As I prepare a mid-term examination these days for students in a survey course in American Literature, I am quite conscious of a doubt that's been nagging at me the past three or four years.
My Facebook screen recently brought a photo from California that put a smile on my chops. It showed a little boy, perhaps seven or eight years old, the son of a treasured former student. He was all fixed up in his Halloween costume. I so concluded because "Trick or Treat" appeared above the picture.
With a ban on religious instruction, which today affects families with children in more than 2,000 schools in Xinjiang, China deserves more public attention, I fear, than it is getting. Reasons easily come to mind to explain why international (and local) media are not rushing to cover the story. A brief word first, however, on the news itself.
I just looked up "aggressive" in a fat dictionary which promises in a blurb on its cover to help writers to improve their efforts (hmm). The scholars there split their definition into two parts.
Commentators in the media are expressing generally positive views on the cautious first steps that nearly 200 Catholic bishops, priests and lay persons have taken in recent days at what is shaping up to be a groundbreaking meeting in Rome, called a synod. The steps involve lengthy discussions, followed by straight from the shoulder feedback from participants representing a wide gamut of personal, theological, and social views on the concept of family.
Responding in part to space I recently offered to two common English words ("We must distinguish between studying and learning English" 9-28-14) a friend wants me to say more here on language related issues. Her wish reached me after last week's attention to the term "decency" appeared, albeit in a social, not to say political context ("On decency and the HK protests" 10-5-14).
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.