Saturday, May 9, 2009

Parvum Opus 324 ~ Turf Language

Summer Fun

Free Online Courses

I know you have time on your hands, so instead of clocking in to the devil’s workshop, you can take free and pressure-free classes online. I’m considering ten hours of introduction to Latin and maybe Scottish heritage, but haven’t looked at all the possibilities yet. Check out:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (

Open University (

Carnegie Mellon University (

Tufts University (

Stanford (

University of California, Berkeley (

Utah State University (

Kutztown University of Pennsylvania (

University of Southern Queensland (

University of California, Irvine (

Library Thing

Tim Bazzett recommends Library Thing, a web site where you can easily enter your own library list, books you like, rate them, read reviews, connect with other people who like the same books, and more fun stuff.

Online Etymology Dictionary

You can sponsor a word on the Online Etymology Dictionary, which would help them and could be fun for you. Give your loved one a word for six months. Or advertise super cheap.

Ysabella Brave Phonetic Alphabet

Isabella Brave is the pseudonym of a singer, songwriter, and speaker who’s become one of the most popular YouTube contributors, until she became very ill. One of her fans came up with the Ysabella Brave Phonetic Alphabet. It’s not likely to replace alpha-bravo-charlie, but it may inspire you to develop your own specialized phonetic alphabet. For business, you could start with accountant-budget-corporate; but you could do better.

While looking around for university jargon (academic-bursar-college) I ran across this article about buzzwords, quoting Jeffrey Mirel of the University of Michigan: "All professional language is turf language." Actually some professional language is necessary, as in the case of new technology, but not so with education.


According to Daniel Hannan, my new British hero, the commissioner for information society and media*, Viviane Reding in the EU says there should be an Internet .eu domain to make the Internet “more accessible to women”. Huh? It doesn’t matter if another domain extension is added, but how would .eu help women? Even if it were “.ew”, for European Women, I can’t see that their lives would be changed.

* Why no comma after “information”?

The UK, by the way, has banned radio talkman Michael Savage from the land. Michael Savage does nothing but talk and he never has advocated violence, so what’s the problem? He’s obnoxious but not dangerous. Maybe it’s retaliation for the cheesy gifts Obama gave the Queen and Prime Minister, but they hit the wrong person. They also threw out Geert Wilders, whose problem was also speech that some people didn’t like. I’m thinking that if I were at all well known, I wouldn’t be allowed to go back to Scotland. I’d have to sneak in via rowboat on the North Sea to visit Dunnottar again. I’ll bring my claymore.

Things You Probably Don’t Have to Worry About Anymore

I found this list lying around but I can’t remember where I copied it from and I can’t find “thrumps” on the Web, which is unusual, though Donald Trump turned up. I’m pretty sure it’s a list of diseases, either human or animal, that I may have seen on old medicine bottles in an old Sears catalog:

milk leg



hollow hills



>>> Obama trimmed the trillion-dollar budget by cutting a school voucher program, which was a drop in the ocean of money he and Congress are spending. Why did he cut that? Discuss.

>>> John McC sent a neat little moral tale about education and also socialism; not sure if it’s it’s a true story.

An economics professor at Texas Tech said he had never failed a single student but once failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said ok, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism.

All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A. After the first test the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. But, as the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too; so they studied little.

The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the third test rolled around the average was an F.

The scores never increased as bickering, blame, name calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else.

I never did like group projects when I taught English.

I conducted a somewhat different experiment in my early days of college teaching. I said the students could have any grade they wanted, which I thought would make them pay attention to only the actual content of the class rather than their grades. The only stipulation was that they had to do all the work. I also asked them to meet me in my office to explain personally why they wanted the grade they did. I didn’t put grades on their papers but I marked errors and commented on the writing just as I always did. It was not an experiment in socialism; it was an experiment in intellectual liberty, or so I thought.

As I recall, there was no difference in the overall quality of work. Most of the students asked for grades a little higher than I would have given them, all As and Bs except for two, but some of them said, “I know I don’t deserve this but I need it.” Two students said, “I really would like an A but I know my parents wouldn’t believe it, so give me a B.” Some of them really believed they deserved the A, when I did not, but I didn’t tell them that. One student, who would probably have received an A anyway, didn’t like the experiment because he liked working for and earning his grades. At the time, I didn’t understand him, and thought he was too focused on grades and not on the content of the class, but now I understand that competition is a pretty good motivation for some people to learn or to do anything else. One student didn’t like having to explain what grade he wanted. Only two students asked for Cs. One was an older student, a black man who’d been in jail. He probably would have gotten a C; his writing skills weren’t very good technically, but he was bright and obviously had more integrity than a lot of the students. The other one was a young white guy, a musician, who was a somewhat better writer technically and was really interested in the work. I remember that he wrote something once about music, wondering why there were only eight notes in the major and minor scales.


