There are some seriously bookish, utterly geeky friends who populate my little corner of the world. As you might imagine, this tends to lead to some rather odd discussions. There are probably not too many groups of people who would consider parsing when and how they use possessive terms as casual discussion over drinks. It … Continue reading Possessive


Swearing in the Classroom

Ji-eon approached me while I stood at the lectern. She sheepishly grabbed a  black dry erase marker and wrote “sheet” followed by the word “shit.” Her cheeks flushed in embarrassment. “How to say?” she asked. I showed her the vowel sounds and had her mimic them back to me. The i in kid or lift … Continue reading Swearing in the Classroom

Alas, Chocolate Funeral

We worked in our university's commissary, regularly skinning fifty pounds of potatoes and slicing eighty pounds of onions and doing all sorts of extremely mundane tasks. She was Russian and very serious and never took a liking to my feeble attempts at making our job slightly more enjoyable. She was not impressed by my singing … Continue reading Alas, Chocolate Funeral

Cussing in Creative Writing

Fairly recently, Tom Hanks dropped the F-bomb on Good Morning America and the bad word police shit their pants in response. It’s irritating that I’m from a country that has organizations devoted to monitoring television for profanity. But since I’m a writer who grew up in a culture where swearing is the eighth deadly sin, … Continue reading Cussing in Creative Writing

Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo

Standing in the checkout line at the local grocery are two 22 year olds. They were married at 18. Young, the people said, but in love and not stupid (at least not that stupid) and both of them have a maturity that comes from years of self-reliance. As they step up to the register, their … Continue reading Foxtrot Uniform Charlie Kilo

Lovely Words

Foist Oxford tells us that to foist is to "impose an unwelcome or unnecessary person or thing on". Much more interesting is the example given by reference.com, "to foist political views into a news story." Bulldozer This word has a great, buzzy sound that evokes tank-like treads rumbling down the asphalt as we drive by, … Continue reading Lovely Words

Spitting Out the Words

When you curse in a story, what are you trying to do? Are you trying to shock the easily titillated? Are you trying to express a mood or help define a character? Are you trying to seem "realistic" and appeal to the jaded? Many people curse without thinking about it. Some people even have a … Continue reading Spitting Out the Words

Synaptic Renaissance

One of the best lessons I learned in college was never formally taught in the classroom. Instead, it manifested itself organically through a series of interactions with a professor who decided, for whatever reason, to take me under his wing. In short, Dr. Queen1 taught me that one should never stop asking questions. He was … Continue reading Synaptic Renaissance

Grammar Moves on the Dance Floor

Suh-tee-bun! That's my name (스티븐) pronounced in Korean. Each consonant must be followed by a vowel sound, which means my two-syllable name has three syllables when spoken in Korean. Perhaps I'm a bad ESL teacher for not always correcting my students' pronunciation. "No," I could say, "Stee-ven," and I could tap my front teeth and … Continue reading Grammar Moves on the Dance Floor

The Smothering Arms of English

A neighbor of mine, he's trying to improve his English, and he'll sometimes say the wrong word. I usually know what he means, but he's asked me to correct him anyway. This seems like it should be rude of me, but for the sake of my neighbor's education... sure, why not? My neighbor, he's a … Continue reading The Smothering Arms of English