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How to Write Good


picture of Grammar Nazi logo

It's so easy to say or write things that are downright weird, simply because of poor wording. Among the most common causes of unclear and sometimes outrageously funny statements are dangling participles, misplaced modifiers, and pronouns with unclear antecedents. As a teacher of language I correct errors to help my students improve their speaking and writing. I hope I don't seem to them to be a grammar Nazi. It's a fine line I have to walk! The goal is clear communication, not stifled communication. Today's iv is a list of examples of poor writing and speaking that I've accumulated, but not from my students. 🙂

Warning: Read this only if you are in a place where you're free to LOL.

Riding along on my bicycle, a dog knocked me over.

Mrs. Shirley Baxter, who went deer hunting with her husband, is very proud that she was able to shoot a fine buck as well as her husband.

Sizzling in the pan, my wife has some okra.

If properly secured, you shouldn't be able to remove the lid.

I saw the man before he died two or three times.

The body was found in an alley by a passer-by with a bullet in his head.

The suspect is about 30 years old, white, 5' 10", with wavy hair weighing about 150 pounds.
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Ban Bread!


picture of biohazard bread

Do you love bread? I do ... and I know I'm not alone. When the low-carb craze ("craze" looks almost like another word we know) was in its hayday here in the USA, people were swearing off bread completely. Fortunately there are now diets out there that are less extreme in their attitudes towards carbohydrates, an essential component to balanced diets. Many people are still careful about their carb intake, but attitudes have mellowed out a little.

Bread has been on my mind this week for several reasons. In my fourth semester French class we are reading a simplified version of Les Misérables. Those of you familiar with the story know that Jean Valjean spent 19 years in prison for stealing bread to feed his sister's seven starving children in the winter. Also quite a bit of my wife's work time on campus this week has been spent helping students with special dietary difficulties. Each year it seems as if there are more and more who struggle with gluten intolerance. These two things in our lives caused me to remember a tongue-in-cheek piece in my files.

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According to a newspaper headline, the "Smell of baked bread may be health hazard." The article went on to describe the dangers of the smell of baking bread. The main danger, apparently, is that the organic components of this aroma may break down ozone. (I'm incapable of making up this kind of stuff!)

I was horrified. When are we going to do something about bread-induced global warming? Sure, we attack tobacco companies, but when is the government going to go after Big Bread?

Well, I've done a little research, and what I've discovered some things about bread that should make anyone think twice.

1. More than 98 percent of convicted felons are bread eaters.
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Oh-Pun Season!


picture of William Tell

Anyone who has read much of my blog knows I love puns. If there's a 12-step program to get me over it, please don't tell me! What is there not to enjoy about a well-crafted pun? I must admit, though, that I'm not as much a fan of long, contorted stories leading to a groaner of a punchline as I was in my younger days. I now prefer short puns that go fairly straight to the target ... like in today's post.

Evidence has been found that William Tell and his family were avid bowlers. However, all the Swiss league records were unfortunately destroyed in a fire, and we'll never know for whom the Tells bowled.

I thought I saw an eye doctor on an Alaskan island, but it turned out to be an optical Aleutian.

A dog gave birth to puppies near the road and was cited for littering.

A rubber band pistol was confiscated in algebra class because it was a weapon of math distraction.
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Back to School!


picture of back-to-school stuff

What do you / did you like best about starting back to school? When I was a child, I think that my favorites were the smell of new pencils and erasers, new paper in my notebook outfitted with dividers for that year's classes, putting book covers on that year's textbooks, and new back-to-school clothes. As a teacher I still love back to school, but for very different reasons. I love seeing my students from previous years who are still in the university — especially if they're in my classes. I love meeting my new students, looking forward to forging some friendships that will go into the future.

I woke up this morning at 5:05, awake as I am now, so I decided to get up and post a special first-day-of-classes iv. I'm sure I'll pay for this this evening when I struggle to stay awake till bedtime.... 🙂

This year it will be fun to watch the reactions of returning students to the new furniture in our classroom, generously provided by the school's alumni. It looks so fresh and roomy — we went from a crowded room with 59 desks to just 35 seats. Ah, room to move around! Here are two pictures of the classroom in which I teach French.
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Watch Out!


picture of an warning sign

Does it seem to you as if we are constantly assailed with warnings? The news is filled with reports of the latest scam, severe weather alerts, travel advisories, and so forth. One week we're warned about eating a certain food, and then the next week the "experts" tell us how dangerous it is to eliminate that very same food from our diet, pronouncing it essential to our good health.

Today's iv is two short stories where the central character would have been well served if he had received a timely warning.
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