Sunday, May 29, 2011

One of my favorite stories...


Emily Perl Kingsley

 I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......

When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.
The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Word Fun: Ambiguities

Anything that is said to be ambiguous is open to more than one interpretation. Sentences and words that are ambiguous have more than one possible meaning. 
Put the box on the table by the window in the kitchen is an ambiguous sentence. It could mean any of the following: 
  • Put the box onto the table that is by the window in the kitchen. 
  • Take the box that is on the table and put it by the window in the kitchen. 
  • Take the box off the table that is by the window and put it in the kitchen. 
To understand the first and third meanings, it may be helpful to imagine that in the kitchen there are two tables: one by the window and one not. 
Ambiguous Newspaper Headlines
Newspaper headlines need to be as short as possible, so whilst they obey grammatical rules, they tend to omit little, unimportant words like the and is. But are these words unimportant? The result of leaving them out can result in highly ambiguous sentences, which are often quite amusing. 
These are real newspaper headlines: 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Word Fun: Look it Up

Most looked-up and most misspelled Words
PARADIGM was the word most frequently looked up in 1998 in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Some other words frequently looked up, besides obscene words, were UBIQUITOUS, ESOTERIC, OXYMORON, SERENDIPITY, HUBRIS, OBSEQUIOUS, and ECLECTIC. In 2001, the ten most frequently looked up words in the Cambridge Dictionaries Online were SERENDIPITY, IDIOM, PARADIGM, UBIQUITOUS, DICTIONARY, PRAGMATIC, EFFECT, GRY, JINGOISM, and FOIBLE. The most frequently looked up article in the World Book Encyclopedia is said to be SNAKE.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Word Fun: Symmetrical Words

Symmetrical Words
Closely related to palindromes, symmetrical words are words that have an axis of symmetry, or point of rotational symmetry. Needless to say, it is relevant whether the word is written in upper or lower case. 
Some long words with horizontal symmetry are: BEDECKED, BOOHOOED, CHECKBOOK, CODEBOOK, COOKBOOK, DECIDED, DIOXIDE, DOBCHICK, EXCEEDED, HOODOOED, and KEBOBBED. The longest such word, with ten letters, is OKEECHOBEE
The longest words with vertical symmetry are OTTO, MAAM, and TOOT. Others include MOM, WOW, AHA, AHA, AIA, AMA, AVA, AWA, HAH, HOH, HUH, MAM, MIM, MUM, OHO, OXO, TAT, TIT, TOT, TUT, UTU, VAV, and WAW
When written in upper case, the word BID has horizontal symmetry, but when written in lower case it has vertical symmetry – bid
SWIMS is probably the longest word with 180-degree rotational symmetry. All of the letters in the words SOONISH (7 letters) and ONIONS (6 letters) independently have 180-degree rotational symmetry. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Word Fun: Subalphabetic Words

Subalphabetic Words
FICKLEHEADED and FIDDLEDEEDEE are the longest English words consisting only of letters in the first half of the alphabet, each being 12 letters long. The 13-letter CABBAGEHEADED and ILLEFFACEABLE are not in dictionaries. Unfortunately, neither is HIGGLEHAGGLED nor GIBBLEGABBLED, also 13 letters each. 
It is harder to make long words from the second half of the alphabet, as there are only two vowels, and these vowels are less common than those found in the first half of the alphabet. The longest is NONSUPPORTS (11 letters), although if place names are allowed then the 13-letter words TUTTOQQORTOOQ (in Greenland) and ROSSOUWSPOORT (in South Africa) are valid. 
ACCEDED, CABBAGE, BAGGAGE, DEFACED, EFFACED, and FEEDBAG are seven-letter words which can be played on a musical instrument, that is to say they contain only letters in the range A-G. CABBAGED, at eight letters, is the longest such word. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Word Fun: Malapropisms

