Category Archives: Reference Materials

Shtick (n.)

A worked-up, contrived form of talent of self-presentation to entertain or win attention; an idiosyncratic routine or particular forte; mannerism.”

“Rebuttal is appropriate. For what we have here is no argument but a shtick, as we used to say in Vaudeville, an antic, a bit, a thing.”

Donald Kaplan, in Language in America

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

Ptolemy’s 1,022 Stars

“The great quest of medieval science was for a perfect copy of Ptolemy’s Almagest, written in Egypt in 147 AD. It was known to have thirteen sections, with the most accurate analysis of star and planetary paths ever achieved, alongside a catalogue of 1,022 starts listed on a scale of magnitude from 1 to 6. It was a key that threatened to unlock the secrets of the heavens.”            

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.

The Weekly Text, April 13, 2018

It’s Friday the thirteenth, and so far nothing bad has happened in my tiny corner of the universe; I hope the same is true for you.

This week’s Text is a complete lesson plan on using adverbs of time. I begin this lesson with this Cultural Literacy worksheet on anthropomorphism. However, if the concept of anthropomorphism is too abstract for your students, or if this lesson enters a second day, then here is a homophone worksheet on the nouns profit and prophet that may well be useful to you in other areas of your practice. When teaching this lesson, I also use this learning support which might also be useful elsewhere in your classroom; it’s in Microsoft Word, in any case, so it will be easy to bend to your needs. Here is the structured, scaffolded worksheet that is the mainstay of this lesson. Finally, here is the teacher’s copy of the worksheet to guide you in guiding your students.

And that’s it for another week. I hope spring has sprung where you live. The first azaleas are in bloom in the New York Botanical Garden, which is pleasant indeed.

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.

Slice of Life (adj.)

Showing or characterized by an unselectively naturalistic rendering of day-to-day life, as in a short story portraying starkly working-class existence; depicting actual experience.”

Excerpted from: Grambs, David. The Random House Dictionary for Writers and Readers. New York: Random House, 1990.

The Banality of Evil in Context

“It was as though in those last months he [Adolf Eichmann] was summing up the lessons that this long course in human wickedness had taught us—the lesson of the fearsome, word-and-thought-defying banality of evil.”

Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil ch. 15 (1963)

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

Marie Curie (1867-1934)

“Originally Maria Sklodowska. Polish-born French physical chemist. Born in Warsaw, she studied at the Sorbonne (from 1891). Seeking for radioactivity, recently discovered by Henri Becquerel in uranium, in other matter, she found it in thorium. IN 1895 she married fellow physicist Pierre Curie (1859-1906). Together they discovered the elements polonium and radium, and they distinguished alpha, beta, and gamma radiation. For their work on radioactivity (a term she coined), the Curies shared a 1903 Nobel Prize with Becquerel. After Pierre’s death, Marie was appointed to his professorship and became the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne. In 1911 she won a Nobel Prize for discovering polonium and isolating pure radium, becoming the first person to win two Nobel Prizes. She died of leukemia caused by her long exposure to radioactivity. In 1995 she became the first woman whose own achievements earned her the honor of having her ashes enshrined in the Pantheon in Paris.”

Excerpted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

Dorothy Parker (1893-1967)

[Whenever I feel down, I turn to the the Algonquin Wits, and especially one of its most brilliant, albeit self-destructive, members, the late, great Dorothy Parker. I want to annotate this quote with something few people know about Mrs. Parker: she was a dedicated civil rights activist who greatly respected Martin Luther King, Jr.; indeed, she she left her estate in its entirety to him.]

“American writer of short stories, verse, and criticism. Parker was noted for her caustic wit, as a drama critic for Vanity Fair and later a book reviewer for The New Yorker, and she became one of the luminaries of the Algonquin Round Table. Her works in verse are equally sardonic, usually dry, elegant commentaries on departing or departed love. The collection Enough Rope (1926), contains the much quoted ‘Resume’ on suicide, and ‘News Item,’ about women who wear glasses. Her short stories, which were collected in After Such Pleasures (1932) and Here Lies (1939), are as imbued with a knowledge of human nature as they are deep in disenchantment; among the best known are ‘A Big Blonde’ and ‘A Telephone Call.’”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.