Saturday, October 31, 2009

McAllen Memorial Library Presents Free Workshop On Becoming A Librarian

Do you love libraries? Have you ever considered becoming a librarian? On Wed., Nov. 4, McAllen Memorial Library presents Texas Women’s University in a free information workshop from 2:00-4:00 p.m. in the Exhibit Room. Texas Woman’s University will provide all the information that you need to get started preparing for a Master’s Degree in Library Science in a session entitled “Traditional Library Values in the E-Learning Environment.”

Texas Women’s University’s MLS degree, which offers 100% online courses, prepares professionals to work in academic, public, school, corporate and other special libraries. TWU is accredited by the American Library Association.

TWU’s online degree programs offer these advantages: an accredited university with nationally recognized programs, affordable public university tuition and fee, a format that fits your lifestyle (leaving you time for work and family), and classes open to men and women. Find out about an exciting future in Library Science at this free workshop!

For more information, contact: or, or call 1-866-809-6130. McAllen Memorial Library is located at 601 N. Main Street in McAllen. For directions to McAllen Public Library, please go to our web site at

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Can't Cut the Mustard?

Today I came upon the phrase (which I've heard many times), "Can't cut the mustard." Being in a nosey mood (hmm... nosey...), I had to at least Google the origins.

Dave D. Grisham at University of New Mexico posted on his Word Origins website:
Whatever the origins of 'can't cut the mustard', they are about as clear as mustard, the expression 'too old to cut the mustard' is always applied to to men
today and conveys the idea of sexual inability. ' Can't cut the mustard',
however, means not to be able to handle any job for any reason, not just because of old age. Preceeding the derivation of 'too old to cut the mustard' by about half a century, it derives from the expression 'to be the mustard'. "Mustard" was slang for the " genuine article" or " main attraction" at the time. Perhaps someone cutting up to show that he was 'the mustard', or the greatest, was said 'to cut the mustard' and the phrase was later meant to mean to be able to fill the bill or or do the important or main job. In any case, O. Henry first used the words in this sense in his
story "Heart of the West" (1907) when he wrote: " I looked around and found
a proposition that exactly cut the mustard". Today, 'can't cut the mustard' is usually 'can't cut it' or 'can't hack it'. A recent variant on 'too old
to cut the mustard' is 'if you can't cut the mustard, you can lick the jar'. -- QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins By Robert Hendrickson

Dave Wilton at summarizes the Oxford English Dictionary's entry:

This phrase is from a metaphor where the mustard is something that adds flavor or zest to life, something that is good. Something that cuts the mustard is very good.

The phrase dates at least 1898. From the Decator, Illinois Herald Despatch of 6 April of that year:

John J. Graves, tight but that ha cun’t cut the mustard.

Mustard has a long history of being used as a metaphor for something powerful or biting. First in a negative context, as in John Heywood’s A Dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue (1546):

Where her woordes seemd hony,...Now are they mustard.

And somewhat later in a positive sense. From James Howell’s Lexicon Tetraglotton (1659):

As strong as Mustard.

The origin of the cut portion of the phrase is uncertain. It could be a reference to cutting a mustard seed, a very difficult task. Or it could be a conflation with a cut above, to cut the mustard is to be better than mustard.

The phrase is also rendered as to be the mustard and it’s very similar to keen as mustard.

Various explanations that it is a corruption of a military phrase to cut muster or that mustard is a difficult crop to harvest have no evidence to support them.

Now, I just need to find out about "cut the cheese"...

A Crumpled Bit of Cake Crumble

Those jokers at again!
He kept the letter in his scrapbook. He thought about (crumbling, crumpling) it
up, but he wanted to keep it as a reminder and a motivator.
Maestro, the envelope, please!

Correct! Crumble means to break into crumbs.So, does crumple mean to break into crumps? Well, not exactly.Crumple means to mash up, wrinkle, crush. For a letter, it means to wad it up. Etymologists consider crumple to be related to wrinkle, and both to derive long ago from words that described the wrinkles created by a grin or a snarl. Please, do not snarl at the letter.

Oh, you might remember from Mother Goose the line about "the cow with the crumpled horn." That "crumpled" came from a word meaning "curved," and it is related (isn't etymology exciting!) to krummhorn -- "a wind instrument of the Renaissance with a curving tube and a double reed."Aren't you glad you asked?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Hmm... A Possessive Plural That's Only Plural

From our boys at

Indicate the correct form: Veterans Day, Veteran's Day, Veterans' Day

Who can credit the answer, "Veterans Day"?
Newspaper advertisers usually can't decide between "Veteran's" and
"Veterans',"but the AP Stylebook keeps it simple and omits the punctuation.See
the Stylebook entry under "Possessives, DESCRIPTIVE PHRASES," where you find
these similar examples:citizens band radio, a Cincinnati Reds infielder, a
teachers college, a Teamsters request, a writers guide.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Federation Rhetoric Symposium 2010 - CFP

For all of you rhetoricians out there - or those who have dabbled in it and would like to try out some conferencing at a graduate-friendly fairly close by venue (Denton, TX; a bit north of Austin - home of Texas Women's University). Here's the CFP (notice all the different categories and possible topics that might only minimally involve real rhetorical theory - those of you who teach writing at high schools may find some of these topics interesting):

Call For Papers: Federation Rhetoric Symposium 2010 Rhetoric 2.0: Continuity and Change from the Oral Tradition to the Digital Age

The Federation Rhetoric Symposium is a small, intimate conference that provides an excellent opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students. This conference is very inviting for students who have not presented before or have little experience with conference presentations. We would love to have some of your department's students attend this conference.