This is the hilarious world of malapropisms, verbal slips and gaffes, Bushisms, Colemanballs, and, of course, Mrs. Malaprop. 
We all know that when someone misuses a word, the result can induce hysterics, unless of course it is we who have made the blunder, in which case embarrassment it the more likely effect. When an incorrect word is used like this, a malapropism is born. Here is a handful of genuine malapropisms gathered from across the Internet: 
  • He had to use a fire distinguisher. 
  • Dad says the monster is just a pigment of my imagination. 
  • Isn't that an expensive pendulum round that man's neck? 
  • Good punctuation means not to be late. 
  • He's a wolf in cheap clothing. 
  • Michelangelo painted the Sixteenth Chapel. 
  • My sister has extra-century perception. 
  • "Don't" is a contraption. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

Word Fun: Pangrams

Pangrams Section
Everybody knows one or two pangrams (sentences that use every letter of the alphabet). You've probably seen some of these before:
Some Well-Known Pangrams
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
This is undoubtedly the best known pangram. It contains all 26 letters of the alphabet (as it must do in order to be a pangram) and is 35 letters long. That means that is not particularly economical with 9 surplus letters
The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog.
This is 33 letters in length. That can be beaten with the following, which has just 32 letters
Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs.
Perfect Pangrams (exactly 26 letters) have been composed, but none makes good sense, being rather more a string of obscure words than a sentence. 
Listed below you will find a number of English pangrams arranged in descending order of length (the number of letters used is shown in red). No pangrams over twice the length of the alphabet (i.e. 52 letters) have been included. 
  • (50) We promptly judged antique ivory buckles for the next prize. 
  • (49) How razorback jumping frogs can level six piqued gymnasts. 
  • (48) Sixty zippers were quickly picked from the woven jute bag. 
  • (46) Crazy Fredrick bought many very exquisite opal jewels. 
  • (36) Jump by vow of quick, lazy strength in Oxford. 
  • (33) The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog. 
  • (32) Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs. 
  • (30) How quickly daft jumping zebras vex. 
  • (29) Sphinx of black quartz: judge my vow. 
  • (29) Quick zephyrs blow, vexing daft Jim. 
  • (28) Waltz, nymph, for quick jigs vex bud. 

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Word Fun: Oxymoron

Ever noticed that it's simply impossible to find seriously funny oxymorons online? The only choice is to ask one of those paid volunteers at the library – the ones in the long-sleeved T-shirts – for an original copy of some obviously obscure documents that were found missing amongst some paperwork almost exactly one hundred years ago. 
Notice anything strange about the paragraph above? It makes some sort of sense, yet it's riddled with contradictions (in blue). These are oxymorons
Oxymoron Example List
Here are our top 36 favourite oxymorons – oxymorons in a loose sense of the word: 

open secret
larger half
clearly confused
act naturally
alone together
Hell's Angels
found missing
liquid gas
civil engineer
deafening silence
seriously funny
living dead
Microsoft Works
military intelligence
jumbo shrimp
Advanced BASIC
tragic comedy
unbiased opinion
virtual reality
definite maybe
original copies
pretty ugly
same difference
plastic glasses
almost exactly
constant variable
even odds
minor crisis
extinct life
genuine imitation
exact estimate
only choice
freezer burn
free love
working holiday
rolling stop

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Word Fun: Tons of Puns

 Tom Swifties are a special kind of pun, e.g.: 
  • "I need a pencil sharpener," said Tom bluntly. 
  • "Oops! There goes my hat!" said Tom off the top of his head. 
  • "I can no longer hear anything," said Tom deftly. 
  • "I have a split personality," said Tom, being frank. 
  • "This must be an aerobics class," Tom worked out. 

