Friday, December 14, 2007

Today's Word—Holiday Special

This marks the end of the 2007 half of the WORD's 2007-08 season.

The WORD itself is nibbling holly and contemplating even more sloth than usual as the padded van arrives to take him off to St. Mumbles for the holidays.

The fall semester is more or less in the books, and as Emile de la Bedollierre reminds us, all that's left to do is let our charges go and hope for the best....

On Optimism:

“We have launched our Student in the world; we have seen him shake off the dust of the schools; and now nothing remains but to wish him a successful career, and a throng of clients, so that he may not be obliged, after long and bootless efforts, to scribble for a newspaper....”
Emile de la Bedollierre (1812-1883), French author, in his essay, “The Law Student,” 1840 (Thanks to alert WORDster Bruce Adomeit)


We also are left with a hopeful thought (?) from our Glorious Leader, who observes,

“And so during these holiday seasons, we thank our blessings....”President George W. Bush, 2004
( (Thanks to alert holiday WORDster Trina Patterson)

(For a German perspective on why President Bush says what he says, see with thanks to our alert foreign correspondent Matthias Petry)

With these modest gifts, that's a wrap for us. The warmest holiday wishes to the extended WORD family, from Iraq to Japan to Oxford to Downeast Maine. May your days be merry and bright, and here's to a safe, saner and happy new year. See you again then.

"God bless us, every one!"—Tiny Tim


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Today's Word—Do-Gooders of the Press


"I really believe with all my heart and soul that there is not one problem that can't be resolved by good people. That is the drive for me as a journalist."

Jim Lehrer, journalist and host of PBS’s “NewsHour,” 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Today's Word—Commonality

NOTE: In yesterday's WORD, Christopher Morley urged us to read or think "something no one else is." Today, a different take on technology...


“Thanks to the printing press, the mail coach and the steam packet—gifts beyond the gifts of fairies—we can all see and hear what each other are doing, and do and read the same things nearly at the same time.”

Maria Edgeworth, (1767-1849) Irish author (Thanks to alert WORDster Louise Montgomery)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Today's Word—Different Drummer

Outside the Box:

“Read, every day, something no one else is reading. Think, every day, something no one else is thinking. Do, every day, something no one else would be silly enough to do. It is bad for the mind to continually be part of unanimity.”

Christopher Morley (1890-1957), author and founding editor of Saturday Review of Literature

Monday, December 10, 2007

Today's Word—Writers Strike

2.5% Residuals Required:

“We write, they wrong.”

Slogan of the Writers Strike, Week 6, by Law & Order writer Matthew McGough, 2007 (See

Friday, December 7, 2007

Today's Word—The Role of the Press

The Role of the Press:
“America has contributed the concept of news, accurately, completely and realistically presented to millions of minds. It is one of the great contributions America has made to civilization—greater than machines or speed or science.”
Reuel R. Barlow, journalism professor, University of Illinois, 1936

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Today's Word—Question Assumptions

The Inquiring Mind:
“It’s a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.”
Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), writer and philosopher, originally quoted in the Salt Lake Tribune, re-reported in The Week, November 23, 2007. (Thanks to alert WORDster Bud Brewer)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Today's Word—Career Advice

Career advice:
“Coleridge was a drug addict. Poe was an alcoholic. Marlowe was stabbed by a man whom he was treacherously trying to stab. Pope took money to keep a woman's name out of a satire, then wrote a piece so that she could still be recognized anyhow. Chatterton killed himself. Byron was accused of incest. Do you still want to be a writer—and if so, why?”
Bennett Cerf (1898-1971), co-founder of Random House (Thanks to alert WORDster Tom McGuire)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Today's Word--On Books

Book Nutrition:
“When I am king, they shall not have bread and shelter only, but also teachings out of books, for a full belly is little worth where the mind is starved.”
Mark Twain (1835-1910), writer, journalist and reader, from The Prince and the Pauper (1881).

Monday, December 3, 2007

Today's Word--Radio Days

The Power of the Press:

“The power in the freedom of the press is a flaming sword! That it may be a faithful servant of all the people ... use it justly ... hold it high ... guard it well.”
—Opening lines to the radio series Big Town, 1937-1952.

