Six things teachers always say

Insert what you always say here.

This is a post I have been meaning to do for some time. What words and phrases do we always use as teachers?

1. OK

Perhaps not so unusual as it is supposed to be the most frequent discourse marker in the English language (for a humorous take on the various uses of OK, see here)

2. Right

Again, this is a typical teacher “signalling” device. I use this all the time, I must confess.

3. Very good

A common and useful form of praise from the teacher, or is it? According to research by Jean Wong and Hansun Zhang Waring in the United States, the highly frequent use of ‘very good’ by teachers may not always be indicative of positive feedback and in fact may inhibit learning opportunitites (see ELTJ volume 63/3 July 2009)

4. Today we’re going to…

Many English classes around the world begin very much with these words I think. Not much of a problem unless it ends up being a rather long tedious ramble that takes up the first quarter of the class.

5. Quiet please!

Well, teachers of business executives perhaps not but I’d be willing to bet that this phrase gets a lot of usage in young learner classrooms (or a close equivalent)

6. (open your books to) Page … please

I’ve given whole workshops devoted to finding alternatives to saying this in class. This common phrase can be quite a killjoy, especially if they are the first words out of a teacher’s mouth at the beginning of class.

There are two good ways to find out if you are overusing a certain word or phrase. One is to record yourself over a series of classes and watch. The second is to ask your cheekiest student to do an imitation of you. I am not sure which is more painful!

What word or words do you overuse? Post a comment.

Published in: on January 30, 2010 at 8:56 am  Comments (48)  
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Six amazing words you never knew existed

WHIFFLE JPEG

Blogging is an amazing thing. The other day I got a message via my blog from an author whose book I had bought as a Christmas present for my father a few years back. His name is Adam Jacot de Boinod and the book in question was The Meaning of Tingo. His new book, The Wonder of Whiffling (pictured above) comes out this week.  We exchanged a few emails and, never one to miss a trick, I asked him if he would like to propose six amazing words that you wouldn’t recognize. He duly obliged, and I include them below.

1 pingle (Suffolk) to move food about on the plate for want of an appetite

2 mumpish (1721) sullenly angry; depressed in spirits

3 crambazzled (Yorkshire), prematurely aged through drink and a dissolute life

4 cagg (UK military slang b1811) a solemn vow or resolution used by private soldiers not to get drunk for a certain time

5 twizzling (Sussex dialect) spinning a pointer on a pub ceiling to decide who should buy the next round

6 shangle (Cumberland + Westmoreland dialects) to fasten a tin or kettle to a dog¹s tail

The English teacher and materials writer in me thought of adding example sentences but why not leave that for the comments?

For those of you who are word lovers, please check out Adam’s book and website. Thanks Adam!

Published in: on September 22, 2009 at 10:20 am  Comments (9)  
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Six ugly words in English

An image of 'ugly toys' - what about ugly words?

On a recent absent-minded surf of the web, I came across Wordie. Wordie is the kind of site after my own heart. Its tagline is “Like Flickr but without the photos”. Wordie allows you to make lists of words and people can add, comment or vote on them. An hour or so wasted there yielded the following little gem of a list: ugly words that had been cited by users of the site. I list them here, along with definitions from the Macmillan Dictionary (I used their site to get these quickly, of COURSE I knew the meanings of all of them before!)

harangue – to speak to someone in a loud angry way for a long time, in orderto criticize them or to try to change their opinion It DOES look kind of ugly when I see it written down actually.

2. subpoena an official legal document that says you must come to a court oflaw to give information I bet this one is in there because 1) people hate getting these and 2) it looks like murder to spell, I doubt I could spell this one correctly.

3. quaff to drink something quickly or with a lot of enjoyment I don’t understand, I really LIKE this word! Maybe it’s the double ‘f’ at the end…

4. unctuous seeming to be interested, friendly, or full of praise, but in a way that is unpleasant because it is not sincere. Yes, this feels ugly both in meaning and in form. I think it’s the consonant cluster at the beginning.

5. visceral relating to basic emotions that you feel strongly and automatically I agree this is an ugly word to spell and feels ugly in my mouth when I say it.

6. onus – if the onus is on someone to do something, it is their responsibility or duty to do it. I can only think of one reason someone would nominate this as an ugly word, and that’s because it looks like the word ‘anus’. Otherwise, I don’t see anything ugly at all about it.

I don’t know if I would share these with students, but it could make an interesting question. I often ask students to list what they say are their favourite or most beautiful words but I hadn’t thought of asking the reverse. Of course all of this is subjective, but these things can help people remember words and are always good for people who enjoy language.

What do you think? What are your own “ugly” words in English and why? Post a comment.

Published in: on September 11, 2009 at 10:53 am  Comments (35)  
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