Notes from the Smithy
Greetings from Southern Oregon!† Spring is springing here; itís rain or sunshine or both any given day.† The school year is winding down; final tests†will be coming soon along with a break for most of you.† Ah, free time to read, a great pleasure for some.
NEWS†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††† whatís happening
JUST FOR FUN††††††††††††††††††††† some puns
HABITS††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††they have an†impact
WORDS†††††† ††††††††††††††††††††††††† life and death
RECENT READS†††††††††††††††††† a few from me
MISCELLANY†††††††††††††††††††††† as it says
You can still email me at
to get a set of major vocabulary tests for Jensenís Vocabulary.† I am the only source for these tests.† They are free, but you will have to print them off.† Each set includes the test and the answers.
Please note the prices for some of the books I publish:† Jensenís Punctuation, and Jensenís Format Writing, $25 each; Jensenís Vocabulary and Jensenís Grammar $33 each.† The accompanying DVDís reflect the prices of the books.
Last time I mentioned about my eldest grandson becoming a partner in the business.† Brett, my grandson, is helping me with some punctuation video shorts that will eventually be put up on this site.† The project has stalled, but Iíve written one script and recorded it.† It needs some revision, so we have not put it up yet.† Once we are finished, all of them will go up at the same time I think.† Updates will be forthcoming.
Last issue I transposed two letters in Khan Academy.† I fixed it on the site but didnít email you subscribers.† So www.khanacademy.org is the correct web address.† Thanks to a sharp eyed reader who caught the mistake.
†JUST FOR FUN†
Puns are fun.† In fact a good pun is its own reword!
Energizer Bunny arrested - charged with battery.
A pessimistís blood type is always b-negative.
Shotgun wedding: A case of wife or death.
I used to work in a blanket factory, but it folded.
Marriage is the mourning after the knot before.
A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
Corduroy pillows are making headlines.
Sea captains donít like crew cuts.
Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?
A successful diet is the triumph of mind over†platter.
A gossip is someone with a great sense of rumor.
Without geometry, life is pointless.
When you dream in color, itís a pigment of your†imagination.
Reading whilst sunbathing makes you well-red.
When two egotists meet, itís an I for an I.
I tried to catch some fog. I mist.
When chemists die, they barium.
Jokes about German sausage are the wurst.
A soldier who survived mustard gas and pepper spray is a seasoned veteran.
I know a guy whoís addicted to brake fluid. He says†he can stop any time.
How does Moses make his tea? Hebrews it.
This girl said she recognized me from the vegetarian†club, but Iíd never met herbivore.
Iím reading a book about anti-gravity, and I canít†put it down.
I did a theatrical performance about puns. It was a†play on words. They told me I had type A blood, but it was a†type O.
Class trip to the Coca-Cola factory. I hope thereís†no pop quiz.
I didnít like my beard at first, but it grew on me.
What do you call a dinosaur with an extensive†vocabulary? A thesaurus.
What does a clock do when it is hungry? It goes†back four seconds.
Broken pencils are pointless.
We all have habits, some good and some not so good. Letís take a look at what habits are, how they are acquired, and how they affect us. By design I am limiting the discussion to habits we use in our speech and writing.
A habit is defined as an acquired pattern of behavior that often occurs automatically. The average time for a habit to ingrain itself is 66 days according to those who study such things.† Of course some habits can be acquired in less time.† Once a habit is ingrained, it becomes automatic.† We can do it without thinking, or at least not thinking very much.
When I was teaching, it was my goal to get certain responses to be habitual in my students.† For instance, I wanted them to know that English was a syntactical language, so for a while a question appeared on every quiz and lesson that had as its proper response two words, word order.† It became a giveaway question.† Anyone who had been partially awake in class could get that one right.
The point is that habits are learned over a period of time through repetition.† Spaced repetition is the key to learning.† For instance, if you listened to a 15 minute speech five times in row without interruption, you would think you would really know that speech.† However, if you listened to that speech once a day for five days in a row, you would know that speech much better.† It is the timing that counts, not the number of repetitions.
So it is with habits.† How often do you have to tie your shoes?† It is likely you tie them once or twice a day.† When you were learning, your parents didnít make you tie and untie your shoes 50 times.† They taught you how and expected that the daily practice would suffice to make tying your shoes automatic.† Guess what?† They were right.† Unfortunately, some textbooks use the wrong method.† They introduce a concept and give a large number of problems immediately for practice.† That same number of problems spread over a couple of weeks is a superior approach.
Our habits affect us in that we just do some things unconsciously.† Lots of young folks use a phrase like me and Bill.† Parents, teachers, and older children are quick to correct that misusage by saying, ďNo, itís Bill and I.Ē† After a number of such corrections, the younger person gets the picture and uses the phrase Bill and I instead of me and Bill.† Saying and writing Bill and I becomes a habit.† Thatís all well and good except they should use Bill and me when the objective case is in play.
Todayís young folks are doing lots of texting and tweeting.† All sorts of abbreviations and chopped up words are used.† Punctuation is often just dropped.† Writing in such a way becomes a habit, and unfortunately some of those odd usages and spellings transfer over into regular writing.† If it happens to be in English class, the red pencils fly.
Texting and tweeting are part of a separate medium of communication.† It is fine to be able to write in the shorthand of electronics, but it becomes an issue when the electronic jargon is transferred to regular writing.† The student, or adult for that matter, should be able to move freely between the two and be conversant in both.† The rub comes when habits born of electronic communications transfer over into standard forms of the communication.
