Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Review of "A Midwinter Ball" Regency Romance Anthology

"Glamorous Couple Vintage Art"
I am a huge clean Regency romance fan of late. I enjoyed Jane Austen novels in high school and college.

Over four years ago, I started reading Sarah M. Eden's regency romance novels and fell in love with the genre. She wrote with humor and a deep point of view. It was like reading a modern Jane Austen novel. Soon I discovered many more Regency romance authors such as Julie Klassen, Carla Kelly, Ruth Axtell (Morren), Karen Cogan, and so many more that I can't possibly list.

I made it through one and a half of Georgette Heyer's books, but they were written in the more passive style of Jane Austen.

So I really enjoyed reading this collection of clean romance novellas A Timeless Regency Collection: a Midwinter Ball, featuring Heidi Ashworth, Annette Lyon, and Michele Paige Holmes.

Much Ado About Dancing by Heidi Ashworth


I started reading the second book in the Miss Delacourt series of Heidi Ashworth's but got lost. This is why I should start with the first book in the series, which I intend to do after reading Much Ado About Dancing.

Lord Northrup has ruined Analisa's chances of a match because of his threat to possible suitors, but Analisa found the perfect host Mrs. Smith to remedy her single status at Dance Hall. Dance Hall seems like the perfect solution for these days :).

I enjoyed the witty repartee in this comedy of manners since Analisa and Northrup lacked certain manners--silence, tempers. Analisa deserved a good talking-to because she wouldn't tell the truth about the letters! Her lying by silence and coyness got her nowhere.

Sweeter Than Any Dream by Annette Lyon


Olivia Wallington (not like Duke of Wellington) suffers at the hand of her mother and aunt who treat her like the "very monster of Frankenstein." 

She copes through staying silent, or eating to avoid conversation. Annette Lyon wrote "A chewing mouth was a mouth incapable of speaking." At least if you show your manners, which doesn't always happen in my house.

Edward made the horrible mistake of portraying what Olivia perceived as pity. The line "Dancing is the object of pity was far worse than sitting at the edge of the room without a single partner" feels reminiscent of a Jane Austen observation.

I like Olivia's dream shadow man because that's how I dreamed before I was engaged (or it was whatever current crush I had. How embarrassing!). And the dream man soon takes on an identity.

I cheered for Olivia when she braved telling the truth since the truth allowed her to live more fully.

An Invitation to Dance by Michele Paige Holmes


I enjoyed reading Michele Holmes novella in the A Timeless Romance Anthology: A European Collection. I checked out one of her books from the library, but I didn't finish it. I am so awful because I wanted to read a historical or regency romance instead. 

Last night, I saw Holmes has three Regency romance novellas, but they aren't available through my library. Maybe I should put in a request at my library.

I love the mouthful name Lady Eleanora Theodesia Whitticomb of 11 syllables. In fact, I'm jealous because I never had a middle name and this character does. My father forgot to put "Rose" on my birth certificate forms. However, I prefer simplicity too like Lady Ella and enjoy the simplicity filling out forms faster than others with middle names.

Mr. Darling has a rather Mr. Darcy moment of "She has pretty eyes" versus the "fine" eyes of Elizabeth Bennett. He has other reasons for staying aloof though.

I enjoy the journey of Ella and Mr. Darling turning their inabilities into abilities together (p. 134). And the plot twist along the way.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Review of "An Unexpected Proposal"

Annette Lyon asked me to review "An Unexpected Proposal" (no money changed hands; just a review copy). I'm having nightmares of AP English and my almost minor in English literature as I think of writing a review for this novella. I must tell myself: this is not a college paper. No one's grading me, just the potential of every human on the planet reading it.

Force Vs. Choice


The juxtaposition of a forced "intimacy" next to chosen intimacy jumped out at me. Forced "intimacy" is an attack, but two people choosing intimacy is love. True love means showing respect for another person's choice, whether they reject or accept the offer of love. Or the case of a marriage proposal for Caroline.

The Details


I enjoyed the historical and descriptive details while reading. As I read "An Unexpected Proposal," I felt cold reading about Caroline up a canyon from Logan, Utah during the winter. Maybe I felt cold because there's snow on the ground where I live.

