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LinguaPhile, September 2000

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


Portico Books News . . .

Remember that the introductory price of the Teacher's Edition of The Activity Book (the only reproducible version) will expire September 30. If you've been intending to order, do so today.

Can you think of friends or colleagues who would want this book? Send them this address, and encourage them to order while they can get the book at the lower price.

Remember that Hands-On Sentences provides a new, enjoyable way to practice parts of speech and sentence construction. Get more information, and share this address with others who would be interested:

Some e-mail to was lost in Cyberspace. If you sent a message between August 18 and August 22 and did not receive a reply, please try us again; the glitch has been resolved. We are sorry for any inconvenience this caused you.

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Quote of the Month: Reading . . .

Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.
-- Edmund Burke, Irish statesman, orator, and writer (1729-1797)


Vocabulary Follow-Up: Lagniappe . . .

A subscriber reports that there used to be a store in the Des Moines area called The Lagniappe. Doesn't that sound like a pleasant place to frequent?


Etymology: September

People who did not know the meaning of "sept" beforehand probably learned with the birth of the McCaughey septuplets that "sept" means "seven." A thinking person might then wonder why September, our ninth month, is named as it is. The explanation can be traced to the ancient Roman calendar, in which September was the seventh of ten months. This was changed when the Gregorian calendar was adopted in 1582.

Since the remaining months of the year have a similar origin, this might be an opportune time to study other quantitative prefixes:










bi-, du-



















octa-, octo-


nona-, novem-





Words containing most of these prefixes can be found in Hands-On English, pages 103-110.

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Q & A: Using Other Punctuation with Quotation Marks . . .

Question: How do I know whether commas, semicolons, and end punctuation should go inside or outside closing quotation marks?

Answer: With direct quotations, such marks always go inside the closing quotation marks.

The placement of question marks with titles depends on whether the question mark is part of the title, or the title is part of a question.

"Who Has Seen the Wind?" is one of my favorite poems.
Have you memorized "The Raven"?

When a question or exclamation is included at the end of a question, the stronger thought is punctuated. Determining the stronger thought is often a matter of interpretation; the main point is that punctuation is not used both before and after the quotation marks.

Wrong: Did you hear the fans yelling, "Go! Go!"?
Right: Did you hear the fans yelling, "Go! Go!"
Right: Can you sing "What Child Is This"?

In other situations, periods and commas are tucked inside closing quotation marks. Semicolons and colons go outside.

"The Bells," "The Raven," and "Annabel Lee" are poems by Poe.
Our national anthem is "The Star-Spangled Banner"; it has never been "America."

Violations of this rule seem to be rampant in our society--even in places that one would expect to be paragons of correctness. Perhaps that is because some language experts in America favor the British style, which applies the same principles to positioning periods and commas that we apply to positioning question marks and exclamation points.

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

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Book Review . . .


Regardless of your age, you have a treat in store if you have not read THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH by Norton Juster. Not only does Juster delight the reader with word play throughout the novel, he tells a wonderful story: Milo, a bored little boy, has a fantastic adventure after passing through a tollbooth that mysteriously appears in his room. Milo learns many valuable lessons as he attempts to rescue the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason, who have been banished from the land.

Reading THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH aloud enhances students' appreciation of the novel's word play. It also makes the novel more accessible to students for whom decoding poses problems. Frequent pauses in reading can provide the opportunity for students to infer words' meanings from their context or to predict what will happen later in the story.

THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH also presents a wealth of opportunities to integrate art and music with language study. Exploration of less familiar modalities can challenge students who normally excel at traditional school tasks and can enable "right-brained" students to exhibit their strengths. This departure from the routine is healthy for everyone.

Recommended for anyone 9 years or older.
Published by Random House, 1961.
Available from The Phantom Tollbooth

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Learning Activities . . .

Following are some activities that can be related to study of THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH. They can also be used independently of the novel.

1. (Chapter 3) In Dictionopolis words grow on trees, and THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH uses a number of words likely to be unfamiliar to students. On colored 3 x 5 cards write words that you would like students to learn--one per card. Then hang the cards on a "tree" (an artificial ficus tree works nicely). Have each student "pick" a word he or she would like to learn and make a poster or commercial advertising it. Each ad should show the word's definition and proclaim its usefulness. Displaying posters will prolong students' exposure to the new words.

2. (Chapter 4) Also in Dictionopolis words are sold in the marketplace. You could simulate this activity by having students "sell" the words they have mastered. You might group words in the marketplace according to part of speech. A word that can be more than one part of speech or that has more than one distinct meaning should have its attributes vigorously touted. You might require students to demonstrate proficiency with a word before passing it on.

