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Notes from the Smithy… #92
Hello from Southern Oregon! It is hot and dry here, and we are in the fire season. Since school is out for many of you, enjoy your time off, but plan for next year now instead of waiting.
NEWS what’s happening
JUST FOR FUN pretentious proverbs
BACKGROUND a little history
AN EXAMPLE structural influence
RECENT READS a few from me
MISCELLANY as it says
ONLY FROM ME: 1) I have the major tests for the vocabulary books. There are six of these tests, one for each nine weeks of work. 2) I have finished the final test for Jensen’s Grammar. It is 100 questions and quite comprehensive. Both of these are available for FREE, but you have to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to get them. I am the only source for these tests. You will have to print them off. Each set includes the test and the answers.
NOTE: I have a number of copies of Jensen’s Grammar that are unused but have a name written in them one the inside cover or the first page. I will sell them for $25 each plus shipping and handling, but that’s a 24% discount.
Personally, life continues to move ahead. I help my granddaughter in her bakery on Fridays, help with some home schooling for a family, keep the business running, do some service as an elder in my local church, and take care of various chores around the house and property. It is a busy life for a fellow my age, but God continues to bless my wife and me with decent health, so we continue to be active. Being in our early seventies causes some slow down, but we are still able to accomplish a good deal. Retirement doesn’t seem to be a word we employ very much at this point.
JUST FOR FUN
In my book English Fun Stuff, which is no longer in print, I rewrote a number of proverbs. See if you can figure out the originals. It is acceptable to look up some of these words in a dictionary. Enjoy!
Adequate surveillance should precede any distance covered with a bound.
Consolidated we remain upright; bifurcated we plunge downward.
Rectitude is not composed of dual offenses.
That which does not conform confirms the general principle.
Verification resides within the junket.
Sorting on the part of mendicants is not to be allowed.
That one who emits the ultimate guffaw by definition has the optimum guffaw.
That which rings of the gospel is more exotic than that which is only imagined.
Each of man’s best friends possesses it single cycle of preeminence.
The condition of strong amorous inclinations approximates that of the inability to differentiate shapes and shades of light.
Accouterments create the wight.
A negative amount of discomfort reciprocates in a negative amount of amplification.
General robustness occurs when the termination of the matter is good.
If you need help, then ask me via email.
After earning a BA in English from the University of California in 1964, I did some graduate work at what was then San Jose State College. Two classes provided me with both the knowledge and the incentive to become a serious student of grammar.
The first class was a comparative grammar class. We looked at traditional grammar. It is called traditional because it was what most people were and probably are still schooled in if they get any grammar instruction at all. It is also called prescriptive since it gives a list of rules and definitions that we are told to follow in order to be good readers and speakers of English.
However, some linguists at the time were challenging traditional grammar as being insufficient, particularly since traditional grammar was set up and based on Latin grammar. The problem as they saw it was that Latin is an inflected language, but English is a syntactical language. The different core organizational principles make it unwise to try and force a Latin model on English.
Thus, various linguists began writing grammars based on a different model, but these grammars did not all take the same track. Two main schools emerged: structural and transformational.
On the structural side, we studied James Sledd’s book, A Short Introduction to English Grammar. Being a linguist, he had lots of detail and spent the first forty pages on sounds. The book was also filled with lots of symbols and other marks generally unfamiliar to the average reader. To oversimplify, I will just say that his approach to words and sentences was based on where the word was in a sentence and how it related to other words. That is to say the part of speech a word played was determined by its position.
For the transformational approach, we studied a couple of authors, one being Paul Roberts. His book, English Sentences, explained how sentences in English formed some basic patterns and that all other sentences could be generated from rearranging those basic patterns. Sentence number one could be transformed into sentence number two, albeit often with some tweaking such as the addition of a word or two or maybe changing a word form. This approach was also called generative grammar since a few basic patterns could generate a number of variations.
Well, it was all good stuff and made some sense to me, but it all came together when I took a job teaching junior high. Concurrently I signed up for a special studies class with a linguistics professor, and we agreed that I should write a grammar that employed elements of all three approaches. My classes were the guinea pigs. I would write explanations and exercises and try them on the students. Weekly my professor and I would meet and look at how the students performed. We tried to see if the order of presentation was correct, if the explanations were clear, and if the exercises presupposed something I had not yet taught. It was an invigorating year, and that initial work formed the launch pad for my subsequent work.