The moon takes a journey during "An Unexpected Proposal" according to Caroline's mood. First kiss equals a warm glow of the moon. Then the moon turns cold and hard when she's away from her first kiss.

Isn't it funny how we describe inanimate objects according to our own emotions?

Similes

Annette Lyon used similes such as bland as paper and melting romantically as simmering and boiling.

What would I compare bland to? Somehow paper seems to fit so well. I've chewed on some pretty bland paper in my lifetime. So have my boys.

Fantasy Vs. Reality


I enjoyed when Caroline's fantasy bubble popped. After all, reality can be much better. Besides that reality is the only life we'll live. I love the practicality of James complimenting Caroline's "perfect, crisp bacon". Life is practical and magical.

I remember having fantasies of dating and my first kiss. Reality was much more interesting. I had no idea how to kiss and my then-future husband instructed me how to do it. Embarrassing. But I got him back when I spied the price tag on my engagement ring.


 What would be your idea of perfect love? Has reality been more magical than your fantasies?

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

GINGERZILLA!

"Dinosaur Park" by Carlos Sarta
A parody of Gingerella. Yes, I did a parody on my own work. It made me laugh thinking of it.

Ginger Ellen swung her head back and forth, her red-haired ponytails brushing her cheeks. No predators ahead on the road. She skittered forward.

“Mom!” she called back. “What’s taking you so long?”

“Excuse me, dear.” Mom rolled her green eyes and picked up Ginger’s toddler brother. “Greg Elliot isn’t cooperating.” Greg grabbed Mom’s glasses and tossed them onto the gravel.

Ginger Ellen stopped and snarled. “I’m gonna be late to my first day of first grade.”

“You’re just going to have to wait.” Mom bent over and squinted her eyes. “Blast it! I can’t find my glasses.” She pawed through the gravel with her free hand while Greg Elliot pulled her brown hair. “Ginger Ellen, I need your help.”

“Grr.” While sniffing the air, she squatted and stalked forward.  She bent her head to the ground and snatched the glasses with her teeth. She rose and stood patiently before her mother.

“Thank you, Ginger Ellen.” Mom grabbed the glasses from her mouth and wiped them off. “But use your fingers next time. I’m not fond of scratches on my lenses.” Mom shoved the glasses askew on her face. Greg reached for glasses again. “Stop!” Mom slapped Greg’s hand and he howled.

“Let’s go!” Ginger Ellen bounded forward on her toes and her arms tucked in front.

Mom jogged and Greg Elliot screeched happily with each bounce. Mom smiled at him and then at Ginger Ellen.

Ginger Ellen spotted the school with big crayon pillars. “I can get to school from here, Mom.”

“Are you sure?” Mom stopped. “Do you remember where your class is?”

“Of course.” Ginger Ellen mentally reviewed the place from Back to School night. “I’m always aware of my surroundings.”

“Okay. Love you.” Mom blew kisses. “Please act like a human!”

“Dinosaurs nuzzle, not blow kisses.” Ginger Ellen rolled her head back. “But I can be human sometimes. Love you too.” When would her mother learn the ways of the wild?

She sprinted forward to the other kids at the crosswalk. She grinned from ear-to-ear at the girl next to her, but the girl looked the other way. Ginger Ellen frowned.

Finally, the crossing guard led them across the street. Ginger Ellen gazed up at the tall crayon columns until the crowd bumped her forward. She moved with the crush through the front door. She resisted clawing her way through.

She looked at the three directions to go and lifted her nose. She smelled the skunky perfume of her teacher down the hall to her right. She checked her hands real quick. I scribble with my right hand…so my right.

Ginger Ellen followed the herd of kids into her classroom. She looked around for her name on one of the desks. It wasn’t there! Surely her nose hadn’t led her astray.

“Mrs. Miller, where’s my seat?” she approached the teacher and winced at the perfume.

“Over there, Ginger.” Mrs. Miller pointed to the third desk from the door on the front row.

“But my name’s not just Ginger—”

“Please be seated, Ginger.”

She hung her head down. People never got her name right.

