Notes from the Smithy… #56
Greetings from Oregon. The rain is gone; the sun is out; it’s vacation for most students and at times some of the rest of us. God in His mercy continues to bless us, and we pray He will bless you as well.
NEWS what’s happening
JUST FOR FUN mind tricks
FANTASY FUN a book review
SEMANTIC DRIFT word changes
OTHERS SPEAK two testimonies
RECENT READS a few from me
MISCELLANY as it says
Since the last issue of this quarterly, we have reprinted From Heart to Page; it is essentially the same as the previous edition. I think we made two minor changes. The combination of A Journey through Grammar Land, Parts 1 & 2 is still in process with no printing date yet established.
I did a check on Google and Yahoo a month or so ago by typing in Wordsmiths. Our site is ranked number one on both engines. That’s www.jsgrammar.com in case you don’t remember the address.
My grandson and his chum are now on vacation. It seems they will return to Christian school next year. It was fun to teach them, and I learned a few things about the Grammar Land books while going through them. Of course, the two boys both learned some grammar, and that was the point of it all.
A number of bookstores have contacted me recently about carrying our products. That’s always nice. A couple of them asked about tapes and videos. Some years ago I did record some videos for Christian Liberty Academy Satellite Schools. They are still available but are rather out of date. One or two folks have urged me to do some CD or DVD’s that are up to date. The scripts are written; now all we need to do is get the technical stuff figured out.
JUST FOR FUN
The mind can accomplish some interesting things. Read the material below for starters.
Olny srmat poelpe can raed tihs.
I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mind: aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are; the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses, and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh? Yaeh, and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt.
Talk about driving your spellchecker mad! Well, spelling is important, but the above is a masterful example of how the mind can decipher things. No student in my experience ever turned in such a wretched piece of writing.
While the above shows how adaptable our minds can be, at other times the mind doesn’t process as thoroughly as we would like. Read the following carefully and see how many F’s you can count.
FINISHED FILES ARE THE RESULT OF YEARS OF SCIENTIFIC STUDY COMBINED WITH THE EXPERIENCE OF YEARS…
How many did you find? There are six. Look again. One of the problems seems to be that our minds just skip over the word of. It’s like it doesn’t exist. So, we can see what isn’t, and we can miss what is. Isn’t that interesting?
Kathleen Deisher surely has an imagination. Just think, a story with flying horses that talk, some misshapen creatures who serve the evil Shed, a fox that seems to understand people and communicates by its actions, a spoiled princess, a couple of kings, a lord, a prince, and a stable boy and a variety of other characters. The setting is an alternative world with people who are normal humans along with a mix of some other folk and creatures. The Gloesmur itself is a mirror-like dividing wall between Glenora, the home of the spoiled princess, and the land beyond the Gloesmur.
It is the classic story of good versus evil, a mad king who is the tool of Shed, the seeming source of evil and the enemy of Iyashu, who is love itself. The mad king, Sildark, has it in mind to first conquer all the lands north of the Gloesmur and then go through the barrier and take over the rest of the world. He has read the old prophecies and found an item which he thinks will give him victory if it is handled in the right way. At the beginning of the book, things are going his way, and the good folks are gearing up for the conflict.
The spoiled princess, Jondalyn, is recruited to help foil this evil plan although she is rather clueless to begin with. As time goes on, she matures through a series of adventures and loses her selfish ways, which is nice and uplifting and comes about rather naturally through the course of the book. She and Talimar, the stable boy, are key players for the good guys along with a couple of flying horses, Aeron and Chayiym. Thankfully the author provides a pronouncing glossary and gazetteer at the back of the book for these different names. Right in the front of the book, the author has a map of the lands beyond the Gloesmur. This allows you to keep track of where the action is taking place. Both are handy, and you will refer to them when you read the book. Mrs. Deisher illustrates her own work, and her pen and ink drawings are a nice addition, especially the maps.
The story flows along rather nicely. There are no real dead spots. In the beginning the author tells about the two main characters and explains their actions a bit overmuch in my opinion, but that soon gives way to a smoother style once the basic characteristics are established. Jondalyn and Talimar have their difficulties relating to one another many times although it is obvious they do have some affection for each other. One character I particularly liked was Nimreu; he doesn’t stand for foolishness and is a great addition with his knowledge and skills to the group as they go about their adventure.
