Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Return of the Subjunctive -- a poem

This poem was featured recently on Garrison Keillor's Writers' Almanac:

The Return of the Subjunctive

Oh, the Subjunctive,
May it make its bold return!
May it ride back proud
In liveried coach,
May its two fine horses snort
And paw the ground,
And, escorted by its staunch
Attendants If and Whether,
May it descend in velvet cloak
And black-gloved hand
The lacquered steps of hope
And happenstance.
May it fix upon us its deep
Uncertain gaze!
I shall be there to greet it
Though my company
Be small and moody.
I shall beg it stay
And may its presence give
Some respite from the steely glare
Of Indicative, a mantle to shield us
From Passive's clammy chill.
May it light again the land
Between the world that was
And is, and that which still might be,
And may we tread again desire's
Leaf-dappled path
Of possibility.
"The Return of the Subjunctive" by Tamara Madison, from Wild Domestic. © Pearl Editions, 2011. (buy now)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

It's time to tax big-time moneymaking athlete-exploiting college sports

In a well-wrought story in Chicago Life magazine, Allen R. Sanderson makes an excellent case for imposing a sin tax on the revenues that intercollegiate football and basketball generate for everyone but the players.

"This money," writes Sanderson, "could be set aside to provide funding for the ex-players to return to earn a degree, enter a graduate program, and/or start a small business."

Sanderson puts forth a novel idea for addressing the exploitive system by which everyone in big-time college sports makes big money except the athletes.

The peculiar system presided over by the NCAA was laid out very well by Jesse Fox Mayshark in Exploiting U.: The Issue of Paying College Players Grows Along With Coaches' Rising Salaries, a story later cited as the best sports story in East Tennessee in 2010.

While players are obliged to invest the time appropriate to a full-time job, they are forbidden by NCAA rules even to hold part-time jobs, as other college students do.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Use adverbs instead of incorrect adjectives, even if it makes you sound like a smarty pants!

We are accustomed to athletes use manly sounding adjectives where more prissy-sounding adverbs should be. "I take this serious! Real serious!" whined Arizona Cardinals quarterback Derek Anderson after a wag questioned his commitment. "I put my heart and soul into this every single week!"

In certain parts of the nation, a person using an adverb in a quote like the one above might be seen as a snob or, worse, of harboring any number of seditious beliefs --from evolution and global warming to banning guns in bars.

This is probably why the development coordinator of Ijams Nature Center, an educational enterprise, was quoted in a recent Knoxville News Sentinel story as saying, "Absorbing that [budget] cut meant we were going to have to do things different. We did not elect to lay off staff, so we reshuffled the deck, changed things around."

Our language is slowly losing the distinction between adjectives and adverbs, but for now we should follow the rule:

Harbrace Rule 4a: Use adverbs to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs

NOT Leela played her part perfect.
USE Leela played her part perfectly. [The adverb perfectly modifies the verb played.]

NOT The plane departs at a reasonable early hour.
USE The plane departs at a reasonably early hour. [The adverb reasonably modifies the verb early.]

Most dictionaries still label the following as informal usage: sure for surely, real for really, and good for the adverb well.

INFORMAL The Broncos played real good during the first quarter.
FORMAL The Broncos played very well during the first quarter.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

4 ways to improve quotes in press releases

These tips come from no-nonsense Texan Laura Hale Brockway's excellent blog,, and from Ragan's PR Daily:

Trash those lazy verbs.

A common problem with press release quotes is that they’re full of lazy corporate verbs such as synergize, utilize, leverage, or facilitate.
“We are leveraging cutting-edge technology to meet our customer’s needs.”
What does that even mean? Instead, describe your customer’s needs and how your product solves it: “Suppliers often do not have real-time access to customers. This app enables them to send secure, instant messages to anyone in the supply chain.”

Keep it conversational.

Another problem with press release quotes—particularly those from the CEO or another executive—is that your audience knows these quotes are made up.
When was the last time you actually heard someone say, “This new app will foster a new synergistic environment where suppliers and customers can leverage the new social media environment to communicate”?
Conversational quotes are more believable.

Can you paraphrase?

PR professionals are often given quotes from clients, and that may be all you have to work with.
How can you improve the quotes if you can’t go back to the client and ask for something else?
Can you paraphrase what’s been sent? Can you break up the quote? Do you have to use the quote at the beginning of the press release?
For example, take this quote:
“I plan to continue this legacy of providing innovative products and services to our customers. With over 30 competing companies for our customers to choose from, we have some challenges ahead. I am confident that we can meet those challenges successfully. And the first step is the release of our new app," says XYZ President and CEO John Johnson.
And turn it into this:
President and CEO John Johnson believes the release of the new app will provide customers with the communications tools they need, setting XYZ Company apart from more than 30 competitors.

Step up your interviewing skills.

Want better quotes? Ask better questions.

If you are interviewing the person you’ll be quoting, consider these interviewing techniques from Ken Metzler’s book Creative Interviewing: The Writer's Guide to Gathering Information:
• Ask for anecdotes. Is there a real-world example you can use to enliven your quotes?
• Ask for metaphors. How does the product or service compare to something familiar to your readers?
• Listen for crossroads and epiphanies. What led to the creation of the product or service? What were the stumbling blocks along the way? When did they realize it would work?
• Ask follow-up questions. If the interview is over and you don’t have what you need for a good quote, ask more questions.

Make your quotes worth quoting. Keep the language conversational and free of jargon. Paraphrase when possible. Ask probing questions.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Behold the colon -- in punctuation, not anatomy

Harbrace 17d (p. 235 in the 17th edition) The colon

A colon calls attention to what follows. It also separates numbers in parts of scriptural references and titles from subtitles.

(1) A colon directs attention to an explanation, a summary, or a quotation.

When a colon appears between two independent clauses, it signals that the second clause will explain or expand on the first.

No one expected the game to end as it did: after seven extra innings, the favored team collapsed.

A colon is also used after an independent clause to introduce a direct quotation.

Marcel Proust explained the importance of mindfulness: "The true journey of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having fresh eyes."

Although an independent clause should always precede the colon, a phrase may sometimes follow it.

I was finally confronted with what I had dreaded for months: the due date for the final balloon payment on my car loan.