“Hello, class. I’m so excited to get to know you this year.” Mrs. Miller stood behind her desk. “Now, let’s do roll call.” She stooped to reach her laptop.

Ginger Ellen looked at the other kids as their names were called. There were so many unfamiliar faces in this herd.

“Ginger, Ginger…I’m calling your name.” Mrs. Miller looked at her.

Ginger Ellen snapped to attention. “My name’s not Ginger. It’s Ginger Ellen.”

“Okay.” Mrs. Miller typed a note on her computer. “I’ll remember that in the future.”

The class giggled. She growled and scratched her desk.

“Gingerzilla,” a boy whispered behind her.

Ginger Ellen jerked around her head, her ponytails stinging her cheeks. “I like that name!”

“Calm down, class.” Mrs. Miller said.


Gingerzilla. She liked the sound of that and bared her teeth while smiling.


What should Gingerzilla do next?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Ginger Ellen's New Nickname

"Cinderella" by Elena Kalis
This is the first part in a series that I am posting hopefully on a weekly basis. Ginger Ellen is a "ginger" as some call redheads. I prefer being called a redhead. The spice ginger is more yellowish than red-orange. Anyway, this story is meant for fun and not as a polished piece. Enjoy!

Ginger Ellen swung her head back and forth so her red-haired ponytails brushed her cheeks as she skipped to school. She felt the wind come through the holey knees on her pants.

“Mom!” she called back. “What’s taking you so long?”

“Excuse me, dear.” Mom rolled her green eyes and picked up Ginger’s toddler brother. “Greg Elliot isn’t cooperating.” Greg grabbed Mom’s glasses and tossed them onto the gravel.

Ginger Ellen stopped and suddenly snarled. “I’m gonna be late for my first day of first grade at my new school.”

“You’re just going to have to wait.” Mom bent over and squinted her eyes. “Blast it! I can’t find my glasses.” She pawed through the gravel with her free hand while Greg Elliot pulled her brown hair. “Ginger Ellen, I need your help.”

“Whatever, Mom.” She jogged over and picked up the glasses right under Mom’s nose. It had several new scratches.

“They were right there? Oh bother.” Mom grabbed the glasses and shoved them askew on her face. Greg reached for glasses again. “Stop!” Mom slapped Greg’s hand and he howled.

“Let’s go now!” Ginger Ellen ran forward, her worn backpack bouncing in rhythm with her ponytails.

Mom jogged forward and Greg screeched happily with each bounce. Mom smiled at him and then at Ginger Ellen.

Ginger Ellen spotted the school with big crayon pillars. “I can get to school from here, Mom.”

“Are you sure?” Mom stopped. “Do you remember where your class is?”

“Of course.” Ginger Ellen mentally reviewed the place from Back to School night. “Yep. I’ve got it.”

“Okay. Love you.” Mom blew kisses.

“Love you too, Mom.” Ginger Ellen rolled her head back. How often did she have to go through this routine? And it was only the first day of school.

She sprinted forward to the other kids at the crosswalk. She grinned from ear-to-ear at the girl next to her, but the girl looked the other way. Ginger Ellen frowned.

Finally, the crossing guard led them across the street. Ginger gazed up at the tall crayon columns until the crowd bumped her forward. She moved with the crush through the front door.

She looked at the three directions to go. Which way again? She closed her eyes. Yes, it was the hall to her right. She checked her hands real quick. I write with my right hand…so that way.

Ginger Ellen followed other kids into her classroom. She looked around for her name on one of the desks. It wasn’t there! Was she in the wrong classroom?

“Mrs. Miller, where’s my seat?” she approached the teacher.

“Over there, Ginger.” Mrs. Miller pointed to the third desk from the door on the front row.

“But my name’s not just Ginger—”

“Please be seated, Ginger.”

She hung her head down. People never got her name right.

“Hello, class. I’m so excited to get to know you this year.” Mrs. Miller stood behind her desk. “Now, let’s do roll call.” She stooped to reach her laptop.

Ginger Ellen looked at the other kids as their names were called. There were so many new faces.

“Ginger, Ginger…I’m calling your name.” Mrs. Miller looked at Ginger Ellen.

Ginger Ellen snapped to attention. “My name is not Ginger. It’s Ginger Ellen.”

