Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A new, geeky endeavor.

In case anyone was unaware, today is one of those rare "consecutive number" days we have had since the new millennium: 07/08/09. In honor of this day, and in case my geek-out below makes anyone's brain hurt, I thought I would share a video from the children's album of one of my favorite bands, the Barenaked Ladies. Fear not, there is absolutely no nudity. And actually, none of them are women. They're just weird that way. Anyway, here it is:

I must also mention that we have a worthy entry into the fray of the Sonnet Challenge! Please join Cicely...but in the meantime, read hers here
A friend of mine recently shared with me a copy of an eighth grade final exam from 1895 in Kansas. Her grandmother sent it to her, with the prologue that THIS is what it took to have an eighth grade education back then. The whole test was to be completed in five hours, and there were sections involving math, geography and American history, but I am going to restrict myself to the sections on grammar and "orthography" (i.e., spelling). These are really unusual questions nowadays, though clearly back then they were taught many more grammar rules and spelling rules than we are today. As a former 7th, 8th, and 9th grade English teacher, it is really strange to look at a test meant for the students I used to teach and realize that I don't even know for certain how to answer many of the questions. That inspired me to take a few of the questions from this test every week and try to answer them. I am not going to be foolish enough to claim that my answers will be 100% correct; if you find something wrong with my attempts feel free to call me on it; I'd rather have the right information here than appear to be the ultimate authority when in fact I was never formally taught grammar. I just read a lot and picked up proper usage from there. I don't know what a lot of it is *called,* so I feel like this is an opportunity to learn, just for fun. Yes, I know that is totally geeky. Feel free to skip this section if you don't find it interesting. Anyway, enough preamble; let's get on with the geek-out.

Wednesday Grammar Geek-out #1
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
Immediate reaction: Well, you use a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence, and you capitalize proper names of people, places, and things (George Washington; Dover, Delaware; Xerox copier). Now I'll go look for what I'm forgetting, since that's probably only two.
So, we have:
1. Always capitalize the first word in a sentence. 
2. Always capitalize proper nouns. That includes each part of a person's name; given or pet names of animals; geographical and celestial names (Alpha Centauri); monuments, buildings, and meeting rooms (Sears Tower, Room 222); historical events, documents, laws, and periods (the Civil War, the Stamp Acts, the Reformation); months, days of the week, and holidays; groups and languages (Freemasons, French); religions, deities, and scriptures (Judaism, Allah, the Bible); awards, vehicle models, brand names (the Academy Awards, Ford Focus, Kleenex). 
3. Capitalize a quotation if it is a complete sentence or if it is an interjection or fragmentary response (examples: He asked, "Why did you come back?" She answered, "Because you wanted me to." The response is still capitalized because it is a fragmentary response).
4. Proper adjectives are normally capitalized. This includes brand names (Mexican food, Canon camera).
5. Personal titles are capitalized when used with a person's name or as a direct address (President Obama, the Duke of Edinburgh; "Thanks for calling, Pastor"). If the title is used as a general word, it is NOT capitalized (he is studying to become a doctor; the duke sends his regards). Presidents and royalty are always capitalized (the Queen). Titles for family relationships are capitalized unless they are modified by a personal pronoun (Mom won't let me go; My mom won't let me go).
6. Capitalize the first and last words of a title, and all other words except a, an, of, conjunctions and prepositions of four letters or fewer (The Chronicles of Narnia, Six Characters in Search of a Plot). Capitalize only specific names of classes, unless it is a language class (English, math, Introduction to Applied Mathematics).
7. Capitalize the first word and all nouns in the salutation of a letter, and the first word in the closing of a letter (Dear Sir, My dearest Aunt; Sincerely yours, With best wishes).
8. The first letter of a sentence following a colon is capitalized (Grapes were not squeezed for juice: The pulp was pressed). If what follows the colon is NOT a sentence, the first letter is not capitalized (The following things were in my gym bag: running shoes, a water bottle, and a towel).
9. The first word of each line in poetry is usually capitalized. (N.B.: I don't like to do this in my free verse, or if I have a line carry over from the previous line, but I know it might not be "correct.") The single-letter words I and O are always capitalized. The word O is used in direct address, such as "O Pioneers!" and "O Tannenbaum."
I guess I found enough. If you want a few more, and some tricky exceptions, knock yourself out here. I think that is quite enough for this session. There are five more questions on this part of the test that are not an essay question, so that should give me plenty to chew on for over a month.

Haiku News

McNair shooting ruled
a murder-suicide; his
girlfriend killed them both.

Cash-strapped L.A. spent
$1 million-plus on police;
donation site crashed.

Kim Jong Il looks gaunt,
seems frail at memorial;
Un seems no better.


Minerva said...

I had a comment up here that I decided to remove because of an inappropriate link, but I wanted to leave the link to Peter's poetry; he has a particular knack for sonnets even though English is likely not his first language:

Hopefully he won't mind that I decided to edit his original message. :)

Anonymous said...

Haiku Commentary

One can only hope
For prompt fan reimbursement
Of the million spent.
Circling the drain,
The "eternal president"
Must soon go down it.

A follow-up for the Haiku Newsroom:

Established powers
In Iran can't seem to keep
The protesters down.


Ron Rollins said...

Is number 8 still a modern rule?

The 1890's was when the grammer rules were finally formalized, if I remember correctly.

Minerva said...

Cicely--thanks for the extra haiku. I am glad to see the protest is stronger than the government ever anticipated.

Ron--I googled the rule, and it looks like it is actually acceptable *either* way. I guess I should amend that one to say that. Thanks for the question; that's exactly how I want to handle that section.