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An e-mail newsletter nurturing the development and enjoyment of English language
arts at home and at school.
We welcome new subscribers from the Writers Society of Jefferson County and from
Educator Appreciation Weekend at Borders stores.
IN THIS ISSUE . . .
Here's an opportunity for your kids to dig into your family history
and write about what they learn! They could become published authors!
Portico Books and Thumbprint Press are co-sponsoring Writing Contests for
One-of-a-Kind Kids. This year's contest is The Grannie Annie -- A Family Story
Celebration. The contest is open to students in U.S. grades 4-8 and to homeschoolers
and international students of equivalent ages (9-14). Students are invited to
interview family members -- and perhaps others -- and write a 250- to 500-word story
about someone in a past generation of their family. Stories must be submitted during
At least five stories in each of two age categories will be selected for publication
in Grannie Annie Vol. I. Orders for the book will be taken through April
2006, and books will be shipped the following month.
For complete contest information, including guidelines and entry form, see
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An abbreviated version of The World's Greatest Fair, high
definition documentary about the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, recently received
three Mid-America Emmy Awards, including Best Documentary. This week Scott Huegerich
and Bob Miano, the driving forces behind this project, will receive the Missouri
Governor's Humanities Award in recognition of their special contribution to their
community's understanding of its heritage.
A review of the full-length version of The World's Greatest Fair in the
September 15 issue of the Library Journal said in part ". . . this is the
finest history of the St. Louis fair this reviewer has ever seen and one of the best
histories of any world's fair available. Highly recommended for any library wanting
to improve its resources on early 20th century American history."
Fran contributed to The World's Greatest Fair by writing the story about the
Observation Wheel, commonly known as the Ferris Wheel.
Keep watching for The World's Greatest Fair on your local PBS station -- and
at other venues. Bob and Scott are now at work on another documentary, due out next
year, about the Gateway Arch.
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One of the feedback items in Anu Garg's Another Word a Day (reviewed below)
came from Margaret Howard in Oakville, Canada. As a second grader, Margaret was helping a favorite
teacher clean out a closet when she discovered a poem that especially captivated her. She asked the
teacher if she could have the book, which was to be thrown away, but the teacher said that giving
her the book would be considered favoritism. Margaret is now sixty years old -- and is still
searching for this poem.
Do you know of a poem that contains the lines "It paints the depth of love that lies / Within a
dog's adoring eyes"? If so, please let us know:
It would be wonderful to get this poem to Margaret after all of these years!
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Best wishes to you and your family for happy holidays. For
suggestions of ways to share family stories when you're together, see
You might hear a story that you want to submit to The Grannie Annie, described
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Consider doing some of your holiday shopping at
http://www.GrammarAndMore.com . Not only can you order Hands-On English
and its companion products, you can also read about dozens of Fran's favorite books
and -- for most of them -- link immediately with her review of the book and with the
page on Amazon.com where you can make your purchase:
* * *
Hands-On English products (especially the handbook, the card game, the "Package,"
and the T-shirt) make wonderful holiday gifts for any of the following:
• any student 4th grade or older
• anyone who teaches English at any level
• an education student, student teacher, or beginning teacher (in any subject)
• a homeschooling family
• any family with school-age children
• people learning English as an additional language
• people trying to strengthen basic skills in order to improve their employment
• anyone wanting quick access to English fundamentals
Think of your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors,
employees, baby-sitters, dog walkers. The list is endless!
Orders are generally filled within twenty-four hours of their receipt, so a prompt
order will guarantee holiday delivery. You could even have your gift sent directly
to the recipient. You can order from
http://www.GrammarAndMore.com or call 1-888-641-5353.
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A civilization which loses its power over its own language has lost
its power over the instrument by which it thinks.
-- Henry Beston, U.S. writer and naturalist (1888-1968)
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Probably most subscribers know the meaning of linguaphile. The word
includes the root lingua, which means "tongue (language)," and the root
phile, which means "love." A linguaphile, then, is a lover of language.
Did you know, however, that the word was originally coined by Anu Garg, author of
the A Word a Day newsletter (with more than 600,000 subscribers in over 200
countries) and of Another Word a Day, reviewed below? Garg reports that
linguaphile was accepted into the American Heritage Dictionary in 2000.
