Hope is the thing with feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers

That perches in the soul,

And sings the tune–without the words,

And never stops at all,


And sweetest in the gale is heard;

And sore must be the storm

That could abash the little bird

That kept so many warm.


I’ve heard it in the chillest land,

And on the strangest sea;

Yet, never, in extremity,

It asked a crumb of me.


Emily Dickinson


Some interesting notes on the poem can be found here.

Sarah Palin’s struggle with English

Have a read of this article that takes Sarah Palin’s struggle with English and goes on to discuss portmanteau words and malapropisms.

Sarah Palin’s ongoing struggle with the English language entered a new phase this week, when she called on her Twitter followers to “refudiate” the proposal to build a mosque on the site of the World Trade Center. Mockery followed, and a tweet in which she corrected herself and asked people to “refute” it. Not correct, either. Finally, she put an end to it by saying: “Refudiate, misunderestimate, wee-wee’d up. English is a living language. Shakespeare liked to coin words, too.”

Read the rest here.

Looking at satire

Last week we also discussed satire. Satire is a literary technique of writing or art which exposes the follies of its subject (for example, individuals, organisations, or states) to ridicule, often as an intended means of provoking or preventing change.

Famous examples from literature include George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. Look at The Onion and The Daily Show for satires of the American news media.


On Friday we discussed lampoon. The usual context of a lampoon is a parody of a person or people in a current event. The intention is to emphasise the absurdities of a situation, or to provide a means of criticising the situation, using the logic of the humour. You may use similar terms such as send up, parody, spoof and take off. See example above.

Verbed! Not every noun wants to stay that way

Here’s an interesting article by Erin McKean from The Boston Globe.

What do these words and phrases have in common? Friend, Google, TiVo, log in, contact, barbecue, unlike, concept, text, Photoshop, leverage, party, Xerox, reference, architect, parent, improv, transition, diligence, host, chair, gift, heart, impact?

They’ve all been declared-by someone, somewhere, whether a usage expert or just a self-appointed language cop-“not verbs.” It doesn’t matter whether they’re useful, interesting, or entertaining as verbs; to many people, if a word began its life as a noun, then “verbing” it (like I did there) is just wrong.

This visceral reaction is the motivating force behind the recently popular loginisnotaverb.com, one man’s impassioned plea against this kind of verbing. The site’s elaborate (and funny) arguments against login’s verb status really boil down to a simple denial. ”I will repeat the important part for clarity: ‘login’ is not a verb. It’s simply not,” he writes.

The history of English, however, suggests that the language is remarkably flexible in terms of what can be verbed. Almost any word can be drafted to serve as a verb, even words we think of as eternal and unchanging, stuck in their more traditional roles. It’s easy to think of scenarios where ”She me’d him too much and they broke up” and “My boss tomorrowed the meeting again” make sense.

Read the rest here.