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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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Quite a while ago, we blogged about a grammar error in a TV commercial for Chef Michael’s Dog Food.

See our post: Identity crisis …

“My name is Chef Michael and my dog Bailey and me love to hang out in the kitchen …” Should be: I.

We are very pleased to report that this grammar goof has been corrected!

This is our slogan in action: “we find it, you fix it.” Thanks for listening, Chef Michael’s!

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Goodness … here’s a note from a reader:

This is my latest grammar gripe. It has grown into an obsession. The first time I recall hearing this was in high school (almost 20 years ago), and I now hear it more and more frequently. It makes me want to scream. Have you heard this one? It clearly stems from the hypercorrection of “me” into “I” which seems to be more common these days. People seem to default to “I” even in situations when “me” is correct, such as in, “Please let Chris or I know…..” UGH. So now, it turns into, “This is Chris and I’s issue.” REALLY? Chris and I’s? As far as I can tell, “I’s” is not an appropriate possessive. I was griping about this one day with my equally nerdy grandmother, and she swore up and down that no one says this and I must have misheard. Never mind the fact that I’ve heard this repeatedly, on TV, on the radio (just heard it in an interview on This American Life! To be fair, it wasn’t said by a journalist; it was someone being interviewed), and in person. She said, oh no, no one would say that. HA! So I am curious – have you heard this too? Does it make you as insane as it makes me?

-Elise, an incorrigible grammarian just outside Philadelphia

Elise, all we can say is: yes, Yes, and YES!!!

Dear readers, please see our previous posts: I is not an object … and A note to Felicity …

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In Las Vegas this week, there was a great holiday party invitation which included the following:

 … come join us for toasted marshmallows and carolers …

What comes to your mind?

Here’s what came to ours:

Yum … toasted carolers!

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Another pronunciation poem … attributed to both Richard Krough and T.S.Watt.

Recovering Sounds from Orthography
Brush up Your English

I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough.
Others may stumble but not you,
On hiccough, through, lough and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps.

Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
And dead–it’s said like bed, not bead.
For goodness’s sake, don’t call it deed!
Watch out for meat and great and threat:
They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.

A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s dose and rose and lose–
Just look them up–and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart.
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start.

A dreadful language? Man alive,
I’d mastered it when I was five.

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The Chaos
by G. Nolst Trenite’ a.k.a. “Charivarius” 1870 – 1946

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye your dress you’ll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, beard and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written).
Made has not the sound of bade,
Say said, pay-paid, laid, but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
But be careful how you speak,
Say break, steak, but bleak and streak.
Previous, precious, fuchsia, via,
Pipe, snipe, recipe and choir,
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles.
Exiles, similes, reviles.
Wholly, holly, signal, signing.
Thames, examining, combining
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war, and far.
From “desire”: desirable–admirable from “admire.”
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier.
Chatham, brougham, renown, but known.
Knowledge, done, but gone and tone,
One, anemone. Balmoral.
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel,
Gertrude, German, wind, and mind.
Scene, Melpomene, mankind,
Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.
Billet does not end like ballet;
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet;
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rime with “darky.”
Viscous, Viscount, load, and broad.
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s O.K.,
When you say correctly: croquet.
Rounded, wounded, grieve, and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive, and live,
Liberty, library, heave, and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven,
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between mover, plover, Dover,
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police, and lice.
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label,
Petal, penal, and canal,
Wait, surmise, plait, promise, pal.
Suit, suite, ruin, circuit, conduit,
Rime with “shirk it” and “beyond it.”
But it is not hard to tell,
Why it’s pall, mall, but Pall Mall.
Muscle, muscular, gaol, iron,
Timber, climber, bullion, lion,
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, and chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,
Ivy, privy, famous, clamour
And enamour rime with hammer.
Pussy, hussy, and possess,
Desert, but dessert, address.
Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rime with anger.
Neither does devour with clangour.
Soul, but foul and gaunt but aunt.
Font, front, won’t, want, grand, and grant.
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say: finger.
And then: singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age.
Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post; and doth, cloth, loth;
Job, Job; blossom, bosom, oath.
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual.
Seat, sweat; chaste, caste.; Leigh, eight, height;
Put, nut; granite, and unite.
Reefer does not rime with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, Senate, but sedate.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific,
Tour, but our and succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria,
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, key, quay.
Say aver, but ever, fever.
Neither, leisure, skein, receiver.
Never guess–it is not safe:
We say calves, valves, half, but Ralph.
Heron, granary, canary,
Crevice and device, and eyrie,
Face but preface, but efface,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust, and scour, but scourging,
Ear but earn, and wear and bear
Do not rime with here, but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk, and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation–think of psyche–!
Is a paling, stout and spikey,
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing “groats” and saying “grits”?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel,
Strewn with stones, like rowlock, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict, and indict!
Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying lather, bather, father?
Finally: which rimes with “enough”
Though, through, plough, cough, hough, or tough?
Hiccough has the sound of “cup.”
My advice is–give it up!

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