Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 122: Wordy Wednesday—SUPER!

More root word learning for this week’s Wordy Wednesday. But before that, I have to ask if you are using what you already know? Are you examining unknown words and asking yourself  if there is anything about that word that you already know—a root, prefix, or suffix?

Today’s root: SUPER, SUR, SUM   

Meaning: ABOVE

What do you already know about this ABOVE root:
  1. surpass—to go above and beyond
  2. summit—above; the high mountain or peak
  3. supersede—to be above in authority,  etc.
  4. superstition—a  belief that is ABOVE the normal
  5. super star—a star above others



Sunday, June 26, 2011

day 121: june holidays

June is quickly getting away from us! I did not post the "official" spelling for all (two!) of the June US-nationally-recognized holidays, so here they are:

1. Flag Day
    a. No possessives to deal with!
    b. Capitalize both words as both are words in the actual holiday
    c. Bonus: Great holiday since I was born on this date! :)

2. Father's Day
   a. We went through this earlier--but remember--one father; his day: father's
   b. Cap both words!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

day 120: wordy wednesday—root “spec”

Do you remember how I talked earlier about how we (and our students if we are teachers) know much more than we think we do! There is no place that this is more apparent than vocabulary learning!

Root words, and sometimes even syllables, have meaning. And we often already know meanings of bits and pieces that we can put together to gain more knowledge. (If you know a foreign language, you will have even more success unlocking unknown words or parts of words since much of our language is taken from other languages.)

How can you use this concept to help you or your students? When you come to an unfamiliar word, don’t assume that you do not know it. Look more closely at the word. (And help your kids to do the same—question them all the time: “What do you know about the ‘aqua’ part of aquamarine?” [Or even, “What do you know about the ‘marine’ part?”)

Today’s  root is SPEC, SPIC, or SPIT

It means LOOK or SEE

What do you already know about these “spec,” “spic,” and “spit” words?
  1. Perspective—seeing a point of view
  2. Aspect—one part or one thing you can see
  3. Spectator—one who sees
  4. Spectacle—a sight to see
  5. Suspect—a person you see that might be guilty
  6. Others???
Keep reading. Keep asking yourself what you already know!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

day 119: happy father’s day

Father’s Day presents some of the same challenges in writing as Mother’s Day. Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day is written with a capital letter at the beginning of each word—and is written as a day for the singular father—not plural (fathers).

The “official” take on that goes like this (according to encyclopedias as well as the Chicago Manual of Style):

“Although the name of the event is usually understood as a plural possessive (i.e. ‘day belonging to fathers’), which would under normal English punctuation guidelines be spelled ‘Fathers' Day,’ the most common spelling is ‘Father's Day,’ as if it were a singular possessive (i.e. ‘day belonging to Father’). In the United States, Dodd used the ‘Fathers' Day’ spelling on her original petition for the holiday, but the spelling ‘Father's Day’ was already used in 1913 when a bill was introduced to the U.S. Congress as the first attempt to establish the holiday, and it was still spelled the same way when its creator was commended in 2008 by the United States Congress.”

So…Happy Father’s day to my father, my children’s father—and all fathers—regardless of whether it is written in a singular or plural possessive manner!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

day 118: wording Wednesday—root/prefix dict

Many of my full time language arts students (those who come to class each week during the academic year to help us test our complete language arts curriculum) use the root/prefix “dict” each week—as they take “dictation” over the passage of material in our book. They label their papers Dict then the unit we are in and the date. They even call it “dict” time—which is so appropriate since the root “dict” literally means “word”—and they are writing down many words when they take dictation!

We will look at the root/prefix “dict” today!

DICT, DIT, DIC—means to tell, to say, or word

Like we always tell our students—focus on something you already know in order to understand the unknown. In my students’ case, they take “dictation” (writing down words) every week—so they can remember that dict has something to do with words. If you are of my generation, you might remember television programs in which secretaries use a Dictaphone to take dictation from their boss.

Consider what you already know to unlock the unknown! If you have kids, repeat this to them over and over again to help them in their learning and to encourage them about their vast store of knowledge.

