Saturday, May 16, 2009

words-ing this Saturday morning.

Chortle is a fabulous word.

Lewis Carroll created it when he combined the words chuckle and snort. He is a genious. He called his creation a portmonteau, which is a French word for a briefcase with two compartments.

I began reading the introduction of a book I had bought last summer: The Right Word, by Jan Venolia. It's been sitting on my bookshelves here in Prague, and I finally dived into it. I recommend it. I think Carol would like it, and I think Courtney would too. I think it would make an excellent addition to any classroom library. The meat of the book is a dictionary of oft-confused words, misused words, and incorrect words. I'm thinking of creating a spelling curriculum out of it for my 7th and 8th graders. From this book, we can explore:
  • origins of words
  • evolution of meanings
  • homophones
  • mixed up words
  • meanings of words
  • words for informal writing v. words for formal, academic writing
  • word play
I think it could be a lot of fun. I was toying with the idea of getting Rebecca Sitton for our school, but I think I won't. She has a lot of great theory, but it's a bit too cutesy for middle schoolers, and it does not tailor itself well enough to students with varying spelling abilities, which of course we have in our international classrooms with many ELL students.

In browsing through through the dictionary, I found her entry on paradigm, which only yesterday I was explaining to my eighth graders. She defines it as "an exhaustive model, example, or pattern." Then she goes on to quote Peter Bowler:
"Never use this word yourself, but be prepared, when it is used by another, to lean forward intently, narrow your eyes and say, 'Just a moment--do you really mean paradigm in that context?' When somewhat bemused, he avers that he does, you merely raise your eyebrows and remain silent. With any luck at all, he will now have forgotten what he was going to say. Apply the same technique when confronted with parameter, infrastructure, structure, and matrix."

This is the sort of advice I believe must be in the training for college professors.


Courtney said...

I too think I would enjoy that book. Maybe I shall peruse it over the summer. :)

Carol said...

One of the conferences that is staying at Wheaton this week is called "Entrenuity" I'm pretty excited that I can throw around the word "portmanteau" this week.

And I think it's been far too long since you last posted.