Random Thursday: Banned Book Woes, Punctuation Pros, and Yoda Toes

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

Y’all sent me a lot of grammar and punctuation stuff this week.  I’m trying not to take it personally.

It’s also National Banned Book Week.  I do take that personally.

Throw in a little random Yoda, and it must be Thursday . . .


Grammatical Art

Winky Faces by Grammatical Art

Grammatical Art over at etsy sells a variety of clever odes to our favorite punctuation marks
in a vast selection of rich colors.

They have science-themed prints as well, which pretty much confirms their spot on my
New Favorite Online Shop List.

If you have limited wall space, they have tee-shirts, too.

Remember: Grammatically Correct Owl says, “Whom.”

Mapping Censorship
This interactive map—or rather the interactive map from which I took this screenshot, as I couldn’t get the ruddy thing to embed—was a joint project of the National Coalition Against Censorship and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression.
Mapping Censorship
It was created by mapping challenges and bannings documented by the American Library Association and the Kids’ Right to Read Project.
The ALA is now maintaining it.
Click the screenshot to see which books are getting people’s knickers in a twist and which of the small percentage of challenges and bannings have been reported.
Most aren’t reported—they just happen.
Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?


For Dummies, Grammar Is

For Dummies Grammar is

Yoda toes!


Censored Underpants FTW!

Dav Pilkey, the Creator of Captain Underpants, has something to say about Censorship.

Here ’tis:

I completely agree with Mr. Pilkey.

You are welcome to monitor your own child’s reading habits. You should, actually, because kids have questions and little skill in evaluating their information sources, and you want to be ready to explain anything that troubles them in ways that don’t have them going to their equally confused friends for answers.

Or, heaven help us, the Interwebz.

But your control over what children read stops at your children. You don’t get to control the reading choices of other people’s children. You don’t judge the parents of a child who is reading something you wouldn’t let your children read, either.

And if you see an seven-year old reading Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers*and want to know where on earth her mother is?

I’m at the library, finding a copy for your kid.

Where are you?


Alot by nerdylittlestitcher
Add nerdylittlestitcher to that list.
And not just because I’ll be repeating “afalafel” to myself all day, and giggling.

Try it—it’s fun.


Borgian Punctuation

The clashing subtitles are annoying, but Victor Borge is totally worth it.


*Actually, she’s reading Mommy Laid an Egg, and learning where babies really come from.  I have no intention of becoming a grandmother before I retire and education is the key to that goal.


Poetry Wednesday: Ren Kaos, på Engelsk

There’s a poem that’s been cropping up on Facebook and in feeds and blogs lately, which is odd for something that’s about a foot long in fine print and less inspiring than frustrating.

So naturally, I investigated.

Turns out, the true title of this poem is “The Chaos”—and no wonder.  Made up of more than 800 quirks of the English language, this thing scans like a dream and drives me “Runny Babbit” insane.*

The author, Gerard Nolst Trenité, was a Dutchman who originally studied a little bit of everything in college, finally settling n a career in education. He earned his doctorate in 1901 and wrote several textbooks in several languages. For the last twenty-five years or so of his life, he contributed a regular linguistics column to an Amsterdam paper, using the pseudonym “Charivarius”**

“The Chaos” first appeared in the fourth edition of his textbook, Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen*** in 1920. The textbook went through three more editions until his death in 1946–and four more afterward—and the poem itself grew longer and longer, evolving as it went.

There are many, many different versions out there—some favoring British English, some American, and so forth—and frankly, I have no idea when this one was published, but it’s probably younger than the original, which was shorter than 200 lines.

I dare you to read it aloud all the way through without spraining something:

The Chaos
(Gerard Nolst Trenité)

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, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye, your dress you’ll tear;
Queer, fair seer, hear my prayer.

Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!
Just compare heart, hear 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: gush, bush, steak, streak, break, bleak ,

Previous, precious, fuchsia, via
Recipe, pipe, studding-sail, choir;
Woven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, shoe, poem, toe.

Say, expecting fraud and trickery:
Daughter, laughter and Terpsichore,
Branch, ranch, measles, topsails, aisles,
Missiles, similes, reviles.

Wholly, holly, signal, signing,
Same, examining, but mining,
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far.

From “desire”: desirable-admirable from “admire”,
Lumber, plumber, bier, but brier,
Topsham, brougham, renown, but known,
Knowledge, done, lone, gone, none, tone,

One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel.
Gertrude, German, wind and wind,
Beau, kind, kindred, queue, mankind,

Tortoise, turquoise, chamois-leather,
Reading, Reading, heathen, heather.
This phonetic labyrinth
Gives moss, gross, brook, brooch, ninth, plinth.

