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LinguaPhile, November 2008

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

We welcome new subscribers from the Greater St. Louis Area Home Educators conference and from the Missouri Romance Writers of America.


National Young Readers Week Begins Today

Take any and all opportunities to celebrate reading and young readers. Whether or not you participate in Pizza Hut's Book It program, you might use some of their suggestions for encouraging and extending reading:

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It's Time to Begin Planning Grannie Annie Interviews!

Enrich your holidays by learning more about your family's history.

Now entering its fourth year, The Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration invites students in U.S. grades 4-8 and homeschool and international students aged 9-14 to interview their family storykeepers and write a 275- to 500-word story about something they learn from their family's history. The Grannie Annie encourages students to share their stories with their extended family and their community -- and to submit the stories for possible publication in Grannie Annie, Vol. 4. At least ten stories in each of two age categories will be published in the 2009 anthology and on

You'll find all of the details about The Grannie Annie -- including guidelines and the required entry form -- at The website also includes tips to help students with their interview, with their first draft, and with revision. In addition, a month-by-month calendar will help to keep everyone on track for the February 14 submission deadline. You'll want to be sure to read the stories published in previous volumes of Grannie Annie. Not only do the stories bring history to life, they also inspire more stories and provide excellent models for future submissions.

Submitting students' work to The Grannie Annie -- and possibly having students become published authors -- has never been easier!

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A Helpful Website for Educators

The Teaching & Learning Center: Creative Resources for Quality Education ( provides a wealth of information for teachers, students, and families. The site includes "Today in History" for all subject areas, and several alphabetical indexes. The following page provides an introduction to the content of the site:

While some information is available to the general public, much is accessible only to subscribers. However, K-12 TLC offers a free one-day pass so that anyone can explore the site before deciding whether to subscribe. The modest subscription fee is $2 a month for teachers or families, or up to $12 a month for an entire school, including staff, students, and families.

In addition, K-12 TLC sends out free daily e-mail newsletters including a quotation, a word of the day, "Today in History," tips for teachers, quizzes on news stories, and more. Although some of this material is available only to subscribers, this site has a lot to offer, much of it free to anyone.

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An Assembly Program About Punctuation

Jeff Rubin, founder of National Punctuation Day®, has created an assembly program -- Punctuation Playtime® -- to help elementary school students appreciate punctuation and learn how to punctuate correctly. Find out more about the program, see video clips, and read educators' comments at

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Oratory vs. the Press

Both oratory and the press were mentioned a lot in the recent U.S.Presidential election. Although that context did not place the two in opposition to each other, the following piece, which compares the roles of these two media, might prove interesting.

This is the closing paragraph of a speech titled "Oratory," which recounts the history of oratory from prehistoric days. The speech was delivered by E. I. (Dan) Mason (Fran's grandfather) on the occasion of his graduation from Brooklyn High School in Brooklyn, Iowa, in 1897. When Dan served in the Iowa State Senate, from 1935 to 1938, he was known as one of the Senate's most colorful orators.

The observations of a high school senior, 1897:
It has been suggested that the press will finally obviate the necessity for oratory. The press is a mighty force in forming public opinion by reason of its being constantly before the public, always present with its reasons assailing the masses day after day with its propositions, but it never reaches a climax, is never able to precipitate a cause, and is absolutely unable to accomplish anything beyond the expressed wishes of the people. The press in a sense is a follower, the orator a leader. And in the future as in the past whenever great questions arise, the settlement of which means the onward march of the procession of eternal progress, the great orator will be found leading the van.

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Help with Your Holiday Shopping

Consider doing some of your holiday shopping at Not only can you order Hands-On English and its companion products, you can also read about dozens of Fran's favorite books and -- for most of them -- link immediately with her review of the book and with the page on where you can make your purchase:

Hands-On English would be a welcome resource for teachers, students (4th grade or older), families, or anyone who wants to improve skill with English. Learn more and place your order at or call 1-888-641-5353.

The Grannie Annie anthologies also make wonderful gifts -- for relatives, students, teachers, librarians, volunteers, anyone! You can order at or by calling 1-888-641-5353. A comprehensive index (posted on the website) will help you find stories about the topics, time periods, or countries that most interest you. (If you have a business with a waiting room, consider getting a copy of Grannie Annie to share with your clientele.)

If you have questions, or call Fran at 1-888-641-5353. (Use this same number for phone and fax orders.)

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Quote of the Month: Orderliness

If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then is an empty desk?

--Albert Einstein, German/U.S. physicist (1879-1955)

Quoted in A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder, reviewed below.

