I’m just going to say it: I’m comfortable with the label of nerd.
More specifically, I’m a Nerdius scientifica.
Being a nerd is more accepted nowadays, what with our bulging brains and chiselled knowledge. And the reality is that us nerds have a lot to offer, like research skills.
Writing requires a lot of research and writers generally fall into two categories in this regard: those who need to learn how to research, and those who took up writing to justify those dodgy topics they’ve researched. This post will hopefully help the former. But if anyone does want to know how much slack rope you need to hang someone correctly from your homemade gallows, I have a spreadsheet calculator for you.
I stole am reblogging a post from Writer’s Digest with a few of my own comments.
Ernest Hemingway said writers should develop a built-in bullshit detector. I imagine one…
If, like me, you enjoy reading Shakespeare, Milton, Middleton, Johnson and the like, and studying English history, this site offers a wealth of resources and texts for your perusal.
There are a variety of ways you can search – by title, author, key words, dates… the options are many and varied. There are both fiction and non-fiction texts included. What a fabulous repository of primary sources and original texts!
Thank you to the murreyandblue blog for the heads-up.
When I happen upon a new (to me) site that affords access to hundreds of sources, I am always eager to share it with everyone. Maybe a lot of you already know of this site but for those who do not, I stumbled on it by following a thread concerning Dugdale. Bookmark the link, it’s well worth it!
As I often explain to my students, language adapts and evolves all the time. People invent new words, or blend old ones, to create new meanings or to explain something in a new way.
I’m always fascinated by the process, and take interest in which words are being “added to the dictionary”. Even that phrase makes me laugh, because we all know there’s more than one dictionary, and they don’t all add new words at the same time.
The article titled Five New Words To Watch comes from the Macquarie Dictionary Blog.
The Macquarie Dictionary is my favourite for a number of reasons. Macquarie University is my alma mater, and back when the first Macquarie Dictionary was being written and compiled, I had the privilege of having two of the contributors as my lecturers and tutors in English and Linguistics. More importantly, the definitions are clear and easily understandable, Australian colloquialisms are included, and the pronunciation guide is provided in the international phonetic alphabet, which I love.
Yeah. Nerdy, I know. But if you’ve been following my blog for three minutes, you’ll know I’m unapologetic about that.
I hope you enjoy this article. If you’d like to tell me your favourite newish words, or words you’ve invented, I’d be super happy for you to leave a comment!
This morning’s conversation in my kitchen is a clear demonstration of just how much of a Shakespeare Nerd I really am.
H: I need egg cartons. Where do I get egg cartons? Me: How many do you want? I pointed to the top of my fridge where there sat a stack of egg cartons. Me again: Take them all. H: Oh wow! Thanks! K: That’s awesome! I’ll grab them in one foul swoop and put them in the car. Me: Well, that’s decided my blog post for today. K: Huh?
In Act 4, Scene 3 of ‘Macbeth’, Malcolm and Macduff engage in testing one another’s loyalty to Scotland rather than to Macbeth, who has become king. During that conversation, Macduff learns of the murders of his wife and children at the order of Macbeth, whom he describes as a “hell-kite” who has slain his “chickens” in “one fell swoop”.
The deed was certainly foul, but that isn’t what Shakespeare wrote. He wrote “one fell swoop” which is an entirely different thing.
Here, fell means ‘fierce’.
It’s an image of violent attack, of hunting, and of predator and prey, which leaves the audience in no doubt that these murders were calculated and precise. The term “hell-kite” leaves the audience in no doubt of the evil motivations behind the slaying.
The pun is often quite an under-appreciated form of humour. Also known as paronomasia, its a device of word play that relies on the multiple meanings of words, or the alternate meanings of homophones, to make a joke or draw attention to an idea.
All my life, puns have been a much-loved form of humour in my family. Sometimes deliberate, other times incidental, my mother always took great enjoyment in teaching us to play with words and meanings, and to take great satisfaction in a well-executed pun.