“Okay.” Mrs. Miller typed a note on her computer. “I’ll remember that in the future.”

Other kids giggled behind her.

“Gingerella,” a voice whispered behind her. “Looks poor enough to be Gingerella.”

Ginger Ellen whipped around her head, her ponytails stinging her cheeks. “Don’t call me that!”

“Calm down, class.” Mrs. Miller continued calling names, which Ginger Ellen didn’t hear.

Was she poor? Ginger Ellen looked at the scuffs on her dingy shoes, the holes at her knees, and then looked at another girl. The girl had new jeans sporting butterflies and perfectly white shoes with pink shoelaces.


Ginger Ellen laid her head on her desk and hoped this day would go faster.


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Watch Out for the B Poem

"Red Glassy Bison" by Piotr Siedlecki
On my personal Facebook page, I asked my friends and family to give me 20 B words. I got a list of 21 or 22. You want to count them? I don't. Okay, I counted them: 22.

This is the list of B words:

brush, bison, belligerent, brown, bicep, beryllium, buccinators, bacon, balloon, Bolivia, beginning, bravo, bulbous, bingo, brachylogy, buxom, baloney, believe, bugging, Beetle Juice, brachiosaurus, Bilbo

Some of these words reflect the personality of the person who supplied them. I'm sure there may be stories behind the other choices.

A nurse chose buccinators.
Brother-in-law in Montana chose bison.
A body coach chose bicep.
My cousin chose brachylogy. He posts occasionally on FB.

Other words beginning with b sneaked in while I wrote: bore, boy, bellowed, but, Bruce, Bertha, birth, bowels, banish, and bone.


Here's the poem:

Buxom Bertha labored two days, then bore a boy.
Her belligerent spouse declared the boy, Beetle Juice;
“Baloney!” Bertha bellowed and popped out a second joy.
“Fine, Beetle Juice and Bilbo—but not the name Bruce.”

Bertha believed in bulbous biceps for her lads

And fed them bison bacon from birth, but no beryllium.
Beginning in their buccinators, BJ and Bilbo chewed scads,
But their bowels hurt and mum gave them husk of psyllium.

“Stop bugging me!” BJ punched Bilbo’s brown balloon.

“Mum and Dad will banish you to Bolivia,” Bilbo cried.
He threw BJ’s bone brush and brachiosaurus toward the moon.
BJ ran and caught beloved broccoli-saur midstride.

“Bravo, BJ!” Bertha called from the window.

“Bingo!” Dad jumped and threw down his newspaper.
The brachylogy and praise bugged poor Bilbo.
Bilbo growled, “You won’t get away with this caper!”


My cousin-in-law asked on Facebook: "Why you picking on Bruce?" 

I replied: "Because he happens to rhyme with juice. That's the only reason. Rhyming misfortune."

A cousin included brachiosaurus because her oldest daughter called it a broccoli-saurus as a toddler. So technically, the word comes from my cousin once removed. I made a tribute to them with broccoli-saur.

To my brother-in-law who lived in Bolivia for two years: I'm not picking on Bolivia. It just happened to be a word I had to use.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Inclusive Language: No One or No Man

I was never really interested in Star Trek until I wanted impress a boy I liked in high school. As a group of friends, we watched the older movies.

As it happens, I married another Trekkie. The first few months of our marriage we watched the original Star Trek where I heard "To boldly go where no man has gone before" with every intro.

The Faux Pas


During my Modern American Usage class the next semester, the professor asked for examples of sexist or inclusive language.

"Where no man has gone before," I said.

Suddenly two or three people in the class objected: "No, it's 'where no one has gone before.'"

I cowered, but I knew I was right!

Well, I hadn't watched Star Trek: Next Generation yet where Gene Roddenberry had changed the introduction to inclusive language. I wish I had defended myself better because what I shared showed the evolution of inclusive language and the feminist movement from the 60s to 80s.

The Generic Man


Over thousands of years, our language has narrowed generic human nouns and pronouns into gender-specific nouns and pronouns. Old English used wer for adult male, but speakers replaced it with man. The meaning of man meant male or female until AD 1000. It retained the sense of people for longer. Mankind and manslaughter still mean male or female or both, though we are switching to humankind.

