Notes from the Smithy... #71
Notes from the Smithy...
April 2010 - #71
Greetings from Southern Oregon! Green is what we are seeing now although snow is hovering at the higher elevations. God is showing His annual renewal of the earth in the Northern Hemisphere. Praise God for His seasons.
NEWS what’s happening
JUST FOR FUN ambiguous questions
PC = PC thoughts on speech
EXAM QUESTIONS toward better answers
RECENT READS a few from me
MISCELLANY as it says
Best laid plans and all that. The DVD for Jensen’s Grammar is written but not filmed. We are starting to film and edit, but the project got put on the back burner for a time. Ah, the vagaries of life.
One mother and son plied me with many questions about the punctuation book, and in the process we discovered a few errors. If you want those corrections, post me for an errata sheet.
JUST FOR FUN
The English language is full of ambiguities that can lend themselves to humorous interpretations. What follows are a number of questions with some clever twists. Enjoy.
If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes?
Can an atheist get insurance against acts of God?
If you try to fail and succeed, which have you done?
What was the best thing before sliced bread?
Can vegetarians eat animal crackers?
If a turtle lacks a shell, is it homeless or naked?
Would a fly without wings be called a walk?
What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant?
Where do forest rangers go to get away from it all?
If a parsley farmer is sued, do they garnish his wages?
If someone with multiple personalities decides to kill himself, is it a hostage situation?
Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?
How is it possible to have a civil war?
Why do they put Braille on the drive-through bank machine?
If you ate both pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?
What if there were no hypothetical questions?
PC = PC
Formulas are great. They express a whole lot in a sort of shorthand fashion. I like to use them and have to varying degrees in some of my books. I ; I is one of about five basic punctuation formulas found in Jensen’s Punctuation. There are many formulas used in Jensen’s Grammar. P +…+Op is the formula for a prepositional phrase. Many of the exercises in the grammar book have sentences expressed as formulas, S Pp V O Pp for instance, that the student is required to write.
Formulas are very helpful, but the person reading the formula needs to know what the various symbols stand for in order to make sense of the formula. The title of this article is PC = PC, and it is about speech. Here is what that formula means.Politically correct speech equals perverted communication. Perverted means garbled, distorted, twisted, or misleading.
Our modern PC talk limits expression or requires certain conventions that don’t enhance meaning but exist only to please a certain segment of the population. The gender neutral crowd says we should use he/she instead of using the historical male reference to mean humanity in general. To go against this tradition is to supposedly promote some male dominated social scheme where women are debased. This is only one example, but there are many others I am certain that you can think of.
So, is this an issue of importance, or am I just being a bit of crank on this? Consider this. The words we have in our vocabulary limit the ideas we can express. If certain words cease to exist in our minds, the concepts that those words defined can also cease to exist. This reordering of thinking is accomplished by either removing the words or redefining them. Classical examples are found in George Orwell’s books Animal Farm and 1984.
The people in 1984 were constantly bombarded with the three slogans of Big Brother, war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength. It is likely Orwell had Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels in mind. Goebbels infamously said, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
Mr. Orwell wrote an excellent essay entitled “Politics and the English Language.” Although written in 1946 and describing the situation of the language in England, his ideas are relevant today. His primary thrust in that essay was that language should be a means of expressing thought, not concealing or preventing it.
Changes in the language both reflect and cause political, social, and economic change. To put it another way, thought can corrupt language, and language can also corrupt thought.
Here’s an example. We are told by our media, our teachers, and our textbooks that the United States of America is a democracy. It is not; it is a republic. The pledge of allegiance says so clearly. The Federalist Papers argued against a democracy in favor of a republic.
So what’s the big deal? Don’t they mean essentially the same thing? No, they don’t at all. A democracy is rule by man, or the majority. In its most blatant form, it is a lynch mob, 16 in favor of hanging, one opposed. In a democracy the majority rules. A republic is where the rule is by law, and protections are built in for the minorities. Yes, differences exist, and they are important.
Herr Goebbels finished his first quote about the big lie with this; “It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the state.”
Mr. Goebbels also said, “Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.” And so who is the great encourager and enforcer of politically correct speech? I submit it is the government, the media, and the educational institutions that take the government money. It does seem to come full circle, doesn’t it? PC is PC.
It has been my experience that often students do not adequately answer essay questions because they do not follow the instructions of the question. It seems there are three reasons for this error: lack of careful reading of the question, not having an outline or identifying all parts of the question, and not knowing what the question asks for. Let’s take these up.
The first error I noticed was that students were not always careful to actually read the question. They would look at it, but they did not carefully pick up on all the pieces of the question. That being the case, often their answers were incomplete. It is a simple error to remedy, especially when there are multiple parts to the question. Reading and understanding what the question is asking is necessary to give a good answer to the question.
