Discover more from A Few Crooked Words
a game for engaging logical brains in languagey things
First of all, shameless self-promotion: Frog Hollow School, my writing program for kids, is having an open house this Saturday, 11-12, at Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in Seattle. Come see what we do and talk to me about helping kids love to write. Bonus: a future-themed exhibit of my students' poetry will be on display in the hallway gallery at Youngstown. Come enjoy their awesome and wild thoughts about the future!
Back to the news:
I don't know if this article made a splash in your world, but my corner of the internet has been abuzz with responses to the recent New Yorker article about the death of the English major, which I haven't yet read, as the internet tells me it will take 46 minutes, but ha, still have thoughts about.
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When I was an undergrad at Stanford during the dotcom boom, you could either be a Techie or a Fuzzy. Fuzzies were adorably anachronistic and impractical. Techies were definitely, as Ralph Nader told us we all were, "on the escalator to success." One April Fool's, the Stanford Daily ran an article in their spoof edition a lá The Onion, about how the English Department had changed its name to English Science. Hilariousness. Here we go gathering nuts in May and whatnot, to make a literary reference1.
Anyway, the article buzz made me think about all this, and also about how English may be the Fuzziest of Fuzzy things -- creative, subjective, emotional, and so very human -- but language is also pattern-based. Meaning is pattern-based. And sometimes the patterns can be an entry point for young writers with engineering brains, a side door into the joys of language, where the fuzz can grow on them subtly.
So in honor of English Science, here's a word puzzle game:
I call it Cat to Dog.
Start with a beginning word and an end word, say Cat and Dog.
Changing one letter at a time, see how many moves it takes to get from the first word to the second.
Each stop in the middle has to be a real word.
When three letter words are too easy, try four. See what happens when the pattern of consonants and vowels is very different, say turning Tree into Cart.
Kids who don't like the loosey-gooseyness of language arts tend to love this game. I love this game too. It satisfies the orderly, logical part of my brain. And by the way, there actually is English Science -- we call it Linguistics.