devices employ different methods, such as rhyme, acrostics, or acronyms. Another method is the nonsense sentence made up from the initial letters of what it is you are trying to remember. Here’s an example of a sentence that is crafted to help us remember Roman numerals:

In Various Xmas Legends Christ Delivers Miracles.

Notice how the letters that begin each word correspond, in order, to Roman numerals:

I=1, V=5, X=10, L=50, C=100, D=500, M=1,000

You might also us an acronym. For example, CREED is a mnemonic device that helps us remember the essential elements of an argument:

C = Claim

R = Reasoning

E = Evidence

E = Explanation

D = Documentation

Another acronym ASK PEW is a mnemonic for remembering the essential elements of the rhetorical situation:

Audience, Subject, Kairos, Point/Purpose, Exigence, and Writer

Generations of school children have used the rhyme from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere” (1861) to remember the start date of the American Revolution:

Listen my children and you shall hear

Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,

On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;

Hardly a man is now alive

Who remembers that famous day and year.

Today’s Challenge:  Remember, Remember the Mnemonics of September

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

1 – Leap Year Day.com. Days of the Month Poem. 1904 Public Domain. http://leapyearday.com/content/days-month-poem.

 

September 29:  The Beatles and the Bard Day

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On this day in 1967, the Beatles worked to complete the recording of the song I Am the Walrus.  Known for their innovative work in the studio, the group on this day did something truly unique, blending the conclusion of their new song with a BBC recording Shakespeare’s King Lear.

In addition to the Bard, the Beatles also drew inspiration from two other poetic sources.  One was Lewis Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter,” which inspired the song’s title and its plentiful use of nonsense lyrics.  The second was a playful nursery rhyme that they remembered from their childhood in Liverpool:

Yellow matter custard, green slop pie,

All mixed together with a dead dog’s eye,

Slap it on a butty, ten foot thick,

Then wash it all down with a cup of cold sick. (1)

HelloGoodbyeUS.jpgThis bit of rather grotesque verse inspired the colorful lyric:  “Yellow matter custard, dripping from a dead dog’s eye.”

The Beatles had no name for their process of creative synthesis, and they were so ahead of their time that they really didn’t need one.  Today, however, we have a name for it; it’s called a “mash-up.”

According to Newsweek, the word “mash-up” was coined in 2001 by DJ Freelance Hellraiser who used Christina Aguilera’s vocals from ‘Genie in a Bottle’ and “recorded [them] over the instrumentals from ‘Hard to Explain’” (2).

Mash-ups are certainly not limited to music, however. A mash-up applies to any combination of two or more forms of media: music, film, television, computer program, etc. As seen by the examples below, these creative combos synthesize just about every imaginable form of media:

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters – a book mash-up that combines classic fiction and sea stories.

The Dark Side of Oz – a film/music mash-up pairing Pink Floyd’s classic album The Dark Side of the Moon with the visuals of the film The Wizard of Oz.

Star Wars:  Invasion Los Angeles:  a computer-animated video created by Kaipo Jones that sets the intergalactic battle from the film Star Wars among the familiar and famous sites of Los Angeles.

TwitterMap –  an internet mash-up that combines Twitter and Google Maps to create a visual map of Tweets.

Today’s Challenge: Mother Tongue Lashing

What one word fits between the words ‘Jelly’ and ‘Bag’ to form two separate compound words? Jelly __________ Bag The answer is the word “bean” as in jelly bean and beanbag.  This is a type of lexical mash-up called Mother Tongue Lashing. It takes advantage of the wealth of compound words and expressions in English. For each pair of words below, name a word that can follow the first word and precede the second one to complete a compound word or a familiar two-word phrase.

  1. Life __________ Travel
  2. Punk __________ Candy
  3. Green _________ Space
  4. Rest __________ Work
  5. Word  __________ Book
  6. Rock __________ Dust
  7. Spelling __________ Sting
  8. Night __________ House

Now, create your own list of 8 Mother Tongue Lashings.  Use a dictionary to make sure that you have two-word expressions or compound words, not just two-word combinations. (Common Core Language 3 – Knowledge of Language)

Answers:  time, rock, back, home, play, star, bee, light

1- The Beatles Bible.com. I Am the Walrus. https://www.beatlesbible.com/songs/i-am-the-walrus/2/.

2- Newsweek. Technology: Time for Your Mashup? 3 May 2006. http://www.newsweek.com/technology-time-your-mashup-106345.