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LinguaPhile, October 2003

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


Fall Conference Schedule

October and November promise to be busy! If you will be attending any of these conferences, please stop by the Portico Books booth to say hello. If you know others who will be attending, invite them to do the same. If you want an introduction to Hands-On English products before you see them in person, visit

October 23-24: Illinois Branch of the International Dyslexia Association. Drury Lane Theater and Conference Center, Oak Brook. Fran will present "Making Grammar Visual" Thursday at 1:15 p.m.

November 7-8: Learning Disabilities Association of Oklahoma. Holiday Inn Select, Tulsa. Fran will present "Making Grammar Visual" Friday at 10:15 a.m. and Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

November 12-15: Annual Conference of the International Dyslexia Association. Town & Country Resort and Convention Center, San Diego, CA. Booth #437. Fran will present "Making Grammar Visual" Friday at 4:30 p.m.

November 25-26: Southern California Regional Conference of the Association of Christian Schools International. Anaheim Convention Center. Booth #433.

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If You're Trying to Reach Us . . .

As you can see from the conference schedule above, there will be much time away from the office this fall. You are most likely to have your orders filled promptly if you place them prior to October 15.

In addition, Portico Books (and Fran Hamilton) will be moving early in November. Our new address and phone number will be published in the November LinguaPhile. During this transition time, e-mail and our toll-free number should provide the most reliable means of contact: or 1-888-641-5353. We appreciate your patience!

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Workshop in St. Louis: Punctuate with Confidence

On Saturday, November 1, Fran will present a workshop sponsored by the St. Louis Writers Guild. Titled "Punctuate with Confidence," the two-hour interactive workshop will focus on common errors and will help you write clear messages without agonizing over perplexing punctuation issues.

The workshop will be held at 10:00 a.m. at Barnes & Noble, 9618 Watson Road in Crestwood, Missouri. Admission is free for members of the St. Louis Writers Guild; the charge for others is $5.00.

If you are unable to attend the workshop, let Hands-On English help you resolve questions about punctuation, capitalization, usage, sentence structure, and more:

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Quote of the Month: Books

The most technologically efficient machine that man has ever invented is the book.
--Northrop Frye, Canadian author and educator (1912-1991)

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Expand Your Vocabulary: bowdlerize

To bowdlerize [BOHD luh rize or BOWD luh rize] is to alter a text by deleting or changing parts that might be considered objectionable. The word is derived from the name of Dr. Thomas Bowdler and his sister Henrietta Maria Bowdler, publishers of a family edition of Shakespeare's works in the early 1800s. The noun form is bowdlerization.

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: Cardinal or Ordinal Numbers for Dates?

Question: Some people refer to dates by saying something like "The sales meeting will be October 14th and 15th." I would have said, " . . . October 14 and 15." Is this just a matter of taste?

Answer: The date of the month is actually an ordinal number (with the th, in this case). However, the style in the United States is to write it as a cardinal number (without the th) but read it as an ordinal. 7 October is also read as an ordinal number; however, the style of putting the day ahead of the month is less common in the United States.

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 Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn by Diane Ravitch

Anyone who cares about the future of America should read The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn by Diane Ravitch. Ravitch is a historian of education. She first encountered "bias and sensitivity review" panels when she served on the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) beginning in 1998.

Ravitch represents neither the left nor the right. Recognizing that both factions agree that children will be shaped by what they read, she provides an objective -- yet impassioned -- viewpoint. She poses tough questions that society must address if we are to preserve our heritage.

Ravitch focuses her attention on textbooks and standardized reading tests. In looking first at the tests, Ravitch includes summaries of reading selections that failed to meet the criteria of the bias and sensitivity review panel. One such story involved a blind man who hiked to the top of Mount McKinley. This selection was deemed inappropriate, first of all, because it would be biased against students who had not experienced hiking in the mountains (in fact, any story with a specific geographic location is considered to have a regional bias). In addition, the story was seen as demeaning blind people. Celebrating the feat of the blind man implied that blindness is a handicap.

Not only must the subject matter of tests be within students' experience, it must also avoid stereotypes and topics that might distract or upset students (such as illness, death, or divorce). Furthermore, the tests cannot rely on outside knowledge. They have become, then, tests of ability rather than tests of achievement. Ravitch suggests that more attention is given to the inoffensiveness of test items than to their academic soundness.

Ravitch cites three types of fairness that govern educational materials in the United States. Ethnic and gender groups must be equitably represented in authorship as well as in content. In addition, gender/ethnic/age stereotypes must be avoided along with specific words, such as those containing man. On one hand, we can't present things that are outside students' experience; on the other, we can't portray minority groups in typical situations. As Ravitch points out, "mothering" can't be shown at all: It is outside the realm of experience for males; it is stereotypical for females.

Most things written before 1970 fail to meet ethnic and gender guidelines. Classics, therefore, are generally omitted from textbooks that anthologize literature. Sometimes works of literature are bowdlerized, with or without the author's consent. Characters may be changed to provide the requisite gender and ethnic mix without so much as a footnote acknowledging a change from the original.