Have you ever yet endeavoured
To pronounce revered and severed,
Demon, lemon, ghoul, foul, soul,
Peter, petrol and patrol?

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 exactly rhymes with khaki.
Discount, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward,

Ricocheted and crocheting, croquet?
Right! Your pronunciation’s OK.
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Is your r correct in higher?
Keats asserts it rhymes Thalia.
Hugh, but hug, and hood, but hoot,
Buoyant, minute, but minute.

Say abscission with precision,
Now: position and transition;
Would it tally with my rhyme
If I mentioned paradigm?

Twopence, threepence, tease are easy,
But cease, crease, grease and greasy?
Cornice, nice, valise, revise,
Rabies, but lullabies.

Of such puzzling words as nauseous,
Rhyming well with cautious, tortious,
You’ll envelop lists, I hope,
In a linen envelope.

Would you like some more? You’ll have it!
Affidavit, David, davit.
To abjure, to perjure. Sheik
Does not sound like Czech but ache.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, loch, 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
Rhyme 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, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor,

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
Has the a of drachm and hammer.
Pussy, hussy and possess,
Desert, but desert, address.

Golf, wolf, countenance, lieutenants
Hoist in lieu of flags left pennants.
Courier, courtier, tomb, bomb, comb,
Cow, but Cowper, some and home.

“Solder, soldier! Blood is thicker”,
Quoth he, “than liqueur or liquor”,
Making, it is sad but true,
In bravado, much ado.

Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Pilot, pivot, gaunt, but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand and grant.

Arsenic, specific, scenic,
Relic, rhetoric, hygienic.
Gooseberry, goose, and close, but close,
Paradise, rise, rose, and dose.

Say inveigh, neigh, but inveigle,
Make the latter rhyme with eagle.
Mind! Meandering but mean,
Valentine and magazine.

And I bet you, dear, a penny,
You say mani-(fold) like many,
Which is wrong. Say rapier, pier,
Tier (one who ties), but tier.

Arch, archangel; pray, does erring
Rhyme with herring or with stirring?
Prison, bison, treasure trove,
Treason, hover, cover, cove,

Perseverance, severance. Ribald
Rhymes (but piebald doesn’t) with nibbled.
Phaeton, paean, gnat, ghat, gnaw,
Lien, psychic, shone, bone, pshaw.

Don’t be down, my own, but rough it,
And distinguish buffet, buffet;
Brood, stood, roof, rook, school, wool, boon,
Worcester, Boleyn, to impugn.

Say in sounds correct and sterling
Hearse, hear, hearken, year and yearling.
Evil, devil, mezzotint,
Mind the z! (A gentle hint.)

Now you need not pay attention
To such sounds as I don’t mention,
Sounds like pores, pause, pours and paws,
Rhyming with the pronoun yours;

Nor are proper names included,
Though I often heard, as you did,
Funny rhymes to unicorn,
Yes, you know them, Vaughan and Strachan.

No, my maiden, coy and comely,
I don’t want to speak of Cholmondeley.
No. Yet Froude compared with proud
Is no better than McLeod.

But mind trivial and vial,
Tripod, menial, denial,
Troll and trolley, realm and ream,
Schedule, mischief, schism, and scheme.

Argil, gill, Argyll, gill. Surely
May be made to rhyme with Raleigh,
But you’re not supposed to say
Piquet rhymes with sobriquet.

Had this invalid invalid
Worthless documents? How pallid,
How uncouth he, couchant, looked,
When for Portsmouth I had booked!

Zeus, Thebes, Thales, Aphrodite,
Paramour, enamoured, flighty,
Episodes, antipodes,
Acquiesce, and obsequies.

Please don’t monkey with the geyser,
Don’t peel ‘taters with my razor,
Rather say in accents pure:
Nature, stature and mature.

Pious, impious, limb, climb, glumly,
Worsted, worsted, crumbly, dumbly,
Conquer, conquest, vase, phase, fan,
Wan, sedan and artisan.

The th will surely trouble you
More than r, ch or w.
Say then these phonetic gems:
Thomas, thyme, Theresa, Thames.

Thompson, Chatham, Waltham, Streatham,
There are more but I forget ’em-
Wait! I’ve got it: Anthony,
Lighten your anxiety.

The archaic word albeit
Does not rhyme with eight-you see it;
With and forthwith, one has voice,
One has not, you make your choice.

Shoes, goes, does *. Now first say: finger;
Then say: singer, ginger, linger.
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, age,

Hero, heron, query, very,
Parry, tarry fury, bury,
Dost, lost, post, and doth, cloth, loth,
Job, Job, blossom, bosom, oath.

Faugh, oppugnant, keen oppugners,
Bowing, bowing, banjo-tuners
Holm you know, but noes, canoes,
Puisne, truism, use, to use?