(2) A colon may signal a list that follows.
Writer frequently use colons to introduce lists

Three students received internships: Asa, Vanna, and Jack.

Avoid placing a colon between a verb and its complement (1c) or after the words including or such as.

The winners were Asa, Vanna, and Jack.
Many vegetarians do not eat dairy products such as butter and cheese.

(3) A colon separates a title and a subtitle.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.

(4) Colons are used in reference numbers.
Colons are often used between numbers in scriptural references.
John 3:16

(5) Colons have specialized uses in business correspondence.
A colon follows the salutation of a business letter and any notations.

Dear Mr. Horner: Dear Maxine: Enc:
To: From: Subject: Date:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Common English phrases found in the King James Bible

The list below comes from a very nice NPR story celebrating the 400th birthday of the King James Bible.

Though it cannot be said that all of these phrases originated in the Bible, notes NPR, it is likely that the King James Bible was the first time that many of them appeared in English.

Savvy reader Katherine Armour noted that NPR's report ignored the contribution of William Tyndale, whose translation accounts for 84% of the New Testament and 75.8% of the Old Testament books in the King James. (For his trouble, of course, Tyndale was executed. Sic semper literatus.)

A drop in the bucket (Isaiah 40:15)

A house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25)

A man after his own heart (Samuel 13:14 or Acts 13:22)

A wolf in sheep's clothing (Matthew 7:15)

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21; Matthew 5:38)

Apple of your eye (Deuteronomy 32:10, Zechariah 2:8)

At their wits' end (Psalms 107:27)

Baptism of fire (Matthew 3:11)

Bite the dust (adapted from Psalms 72)

Broken heart (Psalms 34:18)

By the skin of your teeth (Job 19:20)

By the sweat of your brow (Genesis 3:19)

Can a leopard change its spots? (Jeremiah 13:23)

Cast the first stone (John 8:7)

Chariots of Fire (2 Kings 6:17)

Cross to bear (Luke 14:27)

Don't cast your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6)

Eat drink and be merry (Ecclesiastes 8:15)

Fall by the wayside (Matthew 13:4)

Fall from grace (Galatians 5:4)

Fat of the land (Genesis 45:18)

Feet of clay (Daniel 2:31-33)

Fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12)

Fire and brimstone (Genesis 19:24-26)

Flesh and blood (Matthew 16:17)

Fly in the ointment (adapted from Ecclesiastes 10:1)

Forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:9)

From strength to strength (Psalms 84:7)

Give up the ghost (Mark 15:37)

Heart's desire (Psalms 21:2)

He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword (Matthew 26:52)

Holier than thou (Isaiah 65:5)

How the mighty are fallen (Samuel 1:19)

In the twinkling of an eye (1 Corinthians 15:52)

It's better to give than receive (Acts 20:35)

Labour of love (Hebrews 6:10)

Lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7)

Land of Nod (Genesis 4:16)

Law unto themselves (Romans 2:14)

Letter of the law (2 Corinthians 3:6)

Living off the fat of the land (Genesis 45:18)

Love of money is the root of all evil (Timothy 6:10)

Manna from heaven (Exodus 16:15)

Many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:14)

My cup runneth over (Psalms 23:5)

No rest for the wicked (adapted from Isaiah 57:20)

Nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

O ye of little faith (Luke 12:28)

Out of the mouths of babes (Psalms 8:2, Matthew 21:16)

Peace offering (Leviticus 3:6)

Pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18)

Put words in her mouth (2 Samuel 14:3)

Put your house in order (2 Kings 20:1)

Reap what you sow (adapted from Galatians 6:7)

See eye to eye (Isaiah 52:8)

Set your teeth on edge (Jeremiah 31:30)

Sign of the times (Matthew 16:3)

Sour grapes (Jeremiah 31:30)

Sweat of your brow (Genesis 3:19)

Tender mercies (Psalms 25:6)

The blind leading the blind (Matthew 15:14)

The ends of the earth (Zechariah 9:10)

The root of the matter (Job 19:28)

The powers that be (Romans 13:1)

The salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13)

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41)

The Straight and narrow (Matthew 7:13/14)

There's nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

Two edged sword (Proverbs 5:4)V

oice crying in the wilderness (John 1:23)

Wages of sin (Romans 6:23)

Wash your hands of the matter (Matthew 27:24)

White as snow (Daniel 7:9)

Woe is me (Job 10:15)

Writing is on the wall (Daniel 5: 5/6)

Note: Most of these phrases are direct quotations. Others have slight word order changes that make the modern phrase quicker and catchier.

Friday, August 12, 2011

That pesky college application essay - the Times and its readers weigh in

Last week, The New York Times ran an interesting story about students using summer experiences to beef up their "personal statement" college application essays. This week, readers weighed in with their thoughts on the matter. Both are linked below.

N.Y. / REGION August 06, 2011 For a Standout College Essay, Applicants Fill Their Summers By JENNY ANDERSON Students preparing to apply to college are increasingly tailoring their summer plans with the goal of creating a better personal statement.

OPINION August 12, 2011 Letters: How to Make That College Essay Special Readers respond to a recent article about students pursuing activities over the summer than will help them write a strong essay for college applications.

One handy tip for writing application essays is to start the process in the summer months, when there might be time to look over the various topics on the applications, brainstorm ideas on an unrushed morning, and start a draft or two that can be revised upon a few days reflection (and many times thereafter).

Once the school year starts and those application deadlines start looming, it's much tougher to be clearthinking, fresh and original.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Apostrophe -- its use and abuse

Garner's Usage Tip of the Day

The Apostrophe ['].

This punctuation mark does three things:

First, it often indicates the possessive case {Wright's treatise}.

Second, it frequently marks the omission of one or more elements and the contracting of the remaining elements into a word (or figure) -- e.g.: "never" into "ne'er"; "will not" into "won't"; "1997" into "'97."

Third, it is sometimes used to mark the plural of an acronym, number, or letter -- e.g.: "CPA's" (now more usually "CPAs"), "1990's" (now more usually "1990s"), and "p's and q's" (still with apostrophes because of the single letters).

Two contradictory trends -- both bad -- are at work with apostrophes.

First, careless writers want to form plurals with wayward apostrophes -- e.g.: "The bishop's [read 'bishops'] of the United Methodist Church have issued an urgent appeal for funds to assist the victims of flooding in the Midwest." Monte Marshall, "Special Offering for Flood Relief," United Methodist Rep., 3 Sept. 1993.

