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  • Today is Friday the 13th. Twenty million Americans are feeling unlucky today — people who suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia. It’s a 99-year-old word made up of a combination of the Norse and Greek roots words for ‘fear’ and ‘Friday’ and ’13.’
  • Folklorists say that the phobia itself is a combination of two separate superstition-induced phobias — 13 is unlucky in much of folklore and so is Friday. Whenever the first day of a month is a Sunday, there’s going to be a Friday the 13th that month.
  • The number 13 has been unlucky for a long time. Numerologists point out that 12 is a complete number in Judeo-Christian culture: There are 12 months in a year, 12 hours on a standard clock, 12 Apostles, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 days of Christmas, 12 eggs in a dozen, of course, the 12 Steps of GRAMMARHOLICS (not so) ANONYMOUS, and so on.
  • There’s something unsettling, even repugnant, about going just a bit ‘beyond completeness’ — that’s how academic folklorists rationalize the superstition, at least. The vast majority of skyscrapers have no 13th floor, the room number 13 is missing from many modern hotels, and many airliners do not have a row 13 in their passenger seating.
  • As for Friday, it’s unlucky in a handful of ancient cultures. In Christianity, it’s the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • There have been 12 films in the Friday the 13th series. The 13th came out on Friday the 13th of July in 2012.
  • There are always the traditional folk remedies to ward off bad luck today: burning any socks with holes in them, or eating some gristle while standing on your head, or climbing to a mountaintop. Just know that some years can have up to three of them.

Enjoy!

References: Dad, CBS News, The Skeptic’s Dictionary, IMDb

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Indiana is the home of GrammarCops. We are particularly interested in this …

The Handwriting Is on the Wall

Filed under: Education, Innovation, Language, Philosophy, Psychology — cliftonchadwick JULY 9, 2011

The Handwriting Is on the Wall

Learning cursive is going the way of the quill pen. It’s only the end of civilization as we know it

By THEODORE DALRYMPLE

Fifty years from now, no one in Indiana—or at least, no one born and raised in Indiana—will be able to write cursive. On the other hand, everyone there will be able to type, and by then technology might have made the ability to sign your name redundant. If it has not, perhaps you will be able to hire an out-of-stater or immigrant to sign your will or marriage certificate for you.

State officials recently announced that Indiana schools will no longer be required to teach children to write longhand, so that students can focus on typing. This is because writing by hand is so very—well, so very 4000 B.C. to A.D. 2010. We have now entered a new era: A.H., After Handwriting.

The schoolchildren of Indiana—and those of an increasing number of other states—will therefore never know the joys of penmanship that I experienced as a child. In those days, we still had little porcelain inkwells in the tops of our desks. The watery blue ink eventually evaporated to a deep blue gritty residue, and we used scratchy dip-pens with wooden handles, whose nibs were forever bending and breaking.

Our whole world was inky. Our desktops were soaked in ink; it got into our skin, under our nails and into our clothes. We even began to smell of it. For those of us who were even slightly academically inclined, the callus that formed on the skin of the side of the middle finger as it rubbed against the wood of the pen was a matter of pride: We measured our diligence by the thickness of the callus and longed for it to grow bigger.

I still remember my pride in my first full-length handwritten composition: an eight-page account of crossing the Gobi Desert in a Rolls-Royce, accompanied by blots, smudges and inky fingerprints. To my chagrin and everlasting regret, my teacher was not impressed by my formidable effort. She said that I must keep to reality and not be so imaginative.

Despite many hours first of tracing, then of copying copperplate examples, my handwriting never became other than serviceable at best. I was left-handed, and this made things more difficult because, whether I pushed or pulled the pen, smudges followed my writing across the page. Luckily, though, we had emerged from the dark ages when left-handers were forced to use their right hands. Little did we know, it was the beginning of the pedagogic liberalism that has now brought us to the abandonment of writing altogether.

Another character-building joy that may be denied to Indiana schoolchildren is the handwritten exam. They will never know that peculiar slight ache in the forearm, produced by fevered scribbling as thoughts rushed through your mind in answer to questions such as “Was Louis XIV a good king?” (my answer was a firm and uncompromising “no”) and struggled to find written expression, only to slow down once it became clear that there were not enough of those thoughts to fill the allotted time. So then you deliberately made your handwriting deteriorate to make it appear that you could have written much more if only you had had the time, but unfortunately you did not. This kind of game continued into my early 20s.

Were my teachers ever taken in by it? I doubt it, but even then I knew it was all really a rite of passage, a slow induction into the adult world that I so longed to join. Since the need for such rites seems to be permanent in human societies, no doubt new such rites will develop for those who focus on the keyboard, but I do not know what they will be. Having reached the age when pessimism is almost hard-wired into the brain, I think they will not only be different but not as beneficial to the developing character.

