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Last week I pushed the envelope here a bit by insisting that native speakers of English may use the verbs "study" and "learn" in different ways. There are also subtle differences in usage between "courtesy" and "decency." As a reality in life and not merely a word, "decency" is the tougher to define.
Last week's column ended with a promise to continue a discussion of a problem that many of us care deeply about. That problem is the apparent dwindling of interest in Taiwan in the study of the English language. Interestingly, an article on this very topic that appeared locally in the interim since last Sunday seems to have used the term "learn" without being conscious of a nuance it has in the United States and perhaps other English-speaking lands.
When I read the question that the freshman had written on a small piece of paper and put into my hand three days ago, a news report of last Monday came to mind.
Newspaper headlines almost always interest, even fascinate me. Forgive me, then, for asking readers today (you, my friends) to take a little quiz at the beginning about a couple headlines. This is an easy quiz, and nothing to worry about.
You'd have thought that having been absent for the past nine weeks, finding a topic this week would have been a cinch for me. Not so, not so.
From the time it began a few years ago, this China Post column has been a fairly free-wheeling affair. The joy I've experienced writing it includes the freedom this newspaper offers me in choice of topics.
It gives me no special pleasure to return to the sad story of the knife incident on our MRT line some eleven days ago. So much has come and gone in the media in the aftermath of the event, however, that there still seems to be a little more to say about it.
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I haven't been to Tunghai University in Taichung for years, but happened to be there for a talk this past Wednesday. Just off the high speed train late that afternoon, I flagged a cab outside the station rather than wait for a bus in the wind and rain. Darkness had just fallen over the city.
When our local news begins to taste dry and I begin to worry about finding a topic to write about in this space, I usually say a prayer and hope for a new survey to appear. You'd be surprised how often my prayer is answered.
Several years ago a student in my "Masterpieces of World Literature" course contacted me in the middle of the semester to say she'd be missing our next class. Her father had just passed away after a long fight with cancer, she said. She'd be staying home to "take care of" her mother for a few days.
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