The same problem occurs in third-person-singular verbs: In the early 1990s, a sign at an Austin service station read, "Joe say's: It's time to winterize your car." And a distressing number of signs on mailboxes and entryways are printed, e.g., "The Smith's" [read "The Smiths"].

The second unfortunate trend is to drop necessary apostrophes: there is a tendency to write "the hotels many shops" or "Martins Pub." The only possible cure is increased literacy.

Finally, U.S. place names drop possessive and associative apostrophes by government policy. So, what was once Harper's Ferry, West Virginia, became Harpers Ferry.

In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt charged the U.S. Board on Geographic Names with standardizing place names. One resulting policy is that each name become a "fixed label" so that, under this questionable rationale, "[t]he need to imply possession or association no longer exists."

Contracting apostrophes {Lake O' the Pines} and surname apostrophes {O'Bannon Mill} remain.

Monday, July 18, 2011

How to get perfect sixes on the SAT essay

The SAT essay is scored by two readers, each of whom grades on a scale from 1 to 6. So you're aiming for two sixes -- boxcars in dice-throwing terminology.

In the story below, Tamar Lewin of The New York Times shows that you don't need to be perfect, or even have perfect spelling, to get a 6. To read the story and see several sample essays, click here.

One kid got a 6 even though he quoted from the musical Cats, which might earn an automatic 1 from some graders. Another did such a good job discussing Elie Wiesel's Night that the graders forgave his misspelling of "hindrance."

West High School English teacher Shannon Jackson, who grades AP essays, says that, indeed, graders are supposed to think of the esays as drafts, because of course that's what they are. So you truly can get a perfect 6 without being perfect.

Scoring The Essay Question
Perfect’s New Profile, Warts and All
Published: September 3, 2006

WHEN it comes to the SAT, perfect is now a whole lot harder. But take heart if you favor cursive over printing, the third person over the first, and more over less. You may have an edge.
More than 1,000 students got a perfect 1600 last year, when the college-admissions test consisted of the time-honored two 800-point sections, verbal and math.

But now that the test has been revamped and expanded to nearly four hours, with a new writing section that includes an essay, the average scores have dropped by seven points — and only 238 students received the new perfect score of 2400.

Technically, even perfect isn’t necessarily perfect. Students can get the top score even if they miss a few questions.

“We actually don’t know how many got a perfect perfect,” said Caren Scoropanos, a spokeswoman for the College Board.

What the College Board does know is that the top scorers comprised 131 boys and 107 girls, or just 0.017 percent of the almost 1.5 million college-bound seniors who took the test.
It seems to be the writing test that has made the number of perfects plummet. While the math and reading sections each had more than 8,000 top scores, only 4,102 students were rated perfect on the writing test, the only part of the exam where girls outscored boys.

Most of the writing test — and three-quarters of the writing score — consists of multiple-choice questions on grammar and usage. But most of the anxiety among high school students centers on the 25-minute essay, graded on a scale of one to six by at least two readers, who spend about three minutes on each essay. Their two scores are added. And, the College Board said, the reason so few students won top marks on the writing section is that so few — less than one percent — got sixes from both readers, for that perfect 12.

The SAT Scoring Guide says an essay gets a six if it “effectively and insightfully develops a point of view on the issue,” “demonstrates outstanding critical thinking,” “is well organized and clearly focused,” and “exhibits skillful use of language.” Grading is holistic, with no points off for spelling errors or small linguistic flaws.

Last week, when the board released 20 top-scoring essays, all on the topic of whether memories are a help or a hindrance, it was impossible not to notice that many were — what’s the right word? — awkward:

“Memory is often the deciding factor between humans and animals,” one started.
“It is a commonly cited and often clich├ęd adage that people learn from their mistakes,” wrote another.

“We reason only with information, that is, reason is the mortar that arranges & connects pieces of information into the palace of understanding,” said a third.

Ed Hardin, who helped develop the writing test for the College Board, has an explanation: “Someone has to get a six,” he said. “Student writing, over all, is not very strong, which is the reason we added the writing test to the SAT. We hope they’ll get better.

After analyzing the results, the board had these insights for the next crop of SAT-takers:

  • Eighty-four percent of the essays took up more than one page, and longer essays were more likely to get a high score than shorter ones. (Two pages is the limit.)

  • Most essays were printed, but those written in cursive got slightly higher scores.

  • About half the essays were written in the first person, but those that did not use the first person got slightly higher scores.
“You can certainly write a first-person essay and get a six, but it’s also true that a lot of very low-performing students write first person,” Mr. Hardin said. “What we tried to show, in releasing these top-scoring essays, is that lots of different things can work. You can select any style, any approach that you think suits your strengths as a writer.”

And on the essay, at least, it’s possible to get a six without coming anywhere near perfect.

WHAT PRACTICE MADE? Misspellings are no “hinderance” to a perfect score on the SAT essay. Scorers looked for “clear and consistent mastery” in areas like critical thinking. They found it, apparently, in these essays, whose opening words are shown. Students were asked, “Do memories hinder or help people in their effort to learn from the past and succeed in the present?”

Friday, July 15, 2011

How to structure the SAT essay

As mentioned in the post below, the essay section of the SAT presents an opportunity to excel for those who are prepared.

Below are tips from St. Albans School math teacher Linda DeBord. In her SAT-prep program, students compose two to five essays under test conditions, which Mrs. DeBord then assesses and scores.

"Learning to outline and write an essay under pressure was invaluable," said one student. "The corrected essays were also helpful, as we learned from our mistakes."

Of course a student should briefly outline the essay before writing. "In the brief 25 minutes, the up-front planning is critical," says Mrs. DeBord, "but the students need to keep a careful eye on the time.

"I suggest that in the opening paragraph, after they state their thesis, they should mention two examples they will use. The examples should be clear in their relationship in supporting the thesis.

"The conclusion should restate, in an interesting way (if possible), the thesis and then re-tie in the examples."

So, the structure of the essay goes pretty much --

  1. State thesis

  2. Preview two supporting examples

  3. Elaborate thesis

  4. Flesh out examples

  5. Conclusion
    a) restate thesis (interesting way)
    b) re-tie in the examples

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Outlining in a hurry on the SAT essay

This is the first of several Grammar Tips of the Day about the SAT essay.

