Friday, May 27, 2022

Murphy's Law (Idiom)


Murphy's Law may have originated in the scientific or engineering community (but no one knows who "Murphy" was). It is usually stated:

Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Some call this "Murphy's First Law" because there are many (maybe hundreds of) corollaries. Here are a few:

  • Nothing is as easy as it looks.
  • Everything takes longer than you think it will.
  • If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.
  • Every solution breeds new problems.
  • If your project doesn't work, look for the part you didn't think was important.
  • The ideal resume will turn up one day after the position is filled.
  • No matter how good a bargain you get, the price will drop after you buy it.
  • A spoon of wine in a barrel of sewage makes sewage. A spoon of sewage in a barrel of wine makes sewage.


(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons; CTTO)

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Poetic Meter (Written Conventions of English)

POETIC METER (Written Conventions of English)

Meter is the "beat" in a line of poetry. Even natural speech can have meter, but here are some formal "feet" used by poets (note that ^ means a light beat and / a heavy one):


  • Iamb: ^ / "inDEED" This was Shakespeare's chosen meter; with five feet in a line it is called "iambic pentameter": "But soft, what light through yonder window breaks?"
  • Trochee: / ^ "WAter"  Poe's "The Raven" begins: "Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary..."
  • Spondee: / / "BIRTHDAY" All but "On thy" in these lines by Tennyson are spondaic: "Break, break, break, On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!"
  • Dactyl: / ^ ^ "YESterday" Dactylic lines often end with a trochee, as in Longfellow's Evangeline: "This is the forest primeval. The murmuring pines and the hemlocks..."
  • Anapest: ^ ^ / "underSTAND" Look at this familiar line: "'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house..."


Lines are also named for the number of feet contained in them (as in "iambic pentameter" above). Some are:

  1. = monometer
  2. = dimeter
  3. = trimeter
  4. = tetrameter
  5. = pentameter
  6. = hexameter
  7. = heptameter
  8. = octameter


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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Recruitment (Vocabulary: Business Terms)

RECRUITMENT (Vocabulary: Business Terms)

Recruitment is the process of finding suitable candidates to fill a position in a company. Steps include:

  • identifying and spelling out the need;
  • attracting candidates (by word of mouth or some times by advertising);
  • interviewing and selecting the right candidate; and
  • hiring and bringing the person onto staff.

In larger companies this may be done by the Human Resources ("HR") Department. The next step will probably be training. A person who has just been recruited might be called a "new recruit."

Recruiting techniques may include:

  • Internal recruitment: hiring current employees to a new position;
  • External recruiters: Hiring professionals to find your ideal candidates;
  • Career fairs (also called "job fairs"): Attending events where candidates meet with representatives of several companies;
  • Campus recruiting: Like a job fair for hiring soon-to-be graduates.


(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons; CTTO)

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Reproductive cloning (Scientific Advances)

REPRODUCTIVE CLONING (Scientific Advances)

Reproductive cloning (also called "organism cloning") is the implantation of a cloned embryo into a uterus, whether natural or artificial. The embryo then develops into a fetus that is then carried to full term. Dolly the Sheep was the first mammal cloned from an adult somatic (non-reproductive) cell, back in 1996, the result of some 435 attempts; she lived for six years, until euthanized due to a progressive lung disease unrelated to being cloned. Prior to Dolly, frogs and various kinds of fish had been cloned; since Dolly, a wide variety of mammals has been reproductively cloned, but no humans--so far, due to ethical concerns. (Therapeutic cloning--the creation of tissues for use in medical procedures--is being actively researched, but has not been put into practice.)


(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons; CTTO)

Monday, May 23, 2022

Beggars can't be choosers


Meaning: Someone who depends on others can't insist on having things a certain way.

  • "Beggars" here is not necessarily literal.


Mini-Dialogue: Roy sees Liz, and she's making a face.

Roy: What's the matter, Liz?
Liz: My car is broken, and won't be ready 'til next Tuesday.
Roy: That's too bad. How did you get here?
Liz: Oh, one of my friends picked me up.
Roy: So why do you look upset?
Liz: Well, he smokes in the car!
Roy: Have you said anything about it?
Liz: No, I'm afraid if I do, he won't drive me anymore.
Roy: Yeah, I guess beggars can't be choosers. Just open a window and deal with it.
Liz: Good idea.  


Question: You might say this proverb to someone who:

   A. doesn't like a movie she saw with her boyfriend.
   B. needs help with homework after school.
   C. has a messy roommate, but needs help with the rent.