The feminist movement spearheaded language change where we created gender neutral terms. For example, look at the switches in these job titles:
"Funny Hospital Sign" by Linneae Mallette

  • Steward/stewardess--flight attendant
  • Waiter/waitress--server
  • Congressmen--members of Congress 
  • Actor/actress--gender neutral actor
  • Policeman--police officers
Congressman and policeman are examples of male dominated occupations. Ironically, we distinguish men in traditionally female vocations. Eventually, we may not distinguish gender for these jobs:
  • Male nurse
  • Male elementary school teacher

Clunky Pronouns


Inclusive language has led to rather clunky pronouns. We have such strange constructions as s/he, he or she, or generic 'one.' He or she, him or her constructions seem more popular. Some publications choose male or female pronouns based on their target audience.

We humans prefer simplicity and drop clunky word constructions over time. Other languages have gender neutral pronouns built in so English speakers are gradually changing to the singular gender-neutral they/their/them (or rather returning to a gender neutral term). The style manual community is beginning to recognize this grassroots solution too.

Oxford Dictionaries recognizes the change to singular they/their/them here, and Author Annette Lyon discusses it here. So if a teacher or professor complains about your use of singular they, refer them to those two links. However, it's probably best to follow their style guide for a good grade.

Correlating Male and Female Pairs

"Enjoying the Day" by Bobbi Jones Jones

When using male and female pairs, the roles should match. For example, man and wife changes to husband and wife. Some argue that this doesn't make any difference, and it doesn't always matter. Yet it can mold society.

In some cases of unequal male/female pairs, sexist language promotes sexual conquest.

Occasionally, I here the lyrics to "Only Girl in the World" by Rihanna on the radio, which reflects our broader culture. (Not to pick on Rihanna, just the words. She may or may not mean to promote this idea and she has experienced abuse herself.)

Read the lyrics:
Cause I'm the only one who understands how to make you feel like a man (yeah)
Want you to make me feel like I'm the only girl in the world.
Apparently sex makes a male a man and a female a girl.

First, an adult male does not have to have sex in order to be a man. He is already a man by definition. Teenage males and men need more encouragement to value lasting intimacy over one night stands (females too).

Second, indicating an adult woman as a girl demeans a woman of her maturity and strength. Women are not beneath men, but equals. The man/girl pair in this song perpetuates violence against women. And the opposite woman/boy pair perpetuates violence against men.

Looking at Someone's Intent


"60s Lips" by Talia Felix
We are sensitive about how we use certain terms in our language, including sexist language. We've made many strides to inclusive language, but their remains "sexist" language. I put it in quotes because not everyone intends to be sexist when using these terms. 

Older generations use terms from their time periods meaning no disrespect. Newer generations--like me--use terms they grew up with and exchange their terms over time. 

So what can you do in these situations? 

First, look at the person's intent beneath the spoken word. That's what really matters. 

Second, You may kindly correct someone in private. No need for public shaming. Publicly or privately shaming someone shows your disrespect toward others (despite your efforts for inclusive language). Most people will respect your position when you show respect for them. They may even follow your example.

If someone uses sexist terms with intent to hurt, call them out in private. Some cases may necessitate a public reprimand, but do so respectfully. After all, inclusive language is about respecting everyone.

Sometimes correcting sexist language only wastes our effort. Some people don't care to change their attitude, and correcting them will only exhaust us. Some people won't understand what we're talking about. Others may understand and respect our position, but still use some features of "sexist" language, meaning no disrespect. For example, some "sexist" language--like generic man--isn't meant to be sexist in most situations.

A Change of Heart


Every few decades, we change terms for races, developmental problems, mental illnesses, and so on. For example, the term for special needs has changed within my lifetime from slow, mentally retarded, handicapped, developmentally delayed to special needs. I don't even know the current term because it's constantly changing. After a decade, any term--no matter how politically correct--has a negative connotation.

So how do we stop the negative connotation?

We must change our hearts first toward others different from us. Likewise, inclusive language itself won't change how genders view each other unless we respect our gender and the opposite gender.

