Archive for January, 2010

Thanks to my friend Heidi, I am now wearing my mascara in a variety of places. She directed me to a site that has me weeping: http://engrishfunny.com/

Here is a sample of what you will see on this site:


Update: Here is a similar site, courtesy of my friend Billy: http://engrish.com/


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I kept it together tonight. I did not throw my panties on the stage, or engage in any other unseemly fan behavior. I was, however, awestruck, and rendered speechless.

Stanley Fish spoke at SCAD.

The topic of his lecture was “How to Write a Sentence.” If you read his New York Times columns here (Part I) and here (Part II), you’ll get the gist of the lecture. Bottom line: Form is more important than content. People can express ideas and be creative only within the confines of syntax, and they must know syntax.

Now discuss among yourselves. I feel faint.

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Trish the Chicken now has her own Facebook page.

Trish updates her status

Trish is more technologically advanced than any chicken (and many people). Check her out:

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No one really asked for more rhetorical devices, but I’m on a roll. Here are four more of my favorites:

To use metallage (“Meh-TALL-uh-gee”) is to use a word or phrase as an object in a sentence. I’m going to go all “Pulp Fiction” on you and mention that scene with the Gimp. Marcellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) says, “You hear me talkin’, hillbilly boy? I ain’t through with you by a damn sight. I’ma get medieval on your ass.”

In that same vein, periphrasis (“Per-IF-ruh-sis”) uses a description as a name. Think Harry Potter and “He Who Shall Not Be Named.” And I’d better not hear Eddie refer to me as “The Old Ball and Chain.” Or “Fat Ass,” for that matter.

Two more devices — metonymy and synecdoche — seem to be difficult for many people to understand, and there are plenty who say they are the same. They are not.

Metonymy (“Meh-TAH-no-mee”) refers to describing something indirectly by using similar items. For example, you can say “the deep” when you are talking about the ocean.

Synecdoche (“Sin-ECK-doh-key”) swaps a thing for a collection of things, or a part for a whole. For example, the bank foreclosed on our neighbor’s house. The representatives of the bank did it, but it is easier to say “the bank.”

The difference between metonymy and synecdoche is this: When A is used to refer to B, it is a synecdoche if A is a component of B, and a metonym if A is commonly associated with B but not actually part of its whole. Representatives are part of a bank, therefore it is synecdoche. But the ocean is deep (deep water is like an ocean), so it is metonymy.

Got it? Good, ’cause I don’t wanna go all medieval on you.

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When last I blogged, I mentioned “litotes,” a rhetorical device that is similar to a double negative. This device, pronounced “LIE-tuh-teez,” allows someone to make a point by denying the opposite. For example, if I said, all regal-like, “We are not amused,” you would understand that all is not well, and that you should perhaps vacate the scene.

There are loads of other devices. As soon as I point them out, you’ll start seeing them everywhere.

Take, for example, chiasmus (“Kie-AZ-mus”), a sentence that presents a mirror image of a concept. I often say that I work to live, not live to work, even though I do love my job.

Perhaps the most well-known chiasmus came from John F. Kennedy in his 1961 inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

Two other devices are similar: antithesis and anadiplosis. Antithesis establishes a clear, contrasting relationship between ideas. For example, original moonwalker Neil Armstrong said of the 1969 landing: “One small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

Some examples of antithesis are chiastic, but not all. And if it is chiastic, then just call it a chiasmus. Antithesis = general contrast; chiasmus = specific mirroring.

Anadiplosis (“Anna-di-PLOH-sis”) goes one step further by repeating the last/first structure, but it is not a mirror. In “Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace” — a dreadful movie — Yoda said, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Do you want to know more about rhetorical devices? Of course you do. And asking and answering a question is called hypophora (“High-PAH-for-uh”).

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"I don't know nothing 'bout birthin' babies!"

I don’t know nothing ’bout grammar. That’s good, because I write a grammar blog. (Well, grammar and other things.)

You might ask, “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout Willis?”

That, my friends, is a double negative. What I really said was, “I know something about grammar.”

Pink Floyd sang, “We don’t need no education,” but what they were really saying was, “We do need education” (whether they wanted to or not). The “not” in the contraction cancels out the “no,” resulting in a positive statement.

Usually people use the construction to indicate the opposite, though, like Prissy (Butterfly McQueen) in “Gone with the Wind“: “I don’t know nothing ’bout birthin’ babies!”

So Miss Scarlett was in luck. Yet she wasn’t. You see?

Similar to this concept is a rhetorical device called “litotes.” I’ll tackle that topic in an upcoming post.

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In 2005, when SCAD was considering offering a writing major, I thought to myself, “Self, it would be great to teach in that department.” Though I had oodles of work experience, I knew that SCAD’s accrediting body prefers terminal degrees in the field of instruction. So I had two choices: Get another M.F.A. (the one I have is in performing arts) or get a Ph.D. I chose the latter.

I had three criteria in mind as I researched programs: areas of study offered (journalism or communications), proximity and reputation. The one that fulfilled all these requirements was University of South Carolina.

Eddie badgered me to apply. “But that would require taking the GRE!” I whined. “And I’m pregnant!”

“So?” he said, with very little compassion, I might add.

Lest you think he is heartless, his philosophy was that I might as well get on it while the kids were very young. That way I would be done when they got old enough to start extracurricular activities that I wouldn’t want to miss.

I knew he was right. I forced myself to take the GRE and apply to the doctoral program in the USC School of Journalism and Mass Communications. I was accepted, and began coursework Fall 2006. The total courses involved for most folks: 16 (48 semester hours). For me: 18 (because my master’s is not in the specific area).

I finished the coursework in April 2009. I spent the summer procrastinating on my dissertation proposal, and dreading the comprehensive exams (four days, three hours a day of answering questions in four areas: theory, methods, ethics and rhetoric, which is my outside area). I passed the foreign language proficiency test in October (see related post). The comps dread continued.

The time came, though, for me to put up or shut up. I studied my haunches off in preparation for the comps, which I stupidly scheduled for the week after Thanksgiving. The 19 people in my house for the holiday might not have fully understood why I was so stressed out.

Along with the written comps, there is an oral defense. That happened today. After my committee slowly roasted me over an open fire for two hours, they decreed that I had passed. To be honest, the first 20 minutes were horrendous, but then the rest was fine. The discussion will help me hone my dissertation proposal, for sure.

And that is the next step. I defend said proposal in front of my committee Feb. 19. Once I pass (the power of positive thinking), I will work exclusively on my own research for my dissertation. Then I will have to defend my dissertation in front of the same committee. Thumbs up, and my hooding awaits. Thumbs down, and … well, that’s really not an option for me.

So if I look a little frazzled in February (and over the summer), you’ll know why.

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