Greek and Latin Roots: “P” Base Words

Next up on our tour of English’s classical base words is “P.” Remember, the following list does not include affixes (prefixes or suffixes); just the core, base words to which affixes are often attached!

If you would like to review previous entries, you can browse the links below:

Base Meaning Example
pac peace pacify
pan(t) all, every panacea, pantomine
p(e)ar appearance, seem apparition, disappear
par(t) produce, beget separate, post partum
past(or) shepherd pasture, pastoral
path(o) feeling, suffering sympathy, pathology
pati, pass feeling, suffering patient, compassion
patr(i), patern father, fatherland patriot, paternity
ped foot, feet pedal, impede
pel, puls, peal drive, push dispel, impulse, repeal
pend, pens weight, hang, pay pendant, suspense
penta five pentagon
petr stone petrify
phem word, saying euphemism
pher bear, go periphery
phil(o), phil(e) love, friend philosophy, Anglophile
phon voice, call, sound telephone
photo light photograph
phragm block, enclose diaphragm
phyt plant neophyte
plac calm, please placate
ple, plex, ply fold, multiply multiple, duplex, imply
plur, plus more plural, plus
pne(um) breathe apnea, pneumonia
pol(is)(it) city, citizen acropolis, political
pon, pos, post, pound put, place components, positive, compound
port carry import
poss, pot power impossible, potentate
preci price, value precious
punct(u), pung pierce puncture, pungent

 

Thoughts on Ediket: First-Come, First-Served Real Time English Editing Services

Full disclosure: I am one of Ediket’s freelance on-call editors. I was not asked or encouraged to write this review, and I do not benefit in any way from writing it. I just believe Ediket is a potential tool, among many, for independent English language learners.

When it comes to improving written English, my favorite tool is still Lang-8. For a free platform, it’s incredibly dynamic and useful.

It just has one drawback: any native speaker can correct your writing, and not all native speakers are created equal. Because it’s very likely that any given submission will be corrected by more than one reader, things get tricky:

This means that you will sometimes get differing or even conflicting corrections. Sometimes users will comment on their corrections and explain their reasoning, but more often than not they don’t. If you don’t have a guide on hand, it can be impossible to understand which of these corrections is the best one, or is actually counter what you were trying to communicate in the first place.

What about those who can’t afford to take a class or hire a tutor, or who otherwise don’t have access to personalized instruction? One option, at least as far as writing is concerned, is Ediket.

Ediket logo

Ediket takes some of the guesswork out of online language correction. The editors (like myself) are, to some degree, vetted. We all have backgrounds in English language and were required to pass a brief editing test to join the site. Thus, Ediket can guarantee a certain level of professionalism and knowledge absent from Lang-8.

The other difference between Ediket and Lang-8 is how the entire site is structured. On Lang-8, any given English “diary entry” is visible to any given English native speaker. There are privacy levels, so that only your friend have access to it, but overall the site is designed to broadcast work to as large an audience as possible. Conversely, any piece you upload to Ediket will only be checked by one person. What you lose in exposure, you gain in consistency and, with any luck, clarity.

No piece on Ediket is checked without commentary from the editor, either. If an editor notices a consistent error on your part (maybe a problem with verb tense, or incorrect usage), they can provide instruction and guidance. It’s not a guarantee that all of them will, of course; rather that they are simply better equipped to be helpful than the typical Lang-8 user. Some editors will go into great detail in their comments, while others are more  brief. I tend to be brief, unless I notice a recurring error or habit.

If you get especially helpful comments from a particular editor, or just like their style, you can choose to work exclusively with them by making a 1-to-1 request that will be funneled directly to the editor in question for them to either accept or reject, rather than the larger job pool. At this point, there isn’t a mechanism for making a particular editor your “default.” If you like someone enough to prefer them exclusively, you have to make a 1-to-1 request with every document you upload. Fortunately, each editor has their own profile page, so we’re easy to find!

The downside is that Ediket is not a free service; you have to pay for a given editor’s time and expertise. The rates are inexpensive enough that I think Ediket can be readily accessible for most students. Additionally, customers are able to earn free credits by referring friends to the service.

Of course, these low rates mean that from an editing standpoint, anything more than a light proofreading or two (with any additional comments, tips, and suggestions) is economically unfeasible. Ediket is in no way a replacement for hiring an attentive and thorough professional editor. As an English study tool, however, Ediket has a place for the independent learner.

Book Review: The Three-Body Problem

I normally don’t pay attention to awards in real time. If I’m browsing a bookstore and I see that a particular book has won this or that prize, it might push me towards buying it rather than putting it back. But nominees? Voting? Nah. I’m still prioritizing my Classics Club journey through the TIME Top 100 Novels list, so I’m not really up to date on new releases (except the ones I get from NetGalley and Blogging for Books).

But sometimes I catch wind of things and my interest gets piqued. That was the case with The Three-Body Problem—and that was mostly because of the Puppies Hugo debacle. Chinese science fiction? Sign me up!

