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One student uses an extended cookie metaphor to contrast the writing she was tasked with in high school with what she’d experienced previously. High school has been a series of repetitive tasks, “I have (for the most part) only written one essay–introduction, three body paragraphs, and conclusion. I would clearly state my thesis, structure my evidence into three neat little pieces, and wrap everything up in five sentences rambling about how extremely significant my point was to the world.”

To this student, “My writing as well as my experiences with high school english in general ended up dry and flavorless, like a grocery store sugar cookie that sat on the shelf for too long. Sure, it’s beautifully shaped and frosted, but it usually doesn’t taste that great. It’s the type of cookie you only buy for its appearance.”

In contrast, in middle school, where the student was given more freedom to explore, “I enjoyed writing a lot more; rather than focusing on making a cookie look good, I could focus on making a cookie taste good. They were homemade, and cookies that are homemade tend to contain a part of the person who made them. Despite being rather misshapen and ugly compared to the store cookies, they at least tasted, if not good, how I wanted them to taste. I could write in a way that was meaningful to me, and as a result, I felt as though I improved and grew as a writer.”

John Warner on how to kill the love of reading and writing.

2019-10-29T12:37:13+11:0022nd February, 2020|Tags: education, english, writing|

You keep using that word…

I have a confession to make. By all rights, it should get me fired.

For the last 25 years, in my writing, I have been using the adjectives “epistemological” and “ontological” interchangeably and without actually knowing what either means. Sure, I have looked them up, but their definitions are so gauzy and academic that they are meaningless to me, and forgettable. So I forget them. I don’t even go back to check anymore.

But here is the amazing thing: Not once in 25 years has anyone called me out on this. There has been not one phone call or online comment or letter to the editor pointing out that, philosophically, I have my head up my arse, which I obviously do. There is only one conclusion I can reach: No one else has any idea what these words mean, either.

Gene Weingarten on consensus ignorance.

I’ve seen this article posted around a few places and people basically have two reactions to it. The first is to laugh and say something along the lines of, “IKR? WTF are those words good for other than sounding pretentious? Ain’t English funny!” And the second is to make some ponderous announcement along the lines of, “It helps if you use them in a sentence”, then proceed to sprout off a bunch of example sentences that in no way whatsoever clarify the words’ meanings and, thus, end up proving exactly the point Weingarten was trying to make in the first place.

Like, let’s be clear, Weingarten literally won a Pulitzer for a piece in which he used the word “epistemological” in a context without knowing if that context was correct or not. Like, a Pulitzer, man!

So, yanno. Next time you get mocked on the internet for using a word without really knowing what it means? Remember you’re in good company.

2018-04-27T13:58:51+10:004th November, 2016|Tags: english, language, writing|