Pulitzer-prize winning syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts wrote an attack on Christians/Christianity that wouldn’t be possible if you substituted any other religion. These days telling the truth can be a hate crime, but Pitts was not truthful. He is ignorant of history yet he obviously has an axe to grind. I wrote a letter to the Cincinnati Enquirer, which they didn’t print:

The Enquirer has divested itself of staff so entirely that it cannot produce one locally written editorial a day now, and apparently no one on staff objected to Leonard Pitts' "Are Christians on God's side?" In the interests of full disclosure, we should know what Pitts' religion is. If he'd attacked any other religion, he might fear reprisal by rusty sword or ACLU (keeping in mind that atheism is a religion of sorts). Leaving aside the question of why some Christians don't object to an interrogation method used in training our own military, and probably in fraternity hazings, Pitts' knowledge of history -- as well as of the present -- is pitifully thin if thinks that only a few "iconoclasts" have done the "dangerous and moral thing" (and by the way, technically Unitarian Universalists are not Christians). I'm surprised he didn't list Jeremiah Wright as one brave Christian.

I consider this an attack on Christians not just by Pitts, but also by the Enquirer.

The letter Enquirer printed two letters on Pitts’ column. Neither criticized the newspaper, not that that has anything to do with their editorial decision. One supported Pitts and said he was just writing history. That’s balanced journalism. (You’ll have to study the history yourself.)

The only reason I didn’t cancel the subscription, not a thing I would ordinarily do, is because Fred pointed out that the current newspaper deliveryman (if it is a man) is so meticulous. He always places the paper on the porch, not in the street or under the shrubbery, and he even put it under the doormat yesterday. So Pitts and the Enquirer live another day.


I’m publishing for the Kindle digital reader with Amazon and now also on for download to computer and for printing. Most of these titles are available in both locations. Search for Rhonda Keith on Kindle store and

* A Walk Around Stonehaven is a travel article on my trip to Scotland. Short article with photos. ( only.)

* The Wish Book is fantasy-suspense-romance featuring the old Sears Roebuck catalogues. Novella.

* Carl Kriegbaum Sleeps with the Corn is about a young gambler who finds himself upright in a cornfield in Kansas with his feet encased in a tub of concrete; how would you get out of a spot like that? Short story.

* Still Ridge is about a young woman who moves from Boston to Appalachia and finds there are two kinds of moonshine, the good kind and the kind that can kill you. Short story.

* Whither Spooning? asks whether synchronized spooning can be admitted to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Humorous sports article.

* Blood, Sweat, Tears, and Cats: One woman's tale of menopause, in which I learn that the body is predictive; I perceive that I am like my cat; and I find love. Autobiographical essay.

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Cool covers of my books

No Pain, No Pain

Star o’ the Bar

Veritas Vincit (Truth Conquers) with Keith clan Catti insignia

Flash in the Pants

If you're so smart why aren't you me?

PWE (Protestant Work Ethic)

I am here maternity tops

I eat dead things (doggy shirt, pet dishes, and BBQ apron)

ALSO Scot Tartans T-shirts and more (custom orders available).


Trivium pursuit ~ rhetoric, grammar, and logic, or reading, writing, and reckoning: Parvum Opus discusses language, education, journalism, culture, and more. Parvum Opus by Rhonda Keith is a publication of KeithOps / Opus Publishing Services. Editorial input provided by Fred Stephens. Rhonda Keith is a long-time writer, editor, and English teacher. Back issues from December 2002 may be found at; 2009 issues are at Feel free to e-mail me with comments or queries. The PO mailing list is private, never given or sold to anyone else. If you don't want to receive Parvum Opus, please e-mail, and I'll take you off the mailing list. Copyright Rhonda Keith 2009. Parvum Opus or part of it may be reproduced only with permission, but you may forward the entire newsletter as long as the copyright remains.

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