Take a look at some words containing dic/dict/dit---and see how they can mean what they do—with to tell, to say, or word :
  1. Dictate—to speak words to someone (for that person to write)
  2. Verdict—a word/determination that was spoken at the end of a trial
  3. Edict—words that are authority or law/rule
  4. Contradict—contra means opposite; dict means word—opposite of the words that someone spoke
  5. Predict—pre means before; dict means word—speak words before they happen
  6. Diction—the pattern of someone’s speech
What other dit/dict/dic words do you know? When you see dic/dit/dict in a word—even if you do not know any other part of the word—use what you do know and the words within the sentence to unlock the meaning.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

day 117: commas and periods inside ending quotation marks

Image from kswptim.wordpress

If you are an avid reader, and especially if you are an avid reader of British literature, you may find yourself being led astray in the whole “commas and periods inside or outside of ending quotation mark” quandary.  Why? Because British usage is different than American usage when it comes to this little rule.

The first rule that we teach in our writing books about quotation marks is this: Commas and periods ALWAYS go inside the final quotation mark:
  1. She said, “Let’s go now.”
  2. “Let’s go now,” she said.
  3. He was reading the article, “Baby Geniuses.”
  4. He was reading the article, “Baby Geniuses,” and he lost track of time.
Regardless of the reason for the quotation  mark use (i.e. for a quote in 1 and 2 above or to show a minor work {article title} in 3 and 4), the ending period and comma always go inside the final quotation mark in US usage.

The reason that you might see it differently could be that you are reading a British author. (British usage bases the placement of the comma and period inside or outside of the quotation mark on whether the period/comma is part of the quoted material, like US grammar does for question marks and exclamation marks.) Or, it could be an error—I see this error more often than any other one error.

So remember this for you American writers/students: Periods and commas ALWAYS go inside the final quotation mark—never on the outside, regardless of the use in the sentence.

Monday, June 13, 2011

day 116: happy anniversary or Happy Anniversary!

Today is my thirtieth wedding anniversary! Lots of well-wishes have been coming our way on FaceBook and in person--and I am in quite the celebratory mood! :)

Of course, any written words spark interesting discussions about grammar and usage (in my head at least!). And with my anniversary today and my birthday tomorrow, these greetings warrant a little "language lady" attention!

Obviously, happy, birthday, and anniversary are not proper nouns in themselves. However, when you write these as greetings, they should be capitalized.

Thus, you would capitalize

Happy Birthday!
Happy 39th Birthday! (LOL!)
Happy Anniversary!
Happy 30th Anniversary!

However, you would not capitalize these same words within a sentence when describing a birthday or anniversary: I had a happy anniversary. I enjoyed by day and had a happy birthday.

So...Happy Anniversary and Happy Birthday to me! :) and Happy Flag Day (tomorrow!) to you!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

day 115: wordy wednesday

Now that we know how to spell the word Wednesday, we are going to add a new feature to Language Lady 365. If you desire to increase your vocabulary for professional or personal reasons; are preparing for standardized testing or college; or want to help your kids learn vocabulary better, you won’t want to miss Wordy Wednesdays! (Yesk I know it's Thursday--I didn't get this up last night!)

Wordy Wednesday will be a vocabulary-building day each week. Sometimes I will introduce a “word that everybody should know” type of word from test preparation or collections with these types of lists. Other times we will focus on prefixes, suffixes, and roots. Basically, all types of vocabulary learning—your weekly “shot” of wordsmith learning!

At the beginning of the year, I described the importance of roots and affixes in helping our children learn vocabulary: “Discussing words (roots, affixes, etc.) should be a part of our daily discussion with our kids. Even if our kids go to school, we have to look at ourselves as our children’s first teachers. There are so many things that we can teach them casually—homeschoolers or not.”

Not long ago in literature class, our son (Joshua, one of our TFT teachers) asked the students what words they knew that contained the prefix “pro,” meaning “for.” He got the usual answers—pro-life; prolific; pro-football, etc. And then his clever “little brother,” Josiah, said, “’Propane’---means that we are ‘for pain’!” Have fun with vocabulary building—and your kids will not forget it, for sure (nor will you)!