The plot has its twists and turns with some unexpected events. That always makes for good reading. The surprises are woven in nicely and ultimately explained by future events or in couple of cases by some characters telling others about what went on and why. Those explanations occur naturally and don’t really interrupt the story. The story reminds me of the journey from innocence through experience to maturity. Jondalyn grows up along the way much as Tom Jones did in Fielding’s old novel about a boy becoming a man. It is a well used formula, and it fits this book well.
Who should read this book? Anyone who likes a fantasy setting mixed with adventure and action, some growth in the main characters, a bit of a love story hinted at, and good subduing evil for the time being. The combination works in this one. Yes, there is a sequel, The Princess of Kafar, but I’ve yet to read it. Enjoy!
Beyond the Gloesmur
Written and illustrated by Kathleen E. Deisher
© 2002 – 270 pages, trade paper – fiction/fantasy
published by & available from
Lamp Post Publishing, Inc.
1741 Tallman Hollow Road
Montoursville, PA 17754
Language is a living thing. It is constantly adding and dropping sounds in words, generating new words and allowing other words to die. Words also change meaning over time. That is the particular item we will focus on this time. Most of the time, the shifts in meaning are gradual and seem to escape our notice. Sometimes, however, the shift may be more accelerated for various reasons.
First, let’s look at words that are in the process of dying. Sackbut and shawm are not in most people’s vocabulary any more since they are medieval instruments that are no longer played. These words can still be found in many dictionaries, but the words are archaic. Perhaps you might be familiar with sackbut since it is used in the King James version of Bible. Medieval historians and musicians might know shawm, but few others would. It’s just not in common use any more.
We get a hint here that nouns, which name things, fade out of a language when that item is no longer in general use. This would apply as well to actions, concepts, and traits affiliated with such nouns.
That’s the dying part; let’s look at the birthing end of things. Think of all the new terms we have that deal with new technology. Compact discs, hard drives, central processing units, software, silicon chips, digital cameras, cell phones and many other terms have pushed their way into our language because these items are now part of our daily lives. Thirty years ago most of us had never heard of or even imagined any of these things.
So, words are born, and words die out. What about change? That happens as well. Silly has morphed over time to what we have today. When the term appeared in Old English, it meant blessed. Words often drift in a given direction. To be blessed implies innocence, so by 1400 silly had come to mean innocent. “Cely art thou, hooli virgyne marie.”
Innocence tends to elicit compassion, so the meaning drifted again to mean deserving of compassion. 1470: “Sely Scotland, that of helpe has gret need.”
The drift continued since something deserving of compassion is generally deemed to be weak, and weak became the new definition of silly. 1633: “Thou onley art The mightie God, but I am a sillie worm.”
Silly was not done drifting, however, and it has since shifted from weak to simple, ignorant, and foolish.
That means as you read or hear Shakespeare’s lines in The Two Gentleman from Verona when he speaks of doing “no outrages on silly women or passengers,” (IV, i, 71-2), he is not talking about foolish women, he is talking about women deserving compassion and help.
Juliet in the famous balcony scene says, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” (II, ii, 33) She is not asking where Romeo is. He’s right there and she knows it. She is asking why he is Romeo. Read the passage and see how she asks him to deny his name and she will no longer be a Capulet. If they were not Montague and Capulet, they could be lovers and marry without complications. Wherefore has drifted in meaning.
In their drifting, words will change meaning in a couple of other ways; they can broaden or narrow. Cupboard has broadened from a board on which cups are placed to a cabinet or shelving where all manner of items can be put. Meat used to mean all food; it has narrowed to mean animal flesh only.
In the past starve simply meant to die; the cause was immaterial. Someone could be starved by a spear or by old age or by any variety of means. Now it has narrowed to death from malnutrition. Bird used to be limited to young birds, but it grew to mean any and all birds, which was what fugel used to mean. Fugel morphed into fowl, and its meaning has narrowed to mean only game birds.
