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LinguaPhile, August 2001

A monthly e-mail newsletter nurturing the development and enjoyment of English language arts at home and at school.


Portico Books News: Happy Anniversary to Us! . . .

August marks the first anniversary of "LinguaPhile." Last month I set the ambitious goal of doubling our subscription base between July 1 and September 1. At this midway point we need to add 579 new subscribers in order to realize our objective. As you can see, success will require the collaboration of all subscribers -- including you! What teachers, homeschoolers, or lovers of English do you know who would enjoy receiving "LinguaPhile"? Forward your copy to them, or send them to and -- encourage them to subscribe!

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Literary Calendar . . .

A literary calendar will be a new feature for our second year. Any of the events mentioned might spawn further study.

August birthdays

11, 1921 Alex Haley, author of Roots
17, 1926 Myra Cohn Livingston, children's poet
19, 1902 Ogden Nash, writer of light verse (d. 1971)
22, 1893 Dorothy (Rothschild) Parker, U.S. writer (d. 1967)
28, 1749 Johann Goethe, German writer, philosopher (d. 1832)
28, 1828 Leo Tolstoy, Russian writer (d. 1910)
30, 1797 Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein (d. 1851)

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Quotes of the Month: Children's Independence . . .

You cannot teach a child to take care of himself unless you will let him try to take care of himself. He will make mistakes; and out of these mistakes will come his wisdom.
--Francis Bacon, English essayist, philosopher, and statesman (1561-1626)

A mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary.
--Dorothy Canfield Fisher, U.S. novelist (1879-1958)

If you bend over backwards for your children, you will eventually lose your balance.
--John Rosemond, U.S. writer (b. 1947)

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Preparing for the New School Year . . .

Parents want their children to succeed in school. However, sometimes their best intentions are misguided. Attempts to provide children with a wonderful life can, in fact, increase the stress of the entire family.

One of parents' most common mistakes is to want to make everything easy for their children. It's painful for parents to see their children struggle. If children never do anything difficult, however, they never learn that they can successfully meet a challenge.

A list of two dozen things parents can do to help their children succeed in school is available at Some of the tips would also apply to homeschoolers, and some of them are things that should be done prior to the opening of school (such as returning to the school-year sleep schedule). A printable version of the "tips list" can be accessed from the URL above. You are welcome to reproduce and distribute the list to colleagues, parents, anyone.


Would you like to make grammar visual for those students for whom the traditional verbal, abstract approach has been ineffective?

Would you like to have additional practice pages on familiar topics?

Would you like to have activities that guide students in
• exploring word origins
• using a pronunciation key
• responding to literature
• doing research and sharing their findings
• evaluating study skills and setting goals for improvement

If your students will not be using Hands-On English this year, consider ordering it and The Activity Book as a supplementary resource for yourself. This would provide an excellent opportunity for you to try out the books to see if you want to use them as your principal language arts curriculum in the future.

* * *

Hands-On English would make a wonderful back-to-school gift for
• any student 4th grade or older
• anyone who teaches English at any level
• a student teacher or beginning teacher (in any subject)
• a homeschooling family
• people learning English as a subsequent language
• people trying to strengthen basic skills in order to improve their employment options

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Follow-Up to July's Vision Article . . .

In last month's article I mentioned the "before" and "after" drawings that epitomized the difference vision therapy made in my son's life. You can now see those drawings at (You may have to scroll down a bit.) John added the blue on his left arm and fingers years later.

In addition, this message from a subscriber serves to remind all of us -- parents and teachers alike -- to be sensitive to students' needs: ". . . poor distance vision can also hold one back. I didn't have a big problem until I got to high school/college. Then I had problems in things like math courses, where the teacher would solve problems on the board.

"The reaction was usually not helpful. When I took Cartesian geometry and then calculus in high school, the teacher's reaction was to spend two years telling me I was stupid at math. When I took deductive logic in college, I sat in the first row but couldn't see a thing. When I explained my situation to the professor (who was at the time the world's greatest logician) and asked if he could please write a little larger, he simply said no and walked off."

Rick Holton, President of Holton | Writing for Results

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Follow-Up to July's Q and A About Plurals in Idioms . . .

I happened upon this sentence in Words Into Type: "To avoid ambiguity a singular noun is often used with a plural possessive when only one of the things possessed could belong to each individual." The first example involves people earning "their living," the very term queried in last month's example. This authority, then, provides additional support for the view presented last month.

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Expand Your Vocabulary: cacoepy . . .