Call For Papers: Federation Rhetoric Symposium 2010 Rhetoric 2.0: Continuity and Changefrom the Oral Tradition to the Digital Age
Texas Woman's University
Denton, Texas
February 12, 2010
**Deadline for Submission of 250-Word Abstract: December 1, 2009**

Once a thing is put in writing, it rolls about all over the place, falling into the hands of those who have no concern with it just as easily as under the notice of those who comprehend; it has no notion of whom to address or whom to avoid. And when it is ill-treated or abused as illegitimate, it always needs its father to help it, being quite unable to protect or help itself. (Plato, Phaedrus)

The Federation Rhetoric Symposium will provide an opportunity for a diverse group of scholars to investigate how today’s rhetors continue to use the wisdom of Sophistic, Classical, and Medieval rhetors who debated the validity of rhetoric, Renaissance and Modern rhetors who helped this art transition into a fully developed written tradition, and the contemporary debate about the validity of digital rhetoric.

The Federation Rhetoric Symposium is now accepting proposals for papers and panels from faculty, graduate and undergraduate students, and independent scholars investigating the ways rhetoric has and has not changed throughout the centuries and contemplating future continuities and changes. We are broadly defining the theme to emphasize rhetoric in all areas including but not limited to:
Rhetorical Theory
Rhetorical History
Discourse Analysis
Genre Analysis
Composition Theory
Communication Studies
English Studies
Film Studies
Digital Rhetoric
New Media Studies
Disability, Gender and Minority Studies
Political Science

Suggestions for possible areas of interest:
Critical TheoryAcademia/Professional Issues
Rhetoric & Philosophy
ESL & Composition
Pop Culture
Rhetoric of Mass Media
Literary Studies
Rhetoric and Technology
Computers and Writing
Basic Writing
Writing Center Theory & Practice
Composition & Rhetoric

Dr. Patricia Bizzell, 2008 Conference on College Composition and Communication Exemplar Award winner and distinguished scholar of rhetoric and public address, will be our keynote speaker at the conference. Dr. Bizzell is a prolific author and notable speaker who has written and presented on topics as diverse as composition theory, feminist research, Jewish rhetoric, the history of rhetoric. She is the founder of The Writer’s Workshop and the WAC program at College of the Holy Cross.

The Federation Rhetoric Symposium is part of an ongoing series, "A Symposium in Rhetoric" that has welcomed many notable speakers since the first meeting in 1973. These keynoters have included Karlyn Kohrs Campbell, Kathleen Blake Yancey, Sonja Foss, Richard Enos, Cynthia Selfe, James Kinneavy, Kenneth Burke, Stephen Toulmin, and many others.

**Deadline for Submission of 250-Word Abstract: December 1, 2009**

Individual and Panel Proposals Welcome
Prizes for outstanding student papers will be awarded!
lectronic Submissions Preferred
For further information, please refer to the conference website:

Email submissions to:

Federation Rhetoric Symposium
c/oKatt Blackwell-Starnes
247 E. Southwest Pkwy
Apt 1708
Lewisville, TX 75067

Katt Blackwell-Starnes
Doctoral Candidate
Graduate Assistant
Texas Woman's University
CFO 128940.898.2254

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chock-full of Chalk!

More word fun from

He said the two rope lines somehow jumped out of the (chalks, chawks, chocks,
chox) through which they passed.

So many choices!

As you know from the dictionary you keep ever at your side, a chock is a
curved metal fitting through which you can pass a rope. Chock derives from the
word for tree trunk. Imagine passing a rope around a tree, so you can pull
something up a hill.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Am I Entitled to Entitle this Title?

Heh, heh, heh... More fun from

Who would read a book (titled, entitled) "Thrilling Moments in Grammar"?

The envelope, please...

In an entry for "entitled," the Associated Press Stylebook states: "Use
it to mean a right to do or have something. Do not use it to mean titled."

Do we English majors care about the AP Stylebook? Maybe not, but it makes sense. Since we talke about so many texts with titles, this is useful to know.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Oral or Verbal?

I've often wondered this. explains.

We don't have a written contract, but we have (an oral one, a verbal one).
The correct answer is "oral".

Both written and spoken contracts are verbal because both involve words. So
"oral" and "verbal" aren't interchangeable. Oral is the opposite of
written.What's the opposite of verbal communication? Nonverbal. No words.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Read If You Dare

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.
Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.
Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.
Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.
Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.
Finally, which rhymes with enough,
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

-- B. Shaw

Copied from

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Eek! My Credit Card Interest is Eking!

More fun from Choose the correct answer:

Everyone there (eaks, eeks, ekes) out a living.

The answer is "eke"!
According to Webster's New World College Dictionary, "eke" came from an Old
English verb meaning "to increase." Its roots are even mixed up with those of
"wax," as in waxing and waning. Once upon a time, apparently, you'd hear someone
say: "He's eking out an income with a second job." These days you're more likely
to hear it used the way it was in the example sentence -- that is, managing to
get by but with difficulty. Larry was eking out a living until the quiz windfall
came his way."Eek," of course, is the line that society would have you utter
when you see a mouse. And "eak" seems to be a word the dictionary wants no part