Archive | January, 2013

Word of the Week: Wanton

28 Jan

Wanton (adj.): Done or used without justification; deliberate without motivation or provocation; unrestrained

Similar to: Promiscuous, capricious, licentious

Example: The wanton manner with which the P.F. Chang’s waiter served our table upset my stomach.  Although it could have been the soup.  Come to think of it, it was definitely the soup.

Scarring Our Children

21 Jan

Anytime an ambulance came to our elementary school, we all went nuts.  It was crazy.  It was exciting.  It was scary.  

I still remember all of the big injuries of my elementary school career: Casey, who broke his arm like three times; Carley, who fell off the monkey bars flat onto her face and straight up BROKE HER WHOLE FACE; the time Sara got attacked by diabetes (this is how I was made to understand it) and passed out on the stairs and then she got to eat those orange sugar tablets, which was super unfair because my mom never packed me diabetes candy.

Once, our school rented something called a Star Lab.  It was basically this large inflatable dome accessible via army crawling through a tunnel; entire classrooms of students could fit inside at once, and then constellations were projected on the domed ceiling.  All I really remember of Star Lab, though, is that once, some girl blacked out and had to be unceremoniously dragged out through the ET tunnel, and the entire 5th grade reacted how you might expect: with pure, unadulterated jealousy.

For weeks — weeks! — we all (mostly the girls) staged blacking out fits.  They could hit in the hallways, they could hit in the classroom, and they could definitely hit in Star Lab.  By our definition, “blacking out” in the hallway might mean that the afflicted person suddenly stopped walking and stared off into space (ha! space!) until an observant friend ran up to the afflicted, waved her hand furiously in the sick girl’s face and shouted, “You’re blacking out! You’re blacking out!”  This inevitably cured us: at least for the next twenty minutes or so.  

So it’s no wonder that it’s always been my dream to be that person who both excites and scars school children with my own terrible injury or illness.  Well, world, I have one thing to say: 

 

 

 

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That’s right, ladies and gents: on Wednesday morning, I was taken away from the elementary school where I work in an ambulance!  Yes!  As I was wheeled past dozens of  impressionable young students with looks of shock, horror, and total jealousy on their faces, I couldn’t help but think, “Blgrhahfad.”  I was very sick.

But while illness and injury may seem like the best way to scar our children (and don’t kids deserve the best), there’s actually a more effective way of doing it: by teaching them bad writing habits early on.  That’s right, I transitioned.  As I always say, “Everything fun must become boring.”  (Copyright: Our wedding vows, 2012).

There are quite a few nasty writing habits we learn early on that just don’t hold true.  Let’s look at a few.

1. Over-reliance on adjectives.  We actually discussed this in our first post.  Get a refresher course on just how and when you should just adjectives in your writing here.  

The short of it is this: avoid them as much as possible.

2. The knee-jerk reaction that it’s always “I” and never “me.”  Learn about when it’s “I” and when it’s “me” right here.

The short of it: it’s not you, but sometimes it is me.

3. You can’t start a sentence with a conjunction like “and” or “but.”

The truth: you can!  I’m actually a terrible example of this, because I love starting sentences with “but” or “and.”  In truth, if I paid a little more attention to my structure, I could stand to lose a few of them.  But (see?) starting a sentence with a conjunction can be a perfectly acceptable choice for the purpose of style, flow, or God-given American right.  

There’s no hard and fast rule for when you can.  Just don’t follow my example and start most of your sentences this way, and make sure that you’re still writing complete sentences.

4. The bigger word is always the better word.  This is more of a high school problem than an elementary one, but still: yeesh.  Read about thesaurus abuse here.

The short of it: the bigger word is not always the better word.

5. A paper or an essay has five paragraphs: an introduction, a conclusion, and three body paragraphs.

Look, if that’s your assignment, then yes, please just do that.  But I’ve seen too many students — college students! — trapped in this mindset, trying desperately to cram content that needs to roam into five paragraphs.

An introduction can be more than one paragraph.  There, I said it.  Generally, you should try to keep it under a page, but sometimes you can’t, and that’s okay.

You may have two body paragraphs.  You may have eighty.  You should not be hitting on more than one subject per paragraph.  If your paragraph is longer than a page, then you need to at least make sure there isn’t somewhere you should split it (for example, if your paragraph is about Mac hardware, and you’ve gone on for a page about the keyboard and you’ve still got a good half page to write about the mouse, then go ahead and split that into two hardware paragraphs).  There might not be a place to split it.  That’s okay.  

And there you go: one more step toward unlearning everything you learned in elementary school.  Just for good measure: Santa’s not real, Columbus was a jerk, and the Civil War was actually fought over people fighting about what the Civil War was fought over.

 

 

 

Word of the Week: Parsimonious

6 Jan

Parsimonious (adj.): Showing excessive frugality or stinginess

Similar to: Stingy, greedy, miserly

Example: Some call my hobby of stealing tin cups from orphans to melt into a free fortress of tin to guard my own money parsimonious, but just wait, as soon as Kim and Kanye’s kid starts doing it, you’ll all be wishing you had thought of it sooner.

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