Exercises were revised; the order of presentation of some material and concepts was shifted about somewhat. Student suggestions and questions were taken into consideration. Over time, a fairly orderly system came into being, and most of the kinks got worked out. During that time I had moved my family to Oregon and was teaching in another junior high. The school principal allowed me to pursue my methods so long as the students were learning. In those days it was mostly handouts on ditto paper and the expenditure of plenty of chalk dust and oral instruction.
In 1983 I left the public system and began my own school. Instead of dittoes, I was now writing on my Commodore 64 and printing off papers for student use. I did lots of typing and editing, and soon most of my material was on a computer, a C-64, but a computer nonetheless. My students and I plowed ahead, and they were scoring well ahead of their grade levels in English.
I also began helping with some local home schoolers through my school and began to speak to groups of them from time to time. At one statewide venue I mentioned that I had employed John Saxon’s method of organizing an English curriculum around spaced repetition and incremental introduction of material. That prompted people to begin to ask how they could get my materials, and one of the organizers said he would give me a booth if I would bring books to sell. It was 1991.
I went to work and organized my grammar materials into seventy five lessons and exercises and handed it off to a friend who had a Mac. He could do graphics and some nicer fonts. Due to lack of funding, I started with staple bound books, which are limited in size to about 100 pages. Wonder of wonders, the books sold, and I am ever grateful to those who have supported me through purchases and recommendations. Over time I went from staple bound to perfect bound books, did some redesigning of covers, and consolidated some of the books. The books look a little more professional now, but the core information has changed very little. The grammar book still reflects the three grammatical approaches melded into one. Jensen’s Grammar is unique in the world of grammar books due to the combination of the three grammars. I think it is a good system, and so do many others.
One example of the structural grammar influence in Jensen’s Grammar is found in the method I use for the test frames on the Form Words sheet. It is all based on position in relation to other words, and it is simple to teach, understand, and use.
If a word can fit into the following sentence and make sense, it can be used as a noun. (The) ___ is/are good. The parentheses means that the may or may not be used depending on the word being placed in the blank. A proper noun such as San Diego would not require the, but dog would.
San Diego is good.
The dog is good.
The is/are is there to accommodate singular and plurals as need be.
The dog is good.
The dogs are good.
Note that this is a possibility test. In other words, it is a test to see if a particular word can be used as a noun. It does not mean that word is used as a noun in every case. However, if a word does not fit into the noun test frame, it will not normally be used as a noun.
Two other test frames are also on the chart. They are for verbs and adjectives.
Let’s ____ (it).
She/it seemed ____.
Lesson 8 in Jensen’s Grammar covers these three test frames. Just to show you how it works, here are three sentences using the word cat.
The cat is good.
Let’s cat it.
She seemed cat.
Only the first sentence sounds good, so cat could be a noun but probably is not a verb or an adjective. However, the word light in the same sentences shows it could be any one of the three. In all cases, the trial word needs to be looked at in its actual sentence to determine its relationship to the words surrounding it. The test frame is a useful tool for deciding what part of speech a word might be, but it is best used for elimination and possibility purposes.
As always I am reading something, and it can be most anything: fiction, history, theology, whatever. Below you will find brief reviews of those books I read since the last newsletter.
Ben Carson, Rx for America is about Ben Carson and is written by John Phillip Sousa IV. Having read two other books by Ben Carson, this one didn’t have much new in it although it did talk about his election chances against Hillary. It was a bit repetitive, but in the main it covered the bases.
I did think Sousa gave a good defense for Carson’s so-called lack of political experience and mentioned how Dr. Carson has been on the national boards of Costco and Kellog for a number of years, how he was head of a multi-million dollar section at Johns Hopkins, and how he many times had to make life and death decisions under pressure in a limited amount of time. If you want to know about Benjamin Solomon Carson, read the book.
I read three more novels in The Ring of Fire series, 1636: Seas of Fortune and 1636: Kremlin Games. I was disappointed. The first was really two sets of short stories with some characters appearing in more than one story. The second was at least one story, primarily about Russia but also flipping back to Grantville at times. The ending of this one begs a sequel. I would avoid these two; they are weak links in the series. However 1636: The Devil’s Opera was a better book. Some of the characters were well drawn; there were a number of interesting up-timer/down-timer exchanges of humor and philosophy, and the plot moved along at a decent pace. It was a mystery in an alternative history setting. There were two missteps in my opinion. One was the false characterization of where miscarried children ended up. It would be good if the authors read The Westminster Confession of Faith X.3. as it speaks to that issue. The other difficulty is that no one seized on the man who pushed Herr Shardius through the wall in the opera house. The plusses outweigh the negatives, and folks with a taste for music and poetry will find those sections enjoyable instead of a tedious interlude. Simon shows some growth, and his decision in the end is most satisfactory.
