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Language Issues

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    Default Language Issues

    Fun With Words

    The most important part of motivation
    for vocabulary learning is helping students learn to value words.
    Creating a classroom atmosphere in which words are fun
    and playing with words is encouraged
    can be a powerful antidote to the very natural fear of making mistakes
    that can so easily inhibit learning.


    Puns work off of multiple meanings and sound-alikes of words,
    often exactly what we are trying to teach.
    Humor can make the point in a way that is motivating and reinforcing,
    because students are likely to repeat to their friends
    the jokes you tell during the day.

    The puns that follow are based on either polysemous words or sound-alikes


    • A bicycle can't stand alone because it is two-tired.
    • In democracy it's your vote that counts; in feudalism it's your count that votes.
    • With her marriage she got a new name and a dress.
    • Show me a piano falling down a mineshaft and I'll show you A-flat minor.
    • When a clock is hungry it goes back four seconds.
    • You feel stuck with your debt if you can't budge it.
    • He often broke into song because he couldn't find the key.
    • A boiled egg in the morning is hard to beat.
    • A plateau is a high form of flattery.
    • The short fortune-teller who escaped from prison was a small medium at large.
    • When you've seen one shopping center you've seen a mall.
    • When an actress saw her first strands of gray hair, she thought she'd dye.
    • Santa's helpers are subordinate clauses.
    • Acupuncture is a jab well done.
    • Marathon runners with bad footwear suffer the agony of defeat.


    More sound-alikes, like those in the following list, can be used to point out homographs.
    • We polish the Polish furniture.
    • The soldier decided to desert in the desert.
    • The present is a good time to present the present.
    • The dove dove into the bushes.
    • I did not object to the object.
    • The insurance for the invalid was invalid.
    • They were too close to the door to close it.
    • The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
    • I shed a tear when I saw the tear in my clothes.

    Some of the following medical terms for laymen
    can be used as a springboard for discussion of what the real terms mean:

    • apparent: A person who changes diapers.
    • atonic: A drink made with gin.
    • benign: What we want when we are eight.
    • bulla: A tough guy.
    • carcinoma: Evil acts done in an automobile.
    • carpal tunnel syndrome: Fear of driving through tunnels with a passenger.
    • gallstone: A French rock.
    • gout: Instructions to an unwanted visitor.
    • hippocampus: Where large African animals go for a degree.
    • incontinent: A country within a country.
    • neurosis: New red flowers.
    • paradox: Two physicians.
    • pneumonia: Substitute for old monia.
    • prognosis: Noses from Prague.
    • vertigo: How foreigners ask directions.
    A teacher can use humor more deliberately,
    incorporating puns and jokes into vocabulary discussion.


    (from TEACHING WORD MEANINGS by Steven A. Stahl, William E. Nagy)


    Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn from him (R. Emerson)

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    Default Re: Language Issues

    Word Histories

    Stories about words can be intrinsically motivating.


    How many students would perk up when told that gymnasium literally comes from the Greek meaning a "place of nudity"?
    In ancient Greece, the gymnasion was the place where youth wrestled and exercised, naked.
    Gymnasia were provided by the state and began to be places of not only physical education but also intellectual instruction.
    Because of the association with the intellectual, in Germany a Gymnasium is a grammar school.


    Laconic, to take another example, means "brief and blunt".
    Its origins go back more than 2,600 years to the Greek Wars. When told by an ambassador that "if we come to your city we will raze the walls and kill everyone," the Laconians replied, "If".

    Knowing that salary comes from salt
    (in that salt was a valuable commodity in ancient times and Roman soldiers were paid in salt)
    not only connects to history but also reinforces the connection between salt and saline and salinity.


    English contains quite a few words based on Greek or Roman mythology.
    Knowing the relevant myth again reinforces both one's knowledge of history
    as well as one's vocabulary:


    • Vulcan was the Roman god of fire; thus, vulcanize, volcano.
    • Mars was the Roman god of war; thus, martial, Martian.
    • Hypnos was the Greek god of sleep; thus, hypnotize, hynotic.
    • Hercules was a Greek hero; thus, Herculean.
    • Vesta was the Roman goddess of the hearth; thus, vestal.
    • Terra was the Roman goddess of the earth; thus, terrestrial, terrarium.


    Over our history,words have been borrowed not only from German, French,Greek, and Latin, but also from every culture with which we have had contact.

    Or how about some eponyms?
    Eponyms are real or legendary people from whom a theory, idea, or object takes its name.
    Some of these include:

    • Sandwich: After Fourth Earl of Sandwich (1718-1792), for whom sandwiches were made so that he could stay at the gambling table without interruptions for meals.
    • Guillotine: The inventor, a French physician, J.I. Guillotin, thought his invention was a great humanitarian contribution, because it was a speedier and more efficient method for administering the death penalty than were the drawn-out tortures that had been used previously.
    • Boycott:In 1880, Captain Charles Cunningham Boycott was land agent in County Mayo, Ireland, for an absentee owner, the Earl of Erne. Though the harvest had been disastrous, Captain Boycott refused to reduce rents and attempted to evict any tenants who could not pay in full. As a result, he became the object of the earliest known effort to force an alteration of policy by concerted nonintercourse. His servants departed en masse. No one would sell him food. Life became so miserable for him that at last he gave up and returned to England. To boycott is "to combine in abstaining from, or preventing dealings with, as a means of intimidation or coercion."


    How do you use these word histories?
    Basically, you tell them.
    Everyone remembers the teacher with the boring stories about interesting facts, about words, about other things.
    Even though students rolled their eyes when they saw a story coming on (and do so this day),
    these are the teachers whom students remember. Be one of those teachers.


    (from TEACHING WORD MEANINGS by Steven A. Stahl, William E. Nagy)

    Every man I meet is my master in some point, and in that I learn from him (R. Emerson)

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    Default Re: Language Issues

    I am very much into humour as well. i am writing a thesis on humour kind of - different play on words and stuff. So i enjoy using it in class as well. Thank you so much for a great material.


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    Default Re: Language Issues

    We polish the Polish furniture.
    Wow, I have never heard this :-) and it made me laugh loudly coz I am Polish... :-) (with long "oooo")


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