As we respect and love one another despite our differences, inclusive language will take hold.


Have you ever corrected someone for sexist language? Have you ever been corrected for sexist language? Do you think you need to work on your own heart?

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Here's Why Side Does Not Belong in Upside Down


I awoke and stared at a children's book on my floor. It was upside down. Where did we get the phrase upside down? It is literally the up side being down. I looked up the etymology of the word and I was wrong. Here's the real way the word came about:

Upside down comes from Middle English upsadoun, or the combination of up so down. So meant as if, so it meant up as if down. Nothing to do with the word side. Upside down first appeared with side in the late 1500s. Earlier written versions retained so.

How did side come into our phrase upside down?

Somewhere along the line, we probably confused the 'sad' of upsadoun to mean side. Without widespread literacy or writing, humans rely on sound to make meaning. We have the word upside which is up + side that came into Enlish several hundred years later (1610 written). The phrase inside out is literally in+side+out historically. I wondered if side was related to the word so, but side is from a separate root Old English sid (which means long). Considering these phrases, upside down seems like it should have been side and not so originally.

The side in upside down makes more sense in my mind than up so down. Middle English speakers thought so too. Maybe I should just write and say up so down and see if anyone understands me. How many blank looks do you think I'll get?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

If You Moved to England, What Would You Speak?

"England" by George Hodan
So many of our languages are named after the names of the original countries and founders, but we equate our language to only be what we speak in our country. Why doesn't each country have its own language? That'd be confusing. Colonization led to European languages being spoken worldwide. Thus we have confusion about this--let alone what children try to figure out.

My friend Michelle C. moved to Mexico and many other places with her husband and children, so her children wonder what language will be spoken next. After their move to Mexico, her son would always ask her whether "the humans spoke Virginia or Mexican." Later, she had this conversation with her daughter:

J: Mom, where will we live when G turns two?
Me: I don't even know. Where would you like to live?
J: Ummm.
Me: China? Madagascar? Brazil?
D: Brazil! Brazil! Brazil! 
Me: Argentina? Zambia? Germany? England?
J: England! Then we can learn how to speak England!
Me: Wait, what? What do you think we are speaking right now?
J: We speak English. 
Me: They speak English in England, too.
J: What does their English sound like? Bonjour?
Me, laughing: No, sweetie, that's French, which is spoken in France.
J: Oh. Well, do I know how to speak their English?
Me: Yes. Their English is very similar to our American English.
J: What is the difference?
Me: Well, their words sound different. (Then I tried and failed miserably at some sort of generic British accent.)
J: That sounds like our English.
D: Brazil! Brazil! Brazil!

I'm still laughing about it this morning. "Let's move to England, so we can learn how to speak England!"

After reading this on Facebook, I asked my preteen son what language England speaks. He didn't know it was English either. And it only gets more confusing when you consider that there is more than one language spoken in many countries. Darn that Tower of Babel.

Try an experiment. Ask someone what a country speaks and report back in the comments.

Monday, July 20, 2015

What's the Singular of Clothes?--According to Two Girls

"Pink Dresses & Accessories" by Karen Arnold
This is a guest post from Susann Tate. She has studied and taught English in the US and abroad.

The very concept of language is amazing to me. The process by which a thought or an idea originating in the mind of one person can be conveyed into the mind of a second person with all of its nuances and complexities is truly wondrous. It is this unique and crowning human ability (even more so, I believe, than the opposable thumb) that has elevated mankind to the heights of civilization. Throughout history the conveyance of ideas and the resultant actions has both lifted some to their highest aspirations and nobilities as well as twisted others to the worst and lowest of degradations and malevolencies as can be imagined.


Beginning of Understanding


Language development begins in our earliest formative stages. Even before we are able to control the shapes and sounds of our utterances we begin to understand their meanings. Then, guided by those around us, we begin to utter and model those sounds which will one day become “communication.” We practice these essential skills – Sound and Meaning, Meaning and Syntax, Acceptance and Understanding, as well as Error and Frustration – until we are gradually able to make ourselves understood and to understand.

