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LinguaPhile, April 2007

An e-mail newsletter nurturing the development and enjoyment of English language arts at home and at school.

We welcome new subscribers from the IDA conference, Instructional Materials Fairs in several California counties, and the Greater St. Louis Area Home Educators conference.


See Hands-On English at the Home School Book Fair in Texas

The Hands-On English program will be exhibited at the Home School Book Fair in Arlington, TX, May 11-12. The Book Fair will be held at the Arlington Convention Center. Stop by Booth #208 to see the second edition of Hands-On English and the Grannie Annie anthologies. (A Supplement to the first edition -- providing just the new material from the handbook and the Activity Book -- is also available. And there's now a FREE alternative sequence that provides a day-by-day plan for using the curriculum.)

Becoming familiar with the products online can give you a good background for seeing them in person:

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Grannie Annie, Vol. 2: Order Your Limited Edition Now!

"This book should be on the bookshelves in all elementary and junior high schools." That's what The Reading Tub (TM) had to say about Grannie Annie, Vol. 1. You can read the full review on their website:

The second crop of stories is now in, and Grannie Annie, Vol. 2 will go to press in about a week. Order by April 30 to be sure you get your copies.

This year we received nearly twice as many submissions as in our inaugural year! Grannie Annie, Vol. 2 will include twenty-six selections submitted to the second annual Grannie Annie Family Story Celebration. Written by students in grades 4-8 based on interviews with family storykeepers, the stories span several centuries and four continents. They bring to life historical events and unfamiliar cultures. These tales of family life, adventure, hardship, and triumph entertain and educate us. Even more than that, our stories connect us.

Stories selected for publication in Grannie Annie, Vol. 2 are now posted online. In addition, you can sneak a peek at some sample pages so that you can see how the book will look:

We believe that the Grannie Annie anthologies are books you'll want to own -- so that you can read the stories again and again, and share them with others.

If you order ten or more copies, you'll get a 33 percent discount -- copies will be only $10.00 apiece! And the book makes a wonderful gift for family members, friends, teachers, senior citizens, libraries, literacy programs -- the list is endless! (Reading stories that have been accepted for publication is a great help to students who might want to submit a story to The Grannie Annie in the future. Our next submission deadline is February 14, 2008.)

Supplies are limited. To be sure you get your copies, order at once. (Vol. 2 will be shipped in mid-May.) You can order the Grannie Annie anthologies by phone at 1-888-641-5353, or you can order at


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Resources for National Poetry Month

I'm sorry that you're receiving these resources near the end of the month. But any month is a great time for poetry! If you're committed to studying poetry in April and you've nearly completed your plan for this year, file these suggestions away for the future.

Here are thirty ways to celebrate poetry:

And here are poetry activities for K-8 students, organized by grade level and subject (some involve science, math, or art):

Also, the April 2001 issue of LinguaPhile had poetry as its theme:

The April 2003 issue includes information on Found Poetry:

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The Case for an English Handbook

Do you use an English handbook, a trusted reference that you consult whenever you have a question about usage, sentence structure, capitalization, or punctuation?

What about your children? Do they have an English handbook? I've noticed that we adults may consult handbooks frequently, yet we often expect students to remember rules of English after a single exposure!

I am a firm believer in an English handbook. In fact, at this very moment I am surrounded by more than a dozen books that I have consulted while writing this issue of LinguaPhile. Several of them are English handbooks.

Frequent use of a handbook enables each of us to use English correctly and, therefore, to communicate more effectively. As we become familiar with a handbook, we can quickly find the information we need -- and as we begin to internalize that information, we need to consult the handbook less often. We are caught in an upward spiral of success that will make us more independent and more confident in our use of English.

I submit to you that if a handbook is important for adults who have been using the language for decades, it is even more important for students.

If you are a teacher (at home or at school), please consider getting an English handbook for each of your students for the 2007-2008 school year. It will make life easier for your students -- and for you, too!

Is there a specific handbook that I'd recommend? Actually, yes: Hands-On English. It is appropriate for students nine years of age and older. Homeschooling Today has deemed it "a worthwhile addition to any home library." (Parents, think what a help this could be at homework time!) In addition to providing crystal clear explanations, Hands-On English makes grammar visual with symbols to represent parts of speech:
To see a complete table of contents and a few sample pages, click on the links near the bottom of the page provided.

