Albert Collins Remembered

Dr. Jazz

By Doc Wendell

I hate top ten lists or the concept of a “favorite” musician of any kind. It’s lazy and pedantic. With great jazz or blues players, an artist’s style is as unique as their fingerprints so making comparisons is impossible and a waste of time. As a guitarist, many people have asked me who my “favorite” players are. I usually ask, “What genre?”

All I can do is tell you the players that I love and I love Albert Collins. I’ve loved the Iceman for over 30 years now. Before I was even in high school, I found two records that would change my life forever, “Truckin’ with Albert Collins” and “Albert Collins & The Icebreakers-Live in Japan.

Albert Collins

Up until that time, most of the guitarists I had heard were either influenced by B.B. King or T-Bone Walker directly. Albert Collins’ style struck me as being avant-garde electric blues. His…

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“High Street” — Not One-Off Britishisms

When I first started spending time in England, one new phrase that was completely unfamiliar to me was the High Street, which the OED defines as “very generally, the proper name of that street of a town which is built upon a great highway, and is (or was originally) the principal one in the town.” […]

via “High Street” — Not One-Off Britishisms

“In the Street” — Not One-Off Britishisms

A notable difference in British and American usage can be found in references to streets or roads. We would normally say, “I live on Parrish Road,” while the British would say, “I live in Parrish Road.” This sounds very strange to American ears–as if the speaker were saying they pitched a tent in the middle […]

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Interactive PowerPoint Games for ESL Students

So, You Think You Can Teach ESL?

Hello everyone! It has been a while since my last real post. I’ve been quite busy since the start of the semester in March, and haven’t had much time to write.

That aside, recently I have found a number of fun and interactive PowerPoint ESL games. I was browsing the Internet for some fun games to help my students review vocabulary or concepts.

The templates you can download have different themes such as Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, Doraemon, and more. They are full of fun images and some even have music from the game/series to keep your students engaged.

The templates are blank with instructions on the first slide about how to add questions, or change images, etc. I’ve tried them out with a couple of my classes, and the kids love them! If you’re looking for a fun activity for your students to do, as well as review content, look no…

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The new £5 note has a major grammar blunder…But have you spotted it?

Bank note 
Bank of England Governor Mark Carney inspects the new plastic £5 note but does not spot incorrect grammar CREDIT:  JONATHAN BRADY

Britain is living in a “post-punctuation world”, academics have warned, with the Bank of England named as the latest major institution to ignore the correct use of the English language.

The Bank has been accused of “dumbing down” after choosing to remove punctuation from a quote by Sir Winston Churchill printed on its new £5 notes.

In its concept image for the new polymer £5 notes the Bank correctly included double quotation marks around the former prime minister’s famous saying: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

However, it has emerged that it quietly dropped them from the final design, something it is understood has attracted complaints from keen-eyed members of the public.

The National Literacy Trust has backed their cause advising that the quote is grammatically incorrect in its current state appearing without a full stop or quotation marks.

£5 note 
The new £5 note featuring a Winston Churchill quote with no full stop or quotation marks   CREDIT: BANK OF ENGLAND 

It is likely to further fuel a national debate over whether proper use of grammar and punctuation is being devalued by society and follows a number of local councils sparking public outrage by banning apostrophes from road signs, after national guidelines warned punctuation could “confuse” emergency services.

Some reversed the decision after members of the public resorted to using marker pens to fill in apostrophes missing from signs.

Prof Alan Smithers, head of the centre for education and employment research at the University of Buckingham, said: “We are living in a post-punctuation world created by big institutions. Some people may dismiss omissions as pedantry, but they have lost sight of the fact that precision of expression reflects precision of thought.”

Speaking about the £5 notes a spokeswoman for the Trust, which aims to improve literacy levels in the UK, said: “If you are referencing a quotation word-for-word, use double quotation marks at the start and end of the quoted section. Place full stops and commas inside the quotation marks for a complete quoted sentence.”

