So I was one of those kids who actually liked school. I’m no longer sheepish about this; I just did and I feel like that should be ok. I was into all the paper-writing, test-taking (especially spelling tests) and tri-fold-poster-board pimping. The whole bit.
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Possibly my favorite activity from my grade school days, however, was DIAGRAMMING SENTENCES. Oh man, did I love that stuff. To be honest, I think it had a little bit to do with the fact that I was good at it and relished busting out a prickly looking diagram filled with predicate nominatives, prepositional phrases and infinitive appositives while the rest of my classmates struggled to plot out “The dog barked.” Look, I was a nerd; I never said I was a nice one. If it makes you feel any better, I’ve since given up pedantry for general enthusiasm.
Anyway, I also liked that sentence diagramming also made me feel like a super-sleuth that had unlocked the code to the English language, which we all know is erratic, illogical and insanely complex. Even the slightly arbitrary diagram symbols themselves felt like a secret that I’d mastered. Take, for instance, the not-entirely-logical contraption that diagrammers invented for gerunds, aka verbs that act like nouns (in the below example, “raising” is our guy):
Silly, right? But it’s kind of fun in a way, too. Listen. Don’t start pooh-poohing this as mundane and unpleasant. People do math equations every day for fun. They buy books for their airplane trips and pedicure appointments, and the real nut jobs enter contests! I’m talking about Sudoku, which (in my opinion) is a completely baffling and frustrating way to spend one’s free time. Why aren’t there books of sentence diagrams for the mathly-challenged population? This needs to happen.
If I can’t have my sentence-diagramming puzzle book, then the Christmas gift I got from my mother is the next best thing. I was completely tickled to receive a book called Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences.
This charming little tome waxes nostalgic about the author’s sixth grade English class, in which sentence diagramming was used as entertainment (entertainment!) by the plucky nun instructor, Sister Bernadette. Oh, bring me back to the olden days where I might find some kindred spirits!
Whoever illustrated the diagrams in the book should be given a medal for some of the more complex sentences and paragraphs represented, the most daunting being a Proustian passage splayed across two pages. It’s like the grammarian’s version of a centerfold. Oooh, baby. It’s also somehow satisfying to see that Proust is equally meandering when diagrammed as when read:
So for the next several months you’ll probably find me brushing up on my diagramming skills and working on my line of puzzle books for the linguistically inclined. Don’t judge me. We all have our things.
Infographics are like design and word porn all rolled into the nerd porn of learning something new. It’s a porn-as-metaphor trifecta!
I absolutely adore this little gem of an info graphic that I found today: The DONE MANIFESTO. Collaborators Bre Pettis and Kio Stark gave themselves 20 minutes to drum up these 13 maxims for taking an idea from mental fluff to doneski.
As a freelancer, I welcome any strategy to keep myself from getting distracted or discouraged. This is a simple, piquant (and let’s not forget pretty) reminder of just how to go about it.
It gets even better when you pair each illustration with its corresponding maxim, listed below:
1 There are three states of being. Not knowing, action and completion.
2 Accept that everything is a draft. It helps to get it done.
3 There is no editing stage.
4 Pretending you know what you’re doing is almost the same as knowing what you are doing, so just accept that you know what you’re doing even if you don’t and do it.
5 Banish procrastination. If you wait more than a week to get an idea done, abandon it.
6 The point of being done is not to finish but to get other things done.
7 Once you’re done you can throw it away.
8 Laugh at perfection. It’s boring and keeps you from being done.
9 People without dirty hands are wrong. Doing something makes you right.
10 Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.
11 Destruction is a variant of done.
12 If you have an idea and publish it on the internet, that counts as a ghost of done.
13 Done is the engine of more.
So, friends. The bottom line is, there are no excuses, no judgements and no boundaries! Just get something done, then relish the feeling you get upon completion and use it as your fuel for the next project.
I admit it, I am a sucker for what is commonly called “Engrish“, or the hilarity that ensues when non-Romantic or Germanic languages like Chinese or Vietnamese get translated into English. Those eastern characters are complex and our alphabet sometimes can’t keep up. Bottom line, accidents are bound to happen.
This is why I got a kick out of the website for my local nail place, Galaxy Nails. This is what it’s like when wor(l)ds collide!
In 2007 Merriam-Webster elevated the popular ginormous–an elision of “gigantic” and “enormous”–from mere slang to bonafide vocabulary.
The wordies at M-W must have been feeling good in ’07, bestowing wordhood upon the rather silly crunk, a fusion of “cronic” and “drunk”, that same year. Since then, the American vernacular has experienced a bumper crop of new verbal combinations, or portmanteaux.
Despite the recent influx, the portmanteau is not a new concept. Lewis Carroll’s 1872 poem,Jabberwocky, is rife with grammatical inventions, like “slithy” (slimy + lithe) and “mimsy” (miserable + flimsy). His then newly coined “chortle” (chuckle + snort) even made its way into regular English usage.
Come to think of it, wasn’t Carroll known for being crunk a lot of the time?
The Pinocchio Portmanteau: When slang becomes a real word!
Over the years, English’s mutability produced words–many now standardized–like “smog” (smoke + fog), “Spanglish” (duh) and “brunch” (if you don’t know, then you should probably stop reading).
As with the pluot, spork and Brangelina, a pithy portmanteau is invariably more exciting than its individual ingredients. While some are born out of confusion–Bush’s “misunderestimated” will doubtless make it into the history books–many are the product of simple innovation.
In keeping with the entrepreneurial spirit of American English, I submit for your consideration a few new word mash-ups that I have happened upon recently. Do any of these have what it takes to become the next “ginormous?” You be the judge.