Birds, flowers, food, animals, jobs… you name it, we punned about it.
One of my personal favourites occurred the first time we played Trivial Pursuit as a family. My brother-in-law asked me a Science & Nature question: “Which is bigger, the Moon or Uranus?” “Hold on and I’ll check!” I quipped, then bent right over and stuck my head between my knees. The combination of sight gag and pun had everyone roaring with laughter. Since then, the story has been passed on numerous times to friends, extended family, and the next generation.
Admittedly, some can be fairly lame, but when wielded by a person with great vocabulary and word power, a pun can be a thing of beauty. Shakespeare himself loved a good pun, incorporating many of them into his plays. Shakespeare often engaged in paronomasia in both humorous and more serious contexts as a way of exploring or developing key ideas..
Mercutio’s joke as he is dying, “Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man” is a prime example, and a master stroke of dark comedy genius secreted within a play that actually has very little to laugh about.
The ability of characters such as Iago and Richard III to twist words using puns demonstrates just how easily they are able to manipulate both meaning and situations to their advantage, and provide powerful insights into each one’s evil genius.
It’s nice to think that Shakespeare and I are of the same mind when it comes to puns. They are fun; they are clever; they engage the intellect; they bring ideas into sharp focus. And the fact that there are a plethora of ways to use them means a lot.
Of course, some people just don’t appreciate that particular brand of humour. There’s no point, for example, trying to explain puns to kleptomaniacs because they can’t help taking things literally.
Most of the time, when people protest about the way the English language is abused, it’s a case of the language continuing to evolve as it has always done.
One such example is the practice of verbing, which takes the noun form of a word and transforms it into a verb form… like ‘verb’ and ‘verbing’.
Just last week, I was talking with a friend about how annoying she finds it when people say “I’m going to action that.” I’m sure she sought me out for the conversation because I’m both a word nerd and an English teacher.
“Action is a noun! A bloody noun! How can so many otherwise intelligent people get that wrong?”
“It grates on us because it’s recent,” I said. “We’ll get used to it.”
“No, I won’t! It’s just wrong!”
“You know Shakespeare did it?”
“Verbing. He did it all the time.”
“You and your Shakespeare. It’s like he’s the answer to everything.”
“You know he invented the word ‘friending’, right?”
She rolled her eyes and walked away. She didn’t even flinch at my use of the term “verbing”, which is exactly the same thing as “actioning” in terms of the language. After all, ‘verb’ is a noun, too.
It is the recent examples of verbing, such as “actioning” an idea, that we notice because we’re not used to hearing them yet. When Facebook was new, people complained the same way about “friending”, but these days nobody thinks twice about that. At some point in time, someone decided that it was okay to talk about bottling fruit, or shelving books, and now those terms are just everyday language.
It is also true, however, that some things people commonly say are, quite simply, wrong.
My pet peeve is when my students are talking about sport or some other kind of competition, and they say “We versed Team X”.
This is a common bastardisation of the Latin versus, which means ‘against’. It is commonly used for sporting matches and legal cases, and is generally abbreviated as v. or vs., as in Black v. White or Blue vs. Red.
My first response is always to ask whey they wrote poetry about another team. “You played them. You opposed them. You clashed with them. You competed with them. You did not write poetry about them.” Then I explain how the different words work, and what they actually mean.
The reason “versed” is wrong is because the words ‘versus’ and ‘verse’ have absolutely nothing to do with each other. Because ‘against’ is a preposition, it simply doesn’t make sense to say “We againsted them”. It is not verbing, by any stretch of the imagination.
The first time we have that conversation, they look at me with confusion. Some have a glazed look of fear, like the proverbial deer caught in the headlights. This never fails to entertain me. The second and third times, they roll their eyes.
Over time, the tedium of having the same grammar-nerdy conversation persuades them to start using the language correctly. They learn, I win, and so does the English language.
