Monthly Archives: January 2019

Term of Art: Allusion

“Allusion: Usually an implicit reference, perhaps to another work of literature or art, to a person or an event. It is often a kind of appeal to a reader to share some experience with the writer. An allusion may enrich the work by association (q.v.) and give it depth. When using allusions a writer tends to assume an established literary tradition, a body of common knowledge with an audience sharing that tradition and an ability on the part of the audience to ‘pick up’ the reference. The following kinds may be roughly distinguished: (a) a reference to events or people (e.g. there are a number in Dryden’s and Pope’s satires); (b) reference to facts about the author himself (e.g. Shakespeare’s puns on Will; Donne’s puns on Donne, Anne, and Undone; (c) a metaphorical allusion (there are many in T.S. Eliot’s work); an imitative allusion (e.g. Johnson’s to Juvenal in London).”

Excerpted from: Cuddon, J.A. The Penguin Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory. New York: Penguin, 1992.

Palate (n), Palette (n), and Pallet (n)

I’m not sure how fine any teacher wants to parse out vocabulary instructions, or what that same teacher considers an adequate high school lexicon. If your instructional plans call for sorting out the myriad homonyms in the English language, and you want to assist your students in building their own broad vocabularies, then these five worksheets on the nouns palate, palette, and pallet  may be of some utility to you.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Charles Babbage on Stupid Questions

 “On two occasions I have been asked—‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine the wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ In one case a member of the Upper, and in another a member of the Lower, House put this question. I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that would provoke such a question.”

Passages from the Life of a Philosopher ch. 5 (1864)

Excerpted from: Shapiro, Fred, ed. The Yale Book of Quotations. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006.

Word Root Exercise: Circum-

Here is a worksheet on the Latin word root circum. It means, unsurprisingly, around. This root is at the base of at least two key words–circumference and circumstance–from the high school lexicon. Moreover, because it derives from the Latin, it forms the basis of a number of cognates in the Romance languages, particularly Spanish.

-If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Rotten Reviews: The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter

“What all this means only Mr. Pinter knows, for as his characters speak in non-sequiturs, half-gibberish and lunatic ravings, they are unable to explain their actions, thoughts, of feelings. If the author can forget Beckett, Ionesco, and Simpson he may do much better next time.”

Manchester Guardian 1958

Excerpted from: Bernard, Andre, and Bill Henderson, eds. Pushcart’s Complete Rotten Reviews and Rejections. Wainscott, NY: Pushcart Press, 1998.

Cultural Literacy: Burn the Midnight Oil

As students head off to college, teachers probably should explain to them the cognitive science research on “cramming” as a method of studying, i.e. that it is basically useless and mostly exhausting. Perhaps this Cultural Literacy worksheet on the idiom burn the midnight oil would serve as an elegant way to kill two birds with one stone: teach students a new idiomatic expression, and urge them to pace themselves when studying.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

Daniel Willingham on Sound and Meaning

“Writing is a code for what you say, not what you think. All known writing systems code the sound of spoken language.

So, on the first day of school, before any reading instruction has begun, every child in the class has bicameral mental representations of words: the know the sound of a word (which scientists called phonology), and its meaning (which scientists call semantics).”

Excerpted from: Willingham, Daniel T. The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2017.

Foray (n)

Last weekend it was one of Merriam-Webster’s Words of the Day, so here is a context clues worksheet on the noun foray. The word is in common enough usage, and more importantly is a word that, for an abstraction, has strong concrete properties. It is in common enough usage that it’s a word students ought to know by the time they graduate high school, I submit.

If you find typos in this document, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.

666—The Number of the Beast

“’Saint John saw the beast ‘rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy,’ which seems to fit temptingly close to the old Phoenician-Canaanite myth of a sea monster Lord of Caos (Yam/Lotan) coming up out of the deep to do battle with a hero god like Baal/Hadad. In amongst the complex imagery of John’s Book of Revelations, some commentators have argued that the seven-headed beast also represents the seven Roman emperors who had been responsible for the degradation of the Temple, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the persecution of Judaism and its heretical offshoot—early Christianity. Counting back from John’s contemporary, Domitian, these seven emperors would be Titus, Vespasian, Nero, Claudius, Caligula, Tiberius, and Augustus.

But it is the 666 number that most resonates, the numerical value John ascribes as the mark of the beast: ‘Here is wisdom. Let him that have understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred, three-score-and-six.’ This hint at numerological coding allows (with different values given to each letter) that 666 would seem to identify ‘Nero Caesar’ when written in Hebrew (it was Nero who organized the first popular pogrom against the Christians after the great fire of Rome). 666 is also the number created when you list—or add—the first six symbols of the Roman numeral notation together, as in D (500), C (100), L (50), X (10), V (5), and I (1).

In Chinese, 666 is a tonal equivalent for ‘things go smoothly’ and a favored number. It also has an alliance with the roulette table, as the sum of all the numbers on the wheel.”            

Excerpted from: Rogerson, Barnaby. Rogerson’s Book of Numbers: The Culture of Numbers–from 1,001 Nights to the Seven Wonders of the World. New York: Picador, 2013.

Graphic Novels

OK, moving right along, here are a reading on graphic novels and its attendant vocabulary-building and comprehension worksheet. Kids in my classrooms over the years have always asked for these documents, so I think based on my experience with them, I’ll designate this high interest material.

If you find typos in these documents, I would appreciate a notification. And, as always, if you find this material useful in your practice, I would be grateful to hear what you think of it. I seek your peer review.