Synonyms of linguaphile include logophile, logologist, and
Hands-On English includes more than 200 morphemes, along with their meanings
and examples. Knowing the meanings of morphemes can help you unlock hundreds of
words the first time you encounter them. Reviewers of Hands-On English have
said that the vocabulary section alone is worth the book's modest purchase price.
Learn more -- and place your order -- at
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This month LinguaPhile sought the opinion of Charles
Harrington Elster -- writer, broadcaster, logophile, lexicomane, and one of the
foremost authorities on the English language. Elster says of himself, "I am an
unrepentant, irremediable word nerd and proud of it, for language is the most
pleasant obsession I know."
The questions asked happen to be addressed in Elster's new book, What in the
Word? Elster includes excerpts from that book in his reply.
LinguaPhile's Question: How can we determine whether a new usage enhances or
weakens our language? I have questions about a couple of usages in particular.
The first usage is went missing: She went missing on Thursday. Several people
have told me that they find this coinage offensive. While I recognize that went
missing does not follow standard grammar, I immediately accepted this as a new
idiom, which I greatly prefer to the oxymoronic turned up missing. Does that
make me a traitor to appropriate usage?
My second question involves the new use of begs the question. I first learned
about begging the question decades ago in a logic class. Nowadays, however, the
phrase is (far too often, in my opinion) used to mean "causes us to ask": His poor
performance begs the question Was the injury more serious than we thought. (I'm not
even sure whether to end that sentence with a question mark or a period -- and I'm
not sure that people always follow the expression with a genuine question.) Is this
a new acceptable meaning that I should learn to tolerate? If it is a corruption of
the language, is there any hope of eliminating its use?
Elster's Answer: Your first question -- How can you determine whether a new usage
enhances or weakens our language? -- is very complex. I think ultimately it's a
subjective matter. "Are there any enduring standards of English usage?" the poet and
etymologist John Ciardi once asked. "I think there are only preferences," he went
on, "'passionate preferences,' as Robert Frost used to say, the level at which any
English-speaking person chooses to engage the instrument -- the orchestra -- of the
language." For me, it's a gut feeling based on the body of knowledge about language
that I have accumulated. Because I engage the language at a higher level than most
folks, I'm much more discriminating, and I can more easily spot a mistake, a fad, a
slipshod extension of meaning, a bit of affectation or jargon, or an ill-formed word
or phrase. When evaluating something new, I tend to ask myself a number of questions
about it. If it's a new word, is it properly made and euphonious? Does it fill a
real need or only crowd out an existing and still useful word (as impact has
done to influence and affect). If it's an extension of meaning, did it
come about because of need or ignorance? Locutions that pass the test of usefulness,
logic, and clarity are acceptable to me, but my test is a tough one and few
locutions pass. Other people -- like the SDSU professor I once chided for using
reticent when he meant reluctant -- are less inclined to insist that any
newcomer must prove its
worthiness before it can gain acceptance.
Anyway, let me now answer your questions about went missing and beg the
question by sharing the relevant passages from my book.
Gone Missing Link
Q. Everywhere I turn these days I see the expression gone missing or went
missing. Where did it come from? And why are people using it when they simply
mean vanished or disappeared?
A. Gone missing and went missing are originally British, and have been
documented in print since at least the 1870s. For no discernible reason (other than
novelty) these phrases have lately enjoyed great vogue in the American press and
have been repeated ad nauseam in broadcast news. Yet two respected language
columnists, William Safire of The New York Times and Jan Freeman of the Boston
Globe, have pronounced them acceptable and useful, and I tend to agree. They say
that gone/went missing expresses a shade of meaning that vanish and
disappear cannot -- that whatever has gone missing has done so under mysterious
and probably suspicious circumstances, and although it is missing it is still
somewhere to be found. But you're right that this nuance doesn't justify merely
substituting went missing for vanish or disappear or using it
to mean "to cease to exist": "my golf ball went missing" and "funding for that
program has gone missing this year" are not felicitous applications.
