Wednesday, March 31, 2010
To celebrate Beverly Cleary's birthday on April 12, the Hollywood Library is hosting a variety of events, including:
-making Ramona-inspired costumes
-making noisemakers from recycled instruments
-walking Ramona and Beverly's neighborhood with Portland author Laura Foster
-and having a birthday party with cupcakes, balloons, and—that's right—nightcrawlers!
Coincidentally, April 12 is also D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) day, so you can easily prepare by checking out Beverly Cleary's memoir A Girl from Yamhill or Ramona Quimby, Age 8 for some further inspiration. To learn more about these upcoming events, visit the MCL Web site.
Monday, March 29, 2010
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
Friday, March 26, 2010
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
Editorial Tip of the Week: You keep using [decimate]—I do not think it means what you think it means.
Although the word decimate has recently become accepted as meaning to cause great harm or damage, the word has a dark history, reaching back to the Roman practice of punishing a group of soldiers by having them kill every tenth man in their ranks by drawing lots to determine their fate.
But let us never pass an opportunity to learn. Let us blow the dust off a few ancient tomes as we delve deeper into definition of decimation.
The word decimate comes from the Latin decimatus, meaning “the removal of a tenth.” The first recorded use of this practice appears in Livy’s History of Rome. After being unsuccessful in war with the Volsci in 471 BC, Claudius decimates his troops for not following his orders:
The soldiers being at length collected from their scattered rout, the consul, after he had in vain followed his men for the purpose of rallying them, pitched his camp in a peaceful part of the country; and an assembly being convened, after inveighing not without good reason against the army, as traitors to military discipline, deserters of their posts, frequently asking them, one by one, where were their standards, where their arms; he first beat with rods and then beheaded those soldiers who had thrown down their arms, the standard-bearers who had lost their standards, and moreover the centurions, and those with the double allowance, who had left their ranks. With respect to the rest of the multitude, every tenth man was drawn by lot for punishment. [My emphasis]
While we have added definitions to the word, instances of this horrific practice of decimation can be found as recently as World War I and the Finnish Civil War. Douglas Harper traces the origins of the common definition to the 17th century, noting that decimates "has been used (incorrectly, to the irritation of pedants) since 1660s for destroy a large portion of."
Perhaps this week’s title was a bit hyperbolic, as inconceivable as that may seem. However, decimate has become a darling word of bloggers trying to ink an interesting headline, and it always helps to know the different definitions of a particular word. Remember our salmon style guide when you question the proper use of decimate. The Chicago Manual of Style states, "Avoid decimate (1) when you are referring to complete destruction or (2) when a percentage is specified." Annihilate will suffice as an alternative of the first type, while destroy generally fits the discussion of percentages lost.
Take the time to discover the history of the words you use. Wield your pen with precision.
Friday, March 12, 2010
Mar. 15th, 5:00 pm: Powell's Books presents the third annual Smallpressapalooza, a five-hour reading marathon featuring both zine authors and writers working with independent publishers. With over a dozen speakers, this year's line-up includes poets, artists, novelists, publishers, and zinesters. The Portland Mercury provides a peak at a few of the selected speakers. The writers will gather at Powell's City of Books on Burnside (1005 W Burnside, Portland).
Mar. 18th, 7:00 pm: Oregon author Martha Gies and Jules Boykoff, Associate Professor of Political Science at Pacific University, present "'We're going to defend ourselves': The Portland chapter of the Black Panther Party & local media response." Special guests Kent Ford and Percy Hampton, original members of the Portland chapter of the Black Panther Party, will also help lead the discussion of Portland's political past. Sponsored by the Northwest History Network, this lecture will be at the Architectural Heritage Center (701 SE Grand, Portland).