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 rhyme with deafer,
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Dull, bull, Geoffrey, George, ate, late,
Hint, pint, senate, but sedate.

Gaelic, Arabic, pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific;
Tour, but our, dour, succour, four,
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.

Say manoeuvre, yacht and vomit,
Next omit, which differs from it
Bona fide, alibi
Gyrate, dowry and awry.

Sea, idea, guinea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean,
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
Rally 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 Ralf.

Starry, granary, canary,
Crevice, but device, and eyrie,
Face, but preface, then grimace,
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.

Bass, large, target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, oust, joust, and scour, but scourging;
Ear, but earn; and ere and tear
Do not rhyme with here but heir.

Mind the o of off and often
Which may be pronounced as orphan,
With the sound of saw and sauce;
Also soft, lost, cloth and cross.

Pudding, puddle, putting. Putting?
Yes: at golf it rhymes with shutting.
Respite, spite, consent, resent.
Liable, but Parliament.

Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew, Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, clerk and jerk,
Asp, grasp, wasp, demesne, cork, work.

A of valour, vapid vapour,
S of news (compare newspaper),
G of gibbet, gibbon, gist,
I of antichrist and grist,

Differ like diverse and divers,
Rivers, strivers, shivers, fivers.
Once, but nonce, toll, doll, but roll,
Polish, Polish, poll and poll.

Pronunciation-think of Psyche!-
Is a paling, stout and spiky.
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 rhymes with enough,
Though, through, bough, cough, hough, sough, tough??

Hiccough has the sound of sup…
My advice is: GIVE IT UP!

Dr. Trenité originally placed his poem in the appendix of his book, presumably so his readers would buy the book before the final couplet rendered the whole thing moot.

Wise man.

*For those of you who don’t know Shel Silverstein’s aneurysm-inducing “Runny Babbit,” you’re going to have to go to the library and see for yourself. My kids love it, but it’s the one child-oriented poem I won’t read to them. It hurts.

**In English, “Charivarius.” Oh, well. But in French, a Charivari is a loud raucous noise. So there’s that.

***”English pronunciation exercises”

Random Thursday Blogswap: There’s Always $#!%

What could be more random than not actually writing Thursday’s post?

The following bit of self-depreciating brilliance is from Averil Dean, who is an incredible writer, a thought-provoking blogger, a visual artist, and a terrific friend—no matter what she might think.

If you don’t already follow her blog, do yourself a favor and check it out—and not only because I’m over there today talking about the difference between porn and erotica . . . and which one makes me walk into walls.


Okay, this is my fourth try at writing a post for Sarah’s place. She’s a tough act to follow, let me tell you. She’s fun and funny and smart, and she knows about poetry and history and shit like—

Oh, here we go. Three sentences in and I’m ready to drop a four-letter word into her beautiful blog. What is the matter with me? Why, for the love of Pete, can’t I stop the profanity?

It’s not as though my vocabulary would suffer some immense loss if I were to abandon my predilection and aim my buggy down the straight and narrow path toward clarity and the pristine expression of thought. I can do this. I know there are better words out there, kinder on the ear, more intelligent and less offensive. And if the urge overwhelmed me, there’s always $#!%.

But I’ll admit to a sneaky satisfaction in using the naughty words. They have a beautiful look about them—short, carved into the page, a vowel and a collection of sharp consonants. They are a disruption, a distraction, a fleck of pepper in the milk. When you use them well, they become a sort of blasé punctuation (Yeah, I called that guy a d___, but did you see how I avoided the exclamation point?), a way to indicate that the writer is fired up beyond caring and will curse as she damn well pleases. Profanity is punk. Dirty. Unworried. All my favorite qualities, in such nifty little packages.

I like the division they provide between people: those who curse and those who don’t. We potty-mouths love to goose you with an f-bomb. We consider it a public service, designed to help you rid yourself of the urge, or possibly remind you of why you choose not befoul your speech in the first place. (You’re welcome.) We think you’re adorable. We’re behind you at the back of the classroom, passing notes you’d rather not read, sticking a wet finger in your ear while the teacher is lecturing wah wah wah at the chalkboard. Come on, we whisper. You know you want to . . .

And as my mother told me decades ago, if you have an innocent face you should cultivate a colorful pattern of language. Everyone needs dichotomy.

But of course, I’m at Sarah’s site today. Her mother is reading, and may not have shared the same advice with her daughter. If she reads this, she may refuse to let Sarah come over to my place and play in my sandbox.* She may tell Sarah I’m not a good friend for her, a bad influence, not the kind of person you’d want to–

You know what? Sarah’s mom is right.

Fuck it.


Photograph by the incomparable Ellen von Unwerth

*Sarah’s Note:  Who do you think taught me most of my more colorful vocabulary?