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LinguaPhile, April 2002

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


April Literary Calendar

Any of these events might spawn further study.

Poetry Month

1, 1805 birthday of Hans Christian Andersen, Danish writer of fairy tales (d. 1875)
9, 1833 first free public library established in the United States, Peterborough, NH
14, 1828 first major dictionary by Noah Webster published
18, 1924 first crossword puzzle book published in America
22 Earth Day, first celebrated in 1970
23, 1564 birthday of William Shakespeare (died on this date in 1616)
24, 1704 The Boston News-Letter, first newspaper to be printed in the U.S. on a regular basis, began publication
1790 Library of Congress established

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Quote of the Month: Words

The price of learning to use words is the development of an acute self-consciousness. Nor is it enough to pay attention to words only when you face the task of writing -- that is like playing the violin only on the night of the concert. You must attend to words when you read, when you speak, when others speak. Words must become ever present in your waking life, an incessant concern, like color and design if the graphic arts matter to you, or pitch and rhythm if it is music, or speed and form if it is athletics.
--Jacques Barzun, U.S. writer, educator, historian (b. 1907)

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Expand Your Vocabulary: terpsichorean

Can you deduce the meaning of terpsichorean (terp si KOR ee un) from these context clues?

The Nutcracker showcases a broad range of terpsichorean skills.
Like a nimble terpsichorean, the politician dodged each question the interviewer posed.

Terpsichorean can be either an adjective or a noun. However, some sources label the noun meaning "informal." The word comes from the name terpsichore (terp SIK u ree), in classical mythology the Muse of dance and choral music. As an adjective terpsichorean means "pertaining to dance"; as a noun it means "dancer, especially one who dances professionally."

Reviewers of Hands-On English have said that the vocabulary section alone is worth the book's modest purchase price. Learn more -- and place your order -- at

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Q and A: Subject/Verb Agreement with Company Names

Question: When you're referring to a company name, should the sentence not read, for example, "Don Williams Productions have been voted our #1 vendor" instead of "Don Williams Productions has been voted our #1 vendor"? If it were one person, I would, of course, say, "Don Williams has been voted . . ." but I'm not sure how to handle the company name.

Answer: Thank you for a good question!

When the subject of a sentence is a company that has a plural as its name, the company name is treated as a singular noun: "Don Williams Productions has . . . ." It is, after all, just one entity.

You would have the same situation in the following instances:
The Twenty-One Balloons is a very imaginative book. (one title) One hundred dollars is too much to spend for a meal. (one amount, not separate dollars)

Hands-On English will put a wealth of information at your fingertips so that you can quickly find what you need to know about grammar, usage, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and more. Get details -- and place your order -- at

We invite your questions for this feature:

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Upcoming Exhibits

Conferences are a great place to
• get a firsthand look at Hands-On English products
• introduce your colleagues to Hands-On English products
• give feedback on products you're using (including suggestions!)
• get your questions answered
• avoid shipping costs on Hands-On English purchases

If you will be attending one of these conferences, be sure to stop by the Portico Books booth to say hello to Fran. Take your friends along!

• April 5-6: Indiana Association of Home Educators Convention, Indianapolis Convention Center (Booth 664)

• April 26-27: Southwest Home Education Ministry, High Street Baptist Church, Springfield, MO
Fran will present a workshop about Hands-On English products.

Plan to attend -- and bring (or send) your friends!

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Did You Receive Your Bonus April Fool's Day "Acu-Write"?

If you subscribe to "Acu-Write," did you receive your bonus issue on Monday (or did you delete it, thinking it was a duplicate of the issue you had already received)? The bonus issue was a humorous list of rules for writing. If you overlooked it, you might want to retrieve it.

If you are not already subscribed to "Acu-Write," a weekly tip sheet that addresses common errors in English, you can join by clicking on the link below and sending an e-mail message:

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Looking Ahead to the 2002-2003 School Year

The current school year is rapidly drawing to a close. As you select English books for your students for next year, be sure to consider Hands-On English. While this is a valuable resource for teachers, it is even more effective when it is directly in the hands of the students. Having the information at their fingertips helps students develop independence and confidence with English.