One key to success is knowing how to sketch out a brief outline.

This skill, always important on essay tests, is especially highlighted by the essay section of the SAT: In just 25 minutes, kids have to plan their time, think through their arguments and put them on paper. Many test-takers interviewed on TV said they didn't finish in the allotted time.

Harbrace Section 33e: Choose an appropriate method or combination of methods for arranging ideas offers some good tips on listing ideas, outlining and writing essays.

The trick with the new SAT is in doing all this swiftly and effectively. (And, of course, as in all things, penmanship counts!)

In those opening moments, the essayist must consider the topic and map out a course of action---making a list of ideas to touch on and a conclusion to be heading toward.

This is the time to take a deep breath, look at this list, amend as appropriate, and plan those minutes. If there are five minutes to go and you're halfway through your outline (this happens) you must make the remaining points quickly and get to that conclusion.

Of course, the best keys to success are a) knowing what you want to say, b) practicing saying them in alloted periods of time, and c) feigning confidence, so the kids all around you panic. :-)

Monday, July 11, 2011

"Self-depreciating" and other common malapropisms

From today's West Side Shopper-News, page C-2:

"[Former UT and NFL linebacker Mike] Stratton spoke with self-depreciating humor . . . "

Many people confuse the term "self-deprecating" with the malapropism "self-depreciating," which might more properly apply to a piece of self-aware farm machinery.

Malapropisms, or malaprops (both are correct) are the misapplications of words, usually humorous, specifically, the use of words sounding somewhat like the ones intended but ludicrously wrong in their contexts. The words come from a character, Mrs. Malaprop, in a 1775 R.B. Sheridan comedy.

We all hope that magazine articles are filled with interesting "antidotes" (should be "anecdotes").

A recent story in the Knoxville News Sentinel referred to a coach at an Southeastern Conference meeting making the only "descending" (should be "dissenting") vote against merging basketball divisions.

We often hear TV announcers refer to "lacksadaisical" play on defense. The word "lackadaisical" comes from "lackaday," an alteration and shortening of the archaic interjection "alack the day!" used to express regret.

Of course we all get "flustrated" with the officiating -- something between flustered and frustrated -- but in the end it's always a "mute" point. (It should be "moot" [deprived of practical relevance; no longer at issue], not "mute" [unable to speak].)

Lackaday! It all makes us yearn for the days of the St. Louis Cardinal pitcher and radio announcer Dizzy Dean, who once described a base runner, having "slud" into a base, as standing there "cool and confidential." [Linguistics professors like to point out that "slud" was the correct form of the past tense just a few hundred years ago.]

Yogi-isms are apparently-nonsensical-but-often-sagacious malapropisms created by longtime Yankee catcher and manager Yogi Berra, who once received an honorarium check for a speech made out to "Bearer" and asked of his host, "You've known me all these years and still don't know how to spell my name?"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

How to write the perfect college application essay

Here is good advice from the Boston College admissions office website:

First of all, let us debunk the myth. There is no such thing as a perfect essay. There, we've said it.

Now you can clear your mind of the anxiety that typically accompanies students as you sit down to write.

Instead, you can focus on using the essay as a tool to let the Committee on Admission learn more about you as an individual.

Many of us feel that in the fall of your senior year, the college essay is the only portion of your application remaining on which you can still have a significant influence.

Granted, you will need to continue working hard in your classes, but you have already met people who will speak highly of you in a recommendation, you have already been involved in various extra-curricular activities, and you have likely completed your standardized examinations. The one remaining portion is the college essay.

We realize how hectic your senior year is, but take advantage of this opportunity.

The best essays that we read are ones that tell us not only about a specific event, mentor, excursion, or accomplishment, but also tell us how the writer has been affected by their experiences. For example, a typical essay might inform the reader of a trip to France that the student took the previous summer. It might focus on the challenges faced in getting to their destination, the French culture, or even the people that the student met.

The better essay, however, takes it to the next level. It makes the experience personal. The student might choose to explain what surprised, frustrated, or inspired them about the trip. The student might choose to focus on how they now view the world a little bit differently after this newfound international perspective.

Another common example is students' essays on a person who influenced their lives. Frequently, we read essays about applicants' grandparents, for example. Many essays simply focus on the attributes that a grandmother has that make her special to the applicant. They may focus on the challenges that a grandmother has overcome or the successes she has enjoyed. They leave the reader knowing that the student loves his grandmother, but not knowing anything more about the student.

The better essay, however, might also focus on the way the writer has attempted to emulate these admired qualities. The student might choose to share how learning of his grandmother's life experiences has helped him better understand the world. This allows us to learn more about the student and what makes the student special.

As you can see, in both of these examples, the first essay simply tells us of an experience, but the second essay shows us more about the individual. We walk away from it knowing a bit more about the qualities the applicant possesses and how he or she might fit into our campus community.

We hope that you will not view the college essay as a roadblock between you and your college choice, but as a unique opportunity to be in the driver's seat in the college process. Let your qualities, characteristics, and personality shine through.

Best wishes as you begin your journey,

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Email Tip: Use Your Subject Line Effectively

When sending an email, the subject line is one of the most important parts of your message – yet the one many people spend the least time on.

With so many emails in everyone’s Inbox, many messages are unopened long after they’ve been received – or never opened in some cases.

The ideal subject line provides two things:
1) Enough information to make a recipient want to open the email,
2) Key information in case the message becomes buried under a dozen other emails.

Yet the subject line should be relatively short.

Here are some tips on crafting effective subject lines:

  • If possible, summarize the content of an email. For example, a subject line such as “What time is good for our staff meeting?” tells the recipient more than just one that reads “Meeting.”

  • When replying, avoid “Re: Re:-itis” by changing your subject line to reflect your answer. For example, “1 pm is better for me” is more helpful to recipients than “Re: Meeting” or “Re: Re: Meeting.”

  • If you’re announcing an event, try to include the date, time and place in the subject line. This helps everyone refer to the key points later. Note: Use hyphens instead of back slashes in numerical dates. For example, “Staff meeting Thurs. 6-24, 1 pm, WT7 Rm 325” is more helpful and informative than just “Staff Meeting.”