The Three-Body Problem cover
Image courtesy Tor Publishing

Author: Cixin Liu

Translator: Ken Liu

My GoodReads rating: 4 stars

Average GoodReads rating: 3.98 stars

Language scaling: B1/B2+

Plot summary: Nanotechnology expert Wang Miao becomes sucked up in a covert government plot, dating back to the Cultural Revolution, to manage humanity’s first contact with an alien race.

Recommended audience: Fans of hard science fiction; people interested in quantum physics.

In-depth thoughts: The Three-Body Problem is a first contact novel that is very much informed by contemporary breakthroughs (the Large Hadron Collider) and theories (quantum entanglement). It’s an interesting companion piece to The Sparrow, where the scientific expertise isn’t in the tech or the theory but in the culture- and race-building.

 

A comparison between The Three-Body Problem and The Vegetarian is also warranted. Technically, Chinese and Korean are members of different language families (Sino-Tibetan and Koreanic*), but it’s safe to say they are both equally alien to English. Smith and Liu probably faced similar problems regarding not only language but also culture. The Three-Body Problem is steeped in China’s modern history; The Vegetarian in Korean cuisine. Among many other small things, both languages have particular forms of address (especially within families) we don’t use in English.

Ken Liu’s language struck me right away; it’s clear and simple to the point of being choppy. I wasn’t sure if I liked it at fist, but as the story picked up I enjoyed it. Ken Liu and Cixin Liu both give their comments at the end of the novel and Ken Liu discusses the specific issues of translating literary style between cultures with different literary norms and rules:
But there are more subtle issues involving literary devices and narrative technique. The Chinese literary tradition shaped and was shaped by its readers, giving rise to different emphases and preferences in fiction compared to what American readers expect. In some cases, I tried to adjust the narrative techniques to ones that American readers are more familiar with. In other cases, I’ve left them alone, believing that it’s better to retain the flavor of the original.
. . .
The best translations into English do not, in fact, read as if they were originally written in English. The English words are arranged in such a way that the reader sees a glimpse of another culture’s patterns of thinking, hears an echo of another language’s rhythms and cadences, and feels a tremor of another people’s gestures and movements.
. . .
In moving from one language, culture, and reading community to another language, culture, and reading community, some aspects of the original are inevitably lost. But if the translation is done well, some things are also gained — not least of which is a bridge between the two readerships.

Translation notes aside, I only had a small problem with the book. Science fiction has not always been a genre that lends itself to nuanced, mutli-layered characters—often we have a few given archetypes that are faced with a predicament, and the narrative thrust isn’t about their journey as characters but about how the problem is solved. The same tradition seems to have informed The Three-Body Problem as well, though Liu Cixin doesn’t mention any of his science fiction influences or heroes in his afterword. The characters in the story are largely archetypes or just stand-ins; plot points for a story rather than flesh-and-blood people. The exception is Ye Wenjie, who I thought was interesting and compelling. I wish she was in the story more.

Overall it was a great hook for a trilogy. Once I finish Swedish class, I’ll definitely be picking up the sequels as a treat for myself.

*Korean is sometimes grouped in with Altaic languages and sometimes considered its own isolated family. Either way, it’s not linguistically connected to Chinese the same way that English is connected to, say, German.

Greek and Latin Roots: “O” Base Words

Apologies for my sudden disappearance! I clearly overestimated how much time I’d have to blog during this academic quarter. I’m back on an even keel now, so let’s continue with our list of “O” base words based on Greek and Latin sources.

Base Meaning Example
oct(a) eight octave
ocl(e), ocul eye monocle, binoculars
od song parody, ode
odont tooth orthodontist
omni all, every omnivore
onym word; name pseudonym
ortho straight orthodoxy
ov sheep ovine

 

NaNoWriMo Check-In

The good news is that I took a little under one week to finish all of the revisions I intended to space out over a month.

The bad news is that over the course of reworking it for a second time, I’ve stumbled upon yet more changes I want to make. They’re smaller than the changes I made in the first round, but they’re not insignificant. Though, I also realized I wanted to effectively double the length of the story, which is quite significant. But it has to be done for the sake of the story.

The worst news is that I haven’t been working on it at all since the election results. A lot of my focus and energy has had to go elsewhere over the last few days. My postmodern epistolary anti-bildungsroman can take a back burner for now.

Book Review: The Vegetarian

 

Image courtesy Portobello Books
Image courtesy Portobello Books

Author: Han Kang

Translator: Deborah Smith

My GoodReads rating: 3 stars

Average GoodReads rating: 3.62 stars

Language scaling: B1/B2+

Plot summary: Horrific nightmares lead Yeong-hye to become a vegetarian. The people around her struggle to understand this decision.

Recommended audience: The relatively short length of the story, as well as the clear language of Smith’s translation, make The Vegetarian a great book for EFL students, but some of the content means it’s best suited for teenage readers and older.

Content warning: Brief scenes of domestic violence and sexual assault.