Friday, May 6, 2011

Word Fun: Phrases said again redundantly

Redundant Phrases – Pleonasms, Tautologies
How often have you heard a friend say something like this: "It was an unexpected surprise when a pair of baby twins was born at 12 midnight"? What is a surprise if not unexpected? What are twins if not a pair? Who can be born but a baby? When is midnight if not at 12? The expressions we use are full of redundancy. Your friend could just as well have said: "It was a surprise when twins were born at midnight" with far less repetition. 
Many stores try to tempt us with free gifts, but how could a gift be anything but free? You would surely feel it to be an unfair use of the word "gift" if you were to be charged for it! 
These redundant expressions are called pleonasms. Some common ones are in the list below. Remove the superfluous words (in brackets) and you will not subtract from the overall meaning of the expression. 
  • (actual) experience 
  • (advance) planning 
  • (advance) reservations 
  • (advance) warning 
  • all meet (together) 
  • (armed) gunman 
  • at (12) midnight 
  • at (12) noon 
  • autobiography (of my life) 
  • (awkward) predicament 
  • (baby) boy was born 
  • (basic) fundamentals 
  • cease (and desist) 
  • cheap (price) 
  • (close) proximity 
  • cold (temperature) 
  • commute (back and forth) 
  • consensus (of opinion) 
  • (difficult) dilemma 
  • each (and every) 
  • (empty) space 
  • (end) result 
  • estimated (roughly) at 
  • filled (to capacity) 
  • (free) gift 
  • (frozen) ice 
  • (general) public 
  • green (in color) 
  • join (together) 
  • (natural) instinct 
  • never (at any time) 
  • (null and) void 
  • (pair of) twins 
  • (past) experience 
  • (poisonous) venom 
  • (pre-)recorded 

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Word Fun: Palindromes

Don't nod
Dogma: I am God
Never odd or even
Too bad – I hid a boot
Rats live on no evil star
No trace; not one carton
Was it Eliot's toilet I saw?
Murder for a jar of red rum
May a moody baby doom a yam?
Go hang a salami; I'm a lasagna hog!
Satan, oscillate my metallic sonatas!
A Toyota! Race fast... safe car: a Toyota
Straw? No, too stupid a fad; I put soot on warts
Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?
Doc Note: I dissent. A fast never prevents a fatness. I diet on cod
No, it never propagates if I set a gap or prevention
Anne, I vote more cars race Rome to Vienna
Sums are not set as a test on Erasmus
Kay, a red nude, peeped under a yak
Some men interpret nine memos
Campus Motto: Bottoms up, Mac
Go deliver a dare, vile dog!
Madam, in Eden I'm Adam
Oozy rat in a sanitary zoo
Ah, Satan sees Natasha
Lisa Bonet ate no basil
Do geese see God?
God saw I was dog
Dennis sinned 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Word Fun: Kids' Funny Tongue Twisters

Kids' Funny Tongue Twisters
Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.
Did Peter Piper pick a peck of pickled peppers?
If Peter Piper Picked a peck of pickled peppers,
Where's the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?
She sells seashells by the seashore.
The shells she sells are surely seashells.
So if she sells shells on the seashore,
I'm sure she sells seashore shells.
Red lorry, yellow lorry.
Which wristwatches are Swiss wristwatches?
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
If a woodchuck could chuck wood?
He would chuck, he would, as much as he could,
And chuck as much as a woodchuck would
If a woodchuck could chuck wood.
Unique New York.
Many an anemone sees an enemy anemone.
Freshly-fried flying fish.
She stood on the balcony,
inexplicably mimicking him hiccoughing,
and amicably welcoming him home.
Imagine an imaginary menagerie manager
imagining managing an imaginary menagerie.
The epitome of femininity.
A skunk sat on a stump and thunk the stump stunk,
but the stump thunk the skunk stunk.
Greek grapes.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

I'm Making May "Word Fun Month"

Smileys (or Smilies)
Smileys are a strange and fun Internet phenomenon, more correctly known as emoticons, which have the purpose of conveying emotion. They are used particularly in online chat rooms and in e-mails. 
There are no strict rules for composing smileys, and so numerous varieties have been invented and are in use. The principle is to create a face (viewed by tipping the head to the side) using standard keyboard characters and punctuation. 
A typical smiley would be constructed from a colon or equals sign for eyes, a hyphen or "O" as a nose, and a bracket forming the mouth. Examples of different happy smileys are shown below: 
:-)     : )     :o)     =O)
Not all smileys are smiley, though; here are some sad ones: 
:-(     :(     :0(     =o(
Here is a selection of other smileys with their meanings: 

lips are sealed
licking lips
: *
cross eyed
sticking tongue out
has a beard
left handed
wearing glasses