Jewish World Review May 8, 2003 / 6 Iyar, 5763
I don't duck spelling debates
http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Americans have recently been advised to use duct tape to provide protection against a terror attack. Americans may be surprised to find that the original name of the cloth-backed, waterproof adhesive product was duck tape, so called because it repels water.
Linguists have identified a language called Motherese. Its how mothers speak to their children and their pets.
Mothers talking to their babies speak in a distinctive high pitch, exaggerate the emotional quality of their voices and draw out the sounding of vowels. These intuitive behaviors apparently impart lessons in how to speak or at least how to understand a native language.
Dog and cat owners also use a high pitch and amplify emotional intonations, but they dont stretch out their vowels.
Mothers exhibited none of these acoustic signatures when talking with other adults.
My linguistic genius friend, Dave Morice, and I have come up with a challenging cinematic quiz:
The answers repose at the end of this weeks column.
I recently spent a terrific day working with 4th and 5th graders at Adobe Bluffs Elementary School in Penasquitos, California. Kids of that age are bundles of hormones poured into sneakers, but they respond enthusiastically to puns, palindromes, and other kinds of language fun. In fact, the children made posters to celebrate my coming, and these placards included "Richard Lederer, the Famous Writer" and "Richard Lederer, the Popular Speaker."
But my favorite placard read "Richard Lederer, the Wanted Comedian."
Answers to the quiz: Harrison Ford (there were two presidents Harrison) played President James Marshall in "Air Force One"; Ronald Reagan played Philadelphia Nationals pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander in "The Winning Team." Harrison Ford starred in the early "Star Wars" films, and Ronald Reagan was a staunch proponent of a Star Wars anti-missile defense system.
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JWR contributor Richard Lederer is a language maven. More than a million of his books, which have been Book-of-the-Month Club and Literary Guild alternate selections, are in print. He is the host of "A Way With Words," on KPBS, San Diego Public Radio, and a regular guest on weekend "All Things Considered." He was awarded the Golden Gavel for 2002 by Toastmasters International. Comment by clicking here.
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