Category Archives: Reference Materials

This category includes materials excerpted from a variety of reference books, as well as other material used as reference sources such as learning supports and style sheets.

The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

“A cult radio serial by Douglas Adams (1952-2001), broadcast in 1978 and 1979. The story begins with the imminent destruction of Earth to make way for a hyperspace express route, and the escape of Earthling Arthur Dent and his exterrestrial friend Ford Prefect by hitching a ride on a Vogon spacecraft. The programme combined the comic with the surreal and introduced a host of eccentric characters. In 1981 the serial was adapted for television. The fictional book mentioned in the title gives handy tips to space travellers, and is frequently quoted; its verdict on the Earth is ‘mostly harmless.’ It transpires that the Earth was originally constructed to solve the question of Life, the Universe, and Everything, to which the answer turns out to be 42.

Adams went on to adapt and extend the idea in book form, characteristically producing a “trilogy in five parts’: A Hitch-Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980), Life, the Universe and Everything (1982), So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish (1984), and Mostly Harmless (1992).”

Excerpted from: Crofton, Ian, ed. Brewer’s Curious Titles. London: Cassell, 2002.

How Confusing is the Mapping in English?

“The principle may not come naturally, but surely we could make the particulars easier. If you were creating an alphabet for English from scratch, you would probably create 44 letters and match each speech sound with one letter. We’d call that one-to-one matching. Written English, alas, was not created from scratch. Our language is a mongrel: Germanic origins, heavily influenced by the Norman invasion and later by the adoption of Greek and Latinate words. That’s a problem because when we borrowed words, we frequently retained the spelling conventions of the original language. The result is that English uses a many-to-many matching. One letter (or letter combination) can signify many sounds, as the letter ‘e’ does: red, flower, bee.”

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

Thomas Kuhn on “Normal Science”

“‘Normal science’ means research firmly based upon one or more past scientific achievements, achievements that some particular scientific community acknowledges for a time as supplying the foundation for its further practice.”

Thomas Kuhn

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions ch.2 (1962)

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

Ignacio Manuel Altamirano

Ignacio Manuel Altamirano: (1834-1893) Mexican novelist and poet. A full-blooded Indian, Altamirano was an adherent of Benito Juarez and fought against the French intervention in Mexico. In 1869, he founded Renacimiento, a review to encourage literary activity, almost moribund after fifteen years of turbulence. He became the mentor of the younger generation, to whom he advocated the importance of creating a literature rooted in national life. His poetry consists of a single volume of Rimas (1880), written before 1867 and notable for its description of the Mexican landscape. Altamirano’s preoccupation with purely Mexican themes and customs is also evident in the prose works for which he is best known: Clemencia (1869), a love story set against the background of the French intervention; La navidad en las montanas (1870), a novelette; and El Zarco (1901), a novel dealing with bandits in the state of Morelos.”

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

Term of Art: Invented Spelling

invented spelling: A unique spelling of a word created by a child who has not yet learned the correct spelling. Proponents of invented spelling believe that it encourages students  to express their ideas in writing before they have learned to spell. Critics worry that it introduces poor habits early in the learning process. Invented spelling is also referred to as temporary spelling, on the assumption that at some point students will learn how to spell the words accurately.”

Excerpted from: Ravitch, Diane. EdSpeak: A Glossary of Education Terms, Phrases, Buzzwords, and Jargon. Alexandria, VA: ASCD, 2007.


“A book usually measuring between 5 by 8 inches and 6 by 9 1/2 inches, which is composed of sheets folded into eight leaves.”

Excerpted from: Diamond, David G. The Bulfinch Pocket Dictionary of Art Terms. Boston: Little Brown, 1992.


“A lexicon is a collection, or stock, of words. This stock may be characteristic of an individual, a profession, a philosophy, or a ‘style’ (such as, say, a sermon), or it may be as unrestricted as an unabridged dictionary. A lexicon is usually to be distinguished from a glossary in being less focused and less restrictive. It could be argued, for instance, that this glossary need not, even ought not, contain the word lexicon in that, as is the case with many or the words discussed here, it is not a word with a special meaning within the analysis of rhetoric. I would respond that insofar as it is a word used to describe the range of vocabulary from which a given discipline or individual chooses, it is a word that can be useful to the rhetor. See ARGOT.”

Excerpted from: Trail, George Y. Rhetorical Terms and Concepts: A Contemporary Glossary. New York: Harcourt Brace, 2000.