Practice pages, a card game, and visual aids are available to help students master the concepts that are presented in the handbook. (Incidentally, Hands-On English isn't only for students. A number of professionals use it as their main English handbook because information is easy to find and easy to understand. Even though it doesn't include everything there is to know about English, it includes the information people are most likely to need.)

More information is available on the website or via e-mail or phone: or (toll free) 1-888-641-5353.

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Some Amazing Facts About William Shakespeare

Shakespeare understood human nature, and he was a genius with the English language. The combination of these two strengths has kept his plays relevant -- and performed! -- for over 400 years.

Here are some facts about William Shakespeare and his writing.
• Shakespeare was born in Stratford-on-Avon, near London, England, on April 23, 1564. He died, also in Stratford, on his birthday in 1616. He lived to be 52 years old.
• He lived most of his life in London, where he was first recognized as an actor and a poet. He wrote 154 sonnets in addition to some minor poems.
• Research has found that there are 20,138 base words in Shakespeare's published works (as a means of comparison, the King James version of the Bible has about 8,000). We see from this that Shakespeare used a lot of words -- long before Dr. Samuel Johnson wrote the first modern Dictionary of the English Language in 1755! (It was not until 1604 that the very first English dictionary, A Table Alphabeticall, was compiled by Robert Cawdray. It consisted of only 120 pages and 3,000 words.)
• Of the 20,138 base words that Shakespeare used, he is credited with the first written use of over 1,700 of them. In other words, he invented nearly 8.5 percent of his written vocabulary! Here are just a few of the words that Shakespeare is credited with writing for the first time:


• If you think Shakespeare's plays are full of clichés, keep in mind that the expressions were fresh when he wrote them. Here are a few examples of "household words" from Shakespeare's plays ("household words," by the way, came from Henry V):
  "an eye-sore" (The Taming of the Shrew)
  "come full circle" (King Lear)
  "dead as a doornail" (Henry VI, Part 2)
  "eaten me out of house and home" (Henry IV, Part 2)
  "elbow room" (King John)
  "good riddance" (Troilus and Cressida)
  "I have not slept one wink." (Cymbeline)
  "Knock, knock! Who's there?" (Macbeth)
  "not a mouse stirring" (Hamlet)
  "play fast and loose" (Love's Labor's Lost)
  "salad days" (Antony and Cleopatra)
  "strange bedfellows" (The Tempest)
You can find more of these familiar expressions and their origin online.  
• Most of Shakespeare's 37 plays were written between 1592 and 1611. They including comedies, histories, tragedies, and tragicomedies.
• Shakespeare's plays were performed by his company, called "King's Men." He was paid about $40 per play for his writing.
• Shakespeare's plays were not published until seven years after his death.
For a wealth of information about Shakespeare, see

Information about Shakespeare's use of words was taken from The Miracle of Language by Richard Lederer, published by Pocket Books in 1991.

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Quote of the Month: Stories

If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.

--Rudyard Kipling, English author (1865-1936)

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Expand Your Vocabulary: bedizen

Bedizen means "to dress (oneself) in a showy or gaudy way." The word usually carries the connotation of vulgar attire:
She was bedizened in a dress covered with spangles. Costume jewelry and a fake fur completed her ensemble.

Interestingly, this month's word has the same meaning with or without the be- prefix. The pair of words is similar to bedeck and deck.

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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Q and A:  "French fries" or "french fries"?

Question: My eleven-year-old son is wondering about the capitalization of proper adjectives that appear in the name of common objects. For example, should we write French fries or french fries? Is French a proper adjective in this case, or is french fries considered a common noun that doesn't require capitalization? And what do we do with danishes, german potato salad, etc.?

Answer: Thank you for a great question! Your eleven-year-old is very astute to have noticed this anomaly.

