"So there are Oliphaunts. But no one at home will ever believe me."
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A chordingly

A little fun fact: on the Mac you can type alternate characters using by holding down the option key while pressing the letter (the use of two or more keys in tandem to send input to the computer is known as a chord—the most common ones obviously being uppercase characters).

Some of my favorites:

  • The em dash—for making asides—is longer than a plain hyphen: opt + SHIFT + -
  • The ellipsis, dot dot dot… can be typed as a single character… opt + ;
  • Degree sign, opt + 0 (that’s the number zero, as in 0º, not a capital o).

Of course there are many other useful ones, such as currency symbols.

Some characters need accent marks. You enter these with a combination of chords. If you enter option + e, your cursor turns into a highlight with the acute accent (´). If the next character you type can take an accent, it will be printed with the accent: á é í ó ú. If it can’t be accented, you’ll just get a the accent all by itself, plus the new character (as above inside parenthesis.

Some combinations I figured out by playing around:

  • Acute ´: opt + e
  • Umlaut ¨: opt + u
  • Circumflex ˆ: opt + i

Finally, there are the ligatures we should see more often: œ and æ. They’re in there, but hiding.

May 21, 2010   Comments Off

Caveman Grammar

I just taught what was quite likely the best 25 minute introduction to grammar, ever, and I made it all up on the fly.

I did it by describing language as developing first from the caveman’s desire to name things, and from that came the first NOUNS. So any word that names a thing—objects, people, ideas—is a NOUN. Next cavemen wanted to describe those things by size, shape, or color, so the ADJECTIVE was invented. Eventually it wasn’t enough to talk about things, and people needed to talk about what things-with-names were doing, so VERBS were created. Just like the ADJECTIVE was needed to NOUN, the ADVERB was needed to describe the VERB’S activity.

It may sound simple, but those guys learned more about the parts of speech in 25 minutes that they had in four years of high school. They were able to identify word roles easily where 30 minute earlier they couldn’t even say with confidence what the parts of speech were.

Of course language almost certainly did not develop that way at all, but that’s some effective pedagogy.

May 19, 2010   Comments Off