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Archive for the 'Miss Sellany’s Stuff' Category

New Games at alphaDictionary

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

I have added two new games about idioms and adages to the growing supply of word games on alphaDictionary. The first consists in matching idioms and adages with an prose description comprising arcane vocabulary, e.g. neophyte serendipity = beginner’s luck: http://www.alphadictionary.com/fun/idiom_match.html

The other new game–my favorite–is matching idioms and adages with a picture of their literal meaning. For example, a picture of people climbing walls = climbing the walls. It may be found at http://www.alphadictionary.com/fun/idioms_adages.html.

Have fun.

Remainder Reminder

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Oddvar Jakobsen pointed out (from the shores of Lake Tanganyika) a logical error in my interpretation of the word pilgrim this past Thanksgiving. In particular he wrote:

“It gives a non-English speaker some consolation to notice the occasional stumbles a word professor may experience. Or am I wrong in finding it funny that those of the pilgrims who did not survive the first winter in America, actually survived and multiplied and built a nation.”

He goes on to quote the offending passage from the Good Word as it was mailed out: “Only half the 102 original Pilgrims survived their first winter at Plymouth. The remainder, with strong support of local Native Americans, survived to multiply and, joined by many others over the succeeding years, spread across the continent to build a nation.”

He goes on to say, “What I mean to say is that, if a portion of a population survives, the word remainder would logically refer … to the portion that does NOT survive. That population that did not survive, has NOT multiplied, but nevertheless been joined by very many others who died in quite different circumstances, but they did most likely NOT build a nation.”

Point well taken. I confused remainder with “those remaining” which, of course, is not the meaning of the word. I have since corrected the error as a result of Mr. Jakobsen’s keen sense of logic.

Fun: Lookalikes

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Julie Dunn surprised us with this note today:

Andrew Shaffer“Your Andrew Shaffer looks a lot like the new guy, Nicholas David, on Ceelo’s team on The Voice (see picture on the left). Nicholas DavidI was searching for online dictionaries to show my classes for a reliable sources lesson when I saw the picture of Andrew on your About Us page.”

Is it just the beard? Whatever. If you must look like someone, better to look like someone famous (I always say).

Fun

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012

Fun becomes more tiring the older you get.

Train Milk

Wednesday, November 16th, 2011

Today’s Marketwatch website carries a story that contains the following sentence:

McGill said, “They’re going to ride the train and milk it for all it’s worth.”

How much is train milk worth these days?

Stroke Recovery

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

I am 95% myself six weeks after the operation on my noggin. It involved the left hemisphere which controls the right side of the body and all language functions. As you can see, most of them I have recovered.

I will be back writing on language themes soon.

Stroke!

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

I have suffered a stoke. I will be back in 2-3 week as sharp as ever.

A Perfect Snow

Monday, February 21st, 2011

The light peeping around the edges of the shades in my room woke me up at 3 AM. I was amazed at what I saw outside. The full moon enlightening the snow-covered garden reminded me immediately of the lines in “The Night Before Christmas”:

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below, . . .

I managed to get back to sleep despite the brightness and my excitement, and awoke to what seemed to be a perfect snow. The first sign was that it is falling straight downward—no wind. The other was that it was heavier than a flurry but far from a blizzard. A gentle snow but a snow, not a dusting.

Those signs invited me out into it. I’m from the south, North Carolina. I saw snow only once growing up there. Moving to Pennsylvania introduced me to the grace of this kind, heavenly downfall and I’ve always found it more relaxing than music.

The first thing I notice about this perfect snow was the silence it cast about everything. The chilled stillness of perpendicular snow is entirely different. Snowy stillness is unique, somehow, like the petrichor after a rain. One of those mysterious pleasures we enjoy, far too often without realizing it.

Air filtered by snow is also different. Breathing rises from a necessity to a pleasure. It is as though it is clearer, more transparent. It become more crystalline, fragile, and brittle. It comes in and goes out more playfully, somehow, on the very edge of reality. The usual aromas aren’t there: no motor oil, no manure on the farm fields around my house, none of those smells we learn to ignore. Snowy air is air in its purest form, air enervating, bolstering the spirit, driving the mind to a new level of consciousness.

No one else seems to think much about snow in Pennsylvania, except to worry about too much of it. I hope I’m not the only one who enjoys the pleasures of the perfect snow.

A fête worse than death

Monday, December 13th, 2010

In response to my treatment of fête recently, George Kovac commented:

“Hmmm. With all the tedious, obligatory holiday parties this time of year (departmental, church group, school group, office, professional association, volunteer organization, client, vendor, neighbor, the in-law you never liked), I sometimes refer to such an event as a fête worse than death.”

Acquaintance Overload

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

About mid-career, I realized one day that I was passing my friends in the hall without making eye contact. If I did, I would stop and chat and that would take 2-3 minutes (or more) out of preparing lecture plans or research. If I did that 15-20 times a day, we would be talking about major time loss for an academic. Academics have two jobs, after all: teaching and research. Add a family and house-repair on top of that and the time squeeze becomes a major one.

Upon retirement, I found myself not only talking more with friends but adding to that crucial and interesting group. My circle of friends began to expand. As I built the alphaDictionary Agora, Dr. Goodword’s blog, joined Facebook, LinkedIn, Xing, and Twitter, and added these contacts to my circle of friends here in Lewisburg and around the world and my alphaDictionary e-mail friends, I began finding myself having more and more difficulty keeping up with everyone. Will all the various types of social networking made possible by the Web lead to acquaintaince overload?

Friendship should be close, between people who know each other and enjoy company and conversations with them. But the brain has limitations. It is stuck in the skull so there is only so much it can retain. Don’t get me wrong. There are millions of interesting people in the world and I would love to be acquainted with them all. Now that we actually have the tools to do that, do we have the time and mind space required?

I write this because I have grown quite close to people I’ve never met and I really don’t understand what that means. Of course, when we communicate via websites and e-mail we present ourselves at our very best. Friends generally know our shortcomings and love us despite them. Perhaps this is the attraction of the Internet: we can protray ourselves at our best, shuck off our warts and create a new and shining self. We connect by our common points and delight to discover how many of them there are.

The question then follows, will these new and shiny selves that we create on line actually become us? Will we arise in a new decency that we never realized was in us as a result of the Web? That isn’t clear in light of the many genually evil websites out there, websites that protray the worst human beings can be.

I suspect as time grinds on, we will discover that most of us share most of our most important features. We will discover that we are all in this together. Together. That is not a bad thing that should make us angry, but a very good one. But then on a halcyon and idyllic autumn day like today I can’t help being a cock-eyed optimist.