Indeed, my first reaction to the news from Indiana was visceral despair, not only because the world I had known was now declared antediluvian, dead and buried, but because it presaged a further hollowing out of the human personality, a further colonization of the human mind by the virtual at the expense of the real.

When I scrawled and blotted and smudged my way across the page, I had the feeling that, for good or evil, what I had done was my own and unique. And since everyone’s writing was different, despite the uniformity of the exercises, our handwriting gave us a powerful, and very early, sense of our own individuality. Those who learn to write only on a screen will have more difficulty in distinguishing themselves from each other, and since the need to do so will remain, they will adopt more extreme ways of doing so. Less handwriting, then, more social pathology.

—Theodore Dalrymple is the pen name of the physician Anthony Daniels. He is a contributing editor of the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.

Just to jog your memory: cursive –adjective 1. (of handwriting) in flowing strokes with the letters joined together.

Sources: Cliftonchadwick’s Blog, dictionary.com, Mom

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Today on Today, NBC TV host Matt Lauer asked Congresswoman and GOP candidate Michele Bachmann the following:

“Amy Kremer, who’s a leader of the Tea Party movement, said … that you will be – and this is her word, not mine – quote, ‘Palinized’ in this campaign. Do you understand the verb, and what would your definition of it be?”  

Click on the photo to see the video segment:

All politics aside, thank you Mr. Lauer for furthering our cause … especially in the “Verbalized …” category. This might just start a new sub-category: “Verbalized … Properly” (verbalized with a proper noun). Stay tuned.

See our series on Nouns gone bad:

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Listen here … The Grammar Police on You Are What You Speak

This week, we had the honor of participating in a radio feature on the national morning radio show, The Takeaway (produced by Public Radio International, WNYC, the BBC, WGBH Boston, and The New York Times). What fun!

The request was for an interview, “… to discuss your issues with language usage and misusage. Should we be trying to stop the world’s grammatical errors? Or should we accept the various misuses as part of our evolving language?”

In addition, Robert Lane Greene, author of “You Are What You Speak,” was the second guest. In his opinion, language policing is often just about supporting class, ethnic and national prejudices. 

Check it out … and, thanks for listening!

Listen here … The Grammar Police on You Are What You Speak

P.S. This book is now required reading for our GrammarGuard and recommended reading for our GrammarGuild and other followers.

P.P.S. Click here to read about what started the feud with Hanes …

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  • Today is Friday the 13th. Twenty million Americans are feeling unlucky today — people who suffer from friggatriskaidekaphobia. It’s a 99-year-old word made up of a combination of the Norse and Greek roots words for ‘fear’ and ‘Friday’ and ’13.’
  • Folklorists say that the phobia itself is a combination of two separate superstition-induced phobias — 13 is unlucky in much of folklore and so is Friday. Whenever the first day of a month is a Sunday, there’s going to be a Friday the 13th that month.
  • The number 13 has been unlucky for a long time. Numerologists point out that 12 is a complete number in Judeo-Christian culture: There are 12 months in a year, 12 hours on a standard clock, 12 Apostles, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 days of Christmas, 12 eggs in a dozen, of course, the 12 Steps of GRAMMARHOLICS (not so) ANONYMOUS, and so on.
  • There’s something unsettling, even repugnant, about going just a bit ‘beyond completeness’ — that’s how academic folklorists rationalize the superstition, at least. The vast majority of skyscrapers have no 13th floor, the room number 13 is missing from many modern hotels, and many airliners do not have a row 13 in their passenger seating.
  • As for Friday, it’s unlucky in a handful of ancient cultures. In Christianity, it’s the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.
  • There have been 12 films in the Friday the 13th series. The 13th is due out on Friday the 13th of July in 2012.
  • There are always the traditional folk remedies to ward off bad luck today: burning any socks with holes in them, or eating some gristle while standing on your head, or climbing to a mountaintop. And here’s the good news: There’s only one Friday the 13th this year and one next year. Some years can have up to three of them.

Enjoy!

References: Dad, CBS News, The Skeptic’s Dictionary, IMDb

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Today’s fun with headlines …

The Buffalo New York newspaper, BusinessFirst, ran this news headline:

“Sotomayor praised for balance”

(click here for the real story)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

sotomayor praised for balance

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We read this headline last week in the business section of the Austin American-Statesman newspaper:

“Bank of America to cut branches”

(click here for the real story)

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

BofA to cut branches

Too bad money doesn’t grow on trees!

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