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Monday, March 08, 2010
Building upon last week’s selection of words and phrases to avoid, this week’s editorial tip features five more troublesome expressions.
in regards to. The Grammar Girl recently wrote in regard to this phrase. The s can simple be dropped to correct the phrase, but often a single word can better fit the sentence. Try using concerning, regarding, or about when you have the urge to pen a suitable preposition.
irregardless. Although this word appears often in dialog, it is not yet an excepted phrase. Meriam-Webster OnLine traces the etymology of the phrase to a probable “blend of irrespective and regardless.” It would benefit writers to choose one of the unmixed words.
pled. The correct past-tense and past-participial forms of the verb to plead is pleaded. The incorrect form has proliferated in the legal community, but journalists and writers should stick to the traditional spelling. But be warned: the argument over the correct form is a sensitive subject.
utilize. This word seems to be the darling of both advertising campaigns and writers hoping to sound a bit more grandiose. However, this word should often be replaced by use to convey the same meaning without the tinge of pretentiousness.
esquivalience. The New Oxford American Dictionary defines this word as “the willful avoidance of one’s official responsibilities.” You will not find esquivalience in any other dictionary; the word was a fictitious entry used to protect copyright. Sometimes it is hard to know what to trust in the strange world of language.
Friday, March 05, 2010
Mar. 9th, 4:30 pm: Douglas Mao--professor of English at Johns Hopkins University and specialist in modernist prose and poetry--will examine one of the central themes of modernist work in his lecture "Utopia: Three Questions." Mao will be speaking at Reed College in Psychology 105 (3203 SE Woodstock, Portland).
Mar. 10th, 6:00 pm: The Multnomah County Library, in partnership with Pacific University's Master of Fine Arts in Writing program, provides a chance to learn from author Claire Davis as a part of the Writers Talking series. Davis's first novel, Winter Range, was the first book to win both the PNBA and MPBA awards for best fiction. She has since developed her style through a second novel and a collection of short stories. Davis will be speaking in the Collins Gallery of the Multnomah Central Library (801 SW 10th, Portland).
Mar. 10th, 7:00 pm: Poet and teacher Sage Cohen will be reading selections of her work as a part of the Milwaukie Poetry Series. A winner of the Ghost Road Press Contest and a teacher for over 15 years, Cohen brings a sense of truth and beauty to the art of poetry. She will be reading in the Pond House adjacent to the Ledding Library (2215 SE Harrison, Milwaukie).
Image credit: Powell's Books
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
We'd love to see what you come up with! Post your story in a comment below, or e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, March 01, 2010
Nonsensical phrases and butchered words continue to plague our language, working their way into the pages of even the most meticulous writers. These phrases have become commonplace; they pass as correct in most word processing software. However, we should take up the pen in the interest of clarity. We can make steps toward becoming better authors by striking these words and phrases from our vocabularies. Here are five words and phrases to avoid, with another installment coming next week.
alright. Avoid the single word use of this expression. The Miriam-Webster OnLine Dictionary notes, "The one-word spelling alright appeared some 75 years after all right itself had reappeared from a 400-year-long absence." Although the word continues to be used, writers should stick to the proper two-word phrase.
cohabitate. This word seems to have found its niche in online relationship forums and celebrity gossip magazines. But, our salmon style guide reminds us that cohabitate is “a back-formation of cohabitation.” We already have a perfectly useful verb that has the same meaning as this latecomer: cohabit. Writers would be wise use the traditional verb.
could care less. This phrase is nonsensical in its typical application. Writers should use couldn’t care less when expressing disinterest... unless they are writing dialogue for contemporary characters.
enthused. A back-formation of enthusiasm, this word has a continual presence on blogs and with those seeking a word rhyming with use. Although the word has been present since the early nineteenth-century, Miriam-Webster states, "It has been disapproved since about 1870." Writers enthusiastic about proper grammar should seek a suitable alternative to this avoidable word.
hone in. This phrase has been become prevalent in reporting and may eventually become the correct way to express moving toward a target. Writers should home in on the correct phrase to use in troublesome situation. The word hone means the sharpening of a blade, but the simple slip of a consonant may soon provide the word with another accepted meaning.
[Tune in next week for five more words and phrases to avoid.]