The editors of the Oxford English Dictionary are calling upon the public to help them find antedatings and early uses of a number of terms. Those terms, and the dates the OED currently has citations for in its files, are:
- Bellini (1965)
- FAQ (1989)
- disco (1964)
- cootie (1967) (in the sense of the imaginary children’s “germ")
- to come in from the cold (1963)
- blue-arsed fly (1970)
- in your dreams! (1986)
- Kwanzaa (1971)
Such appeals are nothing new, going back to the earliest days of the dictionary, but what’s neat about this appeal is that all the submissions are posted on the web. So you can see what work has been done to date.
Of course, the OED editors are always happy to receive emails containing antedatings and early citations for any word.
The Writing Revolution
A very interesting article in the most recent issue of The Atlantic about how teaching writing seems to vastly improve the academic potential of students who have a history of poor academic performance.
From a personal perspective, I would agree with this experience. I credit most of my academic success to my eleventh-grade English teacher who focused the entire class on writing solid essays. I can’t think of a better skill to teach students. A focus on good writing leads to clear and critical thinking in virtually any field, not just English classes.
I have two cautions though. First, the premise seems based on anecdotal evidence. I’d really like to see this tested under controlled conditions.
Second, I’d hate to see this turned into a call to “teach grammar.” That’s an approach that has been proven not to work. From the description of the program, they are not teaching grammar; they are teaching writing. The students have known English grammar since they were five years old; they just don’t know how to apply it to the written page. The focus is on teaching how to write coherent complex sentences, not to teach the difference between a gerund and participle. If you have to do some quick remedial instruction on grammar to get a point about good writing across, so be it, but the grammar instruction is an ad hoc, instrumental step, not the objective of the instruction.
Esquires and Attorneys
Lately I’ve taken to reading Kevin Underhill’s blog, Lowering the Bar. Underhill, a lawyer, comments on the various humorous news stories about legal cases and the profession of law that arise. The blog rarely fails to give me a chuckle with my morning coffee.
His posting from yesterday is not one of the funnier ones (although it has its moments), but Underhill does raise the issue of how courts use the meanings of words in their deliberations. In the case in question, John Heurlin, a lawyer who had been suspended by the California Bar Association, continued to use the titles attorney and esquire and to represent clients. The case is the disciplinary proceeding against Huerlin.Read the rest of the article...
Ben Trawick-Smith’s Dialect Blog has post about diversity in Canadian Anglophone accents. The conclusion, yes there are distinctions, but they are subtle. There are no major divides, like between the Southern States and the rest of the United States or strong urban dialects, like Cockney or Scouse.
Theater and Storytelling
Holger Syme discusses the difference between theater and storytelling. Storytelling is a buzzword in theater and film nowadays, but Syme makes a persuasive case that drama is not storytelling.
I had thought storytelling, as used in the dramatic arts, was, in essence, something quite distinct from the storytelling techniques of narrative literature. But Syme makes the point that a good deal of modern drama is just writing read out loud, that good drama is distinctly different from literature.
Copyright 1997-2013, by David Wilton