Concept design 
The Bank of England’s original concept design for the new £5 note, which included double quotation marks around Winston Churchill’s words CREDIT: BANK OF ENGLAND 

The Bank had originally included double quotation marks in its concept image for the new polymer £5 notes but quietly dropped them from the final design.

Last night critics suggested the note’s designers had sacrificed “correct” punctuation for the sake of creating an aesthetically pleasing design. A spokesman at the Bank declined to comment.

New polymer £5 notes were introduced in October last year and there are now around 400 million in circulation.

Dr Tara Stubbs, an English lecturer at the University of Oxford, said such omissions were “condescending” and accused the Bank of trying to dumb down grammar.

She said: “It is a bit peculiar because it looks like its the Five Pounds that’s speaking and not Winston Churchill. There should be quotation marks and full stop, definitely. It also doesn’t have the Oxford comma after ‘tears’. To take that stuff out is condescending and I find efforts to dumb down like this just irritating.”

Signpost
A street sign in Cambridge with apostrophes added in marker pen by a member of the public  CREDIT: BEN KENDALL/PA

Prof Smithers also suggested the Bank’s designers “had a poor grasp of grammar”, adding that they were “more concerned about shapes and patterns”.

But the Bank’s scant use of punctuation divided academics and literary experts, with some choosing to defend its decision.

Prof Geoff Pullum, a grammar expert at the University of Edinburgh, dismissed claims that the notes are grammatically incorrect as “a silly myth”.

He said: “The general principle that a full stop is required applies to connected prose. Quote marks would be serving no purpose on the note as its obvious that the quote belongs to the Great Sir Winston.”

And Lisa Appignanesi, chair of the Royal Society of Literature, suggested that the absence of quote marks and a full stop would not have bothered Winston Churchill, were he still alive.

She said: “The eminent Winston Churchill might have wondered why he was on a mere five pound note and not something a little weightier. I don’t know, orator that he was, whether he would have noticed the missing punctuation.”

‘Grammar vigilante’ correcting street, shopfront signs in London

‘Grammar vigilante’ correcting street, shopfront signs in London

Self-proclaimed “grammar nazis,” or those who habitually correct improper grammar, are all over the worldwide web and social media these days.

But one individual took it to the extremes, making it his life’s work to correct bad punctuation in the streets of London.

One unidentified man has been roaming around communities in Bristol at the wee hours to correct improper grammar in street signs and shopfronts, BBC news reported.

Armed with a broom handle, two sponges and a number of stickers—which he calls his “Apostrophiser”—the man has been placing missing apostrophes on shop banners for the past 13 years.

“I’m a grammar vigilante,” the man who wished to remain incognito told the news outlet. “I do think it’s a cause worth pursuing. I have felt extremely nervous. The heart has been thumping.”

The self-proclaimed grammar police also shared his recent adventures, correcting an errant apostrophe in a local motor shop named “Cambridge Motor’s garage.”

Store owner Paul Cambridge reportedly caught him in the act, but decided to let the man do his work. “We put up a sign and I caught him at the front attempting to scrub off permanent marker,” he said in a separate Telegraph report. “I said to him, ‘What are you doing?’ and he said, ‘You’ve got a rogue apostrophe there.’”

However, not all store owners were particularly fond of his doings.

Although his hobby is seemingly harmless, some considered it “rude” that he would alter signs without the owner’s knowledge. Others complained about the supposed permanent damage to their signs, which cost a substantial amount to replace.

Authorities in the area, meanwhile, said they received no complaints regarding the man’s actions.

Demise of English Grammar teaching

Johnson: Talking past each other

University programmes should do more teaching of language, not just literature

SOME advice is worse than useless. A short list of bullet points from eHow, a website, that is passing around social networks purports to show “how to write good.” (Each rule was jokingly broken in explaining it.) Unfortunately, it will not help most people write good. Two of the rules explained not to split infinitives or end sentences with a preposition. But both “split infinitives” and sentence-ending prepositions have been native to English, used by the finest writers, for centuries. The rest of the eHow list included the injunction that “the passive voice is to be avoided”.  But sadly, many writers, even professionals, cannot recognise the grammatical passive voice. (Here is a compendium of examples of writers calling out others for using the passive, when no passive has been used.)