‘Hey nonny nonny’ is a curious little phrase found in Shakespeare’s ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. The character Balthasar sings a song to the ladies in which he recommends that instead of worrying about what the men are up to, they should convert their sighs of despair into ‘hey nonny nonny’.
The phrase ‘Hey nonny nonny’ has no direct translation into modern English, but is understood from the context that it could be taken to mean a dismissal of circumstances as we do today with expressions like “whatever”, “what the heck?” or “that’s life”, or simply refer to general merry-making.
As such, it is a phrase that can be safely used in circumstances where less appropriate responses cannot be uttered. In my experience, expressing one’s umbrage using Shakespearean quotations is almost as satisfying as actually swearing anyway. There is something remarkably cathartic about speaking in Elizabethan English, although that will likely never be understood by anyone who does not appreciate and enjoy the language as I do.
I have decided to add “hey nonny nonny” into my repertoire as a worthy companion exclamation to my renowned-among-those-who-know-me question, “What manner of nitwittery shall plague me on the morrow?” In writing this post, however, I’ve come to one realisation: I will have to teach my devices that I intend to type “hey sonny sonny” or “hey nanny nanny” about as much as I ever mean to type “oh shot”.
I’m always a bit lost for words when people remark that history is boring. Not because I have nothing to say— far from it— but because I know they are never going to be anywhere near ready for the conversations I want to have with them.
I accept that in the past, some teachers have been guilty of making history very, very dull, but it was not the history that was boring: it was the teacher.
I’ve had some of my own students question, “Why do we need to learn about this? How am I ever going to use this in real life?” My responses vary depending on the topic at hand, but they are consistently positive and enthusiastic about how interesting and inspiring history can be.
I have recently discovered two new examples to offer to students or friends who complain about history.
A week or so ago, I read a story of a 14th century nun named Joan who faked her own death to get out of the convent she was living in. How’s that for dedication?
Apparently, she wasn’t the only one who wanted to escape either. Having studied medieval history and knowing the lifestyle adhered to by monks and nuns of the time, I can’t say I blame any of them.
Faking your own death is definitely taking it to the next level, though, so I feel that Joan deserves a bit of recognition and applause for her commitment to the performing arts.
I now know more about this amazing creature than my friends will ever think beneficial. You can bet I’m going to tell them all about it, and I know my Year 9 boys are going to love it, too. I almost can’t wait until they complain again, so that I have a good reason to get the story out and share it.
Seriously, take a look at this beast. This picture from a medieval bestiary, or book of animals, portrays this particular bonnacon as being rather pleased with himself and his toxic poop. He’s never going to be sorry.
Go on. Tell me now that history is boring. I dare you.
For Shakespeare Sunday this week, I want to share with you the wonderful work of cartoonist Mya Gosling at Good Tickle Brain.
Mya takes the vast works of Shakespeare and condenses them into cartoons that even those with very little knowledge of Shakespeare can read, understand and appreciate.
For Shakespeare nerds like me, it presents a lot of fun and great “oh yeah!” moments. For those new to the plays or wondering what on earth the characters are saying and doing, Mya’s cartoons make the complex much more straightforward.
This website contains a wealth of play summaries, character spotlights, analysis and audience insights. I frequently share Good Tickle Brain with my students because it really does help to make whatever play we are studying more accessible and relatable for them.
Even if you haven’t seen or read the play Titus Andronicus — and let’s face it, most people haven’t— make sure you watch the video titled ’Titus Andronicus: All The Deaths’. The way she draws all the characters and then depicts how they died in the play is brilliant!
Also incredibly insightful is the non-Shakespeare section titled ‘Keep Calm and Muslim On’, which is Mya’s exploration of the way in which Muslims and non-Muslims get along together in American society, which I find highly relevant to Australia too. I always enjoy seeing the simple but profound ways in which Mya breaks down the barriers and embraces the differences while still showing how similar we really all are.
It’s a great website that holds lots of fabulous little surprises. I really hope that you’ll take a look, and I hope that you enjoy it as much as I do.