3. (Chapter 4) The Spelling Bee, who spells many of the words he uses, is introduced in this chapter. Consider setting aside part of your classroom or study area for a display in which an image of the Spelling Bee hovers over frequently misspelled words. Arranging the words alphabetically on strips of colored paper about three inches high makes a display that is both attractive and functional. Students will have quick access to the correct spellings of these troublesome words.

4. (Chapter 7) Repartee at the Royal Banquet is replete with idioms, providing an opportunity to discuss figures of speech. Having students illustrate the literal meaning of an idiom, such as "making a mountain out of a molehill," produces an attractive drawing and reinforces the idea that the literal meaning is a good starting point for determining the figurative meaning. To illustrate as many idioms as possible (and avoid duplication), you might want to have students get an OK from you before they make their drawings. You might also require that they make two drawings for the same idiom -- one of the literal meaning, the other of the figurative meaning. Requiring the use of color and notifying students that their drawings will be exhibited results in an attractive, instructive display.

5. (Chapter 10) When Chroma conducts the sunset (or sunrise), the musical instruments play color. This provides an opportunity for students to "translate" sound into a visual image, not drawing a picture of a scene but depicting the sounds abstractly -- considering, for example, whether sounds would be best represented by long or short lines; straight or curved lines; red, yellow, blue, etc. Classical music for which students have no preconceived ideas of story works best for this activity.

If some drawings have a particularly linear appearance, it can be effective to translate them back to sound -- not to attempt to recreate the original sounds that inspired the drawing but to once again present one medium in terms of another. Each student should select an instrument which he or she thinks would create the sound represented by a part of the drawing. These can be chosen from simple percussion or wind instruments. If such instruments are not available, students can create instruments from anything that can be made to produce a sound: a taut rubber band, a sheaf of paper, etc. With the drawing held or fastened where everyone can see it, the leader "conducts" the "orchestra" by slowly moving a hand or baton across the drawing from left to right. Students play when their part is indicated just as musicians in an orchestra synchronize their playing. Students who do not have instruments can serve as critics, noticing which parts seem to represent the drawing especially well and which could be improved. A tape recorder might also be used for this purpose.

6. (Chapters 11 and 12) The idea of sounds being presented in visual form is presented again when Milo and his friends meet Kakofonous A. Dischord (Doctor of Dissonance) and the Soundkeeper. Dr. Dischord poses questions such as "Have you ever heard a blindfolded octopus unwrap a cellophane-covered bathtub?" The Soundkeeper asks, "What does a handclap look like?" If a handclap is represented as a sheet of clean white paper fluttering to the floor, how would you depict applause? Having students draw the descriptions presented in the book -- or better yet, come up with their own -- will help them to think of ordinary things in fresh, extraordinary ways.

7. If all of this translation from one medium to another and back again seems a bit bizarre, here is a related but more practical writing assignment virtually guaranteed to produce poignant poems. A student selects an emotion or abstract idea and describes it in concrete terms according to this formula:

[Emotion] is [color].
It sounds like . . . .
It smells like . . . .
It tastes like . . . .
[Emotion] feels like . . . .

Ideas are presented in the order in which characteristics are likely to be noticed as proximity to an object increases. Using the noun rather than the pronoun in the first and last lines establishes a good precedent for all introductions and conclusions. If there is some relationship between the images chosen (for example, if all can be related to fire), the poem will be stronger than if they are disparate.

Resentment is gray.
It sounds like a tornado that has already passed.
It smells like a smoldering fire.
It tastes like dust.
Resentment feels like an emptiness inside me.

8. If your students read THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH, be sure to have them list a few lessons they learned from the book. You'll be amazed at the variety of responses!

Puzzler . . .

August puzzle: Did you figure out how you can pile up a lot of consonants in order to have a nine-letter word with only one vowel? One more hint (telling an answer is so against my nature): The word is included in this newsletter.

September Cryptoquote: Each letter in the following quotation stands for some other letter. Each A represents the same letter, each B represents the same letter, etc. However, there is no relationship between the letter represented by one letter and the letter represented by another letter. (For example, if A represents S, there is no reason to think that B will represent T.) To solve this type of puzzle, look for patterns -- within words and within the sentence. Warning: Cryptograms can be addictive!


Answer next month.

Answer to August puzzle: strengths

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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:

© 2000 Fran Santoro Hamilton


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