Begging to Differ
Q. I'm wondering what your opinion is on the expression "to beg the question."
I see and hear people use it in different ways. For example, I heard Leslie Stahl on
60 Minutes say, "The increasing influx of drugs into this country begs the question
as to what we can do about it"; here it seems to mean simply to raise a question.
And recently I found this sentence in a book called E-Writing by Dianna
Booher: "Begging the question involves talking around the issue without addressing
it. . . . stating the obvious." I've always thought that to beg the question meant
to continue arguing a point after it has been decided. Can you sort this out for me?
A. Gladly. To beg the question properly does not mean any of the things you
cite. The expression comes to us through law from the ancient art of rhetoric. It is
a type of logical fallacy, formally called petitio principii, and it means "to
assume as true what needs to be proved" or, as Garner's Modern American Usage
puts it, "to base a conclusion on an assumption that is as much in need of proof or
demonstration as the conclusion itself." When the lawyer asks the witness "Do you
still have extramarital affairs?" before it has been proved that he ever committed
adultery, that is begging the question. And the statement "Reasonable people are
people who reason intelligently" begs the question "What is intelligent reasoning?"
Lately, as your examples show, beg the question has been misused in a number
of ways including "to raise a question," "to evade a question," "to invite an
obvious question," and "to ignore a question or issue." Of these, the misuse of
beg the question to mean "raise a question" has become so common that, as Garner
notes, this sense "has been recognized by most dictionaries and sanctioned by
descriptive observers of language."
Yet Garner doesn't like it and neither do I, because using beg the question
to mean "raise the question" is merely the result of a restless desire for elegant
variation. Moreover, the consequence of this substitution is that we gain an
imprecise variant that we do not need and lose a precise idiom that we sorely need.
For if we relegate beg the question to a mere variant of raise the
question, we will no longer have a simple, succinct way to describe the
presumptuous logic of the young man in a public speaking class who, in a speech
intended to persuade his audience that music and art should be dropped from his high
school curriculum, began by saying, "Since I know we all agree that taking music and
art does nothing to prepare you for college, a career, or life, I'll start there."
LinguaPhile is grateful to Charles Harrington Elster for enlightening us on
these issues. His new book, What in the Word?: Wordplay, Word Lore, and Answers
to Your Peskiest Questions about Language is published by Harvest Books.
Available from Amazon.com: What in the Word? Wordplay, Word Lore, and Answers to Your Peskiest Questions about Language
Hands-On English will put a wealth of information at your fingertips so that
you can quickly find what you need to know about grammar, usage, capitalization,
punctuation, spelling, and more. Get details -- and place your order -- at
We invite your questions for this feature:
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Either of these brand-new books would make a wonderful gift for someone who
enjoys the English language.
Another Word a Day by Anu Garg
Another Word a Day: An All-New Romp through Some of the Most Intriguing Words in
English is a linguaphile's delight! Written by Anu Garg, author of A Word a
Day (the newsletter and the book), Another Word a Day "celebrates the
English language in all its quirkiness, grandeur, fun, and delight."
Although the reader is likely to encounter some unfamiliar words in this collection
(nyctalopia, dasypygal, and zugzwang, for example), all of the
words are in use, and most are illustrated
by examples from current sources.
Another Word a Day is organized into 52 chapters, each with a theme (for a
few chapters the reader is invited to discover the theme). Examples of chapters are
"Words Formed Erroneously," "Words about Words," and "Numeric Terms." Each chapter
includes five entry words, and each entry includes pronunciation, plural (if
applicable), part of speech, definition, etymology, and use in context from a
Nearly every chapter includes reader feedback, presumably collected from Garg's
online community -- some 600,000 strong. For example, seventeen theories of the
origin of the term eighty-six are presented, even though no one theory can be
Several chapters offer puzzles or quizzes (answers are provided at the end of the
book), and an index of entry words is helpful. Pithy quotations appear at the bottom
of most pages -- a bit of lagniappe for the reader.
Sometimes a person with a fresh perspective can help us appreciate things around us
that we take for granted. Such is the case with Anu Garg, who was born and raised in
the state of Uttar Pradesh, in India, and did not begin to learn English until he
was in the sixth grade. Garg's fascination with words and his mastery of English are
apparent, however. With clarity and conciseness he leads us on mini-explorations of
our language. The enthusiasm of this most worthy "tour guide" is contagious.
Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2005, 226 pages.
Available from Amazon.com: Another Word A Day: An All-New Romp through Some of the Most Unusual and Intriguing Words in English
You can subscribe to Garg's A Word a Day newsletter and browse
its archives at
* * *
Viva la Repartee by Dr. Mardy Grothe
Viva la Repartee: Clever Comebacks and Witty Retorts from History's Great Wits
and Wordsmiths by Dr. Mardy Grothe celebrates the art of the ingenious reply.
Grothe distinguishes between various kinds of witty comments -- for example, the
retort, which is a response to an insult, and a quip, which is a clever remark
prompted by a situation.
In Viva la Repartee Grothe follows the format that served him well in his
previous books, Never Let a Fool Kiss You or a Kiss Fool You and
Oxymoronica. He begins each chapter with a discussion of that chapter's theme
illustrated by a few examples. Then he provides additional examples without
discussion. Themes include repartee in the following areas: stage and screen,
literature (one chapter being devoted to the Algonquin Round Table), politics,
relationships, senior citizens, and sports.
Other chapters feature chiasmus and oxymoron, the literary devices celebrated in
Grothe's earlier books. The ultimate example of laconic repartee, in the chapter
with that theme, is an exchange of telegrams, each consisting solely of one
The gems in Grothe's earlier books could stand alone as brief quotations -- often no
more than a sentence. However, in order to appreciate a reply, one must know the
words and the situation that prompted it. Viva la Repartee, then, is a
collection of anecdotes. Grothe masterfully crafts the set-ups for his rejoinders.
In taut prose that could well serve as models for aspiring writers, he provides the
details of time, place, and circumstance.
Most of the remarks featured in Viva la Repartee were uttered by celebrities.
Grothe's collection, which includes a helpful index of names, gives us personal
glimpses that bring these people to life for us.
Whether you want to become better acquainted with the notables mentioned in this
volume, hone your own wit and writing style, or simply revel in the ingenious use of
language, you're sure to
enjoy Viva la Repartee.
Published by Collins, 2005, 292 pages.
Available from Amazon.com: Viva la Repartee: Clever Comebacks and Witty Retorts from History's Great Wits and Wordsmiths
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Each letter in the following quotation stands for some other letter. Each A
represents the same letter, each B represents the same letter, etc. However,
there is no relationship between the letter represented by one letter and the letter
represented by another letter. (For example, if A represents S, there
is no reason to think that B will represent T.) To solve this type of
puzzle, look for patterns -- within words and within sentences. Warning: Cryptograms
can be addictive! If you want more cryptograms, check the LinguaPhile index:
OBKRFBRY AQ XJY BZVNZW NL XJY
JFVBK VAKE; BKE BX NKHY HNKXBAKQ
XJY XZNDJAYQ NL AXQ DBQX, BKE XJY
MYBDNKQ NL AXQ LFXFZY HNKIFYQXQ.
-- QBVFYO XBWONZ HNOYZAERY
July Puzzler (Anagrams. Cover the right-hand column if you want another chance to
solve these. The new anagram, related in meaning to the original, is just one word
unless the number in parentheses indicates otherwise. Punctuation marks do not
appear in the solutions.)
| 1. Voices rant on
2. Interpret one amiss
3. A cent tip
4. Nine thumps
5. I form unity
6. A stew, Sir?
7. A rich Tory caste (2)
8. Actual crime isn't evinced (2)
9. Ah, not a smile (3)
10. Here come dots (3)
11. Cash lost in 'em (2)
the Mona Lisa
the Morse code
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Thank you for reading. If you find LinguaPhile helpful and interesting, don't keep it a secret! Consider which of your friends would also enjoy it, and send them information about subscribing. Those receiving this forwarded message can subscribe at http://www.GrammarAndMore.com.
We welcome your comments and suggestions: mailto:LinguaPhile@GrammarAndMore.com
The index to LinguaPhile, which is updated regularly, is now available on the
This makes the information from previous issues readily accessible. You are encouraged to print the index for your convenience or to share it with friends. Why not send them the URL of the text version?
It's a gift you can give, yet still have for yourself!
© 2005 Fran Santoro Hamilton