The public understanding of grammar is in bad shape. There is blame to go round, but the simplest approach is to look at the teaching of the subject known as “English” at schools and universities.

Many schools have downplayed grammar teaching, so much so that pupils often first encounter words like “past participle” and “subordinate clause” in a foreign-language class, not in English. Traditional sentence-diagramming, though flawed, at least once taught students to break a sentence into its syntactic parts. Systematic grammatical analysis is now as hard to find as an inkwell in a school. Schools focus—rightly, as far as it goes—on getting students to organise their thoughts into essays. But they have de-emphasised the art of organising words into phrases, phrases into clauses, and clauses into well-crafted sentences. Many school-leavers in English-speaking countries cannot even say what a clause is. How are they supposed to systematically craft good ones?

But the problem goes deeper, to teacher training. Many English teachers struggle as much as students with phrases and clauses. They can correct common mistakes (“don’t confuse ‘effect’ and ‘affect’”) and teach punctuation (“it’s” versus “its”). But many could not confidently and correctly break the words of a complex sentence down by function. This seems to be due to a divorce long ago between the study of language itself and what college departments teach future teachers in the “English” departments.

In short, university English departments teach literature, not language. In Johnson’s brief look at the English-major requirements for five top American universities, not one requires a course on the English language itself. The picture is similar in Britain and elsewhere.

English majors become English teachers. They have spent years learning how to analyse poems, stories, novels and plays—but, in the average case, not a single semester analysing sentences. This is reflected in schools’ curricula: designed by former English graduates, they often require year after year of literature, but not a single focused course on the language itself. Many teachers must squeeze grammar teaching in where possible. Of course many good English teachers understand, and teach, English grammar well. But it is too often despite, rather than because of, their own university training.

The study of language itself has fallen to a separate academic field: linguistics. Unfortunately, linguistics and English departments have little to no interaction. Linguists have learned much about English grammar in the past century, but since linguistics became its own discipline, it has focused on its own narrow internal debates, with little of the influence that (say) psychology or economics have on the wider world, even though language is a topic of intense interest.

As a result of the divorce of language and literature, linguistics has developed an entire hoard of basic terms to describe sentences that are utterly unknown to English teachers. Take “determiner”. This is a basic class of words that includes the, a, an, three, this, that, my, his, many and many others. The reason linguists talk about determiners is that they all play the same kind of syntactical role, and are quite different from adjectives, the category they’ve traditionally been crammed into. Many other basic terms of syntax, like “complement” and “adjunct”, are virtually uknown outside the field, though they’re crucial for understanding how English grammar works.

The upshot is that those responsible for teaching English in schools pass on rules they memorised in high school, rather than a university-level understanding of grammar itself. It would be as though chemistry teachers taught “don’t drink mercury”, “hydrochloric acid is corrosive” and “burn this and it will yield a blue flame”, but had only a fuzzy understanding of particles, atoms and molecules.

Therefore, a small proposal: English departments should require an interdisciplinary class with linguistics on the grammar of the English language. Literature departments should cultivate more scholars who focus on language itself rather than literature alone. (Their academic research could focus on historical changes in English; how literary writers employ grammar devices; data-driven analysis of great English writing; the use of dialect and non-standard English; and so on.) In exchange, linguistics departments should require their students to take an English department class, to let those scientifically minded students broaden their horizons with the close reading of literary texts.

This should then pass through to schools. Linguistics and English departments should talk at conferences about how to improve pupils’ and students’ learning of language analysis, with a view to reviving and modernising grammar in schools. The upper years of high school should include a course focused purely on the language, rather than squeezing grammar teaching into literature courses.

Telling students not to split infinitives or end sentences with prepositions is wrong. But it would be only a small improvement to teach: “Split infinitives and end sentences with prepositions.” It would be much better to teach what a preposition really does, and how an infinitive really behaves. Understanding is tougher than memorisation. But on the bright side, students would come away not just with a memorised list of “do this, don’t do that,” but with a real appreciation for the intricate clockwork that is English grammar.

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