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Expand Your Vocabulary: pleonasm

A pleonasm is a redundant expression, such as "PIN number" (redundant because PIN stands for Personal Identification Number), "ATM machine" (Automated-Teller Machine machine), "exact same thing," "a.m. in the morning," "refer back," etc.

The Second Edition of Hands-On English, published in 2004, includes a new section on conciseness -- as well as new sections on paragraph development, decoding, and finding the main idea. Learn more -- and place your order -- at

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Q and A:  Why Study Grammar?

Question: How do you respond to students who challenge the need to study grammar? My daughter is an excellent reader and even a strong writer, but she sees no need to study parts of speech or sentence structure. I know that my daughter won't need to diagram sentences as an adult. If she can read and write well without a knowledge of grammar, could she be right that the study of grammar is unnecessary?

Answer: Before I give my own ideas, let me share this quotation from B. J. Chute, U.S. writer and educator who died in 1987. Her figurative language is much more effective than my uninspired prose: "Grammar is to a writer what anatomy is to a sculptor, or the scales to a musician. You may loathe it, it may bore you, but nothing will replace it, and once mastered it will support you like a rock." (This quotation is taken from I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like, reviewed below.)

Here are my main reasons for believing the study of grammar to be worthwhile:

(1) As Chute suggests above, a solid knowledge of grammar can help people write and edit with confidence. If they are not sure of the rules governing subject-verb agreement, pronoun choice, etc., they are likely to spend much time agonizing over a word choice that a person knowledgeable about grammar could make in a second or two. You may say, "But that's usage, not grammar" -- and you'd be right. However, an understanding of grammar is the foundation of correct usage. For example, before you know whether you need to use a subject pronoun or an object pronoun, you need to know how the pronoun is functioning in the sentence. That's grammar.

(2) Command of grammar gives people a vocabulary with which to discuss their writing. When feedback is given on the effectiveness of a composition, words such as fragment, run-on, dependent clause, or subordinating conjunction may well be useful. If the person providing feedback does not know these concepts, those ideas will not be shared; if the person receiving feedback does not know these concepts, the suggestion will not be understood. In either case, the feedback will not be optimal and the finished piece will fall short of its potential.

(3) Occasionally you will come upon a sentence that will confound you by its complexity -- or you will have an idea that you can't quite communicate. Resorting to the proven technique of identifying subject, predicate, objects, and other elements can help you understand the sentence or express your idea effectively.

Because Hands-On English makes grammar visual by using functional symbols to represent parts of speech, it makes grammar easier to understand -- even for those people who have previously found it baffling. And the Hands-On Sentences card game, which provides practice with parts of speech and sentence structure, helps people internalize grammar concepts so that they don't have to relearn them each year. Hands-On Icons goes a step further, making grammar kinesthetic as well as visual -- getting people up and moving, building human sentences.

card game:
Hands-On Icons:

We invite your questions for this feature:

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Update on Scholastic's Dear America Series

The December 2002 issue of LinguaPhile included information about Scholastic's Dear America series, which presents fictional eye-witness accounts of historical events through the diaries of young people. There are actually four series: Dear America presents the diaries of girls; My Name Is America presents the diaries of boys; My America includes some girls' and some boys' diaries; The Royal Diaries includes diaries of members of royal families.

All of the books in these series are listed at . In addition to the book titles, the website includes a wide array of extension activities: arts and crafts activities, discussion questions, video clips, and a writers' workshop, where young people can share their answers to questions about the books or can contribute to an online story.

All of these activities are bound to engage readers more deeply in the books and to heighten their interest in both history and reading!

Fran's initial review of the Dear America series:

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Review: I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like: A Comprehensive Compilation of History's Greatest Analogies, Metaphors, and Similes by Dr. Mardy Grothe

Dr. Mardy Grothe has written yet another book that will delight linguaphiles. In fact in his introduction Grothe says, "This book is aimed at readers who have a deep interest in seeing language used in creative ways." This latest volume, I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like: A Comprehensive Compilation of History's Greatest Analogies, Metaphors, and Similes, includes nearly 2,000 quotations.

Since Grothe became a voracious reader more than four decades ago, he has collected hundreds of thousands of quotations, some of which appeared in his earlier works: Viva la Repartee, Oxymoronica, and Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You.

I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like follows the same format as Grothe's previous books. The introduction acquaints readers with the figures of speech included in the book. Grothe clearly explains the similarities and differences between analogies, similes, and metaphors, and he recounts their earliest known appearance in history. His explanation is perfectly seasoned with illustrative quotations.