The President's frequent cacoepy sparked much criticism and teasing from the media.

cacoepy (kak OH u pee) n. Incorrect pronunciation. You might recognize the caco root as meaning "bad." You see it in the following words:
cacophony, "bad sound; dissonance; discord"
cacology, "bad word choice"
cacography, "bad penmanship"
The pronouncing offender is a cacoepist. The antonym of cacoepy is orthoepy.

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Q and A: Compound Possessive Nouns . . .

Question: When two possessive nouns are joined by "and," should both have an apostrophe or only the last?

Answer: If it is a case of joint ownership, such as "John and Mary's house," only the last noun assumes the possessive form. If ownership is not joint, however, each noun should be possessive. An example of the latter instance would be "Sally's and Jill's reports," where each person has her own report.

We invite your questions for this feature. Send them to Fran at GrammarAndMore.

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Review: Crazy English by Richard Lederer . . .

English is a crazy language! What other language has people driving in a parkway and parking in a driveway -- or playing at a recital and reciting at a play? Who but English speakers would pack suits in a garment bag and pack garments in a suitcase -- or send a shipment by car and send cargo by ship? In English, night falls but never breaks, and day breaks but never falls. If slim and fat are opposites, how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same thing?

In Crazy English: The Ultimate Joy Ride Through Our Language author Richard Lederer revels in these idiosyncrasies of English. In addition, he calls our attention to frequently used oxymorons ("original copy") and redundancies ("foreign imports"). He looks at Janus-faced words which seem to be their own antonyms: If you "dust the furniture," for example, you are removing dust from it; however, if you "dust the crops," you are applying dust to them.

Lederer also examines the sounds of words. He identifies words considered by some people to be intrinsically beautiful. His observation of meaning that seems to be carried by particular letter combinations is particularly interesting. The "ash" combination, for example, seems to signal violent action: bash, clash, gnash, lash, smash, etc.

Crazy English is thoroughly enjoyable. The reader is privileged to peruse the musings of a linguaphile, a verbivore, a logolept extraordinaire. Lederer does not simply explain the various aspects of English that he chooses to discuss. He seizes every opportunity to play with the tools of his trade. Thus are we treated to stories that contain cascades of alliteration, rhyme, or figurative language, and poems that highlight irregularities of spelling or usage. Palindromes are woven into an interview.

Lederer's love of English is contagious. Through Crazy English we not only share his delight in the language, but we deepen our appreciation of this kaleidoscopic entity.

Available from Crazy English

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Mixer Activity: What Do We Have in Common? . . .

Here is an ice-breaker activity to help students get acquainted (or reacquainted after summer vacation). On a sheet of paper list students' names in a column at the left margin. Follow each name with a blank that extends across the page. After distributing papers to students, allow about twenty minutes for students to mingle and talk to discover what they have in common with each other. They should jot the "common bonds" on the lines provided. (If some students are new to the group, it will be helpful if all students wear name tags.)

To make the activity most effective, prohibit bonds that students obviously share with a large number of classmates (school, teacher, age, gender, physical characteristics). You might further require that they find a different connection with each person on the list.

A fitting conclusion to the activity is to briefly discuss students' findings, noting larger groups of students who share interests and experiences. This could be followed by a discussion that emphasizes students' uniqueness as well as their similarities.

For a similar activity that requires less conversation from the students, see last August's "LinguaPhile": This also provides examples of the connections students might discover.

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Puzzlers: Word Riddles . . .

Don your verbal playclothes! Can you think of words that fit these descriptions? (Clues are based on information presented in Crazy English.)

1. a five-letter word with only one consonant
2. a five-letter word that retains its original pronunciation even when the last four letters are dropped
3. a word with six consecutive consonants
4. a six-letter word that contains five personal pronouns (Letters of the pronouns are consecutive and sequential. However, pronouns do overlap, so most letters are used more than once.)

Answers next month.

Answers to July Puzzler

1. Tuesday
2. thousand
3. excusable
4. pulsation
5. Sousa
6. understanding
7. illustration
8. purchasable
9. crusade
10. housemaid

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Thank you for reading. If you find LinguaPhile helpful and interesting, don't keep it a secret! Consider which of your friends would also enjoy it, and send them information about subscribing. We welcome your comments and suggestions:

The index to LinguaPhile, which is updated monthly, is now available in either a text or .doc format on the GrammarAndMore Web site:
This makes the information from previous issues readily accessible. You are encouraged to print the index for your convenience or to share it with friends. Why not send them the URL of the text version?
It's a gift you can give, yet still have for yourself!

© 2001 Fran Santoro Hamilton


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