History textbooks provide a unique challenge. In order to survive, major publishers have had to acquiesce to the content demands of powerful state textbook adoption committees. They have added multicultural heroes and have eliminated controversy. Ravitch asserts that the books have become very difficult to read. Splendid graphics and sidebars distract the reader from the text, which has been reduced to pablum.

In addition to reviewing a number of history textbooks and reporting on state history guidelines, Ravitch includes two thirty-page appendices: a glossary of "banned words, usages, stereotypes, and topics," and a recommended list of classical literature for grades three through ten.

Not only does Ravitch offer a thorough description of censorship of educational materials, she details a three-point solution, beginning with the elimination of massive state adoptions that determine, to a large extent, the books' content.

When we think of censorship, we may think of protests and outcries. What is at work in the world of textbook publishing is more insidious, however. It is a silent censorship, because the compliance of publishers has been voluntary.

Problems created by censorship of educational materials extend well beyond our schools, which have traditionally played a major role in molding the next generation of citizens. We run a serious risk of creating citizens who not only lack basic facts about our country and our world but also lack the critical-thinking skills to evaluate controversial information effectively.

Published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2003, 255 pages.

Available from The Language Police: How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn

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The Language Police: Food for Thought

The Language Police is truly thought-provoking. Here are a few questions for consideration.

  • You may want to monitor what your own children read, but do you have the right to monitor what other children read? By extension this would mean that others will monitor what your children read. This brings us face to face with the ultimate question of censorship: Who gets to be the censor?

  • If everything that could possibly be offensive to anyone is omitted, what reading material will be available for children?

  • To what extent can low reading scores in the United States be attributed to the fact that interesting content has been drained from reading (and other) textbooks?

  • Novels and other stories hinge on a central conflict and usually include lesser conflicts as well. Can we remove or minimize the conflict in a story without seriously diminishing the quality of literature available to students?

  • Literature can provide an opportunity for students to see how characters handle various conflicts. Students can begin to formulate their own ways to handle various situations. Without access to such literature, will students have to learn more lessons through trial and error?

  • Literature can provide an opportunity for students to vicariously experience other places and other times. What will be the consequences of limiting students' reading to stories about people like themselves?

  • Although it may seem noble to present an ideal toward which our society is striving (where everyone is treated decently and no one is plagued with disabilities), our ability to shield our children from the ills of the world is very limited. Even if we "succeed" in sanitizing educational materials, students encounter the "real world" every day -- through television, news media, family, peers. What impression do they get of "school" if it presents a picture of the world that is both unrealistic and boring?

  • If all civilizations past and present (except our own) are presented in a favorable light (so no one will be offended), will students have a realistic picture of our world? Will they be equipped to make decisions that will affect the future of that world? Will they develop a sense of national pride and patriotism?

  • Which indicates a greater appreciation of diversity -- two people with different backgrounds ignoring their differences and pretending they are just alike, or two people celebrating their differences as well as their underlying similarities?

It would be great to have a dialogue on some of these issues on a message board. I'm sorry that that is not possible right now. However, if you e-mail your ideas and indicate that you are willing to share them with other subscribers, I will include as many of them as possible in a future issue of LinguaPhile.

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I Love To Write Day November 15

Begin planning now for the second annual I Love To Write Day November 15. Ruth Ann Minner, governor of Delaware, has officially proclaimed the day in her state, "urging all Delawareans to set time aside . . . to write something and share the joys of the written word."

Last year 11,328 schools across the country celebrated I Love To Write Day with special activities and events. Bookstores, libraries and community centers also joined in the fun. An even bigger celebration is expected this year.

I Love To Write Day is the brainchild of author John Riddle. He encourages people of all ages -- from kindergartners to senior citizens -- to write something: a poem, a short story, an essay, a letter, a family story. "I Love To Write Day is an opportunity for people of all ages to become better writers," says Riddle. "When people become better writers, they become better communicators, and everyone wins."

Riddle's website includes suggestions for celebrating I Love To Write Day. Participation is free. To be included in the official count, people should register at the website. In addition, several publishers are donating books to schools that come up with the most creative ways of celebrating the occasion.

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Puzzler: Word Riddle

English has many words that derive a feminine form from the masculine form, such as actress from actor and majorette from major. Can you think of a word that derives its masculine form from the feminine? (Richard Lederer says there is only one such pair in common use.)

Answer next month.

Answers to September Puzzler:

 I. Matching Narrators' Voices with Authors and Works
    1. F. Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    2. B. Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine
    3. C. Esmé Raji Codell, Sahara Special
    4. E. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
    5. D. Esther Hautzig, The Endless Steppe
    6. A. Avi, Nothing But the Truth

II. I hope you tried some of the activities to develop your facility with voice. If you want to see them again, visit
Issue 38 of LinguaPhile

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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. Those receiving this forwarded message can subscribe at . People who have e-mail but do not have Internet access can subscribe by clicking on this link and requesting to subscribe: .

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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