Category Archives: Reference

These are materials for teachers and parents, and you’ll find, in this category, teachers copies and answer keys for worksheets, quotes related to domain-specific knowledge in English Language Arts and social studies, and quotes on issues of professional concern. See the Taxonomies page for more about this category.

American Language

“American Language: A term that presents American English as a national language, sometimes as an aggressive declaration of independence from the standard language of England: ‘This occasional tolerance for things American was never extended to the American language’ (H.L. Mencken, The American Language, 4th edition, 1936); ‘George Bush is hardly known for his rhetorical gifts. But his speech at last summer’s Republican Convention has already left its mark on the American language’ (Laurence Zuckerman, ‘Read My Cliché,’ Time, 16 Jan. 1989).”

Excerpted from: McArthur, Tom. The Oxford Concise Companion to the English Language. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.

A Glossary of Competitive Debate Terms

OK, lastly on this relatively cool morning in Brooklyn, here is a glossary of competitive debate terms that might come in handy if you’re involved in such things.

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.


“Leitmotif: (German Leitmotiv ‘leading motif’) A term coined by Hans von Wolzugen to designate a musical theme associated throughout a whole work with a particular object, denote a recurrent theme (q.v.) or unit. It is occasionally used as a literary term in the same sense that Mann intended, and also on a broader sense to refer to an author’s favorite themes: for example, the hunted man and betrayal in the novels of Graham Greene.”

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

Term of Art: Spatial-Material Organizational Disorder

“spatial-material organizational disorder: A problem with organizing materials so that the child constantly struggles for survival within an ordered environment.

A child with this problem has a hard time organizing information on pater. Margins are missing, spacing between words and letters is incorrect, centering is difficult, and the overall appearance of the work is messy. Teachers often have trouble reading the child’s work. Often, a child with this problem forgets assignments or books needed to complete assignments. Assignments themselves may be incomplete, or the child cannot find completed assignments.

In addition, a child with this problem is often disorganized and has problems following routines or completing tasks. Desk and home environment are usually messy and disorganized, although the child may appear to have his own system of organization in his own space.”

Excerpted from: Turkington, Carol, and Joseph R. Harris, PhD. The Encyclopedia of Learning Disabilities. New York: Facts on File, 2006.

Rotten Reviews: Love and Death in the American Novel

“The author can’t win, ever, by Fiedler’s standard of judgement. Only the critic can win…there is more in American fiction, much more, than Fiedler has been able to find.”

Malcolm Cowley, New York Times Book Review

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

Isometric Projection

“Isometric Projection: In architectural drawing, a means of showing a building in three dimensions without foreshortening. The horizontal lines are usually drawn at a thirty-degree angle, the vertical lines are parallel, and all lines are drawn to scale.”

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

Book of Answers: Where the Wild Things Are

“What is the name of the little boy who goes to the country of the Wild Things in Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are? Max.”

Excerpted from: Corey, Melinda, and George Ochoa. Literature: The New York Public Library Book of Answers. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.

Write It Right: Collateral Descendant

“Collateral Descendant. There can be none: a ‘collateral descendant‘ is not a descendant.

Excerpted from: Bierce, Ambrose. Write it Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults. Mineola, NY: Dover, 2010.


“Classicism (noun): A classical Greek or Roman word or idiom in English, or a term or coinage based on or similar to one from one of the classical languages; classical scholarship, mode or aesthetic ideology based on or allegedly derived from a “classic” epoch. Adjective: classical, classicistic; Noun: classicist; Verb: classicize

‘The artificial facility found vent in his renderings of the Rubaiyat. “Saprous bones,” “somatick atoms,” and aimaterose heart” seem legitimate classicisms; but “methystine lake” requires some explanation as a term for drunkenness.’ Shane Leslie, Introduction to Hadrian the Seventh”

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

Millions of Angels Dancing on a Pin

“The question of ‘How many angels could dance on a pin’ is often quoted as the essence of medieval scholasticism, a burning issue for the likes of Duns Scotus and Thomas Aquinas. In fact, although Scotus certainly troubled himself over the question of ‘Can several angels be in the same place?’ there is no mention of dancing on pins until it was raised as a mockery in the seventeenth century by Protestant academics. Still, it’s a question that ought to be answered and if we take an angel to be nor more or less than an atom, then 200,000 could fit in the width of a single human hair. More impressively, neuroscientist Anders Sandberg has come  up with the figure of 8.6766×1049 angels, based on theories of information physics and quantum gravity.”

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.