Most students don’t take time to think through the question and make a quick outline. The tendency is to briefly look at the question and start writing. Making a brief outline helps assure that all the basic parts of the question will be covered. Even just reading through the questions and marking points in the question itself with a number will help. Again, failure to do this often results in an incomplete answer.
I graded the essay questions I assigned with an analytical key. That helped me to know what the student did and didn’t cover in the answer, and I could easily point out the uncovered portions in the student’s answer.
This last error was a bit less obvious. I didn’t realize for a time that some students didn’t really know the definitions of the common verbs in essay questions. Obviously they were struggling to answer a question they did not fully understand. To that end I made up a list of common verbs often found in essay questions and gave definitions for those verbs. Here is that list.
Analyze – give the main divisions or elements making sure to emphasize essential features
Classify – arrange into divisions or classes
Compare – point out the likenesses of the two or three subjects given
Contrast – point out the differences of the two or three subjects given
Criticize – give your opinion as to the good and bad features of the subject
Define – explain the meaning, give synonyms and antonyms, distinguish from similar terms
Describe – name the features in chronological or spatial order
Discuss – examine in detail
Evaluate – give your opinion of the value or validity of the subject or argument; sometimes the evaluation is to be done according to preset standards; if so, that should be part of the question
Explain – make clear, give reasons for, trace the development of
Illustrate – give one or more examples of
Interpret – give the meaning or significance of
Justify – defend, show to be right, explain why; personally I liked to use this on opinion questions in literature
Review – examine on a broad scale, give an overview of the subject
Summarize – briefly go over the main points or essentials
My best advice to anyone having to answer an essay question is to read the question thoroughly, make some sort of minimal notation or outline of what points need to be answered, and then be sure to pay close attention to the directive verbs in the question. Follow these directions to better answers.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson was a rather different book. She developed her characters well, but the method was interesting. The story was a series of entries in a man’s journal. The entries were sometimes current and sometimes wistful remembrances of the past. Yes, a different type of book to be sure.
L.E. Modesitt, Jr. does it again. This time I read Imager, the first in a new series. His stories develop at an unhurried pace with moderate action here and there along with lots of interplay and intrigue. He is one of my favorite fantasy authors. He develops his characters through dialogue and action, and there is always something a bit mysterious going on at the edges which affects the main character and those around him.
Nate Saint is a biography about Nate Saint, one of the fellows killed by Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956. Janet and Geoff Benge have authored a variety of these biographies for YWAM. The book was informative and interesting to read. Nate was quite an adventurous fellow. I passed it on to my grandson Evan for his tenth birthday. The subtitle was “On a Wing and a Prayer.” Nate loved planes, Jesus, adventure, life, and his family, not necessarily in that order.
While at a basketball game in which my granddaughter Jessica was playing in northern Oregon, I made some conversation with a homeschooling dad who recommended Joseph C. Lincoln, an author I had not heard of. I found two of his books at a local store, used hardbacks for the princely sum of $2 each. Rugged Water was written in 1924, The Bradshaws of Harniss in 1944. The latter was contemporary with the time. The former was set prior to the US Coast Guard coming into being. Lincoln’s books are about the Cape Cod area and its people. The two I read had some romance, some adventure, and some intrigue. I found them a nice change of pace. He does use some dialect and sayings which as a Westerner I was unfamiliar with.
A Praying Life is about prayer. Paul E. Miller does a nice job of interweaving personal stories and prayer principles along with motivating one to pray. The subtitle is “Connecting with God in a Distracting World. I found this book to be both helpful and engaging. If you are interested in prayer or think maybe your prayer life needs a bit of help, I would recommend this book.
Tom Shenton wrote Audrey Featherstone, I Presume. It is a biography of Audrey Featherstone, a missionary to the Congo from 1946 through 1969, a time when it was still pretty primitive. Toward the end the whole political scene erupted when the Belgians left, and the various tribes and militias warred against one another. About the first third of the book deals with Audrey’s life in England prior to her getting to the mission field. Audrey told much of the story to Mr. Shenton, and from his comments, I am sure she downplayed her role quite a bit. In fact, he had to do much convincing to get her to speak about herself in any way.
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. The email version is yours for as long as you want to receive it as long as I continue to publish it.
3. At present I am not scheduled to speak or have a booth anywhere in 2010.
4. Thanks to those contact me with questions. I am always happy to get some kind of answer back to you. Bless those of you who call or write nice things about the books. That encourages me to continue on.
5. The next issue of Smithy Notes is scheduled for distribution sometime in mid-June. Hopefully I will have read a few more books, printed some myself, sold some, and made that grammar DVD by then, so stay tuned.
FOR HIS KINGDOM,
|< Prev||Next >|