Sometimes words are intentionally shifted. Gay is such a word. It used to mean colorful, bright, and lively. Later in slang it meant a homosexual. In today’s politically correct society, the older slang meaning has become the primary meaning. The semantic drift was accelerated by political forces.
George Orwell spoke of this in 1984. His contention was that language shaped thought. The political powers sought to change the people’s mind about things. The Party’s three big slogans were “War is peace; freedom is slavery; and ignorance is strength.” This was Newspeak, the language everyone was shifting to. The Party’s Ministry of Truth was the primary agency of distribution. Does this smack of our political correctness movement?
Semantic drift is natural and nothing to fear although it does affect our reading of Shakespeare or the KJV Bible somewhat. Contrived drift, well, I’d be much more concerned and careful about it.
I am indebted for Professor John McWhorter of UC Berkeley for some of this material.
People do have good experiences with our books. Some are gracious enough to send us their comments. Below you will find a couple that recently came in.
I so appreciate what you have done with A Journey Through Grammar Land! My daughter, Jamie, who has been having trouble applying what she had learned is so excited about it! She handed me her completed work with a smile and said, “Finally, someone who understands how I think!” Jamie is 14, severely dyslexic and was greatly struggling with every grammar program we had tried. She is excited about running through the Grammar Land series, being caught up and then jumping in where she should be. What a blessing! Thank you, thank you, thank you! – Gina Otto
I wanted to tell you that I have used Format Writing with all of my older children so far, and it has been a fantastic writing program. I’m so glad you wrote it; what a huge help it’s been. – Robyn Rumfalo
Once again here’s a brief review of most of the books I read since the last newsletter. My reading was a bit scattered over a variety of materials, and being spring, the outside chores carved into the reading time substantially this quarter.
I finished two commentaries on the book of First Corinthians, 20 Controversies that Almost Killed a Church by Richard Ganz and Strengthening Christ’s Church by Roger Elsworth. Both commentaries were helpful since teaching through First Corinthians was somewhat of a challenge.
New Glory, subtitled “Expanding America’s Global Supremacy,” was both interesting and disturbing. It was a geopolitical work by Ralph Peters. It has caused quite a stir in the ranks of the retired military.
David McCullough’s book, 1776, was about that year in American history. It was informative and readable.
The Riddle and the Knight by Giles Milton is about Sir John Mandeville and was a mixture of modern and historical travelogue. The central question was two fold: did Sir John exist, and did he travel where he said he did?
L. E. Modesitt, Jr. has crafted his fourth book in the Corian Chronicles, Alector’s Choice. It is pre-history to the other three books and a good read.
Once in a while I read something popular, something touted by the mainstream press. Bob Greene’s book, And You Know You Should Be Glad, is such a book. It’s the story of five men who were buddies from early grammar school; one of them, Jack, gets cancer in his late 50’s. His buddies rally around him; the author is his best buddy. This book got high reviews. I liked it but not as much as some reviewers.
L.B. Graham’s third book in the Summerland series is a fine read. Shadow in the Deep has most of the familiar characters from the previous novels still enmeshed in a cataclysmic conflict. Beware, the story does not end in this book.
Steel My Soldier’s Hearts is a book about the Vietnam War by Colonel David Hackworth. It has coarse language throughout and displays both the heroic and the nasty side of war. Hackworth writes about his battalion, a rather sorry outfit when he got there, but he transforms them into a good fighting machine after some time with them.
Beyond the Gloesmur was covered earlier in a lengthy review.
I read only two westerns this time, one each by Louis L’Amour and William W. Johnstone.
1. Excerpts of material from this newsletter may be freely used so long as proper credit is given as to the source. Feel free to copy it and pass it along.
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3. It’s the busy season for us here at Wordsmiths. We appreciate your business. I still answer all email questions personally, and the two of us here answer or return most phone calls. We are accessible.
4. Thanks to those of you who purchase, use, and recommend the books. It’s our pleasure to serve you.
5. The next issue of Smithy Notes is scheduled for distribution in October, Lord willing. I look forward to seeing you again at that time.
IN CHRIST’S SERVICE,
July 7, 2006 / Frode / 0