Over the years, I’ve noticed some strange coincidences. If I buy, for example, a wine from a relatively unknown country or variety, then two days later, I’ll see a 2-page spread in the Sunday times about the up-and-coming wine industry of that country. Or maybe I suddenly get an old song stuck in my head, which is made even more annoying if I can’t remember the words after ten years of never hearing it. A day later, it will be played three times on the radio.
Now, it’s happening to me in blog form.
Here’s an example: over at educlaytion.com, we’ve been engaged in a Movie March Madness, following the college basketball tournament (may I ask at this time that we observe a moment of silence in morning for Florida’s defeat by Butler…amen). My entry – Four Weddings and a Funeral – was defeated after the first round, but as I pout, I am still keeping an eye on my other favorites. Within days of the contest’s start, Ghost, The Blues Brothers, Harry Potter, and The Empire Strikes Back were all being played on various cable stations. And just yesterday, I caught part of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, another contestant which is also one of my all-time favorite movies. Don’t judge me.
When this sort of fortuitous timing leads me to further information about a topic I’ve explored here, I will collect links or references and offer them up as follow-up tidbits for the edification of us all.
This past Tuesday, I wrote about texting messages and whether or not they are partly to blame for real or perceived declines in writing skills. This weekend, I found this: FYI, LOL, OMG! New Words Added to Oxford English Dictionary. I knew it was only a matter of time. The OED follows a very descriptive view of language, and simply records words and phrases that have been in common use and can be referenced in written records. There’s no doubt that millions of records exist for these acronyms.
Speaking of descriptive vs. prescriptive accounts of langauge, I found a book review of The Language Wars: A History of Proper English by Henry Hitchings. The book explores how the English language has been shaped by perceptions of what “proper” English is, especially in relation to some of our more revered stylistic rules.
Then, as I was perusing this past Sunday’s New York Times, I came across this: Teaching to the Text Message. It’s a fascinating version of the classic “if ya can’t beat ’em, then join ’em” theme: assign very short writing assignments. Limit answers to a couple of sentences maximum. I’m not so sure I would be able to embrace the idea as much as the author did, though I might try it in my class before the end of this semester to see for myself what kind of work would be produced.
It does remind me of an assignment that I enjoy doing with my literature classes. I call it Favorite Word Poems. Here’s the description I wrote at the end of an early post:
“For now, here’s an activity I like to do on the first day of my literature classes. It’s something that the students are generally quite wary of at first, but then they find themselves absorbed in the challenge and I’ve been told it was one of their favorite activities. First, I ask each student to give me their favorite word, or at least a word that they really like. The words go up on the board. Then, in groups, the students must then write a poem using the words. There are only two basic rules:
- Use only the words on the board. Do not use any word that is not on the board.
- Words can be repeated or modified for part of speech.
Usually at this point, students beg me for permission to use function words. “Please, can’t we PLEASE have ‘the’?? Or at least ‘and’??” After they get over the shock of being forced to understand relationships between words and creating meaning without the use of grammatical function words, they start to get excited about how imaginative they can actually be by creating associations and images using only content words.
Here’s a list of words from one of the classes this summer:
power, pride, what, ridiculous, dying, bent, change, amazing, rambunctious, turn, exuberance, quiet, shenanigans, excessive, money, exclamation, jealousy, respect, entertain, friendship, awesome, and (yes, someone said that before they had any idea of what they were going to be asked to do.)
I may have missed a few words, but that’s most of them.
Ready to write a poem? Knock yourselves out!”
You heard me! Start waxing poetic!
Edited to add: For a taste of what seems to be a brand-new but burgeoning genre, check out some twitter poetry!