I was witness to this marvelous developmental process myself as I raised my two daughters. They are very close in age – only 11 months apart. As they grew and became increasingly verbal, they spent a lot of time together and developed some interesting language quirks between themselves. I have heard of the phenomenon of “twin” languages (“twin-speak” often called cryptophasia or idioglossia) where twins or young children close in age have frequently developed their own “language” – mysterious and unintelligible to all but themselves.  My daughters never developed their own communications anywhere near this degree; however, they did come up with some interesting language constructs and words or word usages made up between them to fill in gaps they had not yet gleaned from their natural – or model – language.

The most memorable of these was:


 “The Clo.” 


When they were about four years old, Barbie Dolls were a favorite plaything. They often spent hours together tucked away in their room surrounded by their imagined stories, dressing, playing acted out roles and redressing their Barbie Dolls. Occasionally (as with any two children that age) there would be conflicts requiring mom to come resolve the issue and smooth the ruffled feathers.

One day, they were suddenly in a real state of crisis and yelling loudly at each other and at me as they were each certain that they were being unjustly treated by the other. The conversation as I entered their room went something like this:

“She took my clo!”
“No, it’s my clo!”
“What is the matter? What ‘clo’ – What did she take?”
“It’s my clo.”
“What is a clo?”
“No, it’s my clo – my Barbie clo and she took it.”
“No, it’s my Barbie clo – I had it first.”
“What?”
“She took my Barbie clo!”
“No, it’s my Barbie clo!”
 [Ad infinitum…]

At this point, I was at a loss for words; I was stumped. I had not calmed anyone down nor lessened the noise level or the tension in the room. I didn’t even understand the CAUSE of the crisis.

After physically removing both of them from the room (and from all things “Barbie”) followed by several minutes of holding each of them and using soothing tones, I was able to determine the problem.

It seems that a “Clo” was their agreed upon term for a single item of clothing (the item of contention had been a single Barbie dress). They didn’t seem to know the word “clothing” yet and, you see, it can’t be “clothes” because it’s only ONE thing. Everyone knows that words that end in “s” mean more than one… 

They explained this to me with varying degrees of frustration, irritation and even anger that I didn’t seem to know this simple rule of language. They completely unwilling to accept my explanation that an item of “clothes” could mean just “one.”

I laughed as we re-affirmed which Barbie clothes (plural) were assigned to each girl for that day, and the offending “clo” was banished to the drawer for the time being (much to their joint aggravation). Things calmed down and the Barbie dressing games gradually resumed in peace and eventually into girlish giggling. 

After another laugh to myself in the next room, I considered their language development faux pas. After all, being a college graduate – and an English Major at that – how could l not know that an “s” sound at the end of a noun makes it plural?


The Complexities of Language Acquisition


Ah – The complexities of language… the English language in particular – having been thrown together, a jigsaw of words and language patterns from so many others.  It is indeed remarkable that we can assimilate and negotiate all the rules and exceptions to the rules – turning this hodgepodge language into what a native speaker feels like an easy and ordered flow of sound and meaning. 

I need to wonder then, when remembering my two young daughters struggling with one of the “simplest” constructs of their own native tongue – how can we expect others (immigrants for instance) to master this remarkable language with all its nuances in a year? Or even in several years of living among us?

Tell us your thoughts below.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Each Word Is a Poem

I love language and words. Each word has it's own story to tell from its sounds to its history. The sounds in a word convey the mood of the word. Think of the phrase "fight or flight." The i sound [ai] in both words moves from low to high in your mouth. It indicates action, which is exactly what fighting or fleeing is. It's also nice that the words rhyme.

The word bear tells its own story through its history. West Germanic tribes were afraid of bears, but wouldn't call them by their real name. Instead they called it 'the brown one,' now shortened to bear. Just this one word tells of fear, nomads, death and life.

Words have nuances of meaning that become new definitions. The word skip first meant to leap/jump/run, which it still retains, but added a new meaning of skipping class. The literal meaning of skip took on a figurative meaning of missing something because you jumped over it.

Each word has symbolism to it. Good is from Sanskrit gadhya of what one clings to. I want to cling to happy things, loving things, good things.

My name, Eileen, is from brilliance, like German hell (not inferno). I can be a light of knowledge and goodness.

So what word is a poem to you?