Notes from the Smithy… #90
Notes from the Smithy… #90
Hello from Southern Oregon! It is winter here; sometimes it is cold and frosty; other times it is rain. 2015 has arrived. Have a great year!
NEWS what’s happening
JUST FOR FUN origins of sayings
A COMPARISON teaching & coaching
A CONTROVERSY modifiers of nouns
RECENT READS a few from me
MISCELLANY as it says
The website: there are some older newsletters that need to be posted, and the punctuation lessons to go with the video presentations need to be added. It is a work in progress.
Please note that the major tests for the vocabulary books are still available from me. You can email me at email@example.com to get them. I am the only source for these tests. They are free, but you will have to print them off. Each set includes the test and the answers.
I have let English Fun Stuff go out of print; there are about 4 or 5 left in stock. I may release it as an e-book later. Writing to Change the World is now with Tall Tails Publishing; they plan to make some changes in the book.
NOTE: I have a number of copies of Jensen’s Grammar that are unused but have a name written in them. I will sell them for $25 each; you will have to pay shipping and handling.
I am teaching math and English to some local home schoolers; it is interesting but a bit time consuming. I am also helping my granddaughter in her bakery once a week; baker’s hours are early. God gave me another turn around the sun recently, and early 70’s is a time I thought I would be slowing down. Well, He knows better than I.
JUST FOR FUN
Sayings have origins. I can’t vouch for all these, but the stories are interesting!
A SHOT OF WHISKEY
In the old west a .45 cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents; so did a glass of whiskey. If a cowhand was low on cash, he would often give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a drink. This became known as a shot of whiskey.
THE WHOLE NINE YARDS
American fighter planes in WW2 had machine guns that were fed by a belt of cartridges. The average plane held belts that were 27 feet (9 yards) long. If the pilot used up all his ammo, he was said to have given it the whole nine yards.
BUYING THE FARM
This is synonymous with dying. During WW1 soldiers were given life insurance policies worth $5,000. This was about the price of an average farm so if you died, you bought the farm for your survivors.
PASSING THE BUCK – THE BUCK STOPS HERE
Most men in the early west carried a jack knife made by the Buck knife company. When playing poker, it was common to place one of these Buck knives in front of the dealer so that everyone knew who he was. When it was time for a new dealer, the deck of cards and the knife were given to the new dealer. If this person didn’t want to deal, he would pass the buck to the next player. If that player accepted, then the buck stopped there.
Traveling by steamboat was considered the height of comfort. Passenger cabins on the boats were not numbered. Instead they were named after states. To this day cabins on ships are called staterooms.
Teaching and coaching have much in common. In thinking about these two roles, I will use my experience as a backdrop for comparing the two.
As a young fellow starting out in the teaching field, I was often asked in the interview, “What do you coach?” It was not a question I expected to hear initially. After all, I was an English teacher, not a Physical Education type. As time went on, it became apparent to me that administrators thought it was important that a man teacher should coach something. Maybe it was only because they had slots to fill, but in all my jobs as a teacher, I also had a coaching duty.
My original assignment was coaching basketball at the junior high level. I knew little of the sport, but the boys and I managed to field a half decent team, and we had a mixed season of victories and losses. The next year, I switched to flag football. We did better since I had some idea of the sport. Moving to Oregon, I was expected to coach football because of my experience and the opening available. I coached regular contact ball for 7th graders. We did quite well; in fact, my teams had three undefeated seasons in a row and winning seasons after that. Moving to the high school, more enthusiastic fellows took on the coaching duties for the major sports, so I created a chess team. It was not a paid position, but we learned together and practiced in my room. Some of the fellows became quite good. We lost the state tournament one year by half a game.
All that is to say I can speak about coaching from experience. How was I able to generate so many winning teams? I think it was because of three things: a focus on the basics, practicing according to a plan, and setting a positive attitude.
Focusing on the basics was key for me. Agreed, most of the time I was teaching younger kids in football, so they needed to develop the basic skills. We worked on blocking, tackling and conditioning. My team only had four plays: run up the middle or around the end, a short pass pattern and a long pass pattern. I kept it simple; there was no confusion.
The same went for my teaching in the classroom. I kept things simple and in order. I assumed very few things about the skill levels of my students, so I made sure to teach them a skill before I asked them to actually do it. I would start them with a review of the basics and build from there.
Practicing the basics over and over according to a structured plan was fundamental to my way of coaching. Sometimes my 7th graders would ask me when I was going to give them a play book with all those X’s and O’s and lines going all over. I simply told them we needed to get the blocking and tackling taken care of in good fashion at our level. They would get a play book next year because by then their blocking and tackling would be second nature. It wasn’t until the fifth or sixth game that I saw the first downfield block.