So today, we will start with a common root—a root that can help you unlock the meaning of many other words: gen.

GEN is a root meaning birth, race, or kind.

From this root, we get many common words that most of us are familiar with, including, but not limited to, the following list:
  1. Generous
  2. Generate
  3. Generation
  4. Genealogy
  5. Gender
  6. Genocide
  7. Generic

But roots are not limited to the beginnings of words—they are found buried within longer words as well. Consider the following words with gen somewhere in them. How does the meaning of gen—birth, race, or kind—fit into the meanings of these words:
1.    Agency
2.    Intelligence
3.    Resurgent
4.    Agenda
5.    Allergen
6.    Pathogen
7.    Oxygen
8.    Carcinogen
9.    Divergent
10. Emergency
11. Degenerate
12. Negligence
13. Legends
14. Estrogen
15. Homogenate
16. Ingenuity

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

day 114: spelling wednesday part ii of ii

So what can you do if you have difficulty spelling Wednesday? Try any of the methods above.

Or try our combination syllabication/tricky trick of syllabicating it AND pronouncing each syllable (including the “silent letters” of the word) as you write it:


Be sure to pronounce it like the following sounds as you spell it (not the way it really sounds):

  1. Wed
  2. Nes (short e like ness)
  3. Day

Happy Wednesday!

day 113: spelling Wednesday part i of ii

So many of my students have trouble spelling today’s day of the week! Wednesday is definitely not phonetic, so students (and adults!) get stuck on the spelling of it. Most people say Wednesday without the sound of the d at all.

We teach our students to spell difficult words in many ways, giving them as many tools as we possibly can.

1.    Syllable by syllable—longer words that are phonetic in nature can often be syllabicated and spelled syllable by syllable by a student who is fairly phonetically-savvy: con/se/quence.
2.    Tricks and mnemonics—we call these “Tricky Tricks to Help It Stick” and use them often with our “Wacky Words”—words that have a wacky counterpart that can be confusing, such as the homophones their, there, and they’re. I had an elementary student this year who told the class that they could easily spell Nebuchadnezzar if they just divided it up and pronounced the ch as choo (not kuh): Neb/U/Chad/Nez/Zar! Of course, any tricks that help a person are handy tools to have (though the trick must help that person in order to be effective).
3.    Visual tricks—many visual people spell by “seeing” the word—its shape, its sequence of letters (and the shapes those letters make), etc.
4.    Memorization—some people  are just naturally good spellers (it is now thought to be a specific skill set separate from intelligence) and can memorize a word’s spelling once it is seen.

More on “Wednesday” in the next post!

Monday, June 6, 2011

day 112: lightning vs lightening

Another Wacky Word pair for you!

With all of the storms in the US over the past month, I have seen my share of lightning/lightening used incorrectly. So, let's get it right before the next bout of bad weather! :)


1. This is the electricity in the sky!
2. It's light + ning


1. This is when something is lightened or made lighter.
2. It comes from the base word lighten--This will lighten my load.
3. Lighten+ing

If you think of the base word of each, you will not mistaken them for each other so easily--light (for lightning) and lighten (for lightening).

I hope the amount of lightning (and thunder and tornadoes!) starts to lighten (lessen) soon!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

day 111: "catch phrase"

I love a new site I just discovered--and thought any wordy people (or anyone writing practically anything--letters, thank-you notes, stories, essays, etc.) would enjoy hearing about it.

It is called Phrase Up--and I give it a hearty thumbs up! This amazing "search engine" allows you to type part of a phrase (colloquialisms, analogies, metaphors, or just common phrases) and put an * in the parts that you are missing. Then voila! It brings up a list of possible phrases that you  might be looking for. (Watch out! It's addicting for wordsmiths!)

Again, this may be a great help to get just the right phrase or tone in a cover letter or thank-you note. To get the perfect metaphor for a story. And so much more. I think you'll like it!