America: Imagine a World Without Her is by Dinesh D’Souza. Current, helpful, and disturbing are three words I would use to describe this book. D’Souza paints a picture of our current government and social culture that is rather dark, or perhaps getting darker is a better way of saying it. He does offer hope if enough people will rise up to stem the tide of decline. He believes that decline is the core aim of the progressive agenda, and that it has been the aided and abetted by both Obama and Hillary since they are Alinsky devotees. Obviously there are many others who are/were involved as well, but D’Souza points to the two above as the primary movers recently.
The book is timely; it is referring to the here and now. He helpfully explodes a few common arguments used by the progressives, and he unmasks the biases of some of those who have influence and power. Explaining what the government is doing and why makes for an unpleasant picture wherein most of us are pawns in a greater game. The chapter on data collection and its use by the various agencies of the federal government is pretty scary. Of course, many people are making it just that much easier by posting their lives on facebook, instagram, etc.
In the end, he compares today’s crisis with two others, 1776 when we hung in the balance about whether to create a nation or not and 1860 when the Union was at stake. Both times he believes America made the right decision, so there is some hope. The question is whether we will make the right decision this time around. Let’s vote for victory; as he says, “Decline is a choice.”
Anita Dittman wrote Trapped in Hitler’s Hell. This is good history and a moving story of a young girl’s faith: that’s the short description. Although half Jewish, she believes Jesus is the true Messiah. Her faith helps her endure the problems of living under the Nazis. The horrors are real; the miracles are real, and her faith is real. Young folks should read this book. It is inspirational but not preachy.
Cyador’s Heirs is by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. I really liked this book. The hero is classic Modesitt: young, inexperienced, trying to figure out what he can and can’t do, involved in subtle intrigue and not so subtle combat. Lerial starts us out in this series. There will be more as Cigoerne develops into a power and as Lerial continues to grow. He is almost or barely seventeen at the end of the book, so there is more to come.
It’s a good story, and it moves along, albeit at a somewhat casual pace at times, but Modesitt is always building background.
Whatever the Cost: Facing Your Fears, Dying to Your Dreams, and Living Powerfully is by the Benham brothers, Jason and David. It was sometimes funny and sometimes preachy, but the message was clear. The Benham boys offered good advice backed by Scripture and experience. They play off of one another quite well, and it was obvious that their dad was a tremendous influence for good in their lives. Baseball, real estate, and a TV reality show are the major backdrops for their experiences, but in each case God mercifully cares for them and shows them the best way. Pray, trust/repent, and act; that seems to be the Benham formula. Their convictions stand high.
They discover that the sacred-secular division commonly accepted in the Protestant community does not exist, so their business became the vehicle for their ministry. They found out that having an opinion was no big deal but expressing it created a furor. Well done, fellows. Keep running the race!
After Acts is by Bryan Litfin, a professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. This was a very readable book. It answered a few questions, dispelled some myths, but left a number of other questions unanswered. That was not the author’s fault; it was due to the lack of Scriptural and historic proof. The book seems well researched and is heavily documented. It is arranged with one chapter per person except for one chapter which covers the rest of the apostles. The book has a nice timeline of significant dates in church history relating to the history of the apostles.
The author makes it clear that not all historical documents are entirely trustworthy, particularly those that came later when the making of myths and legends was holding sway in the church. Some cities which had a Christian character would claim some connection to a saint if they could at all stretch history and the imagination.
Litfin’s style is easy to follow, and he keeps the narrative moving right along. That said, I think this would be a profitable book to read for those with an interest in what happened to the apostles after Acts.
I also read a couple of westerns just for fun, one by Louis L’Amour, The Ferguson Rifle, and one by Ernest Haycox, Head of the Mountain. The latter was written in 1950, so the style is somewhat different, but both books have pretty flat characters, some action, and a bit of a love story. Enough said!
1. This newsletter is posted quarterly on the website, and it is emailed free to those who wish to subscribe. You will note my website and this newsletter are pretty free of commercials, and that is the way I intend to keep it.
2. Remember, if you have questions, I am only an email away, email@example.com. I am your support, so use me when the need arises. I try to email a response within a day or two. The more specific the question, the better my answer will be.
3. To those who purchase and recommend my materials, please accept my thanks. In some cases students who used my books early on are now using them to teach their own children or in a few cases, using them in classrooms to teach others. I am blessed when hearing such stories.
4. The next issue of Smithy Notes is scheduled for distribution sometime in the fall, Lord willing.
In His hands,