(Thanks to alert WORDster Philip Meyer)
(See "The Thrilling Days of Yesteryear" ( "Nostalgia isn't what it used to be." --Peter DeVries) )

Friday, November 30, 2007

Today's Word--On Critical Thinking

TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM—Friday, Nov. 30, 2007

On Critical Thinking:
“There are two ways to slide easily through life: to believe everything or to doubt everything. Both ways save us from thinking.”
—Alfred Korzybski (1879-1950), Polish-born author, logician and scientist

About Today's WORD on Journalism

The 2007-08 Season Opener

The WORD has once again shimmied down the drainpipe at St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose and reemerges today to launch another horrific reign of punditry and verbiage.

(If you are one of my students--and if you are, everyone pities you--your assignment for tomorrow is to define and use in a sentence of 25 words or fewer both of those words. Note: Wikipedia is NOT an accepted source!

Compared to this new WORDish onslaught, Voldemort's reemergence was benign. This launch of the 12th season of the WORD (can that be correct?) has nothing to do with Harry Potter, despite the pleas in a recent NYTimes from JK Rowling that the Dark Lord and his sidekick, Dick Wormtail, send dementors and evil deans to rub me out. This request, I think, was embarrassing for all of us. And, seriously: does the vice president read the Times, anyway?

But the Potter reference does make a valid point: It is important when dealing with a monumental, multi-year saga like TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM to recap for those addled few who survive into the 12th season, and for newbies as well.

Back-story: The WORD was concocted ("conceived" is, I think, altogether too grand) in 1995 or so as a way to get my students to pay attention to their email. Strange as it may sound, email was then a new and unpleasant disturbance of the general peace, and many students did not then spend 16 hours a day online. As a professor hoping to get and keep their attention while also instructing them, my object was that the WORD would give them something to think about before class, and which might go on their quizzes.

I think it's fair to say that this strategy was a dismal failure. Most of my students continue to ignore their daily WORDs and gaily accept point reductions on their quizzes for not knowing the day's wordish wisdom from philosophers ranging from Soren Kierkegaard to Brian Williams to Lisa Simpson.

But (as Ronald Weasley might say), I'm not "chuffed" about that. The WORD has become rather frighteningly popular with non-students—grown-ups, mostly, who actually ask to be afflicted or who send email addresses of unsuspecting friends/colleagues/parents/bosses, so that they might be victimized as well.

When the WORD was trundled into St. Mumbles Sanitarium by those nice white-jacketed men last spring, approximately 1,600 (mostly volunteer) victims subscribed to the direct email WORD list. More got the WORD by checking the website, and many more unsuspecting victims were forwarded the daily spam. As if that weren't bad enough, now the WORD has its own blogsite, and the Truly Deluded are invited to pay perfectly good money to get into the WORD's archives, which feature billions of Old Words in a mind-numbing and impenetrable cornucopia. So that's big news.

As usual, we launch this season with the ever-useful wisdom of the genial former colonial guv'ner of Virginia, whose high regard for both education and the press still rings with an increasingly popular fervor today. Enjoy!

“I thank God we have no free schools or printing, and I hope that we shall not have these for a hundred years. For learning has brought disobediences and heresy and sects into the world; and printing has divulged them and libels against the government. God keep us from both.”
--Sir William Berkeley, Governor, Virginia Colony, 1671

And that's the WORD.

* * * * *
TODAY'S WORD ON JOURNALISM is a free "service" available online daily, and sent by email directly to the 1,700 or so misguided volunteer subscribers around the planet. If you have recovered from whatever led you to subscribe and don't want it anymore, send "unsubscribe." Or if you want to afflict someone else, send me the email address and watch the fun begin. (Disclaimer: While I just quote 'em, I don't necessarily endorse 'em. All, in theory, contain at least a kernel of insight.)

Ted Pease, Professor of Interesting Stuff
Utah State University, Logan, Utah
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"Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones, in the right order, you can nudge the world a little." -- Tom Stoppard