Can habits be changed?† Yes.† The best advice is to replace one habit with another as the me and Bill vs Bill and me scenario suggests.† Scripture even comments on it in Ephesians 4:28 where the habit of theft (taking) is to be replaced with the habit of work and giving.† New habits can be learned.† Bad habits can be replaced.† Young people are very adaptable and quicker to change than adults.† A good teacher should craft lessons that over time instill good habits in students.
Great Courses has some interesting materials. I purchased a series of 36 lectures from them about words by professor Anne Curzan. The title is The Secret Life of Words: English Words and their Origins. I obviously like words. Iíve spent most of my life dealing with words, what they mean, where they come from, how they combine into phrases and clauses, and how we use them to communicate. I realize not everyone shares my passion in this respect. Thatís too bad for those who donít, but different strokes for different folks. I was inspired to write this article after hearing one of Ms. Curzanís lectures on the life of words.
Words come and go. They are born and they die. Some are still born; they never get anywhere. I think of the inkhorn terms that were popular in the 16th and 17th centuries when English was changing from Middle English to Modern English. An inkhorn was a small container, usually of horn, that held ink. Thus, inkhorn terms came from end of somebodyís pen. Some of these words didnít make it, for instance, yeartide, a word for anniversary. Others like celebrate did. The inkhornists were all for making up new words by borrowing from other languages and by putting Latin and Greek roots and affixes together in new ways. They were opposed by the purists, who wanted English to be English and not contaminated by all the new words, especially those borrowed from other languages.
Each age has its own set of words that come into being.† Technology in our own time has given us many new words.† Ten years ago, who would have known the phrase google it?† Some of the expressions I heard as a boy are in the dustbin.† Who says shazam anymore?† Those of my generation who remember Captain Marvel know where that word came from.
Some words have been around as long as English has been English.† Words like I and man and sun were part of the Germanic dialect from which English sprung.† We have hung on to the eight forms of be.† No other verbs in English today have eight forms, but weíve kept all eight of be because they are in constant use.† And thatís the key to the life of a word.† If a word is in relatively steady use, it will stay alive.† If people quit using the word, it eventually drops out of the language.
So, words are birthed in three ways.† The oldest words have come from the early Germanic dialect that later became English; these words are usually very common words in daily use.† Some words came into English because they were borrowed from other languages.† Squash was an Indian word which we borrowed from the Narragansetts in Rhode Island.† Roger Williams wrote about it in 1643.† The original Indian word was much longer, but the English speakers shortened it to squash.† We also took Indian words for moose, raccoon, and skunk, all of which were native to America but unknown in England.† The third way new words come into the language is through invention.† Google is such a word.† Television is an earlier example.† The inkhorn folks would love modern technology.
Speaking of borrowing words, we are indiscriminate when it comes to the originating language; we will borrow from any language if we like the word.† Algebra has its origins in Arabic; ketchup comes from Chinese.† Dutch gives us pickle, and Finnish hands us sauna.† Pajamas is of Hindu origin. Kayak is from the Inuit; karaoke is from Japanese.† Hogan comes from the Navajo, and Portugese lends us molasses.† Czar or tsar is from Russian while Spanish is the source for rodeo.† Of course, I have barely scratched the surface with these examples.† Latin, Greek, French, Spanish and German have given us a great many words, primarily because of our associations with these countries or languages.
Of course, borrowing words is not a one-way street.† The French use les bluejeans.† Americanisms abound in other languages.† The advance of electronic communications and the rise of English as the world language has and will contribute to all sorts of cross fertilization in language.
Words also die.† They die when people stop using them.† How do we know when a word dies?† For most people it isnít an issue, the word just falls out of usage.† However, for those who write dictionaries, it is a big issue.† Do they or donít they continue to include a given word when they print a new edition.† Sometimes dictionary authors will hedge.† They will put the word in and give it a label, usually archaic.† This means the word may not be in common use anymore, but we can still find it in classical literature, such as Shakespeare, and we will have some idea of its meaning.
Language is organic; it is ever shifting.† Words come and go.† Some change meaning.† Think of cupboard, for instance.† Today we store lots more than cups in a cupboard.† Cupboard has expanded in its meaning.† Starve, on the other hand, used to mean ďto die by any means.Ē† Today it has been reduced to ďdeath by lack of food.Ē† Conversation has completely shifted in meaning.† In one of my dictionaries the common definition is ďan informal exchange of thoughts and feelings, a familiar talk.Ē† However it does give the older definition as used in the King James Bible, ďbehavior,Ē but the dictionary labels it obsolete, meaning nobody uses that definition anymore.
Language and its study can be fun, at least I think so, and hopefully Iíll continue to write about it for some time.† After all, words are my business.
1.† Excerpts of material from this newsletter may be freely used so long as proper credit is given as to the source.† Feel free to copy it and pass it along.
2.† This newsletter is posted quarterly on the website, and it is emailed free to those who wish to subscribe.†
3.† Thanks to all of you who purchase, use, and recommend my materials.† I am seeing second generation users now.† That's exciting!
4.† Remember, if you have questions, I am only an email away at
.† I am your support, so use me when the need arises.
5.† The next issue of Smithy Notes is scheduled for distribution in the spring, Lord willing.
BY HIS GRACE,