Friday, October 8, 2010

Teacher's Bookshelf -- The Play of Words

Perhaps more than any other subject, English should be playful. If you can't enjoy playing with words in exactly the same way a that a small child plays with a box of toys (or with words through rhymes and puns and silly strings of syllables), then you have largely missed the point.

That makes books like Richard Lederer's The Play of Words useful verging on essential. This book, a Xerox machine and a loose reading of intellectual property laws has gotten me through countless classes and has made those classes a bit more bearable for the students.

Lederer explores metaphors, clichés, rhyme and alliteration, etymologies and logic puzzles in a way that's thoughtful and addictive. I'll admit there's an art to introducing word games with names like 'inky pinkies' to a class of inner city high school students (never, at any time, use the word 'fun'), but it can be done and it's well worth the effort.

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