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LinguaPhile, February 2003

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


Valentine's Day Resources

Do love and grammar seem like an unlikely combination? Not for poet/teacher/editor/author/musician/sportsfan Janet M. Goldstein. Celebrate Valentine's Day by seeing how Janet perfectly fused these two disparate entities in "Life Sentence" (even the title provides a clue).

And never underestimate the value of securing the permissions you need. Tracking Janet down so that I could use her poem in the February 2001 LinguaPhile was the beginning of a great (mostly online) friendship. What a delight to meet someone whose poem I have treasured for thirty years!

* * *

Valentine's Day is a great time to implement suggestions made in the November 2001 LinguaPhile, which centered around family stories. From Me to You: The reluctant writer's guide to powerful personal messages provides concrete suggestions for expressing your appreciation of those you love. Other articles include additional ideas for creating family keepsakes.

And if you want your keepsake to take the form of a personal, handbound book, here's a source for a kit containing everything you'll need:

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Upcoming Conference: Write to Learn: Lake of the Ozarks, MO

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 the Write to Learn Conference at Tan-Tar-A (Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri) February 7, please stop by the Portico Books table (#21). Encourage your friends and colleagues to do the same.

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Quote of the Month: Language

A living language is an expanding language, to be sure, but care should be taken itself that the language does not crack like a dry stick in the process, leaving us all miserably muddled in a monstrous miasma of mindless and meaningless mumbling.
--James Thurber, U.S. writer and illustrator (1894-1961)

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Sharpen Your Vocabulary: hypercorrection

You are likely to recognize hyper meaning "over," as in hyperactive and hyperbole ([hi PER bo lee], a rhetorical device that employs exaggeration).

Hypercorrection is a common phenomenon in our society. In an attempt to avoid usage errors, people actually make more of them by "correcting" what is already right. One of the most common kinds of hypercorrection involves the use of subject and object pronouns. Many people have the idea that subject pronouns are superior to object pronouns, so they say something like "The message was for he and I." In fact, neither subject nor object pronouns are superior to the others; each kind is required in specific situations. If the pronoun is used as the subject of a sentence or follows a linking verb and renames the subject, a subject pronoun is indeed required. However, if the pronoun is functioning as a direct object, an indirect object, or the object of a preposition (as in the example above), an object pronoun is needed. (The example should be corrected to "The message was for him and me.")

The best way to avoid hypercorrection is to have a thorough understanding of the rules of English. Hands-On English makes those rules easier to understand than do most other English handbooks.

In addition, Hands-On English includes nearly 200 morphemes, along with their meanings and examples. Knowing the meanings of morphemes can help you unlock hundreds of words the first time you encounter them. 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: anymore / any more

Question: I always thought that anymore should be used with a negative, as in "We don't go there anymore." However, more and more I hear people using it like this: "That place is empty anymore." Which way should I teach my kids? Does it matter?

Answer: Thank you for a great question! Although there are several points of disagreement on anymore, experts seem to concur regarding the answer to your question: Anymore should be used only with a negative or in a question:
We don't go there anymore.
Do you see him anymore?

The idea without the negative probably could be best expressed by the word nowadays:
Nowadays that store is empty.

In answer to your last question: Yes, it does matter. This is an opportunity to protect correct usage from corruption. In other issues related to anymore: There is disagreement regarding spelling. Although some sources say that it should always be two words (any more), I would side with those who advocate different spellings for different meanings. In the examples discussed above, anymore is an adverb of time. Any more can also be a phrase, consisting of either an adverb and an adjective or an adjective and a noun. In such cases I would break it into two words:
We do not have any more money. [adverb plus adjective]
No, thank you, I don't want any more. [adjective plus noun]

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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Review: The Miracle of Language by Richard Lederer

Although Richard Lederer may be best known for his delightful word play, he is also an eminent authority on English. In The Miracle of Language he writes somewhat more seriously about this language that he loves, inspiring in us a deeper appreciation of our system of communication that we often take for granted.

The chapter titled "In Praise of English" makes us grateful that ours is a language that puts so many words at our disposal -- remarkable for their sheer number as well as for their variety. Because English has so freely adopted words from other languages, we often have many choices about how we will express an idea -- whether we will use short words derived from Anglo-Saxon, for example, or more luxurious words derived from French.

Although Lederer's subject matter is serious, his style never becomes ponderous. His short chapters and lively prose keep the reader engaged. And occasionally he cannot resist playing, as in the chapter titled "The Case for Short Words," where for four paragraphs he restricts himself to one-syllable words.

Of special interest are the chapters about literary giants -- William Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot, and George Orwell -- and the contributions they have made not only to our literature but also to our language. For example, Shakespeare is credited with the first use of over 1,700 words, nearly eight percent of the different words that he used in his writing. In addition, his plays include many phrases that have become titles of novels and many others that have been repeated so often that they have become clichés.

Lederer also includes many inspiring quotations about English and entries from the ground-breaking dictionaries of Samuel Johnson and Ambrose Bierce. (Can you imagine undertaking the formidable task of writing the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language?)

Lederer champions letter writing, poetry writing, libraries, reading, the effective use of English. Particularly poignant is the example of mistranslation of one word that led to the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Lederer fondly portrays English as a thriving, evolving entity. By instilling appreciation for the legacy we have received, he inspires us to safeguard its future.

Published by Pocket Books, 1991; 254 pages.

Available from The Miracle of Language

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Irregularities of English Spelling and Pronunciation

While English has been enriched by its adoption of words from many languages, that same magnanimity is largely responsible for the irregularities of spelling and pronunciation that can be so frustrating, especially to the nearly one billion people who have acquired English as an additional language. The following poem, from an unknown author, provides examples.


        I take it you already know
        Of tough and bough and cough and dough.
        Others may stumble, but not you,
        On hiccough, thorough, slough, and through.
        Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
        To learn of less familiar traps?

        Beware of heard, a dreadful word
        That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
        And dead: It's said like bed, not bead --
        For goodness' sake, don't call it deed!
        Watch out for meat and great and threat
        (They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
        A moth is not a moth in mother,
        Nor both in bother, broth in brother.

        And here is not a match for there,
        And dear and fear for bear and pear.
        And then there's dose and rose and lose --
        Just look them up -- and goose and choose,
        And cork and work, and card and ward,
        And font and front, and word and sword,
        And do and go, and thwart and cart --
        Come, come, I've hardly made a start!

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Word Origins

Can you match each of these English words with its language of origin?

1. aardvark

a. Afrikaans
2. alphabet b. Cantonese
3. camel c. Egyptian
4. canyon d. French (from Latin)
5. kindergartene. German
6. oasis f. Greek
7. permissiong. Hawaiian
8. shampoo h. Hebrew
9. ski i. Hindi
10. souvenir j. Latin
11. typhoon k. Norwegian
12. ukulele l. Spanish (from Latin)

Answers next month.

Answer to January Puzzler:

How can you remove the air from a glass that is half full of water (without losing the water that is there or breaking the glass)?

Simply fill the glass with water. Think of all of the situations in life to which this principle applies: Increase your ability by developing your strengths rather than by eliminating your weaknesses.

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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!

© 2003 Fran Santoro Hamilton


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