Friday, July 1, 2011

Invigorate your prose: find hidden verbs

From A Plain English Handbook, put out by the Securities and Exchange Commission to encourage Wall Street denizens to make their stock and bond offerings halfway intelligible to the public:

Find Hidden Verbs
Does a sentence use any form of the verbs "to be," "to have," or another weak verb, with a noun that could be turned into a strong verb? In the sentences below, the strong verb lies hidden in a nominalization, a noun derived from a verb that usually ends in -tion. As you change nouns to verbs, your writing becomes more vigorous and less abstract.

before after
We made an application... We applied...
We made an determination... We determined...
We will make an distribution... We will distribute...

We will provide appropriate information to shareholders concerning ....

We will inform shareholders about ...

We will have no stock ownership of the company.

We will own no company stock..

There is the possibility of prior Board approval of these investments.

The Board might approve these investments in advance.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Affect and effect -- the peskiest homonyms

From: Ruge Rules:

Homonyms are words similar or identical in sound but different in spelling and meaning.

Affect and effect are the two most frequently confused homonyms. Each can be used in several different senses, but if you learn only the meanings below, you will obviate (prevent by anticipatory action) 95 percent of the trouble most people have with these two words.

affect v.

  • To cause a change to take place in, to influence (to produce an effect upon):
    Smoking affects the health. The mayor's reform will affect the life of every citizen.

  • To touch or move emotionally: The play so affected me that I cried.

  • To pretend, to imitate: I affect an aire of supercilious disdain. ("Affected" in "He is an affected ass" is the past participle of the verb affect as used in sense 3.)

Note: The word "affect" is never a noun, except in one sense, used by psychologists, who refer to "affective states" and "affect" -- with regard to a person's face and the feeling or range of feelings expressed therein. As in: "The patient had an unusual affect that probably traced back to an unhappy childhood."

The word "effect" is a noun or a verb

effect v.

  • To bring into being, to bring about, to cause to happen, to accomplish: I effected an honorable solution to a tough problem.

effect n.

  • A result or consequence (anything produced by an agent or cause): What effect will the mayor's reforms have upon the citizens?

    The effect of the win was improved morale

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More mnemonic spelling aids

John T. Bird of Birmingham, Ala., is an old friend best known for writing Twin Killing: The Bill Mazeroski Story and successfully campaigning to get the longtime Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Last year Bird put his energy behind mnemonic devices for spelling, as he published Fuchsia Shock: 151 Common But Difficult Words You Will Never Misspell Again!
With illustrations by Stefanie Slaughter, Fuchsia Shock coaches us to associate exhilarating with hilarious. "Example: laughing in the theater at the hilarious movie was an exhilarating experience."
In the attached entry, Bird advises us to associate potato with NATO. Similarly, he advises us to think of currency to remember that second "r" in occurrence.
To order a copy, click here to email John Bird.

Try these mnemonic devices --

  • There is a rat in separate.

  • I have an independent dentist. (We also have an independent superintendent, who comes from Boston.)

  • The principal is my pal. "Principal" can also refer to a matter or thing of primary importance, or the capital sum placed at interest, due as a debt, or used as a fund, as in the principal of a loan.

  • A principle is a comprehensive and fundamental law, doctrine or assumption. As in, you are always true to your principles.

  • For the dance, your attendance is requested, just as it will be for you descendants.

  • A vast area was devastated.

  • Finally, something definite.

  • Like the letters you'll write on it, stationery has an "e" in it. (As opposed to stationary, or unmoving, objects.)

  • We're all all grateful for congratulations.

  • The U.S. Capitol building has a dome on it -- as do the "o"s in both words. Confusingly, Washington., D.C., is the capital of the United States. Why? The former word comes from the Capitoleum , the temple of Jupiter at Rome that sat atop the Capitoline hill. The latter comes from the Latin capitalis, meaning chief, or principal, (derived from the Latin word caput, meaning "head"). All you have to remember is the building has a domed "o." All other meanings are with an "a."

  • FedEx executive Shane O'Connor writes, "I remember one class in which [Ferdinand E.] Ruge was teaching us a way to remember how to correctly spell “exhilarate,” since it is often misspelled “exhilerate.” He stood in front of the class in his gray pinstriped three-piece suit and swung his pocket watch fob around as he sang, "La la la la la la la. Exhi-LA-rate exhi-LA-rate."

How can you learn for sure to spell tough words, like occurrence, or accommodate? Or parallel?

One good start is to pay a visit to Harbrace Chapter 18: Spelling and Hyphenation. The first seven pages are invaluable for anyone.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Neither leisure foreigner seized the weird heights

Today's Knoxville News Sentinel reports that a Knox County Commission auditor sent emails to a county commissioner that included the sentence, "And your family are weirdos that go to a wierd (sic) church!" (Click here to read the whole story.)

The auditor, apparently unsure of the spelling of "weird," went ahead and spelled it both ways, figuring to be correct on one of them.

He would have done well to recall the mnemonic device that helps us remember the major exceptions to the "I before e" rule--i.e., the unforgettable sentence "Neither leisure foreigner seized the weird heights."

A mnemonic device is one that assists the memory, from the Greek mnemon--mindful. Mnemosyne (right) was the Greek goddess of memory and the mother, by Zeus, of the Muses.

Of course the "I before e" rule is, "I before e, except after c, or when sounded as 'a,' as in neighbor or weigh." ]

More mnemonic devices for spelling tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lay versus lie

Today's Garner's Usage Tip of the Day takes up a longstanding quandary: the distinction between lay and lie.

Very simply, "lie" (= to recline, be situated) is intransitive -- it can't take a direct object {he lies on his bed}.

But "lay" (= to put down, arrange) is always transitive -- it needs a direct object {please lay the book on my desk}.

The verbs are inflected "lay-laid-laid-laying" and "lie-lay-lain-lying."

Because "lie" is intransitive, it has only an active voice {lie down for a while}. And because "lay" is transitive, it may be either active {he laid the blanket over her} or passive {the blanket was laid over her}.

To use "lay" without a direct object, in the sense of "lie," is nonstandard {I want to lay down} {he was laying in the sun}. But this error is very common in speech -- from the illiterate to the highly educated [to Bob Dylan -- "Lay, lady lay. Lay across my big brass bed."].