When a proper noun or adjective expresses a connection with a particular geographic place, it should be capitalized; when it simply is part of the name of a common object, it tends to lose the capital letter. Obviously many of these terms are evolving, and experts often disagree about which terms should be capitalized and which needn't be. There are hundreds of such terms, as the following sample suggests, and not all of them are adjectives derived from geographic names:
cesarean section
french fries
jamaica ginger
manila envelope
plaster of paris
roman numerals
russian dressing
venetian blinds

You are probably more comfortable with some of those lowercase letters than with others. And you would find some sources that would use capital letters for some of the terms, such as French fries and Roman numeral. However, reserving capitalization for a "particular geographic place" can enable a writer to convey distinct meanings with capitalization alone:
She closed the venetian blinds because the sun was shining in her eyes. [blinds have nothing to do with Venice]
Dramatic lighting was an important characteristic of Venetian painting during the Renaissance. [painting took place in Venice]

Proper adjectives in animal breeds generally retain the capital: German shepherd, Irish setter, Siamese cat. Note that only the geographic term is capitalized; other words in the name of the breed are not.

Many handbooks and dictionaries will provide guidance on capitalization of terms that use proper nouns or adjectives as part of common names. As is often the case, however, the most important consideration is for the writer to maintain as much consistency as possible -- using one term in the same form throughout a work and attempting to uniformly apply a rule to similar words.

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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Review: Salsa Stories by Lulu Delacre

Salsa Stories introduces readers to Latin American culture. It welcomes us to family celebrations and makes us feel at home.

The book includes delightful stories collected from family and friends. When Carmen Teresa receives a blank book as a New Year's gift, everyone at their gathering seems to have a favorite experience to share with the group and contribute to the book. Although the storytellers now live in the United States, their stories come from Guatemala, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Argentina, Mexico, and Peru. A sprinkling of Spanish words enhances the stories' authenticity. The stories paint vivid pictures of everyday customs and special celebrations -- designing a sawdust carpet for Holy Week, for example, or celebrating the Night of San Juan.

Perhaps even more memorable than the unique experiences are the universal ones, the experiences that traverse cultural lines and remind us of things we human beings have in common: parents working to provide a good life for their children, children testing their boundaries, siblings vying with one another.

It is not surprising that these stories involving various family celebrations also involve food. By providing recipes for the dishes mentioned in her stories, Author Lulu Delacre invites readers to partake of her culture on an even more intimate level.

Each story includes a full-page linocut, depicting a key scene. Smaller linocuts illustrate some of the foods in the recipe section at the back of the book. Although most of the Spanish words and phrases are clear from context, Delacre provides a glossary that includes pronunciations, even of proper names.

Every family can benefit from discovering and collecting its stories. Through the process of collection, people become better acquainted with each other -- and with their family history. When stories are written down, they can be shared with others and preserved for future generations.

Published by Scholastic, 2001 (112 pages).

Available from
Hardbound in English
Paperback in Spanish

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Puzzler: From William Shakespeare

A. An anagram is a word or phrase formed by reordering the letters of another word or phrase. For example, sheet and these are anagrams of each other. Some especially impressive anagrams involve phrases that have a close relationship to the words or phrases from which they are derived. For example, tender names is an anagram of endearments.

Here's an open-ended challenge for you: Rearrange the letters in "William Shakespeare" to make a phrase that describes Shakespeare in some way. You may change capitalization and may add punctuation (including apostrophes) if you wish. However, you may use a letter only as many times as it appears in the name (therefore, you're limited to two l's and three e's, for example).

Send your anagrams to, and I'll include them in the next issue. (Let me know if you'd like me to include your name, location, and other information.) There are at least three such anagrams (which I cannot take credit for discovering).

B. Many titles of literary works have been spawned from lines in Shakespeare's plays. For example, near the end of the play Macbeth says of life, "It is a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing." In these lines we recognize the title of Faulkner's famous novel The Sound and the Fury (a tale told by an idiot).

See how many similar titles you can list (along with the source play). There are probably hundreds of them.

Answers will appear in the next issue.

Answers to November Puzzler: (Can you find the shorter synonym in each of these "kangaroo" words? For example, "masculine" is a kangaroo word containing "male.")

 1. blossom
 2. regulate
 3. container
 4. curtail
 5. perimeter
 6. matches
 7. exists
 8. respite
 9. encourage
10. evacuate
11. transgression

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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 . People who have e-mail but do not have Internet access can subscribe by clicking on this link and requesting to subscribe: .

We welcome your comments and suggestions:

The index to LinguaPhile, which is updated regularly, is now available on the GrammarAndMore website:
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?

LinguaPhile is a gift you can give, yet still have for yourself!

© 2007 Fran Santoro Hamilton


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