In my English class, it was the same thing. We worked on getting the basic sentence right and then added all sorts of other constructions. Sometimes the students would ask about doing longer papers. I told them they needed to master sentences and paragraphs first; only then would it be profitable to write lengthier pieces. In other words, a person needs a good grasp of the basics in order to produce a more complicated task. Why? Complicated tasks are usually a combination of more basic tasks, and failure in the basic tasks generally means failure in the overall task.
Finally, I always encouraged the boys on the team and had them encourage one another instead of bickering and blaming one another. I praised them when they did well and encouraged them and gave them pointers on how to do better when they didn’t do so well. It was the same in English class. Often there were some very good papers and scores, and many times a not so good paper had a bright light or two in it that could be pointed out. Being able to point out the positives is heartening to a student. Maybe they get the concept but have trouble in one or two details; point that out and help them overcome the detail.
From my experience, I would say that coaching and teaching are pretty much the same in a number of ways. Coaching is about physical skill and technique, but plenty about attitude is also imparted, usually about being positive and being a winner. Teaching an academic subject is also about skills and attitude. Being positive, seeing progress, and mastering skills leads to better grades. Good teachers can and should help the process just as coaches do.
Adjectives are modifiers. Traditional grammar says that adjectives modify nouns. That’s fine insofar as it goes. However, there are other modifiers. Adverbs modify verbs, and some words other than adjectives can modify nouns. What follows will hopefully clarify the issue.
Modify means to change. Dictionary.com tells us that in grammar, modify means, “(of a word, phrase, or clause) to stand in a syntactically subordinate relation to (another word, phrase, or clause), usually with descriptive, limiting, or particularizing meaning; be a modifier.” So, a modifier is a word that describes or limits another word. Note that there is nothing about being an adjective in this definition of modify.
I have some sentences below for consideration.
- The house is red.
- It is a red house.
- The house is made of brick.
- It is a brick house.
- The house is Joe’s.
- It is his house.
In the first sentence, we have the word red modifying the word house. It is an adjective subject complement. In the second sentence, red is still an adjective, but now we just call it an adjective modifying the noun house. Single adjectives come in front the noun they modify; it is where we are used to finding them. Thus, it is common to think of any single word modifying a noun as an adjective. Let’s test that.
In the third sentence brick is an object of the preposition; thus, it is a noun. It tells us what the house is made of, so it is modifying house. In the fourth sentence, we have find brick in a similar position to house just as red was in sentence two, namely right in front of the noun.
The crux of the matter is not what the two words are doing; that’s the same. Both are modifying house. The concern is what determines the part of speech of red and brick. Traditional grammar defines an adjective as a word that modifies a noun. Thus, traditional grammar would call brick an adjective in sentence four even though it is a noun in sentence three. How did the noun change to an adjective from sentence three to sentence four?
Now let’s look at sentences five and six. In sentence five traditional grammar would call Joe’s a noun, specifically a possessive noun. In sentence six, the traditionalists differ among themselves. Some call his a possessive pronoun, and some call his an adjective. It’s hard to be consistent. Because of position and strong enforcement of a rule, in one case a noun becomes an adjective and in another a pronoun becomes an adjective.
I think we would all agree that red, brick, and his all modify house. Is it not sufficient to stop there? Call each of them modifiers, but don’t call them all adjectives because of what they do. Red is an adjective. It has forms that other adjectives have: red, redder, reddest. Brick doesn’t have those forms because it is a noun; brick has a plural, bricks. His is a pronoun and is in the family of he, him, and his.
Traditional grammar defines an adjective by what it does, but there is more to it than just function. For adjective, dictionary.com says the following: “any member of a class of words that modify nouns and pronouns, primarily by describing a particular quality of the word they are modifying, as wise in a wise grandmother…. Other terms, as numbers (one cup; twelve months), certain demonstrative pronouns (this magazine; those questions), and terms that impose limits (each person; no mercy) can also function adjectivally, as can some nouns…where they immediately precede the noun they modify, as bottle in bottle cap and bus in bus station. The key words are function adjectivally. Thus, it is safe to say that all words that modify nouns are not adjectives.
2014 was a slack year for my reading. I only managed to get through 23 books; there have been years when it was triple that. Below you will find brief reviews of those I read since the last newsletter.