In fact, some commentators believe that people make this mistake more often than any other in the English language. Others claim that it's no longer a mistake -- or even that it never was. But make no mistake: using these verbs correctly is a mark of refinement.

The most unusual of these inflected forms, of course, is "lain," but most writers have little difficulty getting it right -- e.g.: "Katrina Kuratli said she and her husband, Dan, had just lain down in their bedroom when the bomb went off around 10:45 p.m." Mack Reed, "Pipe Bomb Rips Car, Jolts Simi Neighborhood," L.A. Times, 30 Apr. 1994, at B9.

Click here to email Bryan Garner.

To subscibe to garner's Usage Tip of the Day, click here.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

How the 'Harbrace Handbook of English' Changed the Way Americans Learn About Writing

The University of Tennessee's John C. Hodges created the best-selling textbook of all time.

By Brooks Clark and Cari Wade Gervin (originally published in MetroPulse June 16, 2011)

FOLLOWING THE RULES: English teachers could save time by simply noting the Harbrace rule number in the column beside an error, like "10a" marked here. This example is from a 10th-grade paper of Brooks Clark circa 1972, entitled “An Autobiographical Sketch.” The teacher was Ferdinand Ruge, who taught at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., for decades.

It’s a story about a teacher. It’s a story about the explosion of college education. But, first and foremost, it’s a story about commas.

This year is the 70th birthday of the Harbrace Handbook of English. It’s an anniversary that will go unnoticed by most—even students who do pay attention to their textbooks aren’t likely to think about them once they leave school. But it’s an anniversary with a lot of significance for the University of Tennessee: Harbrace is the best-selling college textbook of all time, and it’s the creation of former UT English professor John C. Hodges.

Yes, that John C. Hodges—the one the campus library is named after. Ask a student studying inside the library who Hodges was or what he did, it’s even odds at best that he or she will know, but Hodges might have liked it that way. “He didn’t want the spotlight or need it,” says his brother-in-law, John Smartt.

In his will, Hodges assigned three-fourths of future royalties from sales of the textbook to a fund that helped pay for UT’s new library in the late 1960s. “It’s the little handbook that built the library,” says Penn State English Professor Cheryl Glenn, who has channeled Hodges’ spirit as coauthor of the past three editions.

More significantly on a national scale, it constructed a model of the English language in the minds of generations of American students. That first Harbrace, back in 1941, was a small, maroon textbook, slightly bigger than a mass-market paperback. Since then, there have been 16 more editions; Glenn and her coauthor Loretta Gray are already working on the next one. And according to its publisher, Harbrace really is the top-selling textbook ever, with only McGraw-Hill’s Principles of Economics anywhere close. (Book sales are proprietary information for publishers; most authors don’t even know their own sales figures, so there is no way to verify this claim.)

Hodges knew his book was a success: When he died in 1967, the textbook was in its sixth edition and had been renamed Hodges’ Harbrace College Handbook. But even he might be surprised to know of its continuing popularity.

So how did this happen? How did an in-house manual from UT’s English Department in the 1920s become the definitive college composition textbook?
The answer, it turns out, has a lot to do with pedagogy—and a lot to do with World War II. It also turns out that the history of Harbrace is, in a nutshell, the history of 20th century English education in the United States.

‘All Matters Needed by Freshmen’

John Cunyus Hodges was born March 15, 1892, in tiny Cotton Valley in northwestern Louisiana, between Shreveport and the Arkansas state line. It was a rural but comfortable childhood.

“His family down in Louisiana was rich,” says Smartt. “He knew he wanted to teach, and they resolved to take care of John.”

At the age of 19, Hodges graduated with a B.A. from Meridian College in Mississippi, and he got his master’s from Tulane a year later. After teaching at Northwestern University in Chicago for three years, Hodges went east to Harvard, where he earned his Ph.D. in 1918.
He taught briefly at Ohio Wesleyan, just north of Columbus, before joining the UT English Department in 1921. Here, Hodges took over “a moribund program of Freshman English,” according to Kenneth Curry’s history of the department, English at Tennessee.

Within a year, Hodges developed the beginnings of a systematic approach to teaching freshman English. Curry writes that Hodges had students keep their papers and revisions in folders, which they would discuss in regular conferences with their instructors. The folders were then archived by the department. “Over time, Hodges analyzed and tabulated the contents of these folders,” Curry explains.

With so many stacks of papers and so many sets of corrections, Hodges was able to systematically determine which errors his students were most likely to make. Starting in 1922, Hodges published his own “Manual of Instruction for Freshman English,” which he expanded each year. By 1937, the manual was 29 pages long and included a map of the library and instructions on how to write papers.

Hodges’ manual referred students to the 100 rules of the Century Handbook of Writing by Garland Greever and Easley S. Jones, which was a popular composition handbook at the time, along with the 283-rule Guide to Composition by James Finch Royster and Stith Thompson. Curry writes: “Hodges concluded that most of these handbooks included much material that was ignored or irrelevant to the teaching of composition.”

Says Bain Stewart, who joined the faculty in 1940, “I think he felt, as many of us felt, that these handbooks were so enormously complicated, and it was impossible to know the difference between Rule No. 279, Rule No. 280 and Rule No. 281.”

Sometime in the late 1930s, a Harcourt Brace textbook traveling salesman named Sidney Stanley visited UT. He met Hodges, and after he heard about his system of correcting papers, he passed on the lead to the Harcourt Brace editorial department. Intrigued, the publishing company offered Hodges a contract. What he called his handbook of “all matters needed by freshmen” was published in 1941. (“Harbrace” is a conflation of Harcourt Brace.)

“The rest is history,” says Michael Rosenberg, a publisher at Wadsworth/Centage Learning (which currently owns the rights to the now-defunct Harcourt Brace’s college textbooks). “The company was hoping to make only a small dent in the freshman handbook market with the unknown author from Tennessee.

“However, the clever organizational plan, the compact, trim size, and the book’s ability to explain difficult issues of language cogently and concisely created a demand that catapulted the handbook to best-seller status quickly.”

Hodges had two stated objectives when he composed his textbook. The first read, “To make correction of written work as clear and easy as possible for the student.” The second was, “To make marking of student papers as easy as possible for the instructor.” But it is most likely the latter point—making teachers’ lives easier—that has been the secret to its continuing success.

