It’s said England and America are two nations separated by a common language. Aye or yeah, it may be more pronounced on the other side of the pond, but Americans certainly have their regional dialects, too. In 2013, Josh Katz was curious about which words and phrases were used where and how the same words might be pronounced differently in different places. So, he did a survey.
This project could have been really dry, but Mr. Katz has a gift for language, and some of his results spread on the Internet like wildfire or bushfire or a forest fire…. Well, you get the idea. The results are laid out attractively with maps and commentary in his Speaking American: How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk.
Do you know the difference between a subject and a predicate or between a compound sentence and a simple one? How about the differences between capital and capitol, color and colour, action verbs and passive verbs? Do your subjects and verbs agree?
Learning how to diagram a sentence will not teach you to be a great story writer, any more than learning to read music will guarantee you fame and fortune as a lead singer. However, understanding grammar will show you how English language works, which is certainly handy for every writer.
Immigrants to America come here with hopes and dreams for their futures. They are willing to work hard, but to succeed they need to become proficient in the language of their new country. For over a hundred years, libraries, churches, and other social institutions have been places where newly arrived immigrants could go to learn English. The tradition continues today with the help of adult education programs across the United States, some of which receive federal funding.
Mr. Safire had no college degree, yet he went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1978 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2006. Already in his forties when he joined the NYT staff, Safire had previously worked as a U.S. Army correspondant, as a publicist, and as a radio & television producer. He also wrote speeches for Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew and was outraged to discover that Nixon's administration had been secretly taping his phone conversations.
When he was a very young boy, Andrew Clements loved A.A. Milne's House at Pooh Corner and Margaret Wise Brown's The Five Little Firemen. By the time he started school, he already loved reading. He read so much he surprised his teachers. Once he checked out a big book of Greek myths from the school library. The next day, he brought it back. The librarian said if it had been too hard for him he was welcome to get another book. Andrew wanted another book all right. Another thick book. He had finished the Greek myths in one day and was ready for more good stuff.
Milo was bored. So very bored by school, by books, and by toys that when he found a package marked "One Genuine Turnpike Tollbooth" he figured he couldn't possibly get any more bored by looking at it. So he opened it, set it up, climbed into his electric car and sped off for adventures in Dictionopolis, the land of words, and Digitopolis, the land of numbers. Accompanied by the faithful watchdog Tock, he faces the raucous Dischord & Dynne, the Terrible Trivium, and many other odd and wonderful creatures.