America the Beautiful: Rediscovering What Made This Nation Great is the second book I’ve recently read by Dr. Ben Carson. This was a very good book. It was well written and had personal experiences mixed with historical quotes and political ideology, so it was quite readable. If you want to know where Ben Carson stands on many issues, this is the book to read. I have to say that I agreed with many of his positions. The book gives the strong impression that Dr. Carson is willing to talk but also that he has thought plenty about the issues. His recall of speaking at the prayer breakfast was most interesting. Since he speaks without notes, it frustrated the Secret Service since they wanted to have everything timed to the minute. Ahhh, government!
#3 in the Quest for Truth series by Brock Eastman is titled Unleash. If you want non-stop action with a betrayal and some revelations explaining some past situations, then you will like this book. The four Wiik kids and Obbin rush from one adventure to the next as they continue on their quest to free their parents and complete the quest for truth. Actually the quest has morphed over the books thus far and is beginning to have far greater implications. New wrinkles appear, and some past mysteries are partially explained. It should be a fun read for young boys; action oriented girls might like it as well. A few situations are a bit contrived; I am thinking of how Drex shows up at various times. The coincidence becomes strained, but it is not enough to spoil the story
Sniper Elite: The World of a Top Special Forces Marksman is a book about Rob Maylor, an Australian Special Forces guy. Robert Macklin helps him write it. Rob Maylor is a gutsy guy, no question about it, but he spends a lot of time in the book on his training, which is ok in that he shows how he was prepared. The action mostly comes in the last few chapters. He lived through it and leaves the Australian Special Air Service to spend time with his wife and daughters. That is admirable. There is much of the macho in this book: swearing, drinking, etc. I don’t recommend it for kids.
How to Sell at Margins Higher than your Competitors: Winning Every Sale at Full Price, Rate, or Fee is a book primarily about selling by Lawrence L. Steinmetz and William T. Brooks. They know whereof they speak having revised this edition after 20 years getting feedback from buyers and sellers, mostly in the corporate world. I found it helpful although not a salesman or a buyer. I learned about how changing the price impacts sales volume and margins and profits. Increased volume does not always equate to a better bottom line. The book is directed at salespersons representing companies, but a normal retailer can learn things as well. I wish it had a bit more detail on gross margins, but overall it was a very helpful book
The Forever Hero is by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. L.E. is one of my favorite authors, and I liked the book, but many of his others are better. Greg, the main character, displays some fine characteristics, and there is some drama and action along with soul searching. It was an interesting book, but I wouldn’t read it a second time. This book is a compilation of three of his earliest novels written back in the 1980’s.
PEO Solution: Conquering Cancer, Diabetes and Heart Disease with Parent Essential Oils is by Brian Peskin and Dr. Robert Jay Rowen. This was a difficult book for me to read for two reasons: 1) there were lots of medical terms, and they were not always defined, and 2) it did not flow for me due to the constant references to scientific studies. It is filled with some very interesting information, and I believe doctors would profit from reading it if they have an open mind. Mr. Peskin has an Electrical Engineering background while Dr. Rowen is an MD who converted over to alternative medicine. Even though it was a difficult book to read, I do recommend it. The chapters on carbohydrates, fats, and proteins were highly informative. They thoroughly and scientifically debunk the idea that if you eat fat, it becomes fat in your body. Actually it is carbohydrates that become fat in humans.
Radical is written by David Platt, a minister with a large congregation in the south. The subtitle is “Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.” Pastor Platt has it right about the complacency of the modern evangelical church, but his solution that we all ought to go on a foreign mission is extreme. Some are called to go, but others are called to minister in other ways. Yes, we are all to be ambassadors for Christ, and that means taking the gospel to the world, but the world doesn’t always mean a foreign land. He does give examples of people getting involved locally, and that is good, but the line of reasoning presented is that they only got involved locally after going overseas. While going on a short term foreign mission trip might stir someone to pursue other activity in a more local venue, it is not always the case. He obviously has a pastor’s heart for missions and wants to see his people grow in Christ and service to Him.
1. This newsletter is posted quarterly on the website, and it is emailed free to those who wish to subscribe. I plan to continue to write and publish for the near future, but age and infirmity will eventually have their day. God has given me good health and a sound mind thus far; praise Him!
2, Remember, if you have questions, I am only an email away, firstname.lastname@example.org. 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. Thanks to all of you who use my materials and recommend them to others. Thanks also to those who send little notes via email or handwritten along with your orders. Those little notes are encouraging, and I appreciate them.
4. The next issue of Smithy Notes is scheduled for distribution in the spring sometime, Lord willing.
For His kingdom,
January 17, 2015 / Frode / 0