(The Blog)

And now for a few words about words (and many other things)...

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Entries in reading (3)


Steve Jobs, Champion of the (Type)Written Word 

The news this week, ever since Wednesday’s passing of Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs at the age of 56, has been filled with stories and commentaries on “How Steve Jobs changed the way we ______.” You can fill in that blank with almost anything: live, think, communicate, study, shop, listen, learn. Perhaps, even the way we dress (apparently, sales of his trademark black mock turtleneck are soaring). And there is at least one article out there honoring Jobs for his company’s contributions to the game of golf.

And, of course, devices like the iPhone and iPad are changing the way we read books (and magazines and the daily “paper” and everything else) and also the way we write, though not always for the better and sometimes against our best intentions (damn you, autocorrect!). The iPad was even hailed by the book industry as “the Jesus tablet” for its potential to bring e-books to the masses and make them profitable for publishers. And while Jobs is not wholly responsible for the way the rise of the digital age has both burdened and broadened our language, he and his ideas have played a major role and his company has itself added many new words to the English lexicon, not to mention introducing the phenomenon of putting a little “i” in front of just about everything.*

*My wife is an ophthalmologist and a couple years ago I ordered her what I thought was a hilarious T-shirt custom-printed with the word “iDoc.” It dawned on me the other day that she’s never worn it. I asked if she still had it. “Oh,” she said. “Yeah.” That was the end of the conversation.  

However, what I hadn’t fully realized until this week is that Jobs has also had an effect on everything we read, not just on screen, but in books, too, and (physical) magazines and newspapers, on signs and posters, and anything else designed and printed in the last few decades with aid of a computer. Not necessarily the content, but what we see when we look at words. Open any book and you’ll likely notice it somewhere between the copyright and the acknowledgments: the name of the font.

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Intelligible player downfield...

Thankfully, now that the NFL lockout is over, we can get back to hearing SAT words being used properly and effectively. At least in certain cases. Today, there's this dispatch, on new Philadelphia Eagles defensive back Nnamdi Asomugha, from the Reading Eagle:*

"There was a market out there with numbers that the media assumed I wanted," Asomugha said. " It's funny, you know, you don't pay as much attention to it because everything happened so fast, but you heard the apocryphal stories about the things that I'm expecting as far as numbers."

Apocryphal. I had to check my tape recorder to make sure that's what he said. Then I looked it up to make sure again.

A star on the field, his vocabulary is apparently at an All-Pro level, too.

*I know, I know. For the record, that's the Reading Eagle, a newspaper from the town in Pennsylvania, not the "reading Eagle," as in "a Philadelphia pro football player who can see and comprehend written material"—though either, ahem, reading would be perfectly understandable here.

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...and 'rithmetic is probably important, too.

Recently, I'd been feeling guilty that I was not one of those dads (or, at the time, a dad-to-be) who felt the need to read to my child (that is, child-to-be) while she was still in the womb. It's not that we didn't think she could hear us—we knew from the way she would start kicking whenever there was loud music, particularly music with a heavy, fast beat,* that she could and would respond to voices and other sounds.

*In fact, that she is outside of the womb, one of the sounds that can be almost guaranteed to calm her is any song by Lady Gaga, played at a slighty higher-than-pleasant volume. We'll see how long this lasts.

So I was relieved to see that now, almost two months post-womb, we still haven't missed the real opportunity to teach our daughter through words: "...new educational research shows that writing is as fundamental to a child’s development as reading." A new book, Your Child's Writing, by Pam Allyn, recommends which steps to take at each age, from starting a "word jar" with your child's favorite words to exposing your child to a variety of writing styles, and then—eventually—letting her "develop her own writing identity."

Nothing, fortunately, about which MFA program to enroll her in.