The body of the book is divided into fifteen chapters, each of which includes analogies, similes, and metaphors on a particular theme, such as definitions, relationships, stages of life, stage and screen, politics, sports, and -- of course -- the literary life. Again in the format of his earlier books, quotations in the first part of each chapter are enhanced by discussion and historical anecdotes. It is interesting to see nearly identical quotations from widely separated contemporaries or to see various ways that a similar idea is expressed -- the idea, for example, that love is mental illness. Equally fascinating is to see the wide range of things to which one other thing can be compared. Love, for example, is compared to a cigar, a snowmobile, measles, a game of poker, and dozens of other things. The latter part of each chapter presents additional quotations, most without explanation. The book concludes with an author index.

Grothe advises readers to read the book slowly, as one would amble through an art museum, "taking the time to savor the observations and to admire the skill that was required to create them." Once we have tasted these morsels, it's nearly impossible to resist the desire to share them. Here are a few of my favorites:

Laughter is the shortest distance between two people. --Victor Borge

Modern English is the Wal-Mart of languages: convenient, huge, hard to avoid, superficially friendly, and devouring all rivals in its eagerness to expand. --Mark Abley

Autumn is a second spring, when every leaf is a flower. --Albert Camus

Grothe's explanations and quotations would serve to instruct and inspire writers; however, parents and teachers might want to monitor young people's use of the book since -- especially in the "sex" chapter -- some body parts and functions are named and described.

I am so glad that Dr. Grothe has found such an effective way to share his collection of quotations with the world! 

Published by Collins, 2008, 330 pages.

Available from I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like: A Comprehensive Compilation of History's Greatest Analogies, Metaphors, and Similes

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Review: A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder by Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman

A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder provides vindication for those of us who never seem to attain the level of orderliness we feel our lives "should" contain.

Authors Eric Abrahamson (professor of management at Columbia Business School) and David H. Freedman (a contributing editor and the technology columnist at Inc. magazine) label a system "messy" "if its elements are scattered, mixed up, or varied due to some measure of randomness, or if for all practical purposes it appears random from someone's point of view." Thus, what may be orderly to one person may appear messy to another -- if, for example, the system of order cannot be discerned. While "messiness" may be due to an absence of order, it is more often due to a system of order that isn't working properly.

"Messy" can describe not only living quarters and workspaces, but also lawns, schedules, traffic patterns, company policies and procedures, leadership styles, thought processes, and a host of other things. The authors contrast "messiness" and "neatness" in these various contexts, and they describe individuals, businesses, and organizations that have achieved phenomenal success despite -- or, more accurately, because of -- their unconventional organizational structures.

While Abrahamson and Freedman concede that messiness is not always superior to neatness, they point out the benefits of messiness because of our society's general bias toward neatness. They demonstrate how moderate disorganization often leads to greater flexibility, efficiency, and effectiveness than do more highly organized systems. In addition, the unusual juxtapositions that may occur in a messy environment can spark creativity or suggest solutions to problems.

A Perfect Mess may inspire us to reconsider the optimal level of neatness or messiness in various areas of our lives. Doing so may free up hours of our time, unleash our creativity, and allay our guilt.

Available from A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder

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Puzzler: Cryptoquote

The following quotation, from I Never Metaphor I Didn't Like, will well reward the time you spend solving the puzzle. Each letter in the 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! If you want more cryptograms, check the LinguaPhile index:






                                        -- OMDSOL   XOMRL

Answer will appear in the next issue.

Answers to May Puzzler

So many months have passed since this puzzle appeared in LinguaPhile that it is repeated below for your convenience. The goal is to match each nickname on the left with its state on the right. Answers appear below the puzzle.

 1. The Beehive State
 2. The Centennial State
 3. The Constitution State
 4. The Equality State
 5. The First State
 6. The Gem State
 7. The Golden State
 8. The Granite State
 9. The Last Frontier
10. The Natural State
11. The Ocean State
12. The Old Line State 
13. The Palmetto State
14. The Peace Garden State
15. The Silver State
16. The Treasure State
New Hampshire
North Dakota
Rhode Island
South Carolina

 1. o                               9. a
 2. d                              10. b
 3. e                              11. m
 4. p                              12. h
 5. f                               13. n
 6. g                              14. l
 7. c                              15. j
 8. k                              16. i

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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 regularly, is now available on the GrammarAndMore website: . This makes the information from previous issues readily accessible. You are encouraged to print the index for your convenience and to share it with friends. Why not send them the URL?

LinguaPhile is a gift you can give, yet still have for yourself!

Copyright 2008 Fran Santoro Hamilton


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