The first edition of Harbrace was divided into 34 major sections (the current edition has 36). Each section included lowercase-lettered subject areas and numbered subdivisions and subscripts. Hodges’ numbering of each rule enabled teachers coming upon a sentence like, “While riding a bus, the tornado ripped through town,” to simply write in the margin “25f(4),” sending students to the rule, “Avoid dangling elliptical phrases or clauses” and its explanation.

“It’s the granddaddy of all successful college handbooks,” says Glenn. “It’s the handbook that everybody copies. Before Harbrace, there were other books. But they were a mess, a random accumulation of rules. Hodges made a taxonomy that is a template for every other textbook.”

Class and the Classroom

Hodges’ text is often found on the same shelves with its younger counterpart, William Strunk and E.B. White’s The Elements of Style, which celebrated its 50th birthday two years ago.

Strunk and White’s “little book” is shorter, with fewer rules (22) and more of an emphasis on an overarching philosophy of elegant expression. The book has Ivy League roots—Professor Strunk taught E.B. White at Cornell—and its genesis was a 1957 article in the New Yorker, in which White reminisced about Strunk. Is it any wonder The Elements of Style has long been the darling of the East Coast elite?

Harbrace, on the other hand, is somewhat the antithesis of Strunk and White. It is not about brevity, and it is not about art. It is a textbook, not a usage manual. It does not assume that the student has a sophisticated grasp of English, or even a fundamental mastery of the sentence.

Legend has it that Harbrace was geared to hardscrabble rural students from the start, that the textbook’s unique 5 inch by 7 inch size supposedly came from Hodges’ insistence that it be small enough to slide into the front-center pocket of a pair of overalls. But Hodges was no man of the people. He, too, had an Ivy League education, albeit not an undergraduate one.

Just over 30 years before Hodges began classes at Harvard, the university had introduced the prototype of the freshman composition class: “English A.” According to an essay and critical history of Harbrace by Debra Hawhee, the course “grew out of a particular historical moment in response to the perceived ineptitude or failure of Harvard applicants to adhere to ‘standards of correctness.’ The ‘need’ for such a course can largely be attributed to the veritable flood of bourgeois students to American colleges during this period.”

But by the 1920s, it wasn’t just the bourgeoisie whose prosody wasn’t up to snuff. Tennessee in particular at that time, as both a state university and a land-grant institution, had a student body full of first-generation college students fresh off the farm. It was those students whose 20,000 papers were archived and studied by Hodges, and it was those students whose errors became the basis of Harbrace. Hawhee writes: “Hodges universalized the particulars: by examining the ‘bodies’ of Tennessee students’ writing, he grafted their most common ‘flaws’ onto the national student body.”

Hawhee says this sampling led to “an obvious Appalachian slant” in the first few editions. Students are told to avoid using dialects, “illiterate constructions,” or vulgarisms; section 19g in the first edition instructs students to “avoid faulty diction” by not using phrases like “can’t hardly,” “drownded,” “you all,” and “where is she at?”

But it is not just “country” phrasing that comes under the gun—“phone” and “photo” should be “telephone” and “photograph;” “lovely” is criticized for being both vague and colloquial; and “female” is “no longer used as a synonym for woman.”

Hawhee is clearly critical of Hodges’ elitist judgment. She writes, “All of these proscribed usages are indigenous to the South, or mountain dialect … The Tennessee students, many of who were probably first-generation college students, were taken as those who needed—in the worst way—a simple book to help ‘fix’ their language practices.”

What Hawhee neglects to note is that many of these students wanted to improve their speech and grammar. Perhaps at no other time in history did the American Dream seem more obtainable, provided you fit the part. You could trade your overalls for a suit and your work boots for loafers and your tractor for a Studebaker, but if you told a colleague, “I can’t hardly wait for your cocktail party on Friday,” the jig was up.

It’s no coincidence that the period of Hodges’ and Harbrace’s ascendancy was the era of Gatsby through to the era of The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. Because without the right words, and knowing how to use them, it was impossible to reinvent yourself, like Mad Men’s Don Draper.

Hodges may have been a snob, but that snobbery was a product of his era. One also wonders how much of Hodges there may be in the text—whether he was not writing down to his students but instead writing to a slightly less educated version of his younger self. No matter how much money his family had, no matter how much education he had, it must have been challenging for the 24-year-old Hodges to enter Harvard in 1916, a man determined to lose his rural Louisiana roots, to become an Ivy League scholar and a gentleman, to show he wasn’t just another one of those bourgeois students. It’s possible Hodges’ dedication to improving students’ grammar was his way of giving back to his hometown, such as it was.

Grammar Wars

The first edition of Harbrace came out at the beginning of World War II. At the end of that war, with the introduction of the GI Bill, colleges and universities were suddenly filled with students who never before had the means to pursue a higher education.

Such a dramatic increase in the number of students also meant a dramatic increase in the number of instructors. Is it any wonder that the textbook that was the easiest to use for both parties quickly became the most popular?

A second edition of Harbrace appeared in 1946. A third followed five years later, and a fourth edition five years after that. Coauthors and collaborators worked on the textbook, but the format had stayed exactly the same. One of the biggest changes came in the 1962 fifth edition, when Hodges’ name was added to the title, just as he retired from teaching in the English Department.

Several years later, in Hodges’ obituary, a student described him as follows: “He was a kind man who never raised his voice in anger. Yet he was exact and demanding of his students, a rigid disciplinarian who urged his students on to a needle-sharp understanding of literature.” It was exactly this sort of teaching style that fell out of favor in the 1960s.
By the time Hodges was working on revisions for the sixth edition, Harbrace faced competition from handbooks from publishers like Prentice-Hall, Scott Foresman, and Macmillan. At the same time, Hawhee writes, “surveys of instructors reported a decrease in satisfaction with the fifth edition for its ‘stiff,’ conservative approach, its lack of ‘liveliness’ . . . and ‘fuddy-duddy’ sentence diagrams.”

Unwittingly, Harbrace had become the textbook flash point in the grammar wars of the 1960s.