(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons; CTTO)

Friday, May 20, 2022

The Planets (Great Music)

THE PLANETS (Gustav Holst, English, 1914-1917)

Each movement of Holst's seven-movement orchestral suite The Planets is named for one planet and reflects musically that planet's supposed character. (Earth and the not-yet-discovered Pluto--now no longer a planet, I think--were not included.) The whole thing can be performed in less than an hour. The titles of the movements hint at their style:

  1. Mars, the Bringer of War
  2. Venus, the Bringer of Peace
  3. Mercury, the Winged Messenger
  4. Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity
  5. Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age
  6. Uranus, the Magician
  7. Neptune, the Mystic

Though some critics were disapproving, the piece has remained popular with audiences since its first full public performance in 1920. Holst himself conducted two of the at least 80 recordings of the work.


(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons; CTTO)

Thursday, May 19, 2022

4 Boxing Idioms


IDIOM: in your corner

  • MEANING: on your side
  • EXAMPLE: If you get arrested, you need a good lawyer in your corner.

IDIOM: take off the gloves

  • MEANING: get serious about something
  • EXAMPLE: If we want to win the sales competition, we'll have to take off the gloves.

IDIOM: be saved by the bell

  • MEANING: win unexpectedly, at the last moment
  • EXAMPLE: He was about to kiss me when my mom came out; I was saved by the bell.

IDIOM: throw in the towel

  • MEANING: give up; surrender
  • EXAMPLE: If we don't do better soon, we'll have to throw in the towel.


(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons; CTTO)

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Spoonerisms (Figures of Speech)

SPOONERISMS (Figures of Speech)

Pity the Rev. Dr. William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930), an Oxford don (for more than sixty years!) who, in addition to being notoriously absent-minded, was also prone to switching around syllables in his speech, a gaffe that has come to be known as a "Spoonerism." They are often humorous, and since his time more such phrases have been attributed to Dr. Spooner than he could possibly have said. Here are some good ones (can you guess what they mean?)

  • "Three cheers for our queer old dean!" (to praise Queen Victoria)
  • "It is kisstomary to cuss the bride." (to a groom)
  • "Mardon me padam, this pie is occupewed. Can I sew you to another sheet?" (in church)
  • "The Lord is a shoving leopard." (in a sermon)
  • "You have hissed all my mystery lectures, and were caught fighting a liar in the quad. You have tasted the whole worm!" (to a student)


(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons; CTTO)

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Literary Genres (Vocabulary: Art Terms)

LITERARY GENRES (Vocabulary: Art Terms)

Here are five genres (categories) of writing and the people who write them:

  • novels and novellas: These are longer works of fiction; shorter novels may be called novellas (though there is no exact number of pages to divide one from the other). People who write novels or novellas are called novelists.
  • short stories: These are decidedly shorter works of fiction. Where a novel may have multiple plots and subplots, a short story is generally a single "thread" of story. There is no special word for people who write short stories; we usually just say "short story writers."
  • poems: Poems, of course, are different from the above two genres (which are called prose). They may have a special rhyme or meter (or they may not) but they're usually fairly easy to recognize. People who write poems are called poets.
  • plays or dramas: These are works written to be performed, usually live on a stage. They may be serious (dramas or tragedies) or amusing (comedies). In any case, the people that write them may be called playwrights or dramatists.
  • essays: These are thought pieces, usually based on facts and including the writer's ideas about those facts. Such writers are called essayists.

There are of course other types of writing--for films, songs, speeches, textbooks, and so on. But these are the main types for what we call "literature."


(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons; CTTO)

Monday, May 16, 2022

Logic (Philosophy)

LOGIC (Philosophy)

In everyday speech, "logic" just means something like "clear thinking." But in formal terms, there are straightforward rules like these:

  • If A, then B; A, therefore B.

Example: If I work 8 hours, I will be paid $120; I worked 8 hours, therefore I got paid $120.

  • Similarly, if A, then B; not A, therefore not B.

Example: I always smile when I'm happy; I'm not smiling, so I must not be happy.

  • A is B; C is A. Therefore C is B.

Example: All humans are mortal; Socrates is human; therefore Socrates is mortal.

  • Either A is true or B is true. One of these isn't true, so the other must be.

Example: Only two people could have murdered Pat--Mike or Doug. But Doug was in Spain, therefore Mike killed Pat.


Valid is not the same as true. The arguments are valid, so the conclusion ("therefore") is valid. But the premises (the first parts) must be true for the conclusion to be true. In the last example, if Doug wasn't in Spain, he still could have killed Pat.


(Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons; CTTO)