A copy of Hands-On English for each student makes the teacher's job easier as well. When students can quickly find and understand the information they need, teachers can more easily meet the diverse needs of students in their classes.

Substantial discounts are available on quantity purchases. Orders can be placed by phone, fax, snail mail or Internet.

If you have questions, or call (toll free) 1-888-641-5353. This number will also accept fax orders.

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Review: World of Language Series by Ruth Heller

If you are not familiar with Ruth Heller's World of Language series, I think you are in for a treat! These eight books, written and illustrated by Heller between 1987 and 1998, present grammar concepts in ways that delight both the eye and the ear. The eye is treated to luxurious illustrations -- bold in color and intriguing in composition. One of my favorites is in Merry- Go-Round: A Book About Nouns. In presenting the concept of plurals, Heller lists an assortment of things -- "daffodils and eyes and ears, beetles, bows and roses, ships and sails and cabbages, chrysanthemums and noses." All of the items except the body parts are integrated in massive headdresses. The preceding excerpt also provides a sample of the treats for the ear: Most of the concepts are presented in meter and rhyme.

While these books probably would not constitute a complete grammar course, they do provide an attention-getting introduction or reinforcement. Words illustrating the target concepts are presented in large bold type, often in color.

To simply define and illustrate each part of speech would be an admirable accomplishment. However, Heller does not stop there. She presents additional information about each part of speech, sometimes even rules of usage. For example, in Merry-Go-Round she discusses not only singular and plural nouns, and common and proper nouns, but also abstract and concrete nouns, compound nouns, collective nouns, and possessive nouns. She even (in rhyme) explains determiners and presents some rules for forming plurals.

In Mine, All Mine Heller discusses not only personal pronouns but also demonstrative, indefinite, reflexive, interrogative, and relative pronouns. In addition, she presents some rules for selecting the correct (subjective or objective) pronoun. In Kites Sail High Heller addresses not only action verbs, linking verbs, helping verbs, and tense, but also irregular verbs, mood, and voice. In Many Luscious Lollipops Heller explores predicate adjectives, proper adjectives, demonstrative adjectives, possessive adjectives, articles, adjective suffixes, and comparative and superlative forms (even those that are irregular). In Behind the Mask Heller grapples with some fine points of preposition usage, such as being angry with a person but at a thing.

Heller's books contain much to delight readers of all ages (have you ever thought of a "lock of hair" as a collective noun?). You are likely to find that as you enjoy the art and the poetry, you are also learning about our language.

Recommended especially (but not exclusively) for ages 8-12.

Available from

Heller: Merry-Go-Round: A Book About Nouns

-- A Cache of Jewels and Other Collective Nouns

-- Mine, All Mine: A Book About Pronouns

-- Kites Sail High: A Book About Verbs

-- Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives

-- Up, Up and Away: A Book About Adverbs

-- Behind the Mask: A Book about Prepositions

-- Fantastic! Wow! and Unreal!: A Book About Interjections and Conjunctions

Hands-On English also makes grammar visual. Each part of speech is represented by an icon that is directly related to its function. After all icons are introduced individually, they are combined to graphically depict sentence patterns and types. This concrete method of presenting grammar makes sense to many people who have previously found grammar baffling. Get more details -- and place your order -- at

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Puzzler: Special Anagram Challenge

Although this riddle went unsolved in the Athan family for three generations, it has since been solved by a number of people. Will you be among them?

Fill the five blanks in this poem with four-letter words that use the same four letters in a different order.

A ____ old lady, on ____ bent,
Put on her ____, and away she went.
"____, my son," she was heard to say,
"What shall we do to ____ today?"

Answer next month.

Answer to March cryptoquote:

The business of the poet and novelist is to show the sorriness underlying the grandest things, and the grandeur underlying the sorriest things.
--Thomas Hardy

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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!

© 2002 Fran Santoro Hamilton


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