Studies in theoretical linguistics and new ways of thinking about grammar in the 1950s—especially works by C. C. Fries and Noam Chomsky—began to trickle down to the English-teaching establishment. Other concerns about equating correct grammar with correct usage had been bubbling up for years, according to an essay on the history of grammar in U.S. schools by Martha Kolln and Craig Hancock.

In 1963, at the annual conference of the National Council of Teachers of English, the council issued a statement that was the discipline’s equivalent of the atomic bomb. It reads, in part: “In view of the widespread agreement of research studies based upon many types of students and teachers, the conclusion can be stated in strong and unqualified terms: The teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in actual composition, even a harmful effect on the improvement of writing.”

As the 1960s wore on, scholars such as Peter Elbow promoted a student-centered classroom, suggesting activities like journaling and peer review to improve writing skills. Elbow writes, “[T]he process of learning grammar interferes with writing: It heightens your preoccupation with mistakes as you write out each word and phrase, and makes it almost impossible to achieve that undistracted attention to your thoughts and experiences as you write … For most people, nothing helps their writing so much as learning to ignore grammar.”

It was against this background that Harcourt Brace pushed Hodges for major revisions. Hodges pushed back, sending a letter in November of 1966 to then-editor William Jovanovich: “No successful handbook has gone through six editions—not even four—with so little basic change or reorganization as ours. The fundamental sameness of all editions, not the minor changes to which we have been limited, explains the success of the book.”

In the end, the section on diagramming sentences was expelled from the 1967 sixth edition, never to return, but the rest of the textbook remained quite the same.
In July of 1967, Hodges died at age 75 after a heart attack. At his funeral, UT President Andy Holt said, “I have never known anyone more dedicated to the advancement of mankind and more effective as a teacher than Dr. John C. Hodges.”

Legacy Edition

The explicit teaching of grammar continued to fall out of favor in U.S. secondary schools in the ensuing decades, even as the number of students attending college continued to rise. The result? College composition is now a bigger business than ever.
At UT alone there are 135 sections of English 101 and 102, which are required classes for all freshmen. The required textbook, of course, is the 17th edition of the Hodges' Harbrace Handbook.

“Oh, yeah, we still use it,” says Kirsten Benson, interim director of UT’s First Year Writing Program. “I love it. … I view Harbrace as a kind of security. For anybody who wants to find out the answer, you can look it up.”

Although recent trends in pedagogical theory posit the return of grammar to the classroom—especially after the SAT and ACT added “writing” sections to their tests in 2005—Harbrace remains the core component of any sort of grammar or usage instruction for thousands of students every year.

“We complain that our college students haven’t already learned grammar, but the responsibility lies with us,” says Glenn. “When language users feel confident in their language ‘use,’ they can concentrate on larger issues of style, grace and argument.”
he fundamental appeal of Hodges’ Harbrace, then, is distinctly tied to its own fundamentals. It may be staid, it may be restrictive, and it may be elitist, but there remains a need in this society for grammar instruction. How else to explain the success of Lynne Truss’ 2003 best-seller Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, or why the website Grammar Girl’s podcast consistently ranks in the Top 40 on iTunes?

Still, the true legacy of John C. Hodges may just be the education he provided for so many—those who studied his textbook, those who used the library he helped build, and those he taught. David Burns of Knoxville had Hodges for freshman English in 1950 and still has his inscribed copy of the 1946 edition.

He was an imposing presence,” Burns recalls. “He wore tweed jackets most of the time, as you’d expect, and he was a grammarian through and through. I think of him when I read even magazines that have good writers and see one grammatical error after another.”

Adds Burns, “He was simply one of the finest gentlemen I ever knew.”


The Bawdy Bard

Although today he’s best known for his textbook, in his own time John C. Hodges was a leading authority on the 17th-century English playwright William Congreve. The Restoration writer hit big from 1695 to 1700 with five high-brow sexual comedies of manners, which included memorable lines like, “Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned,” “Never go to bed angry, stay up and fight,” “Music has charms to sooth a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak,” and “Say what you will, ’tis better to be left than never to have been loved.” When a wave of conservative mores swept England, Congreve’s bawdy style fell out of fashion, and the playwright turned to politics. Over the years Hodges amassed one of the largest collections of Congreve’s plays in the world, which are now housed in the UT Special Collections Library. (B.C.)

The Scandalous Miss Hazen

In 1951, the straight-laced Hodges created a minor scandal when he hired Miss Evelyn Hazen as his administrative assistant. The last family occupant of the antebellum Mabry-Hazen House, Miss Evelyn had made national headlines years before when she sued a former lover in a breach of promise suit (a tale recently recounted by Jane Van Ryan in The Seduction of Evelyn Hazen).

Hazen was most certainly an irascible snob right out of Tennessee Williams. She carried a gun on campus and monitored office supplies like Scrooge. But while the idea of a tweedy Mr. Chips being romantically entangled with a brazen hussy was irresistible to local gossips, there was never any evidence of hanky-panky to go along with the tongue-wagging.

After Hodges’ death in 1967, Hazen continued to work at the university for many years. When the English department moved into its new offices at McClung Hall, professor Bain Stewart asked how she liked the new digs. “Cheap and pretentious, like most of the faculty,” she sneered. (B.C.)

The Power of the Proper Word

For all its power as a grammar textbook, reading the first edition of the Harbrace Handbook of English makes it clear that John C. Hodges was a man who cared about style and language too. Take, for example, this excerpt from Chapter 20, “Exactness”:

20 e (4) Select words with due regard to their connotation (power of suggestion).

Words are feelings, emotions, sensations, ideas. Some words, beside their literal meaning, have the power to suggest varied associations. They are surrounded, as it were, by an aura of feelings. They stir up unexplainable emotions, pleasant and unpleasant, and connect the present situation with something remote in consciousness. They seem to be an intrinsic part of ourselves, and are tied up with all our experiences. For instance, the word hearth, which literally means the floor of a fireplace, suggests in addition the fireside, warmth, safety, good cheer, a family and friends, and the home itself. Stove, on the other hand, is much poorer in suggestive power.

BARREN He sat musing by the stove.
RICHER He sat musing by the hearth.
BARREN Regas sells hot steaks.
RICHER Regas sells sizzling steaks.
BARREN The baby likes to play.
RICHER The baby is as playful as a kitten.
BARREN The man at the door is an unemployed person.
RICHER The man at the door is a tramp.