Friday, October 18, 2019

Hope to miss class today? Guess again.

"The Watch" by Hebru Brantley

     Don’t be scared. The flat, floppy, beige thing that some adult just handed you is called a newspaper. It’s how people learned about stuff long ago, before phones. Don’t bother dragging your finger across the page—the text won’t change, and you’ll only smudge your fingertip.
     Fun fact: phones used to be called cell phones, because they communicate to a network of towers that cover hexagonal areas, or cells. The towers hand your signal off from one to the next as you move past, say, on your way to school, were you going to school. Though you may not go today because Chicago teachers and staff are on strike.
     Welcome to the Chicago Sun-Times Virtual Schoolroom. I am Mr. Steinberg, and I’ll be your teacher for the next six minutes, or until you lose interest and wander off. Though if you stick here to the end, I will share the secret to writing well.
     And yes, writing well is something you will need to do someday. Not a column in a newspaper, God knows, but maybe an email to a potential employer or a love note to a special someone. If it’s poorly written, the job or heart you seek might go to someone else.
     First, a lesson in the value of school. We are going to conduct an exercise. I’d like you to pair off—you can enlist your brother or sister if nobody else is around, or the parent who handed you this newspaper (a compound word, formed by combining “news,” from the Latin nova, or “new” and “paper,” from the Latin papyrus).
     This is why kids hate school, isn’t it? All this irrelevant information. You don’t find it cool that the term we use today, paper, echoes back to ancient Egypt, papyrus, leaping across 2,000 years in a single breath? No? Not even a little bit?
    See, this is why teachers are always pushing for more. Teaching is hard

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  1. Okay, a step away from "get off my lawn" but a fun read in any case!

  2. Good advice about writing other fine writers would endorse.
    "The choice and command of language is the fruit of exercise." Edward Gibbon
    "There is one art. To omit." Robert Lewis Stevenson.
    Nice that the column appeared in the paper (newspaper), as some of the little dears might take it in. I expect the readership of this blog --an odd word -- tends to the geriatric.



  3. Thoroughly enjoyed the conceit of comparing old fashioned newspapers with newfangled "cell" phones. Most of us are straddling both worlds, more or less shakily.


  4. Woah, Teach, ya learned me sumpin to-day. So “news” comes from the Latin "nova"--which means "new" in da Eng-leesh? Jeeze...I remember hearing it came from the cardinal points of the compass...north, east, west, "ny-ews" by snobs, and "nooze" by native Sha-caw-go-enz like me.

    The esteemed John Cameron Swayze himself, the same guy who shilled for Timex watches ("it takes a licking and keeps on ticking") told me that, when I watched the "Camel Caravan" on NBC. I was four or five and it was the early Fifties, so of course I believed him. They even had a weather vane with the four letters on it, which only strengthened that belief.

    Tanks a lot for settin' dis old geezer straight, Teach.

    1. With all due respect to John Cameron Swayze:

      The odd and doubtful construction [plural form/singular meaning] probably accounts for the absurd folk-etymology (attested by 1640 but originally, and in 18c. usually, in jest-books) that claims it to be an abbreviation of north east south west, as though "information from all quarters of the compass."

      john with help from Google etymology

  5. I was kind of disappointed that your examples of writing well referenced writing letters to potential employers or love interests, but didn't include writing letters to Turkish Presidents. If only our President had paid better attention in English class...


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