In-depth thoughts: You might recall that I wrote about The Vegetarian a few posts back; in particular, I was impressed with the story of the English translator. I was lucky enough to get a copy from a friend a couple of weeks, so I sat down to read it right away.

As far as the translation goes, I can only speak to the readability of the English prose. Unlike the hiccups I noticed in The InvoiceThe Vegetarian was an effortless read, free of distracting, inconsistent attempts at localization. Admittedly, my own closeness to Swedish may have been what kept me hearing Swedish in The Invoice, but here I could put aside idle thoughts about how a particular phrase or sentence was originally expressed and enjoy the story for what it is.

And what it is is a weird little book. I definitely felt drawn to keep reading and to see how this would all play out, but I don’t know that I enjoyed it. To be more exact: I’m pretty sure I enjoyed it, but I definitely didn’t understand it. But I don’t think I needed to?

The Vegetarian, like so many have pointed out, isn’t really about Yeong-hye becoming a vegetarian. It’s not even about the protagonist at all, which probably makes the appellation of “protagonist” kind of inappropriate. Even though Yeong-hye is the thread that ties all three sections together, we spend most of our time with her husband, her sister, and her brother-in-law (her sister’s husband). Each is the main character of their own section; it is their innermost thoughts and feelings we experience, not Yeong-hye’s. In that way, Yeong-hye is as confusing and impenetrable for the reader as she is for other characters. Becoming a vegetarian is only the beginning of the story for Yeong-hye, and as things escalate you have to wonder: how much of Yeong-hye’s apparent madness was in her all along? How much was the result of her family’s refusal to grant her autonomy?

The Vegetarian was adapted into a 2010 movie of the same name. It’ll be interesting to see how the story turns out on the big screen, and how Lim Woo-seong chose to end it.

Greek and Latin Roots: “N” Base Words

Halfway there! Today’s post features classical base words that begin with “N.” If you want to review previous entries, here they are:

Base Meaning Example
navig sail navigate
neo new neonatal
nihil nothing annihilate
noc, nox harm innocent, noxious
non, nov nine nonagon, November
noun name pronoun
nov new innovate

 

Elizabeth Bishop and Ernest Hemingway: A NaNoWriMo Pep Talk

Full disclosure: this blog post originally appeared, essentially in its entirety, on the Stockholm WriMos Blog. I’m reproducing it here because 1) I wrote it and 2) I still think it’s helpful.

I took a lot of writing workshops in college—par for the course when you’re a Creative Writing major. They were a tough slog, but everything was worth it for this one valuable insight:

First drafts are not the final product.

It sounds so banal, doesn’t it? So self-evident, so obvious. But the difference between what you scribble in that so-late-it’s-early madness and what gets finished (maybe even published!) isn’t just cosmetic. It is huge. Substantive. Significant. If you’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing, you might recall that King touches on this. If you’re an aspiring writer and you haven’t read On Writing, you should, but for this blog post I’ve dug up something even better than King’s example. It illustrates the reality of this little truism better than I ever could.

Elizabeth Bishop and “One Art”

Elizabeth Bishop was an American poet during the middle of the last century. A few of her poems are bound to come up in the study of English writing and American poetry, in particular, her villanelle “One Art.” reproduced below:

One Art

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Pretty stunning little poem, isn’t it? Every time I revisit it, it gets me.

How many drafts do you think it took Bishop to pen this? Certainly a few. But could you quantify it? I’ll let you take a moment to guess.

Ready?

She wrote 16 drafts of this poem.

The truly fantastic thing is that, because she was so contemporary, we have a pretty good record of her stuff, including those drafts. All 16 are still around today (and are, I’m sure, part of some university’s fancy literary collection).

My writing professor photocopied selections from those drafts (images of the original, handwritten drafts!) and handed them out to us as part of her lesson on the importance of revisions. I forget whatever it was she said that day (sorry, professor!) but just seeing those changes and that personal struggle on the way to a finished product was lesson enough. Unfortunately, I failed to keep that handout. But the Internet has preserved their content, if not their original form. Go read them now. Even if you’re not a poet (I’m not). Even if you didn’t like the above poem. My point is not only to illustrate the difference in quality (that is, at the end of the day, subjective) but also the difference in form, in content, in voice.

If you don’t have time to read all of them, then at least read this first draft.

The Art of Losing Things

The thing to do is to begin by “mislaying”.
Mostly, one begins by “mislaying”:
keys, reading-glasses, fountain pens
– these are almost too easy to be mentioned,
and “mislaying” means that they usually turn up
in the most obvious place, although when one
is making progress, the places grow more unlikely
– This is by way of introduction.
I really want to introduce myself – I am such a
fantastic lly good at losing things
I think everyone shd. profit from my experiences.

You may find it hard to believe, but I have actually lost
I mean lost, and forever two whole houses,
one a very big one. A third house, also big, is
at present, I think, “mislaid” – but
Maybe it’s lost too. I won’t know for sure for some time.
I have lost one long (crossed out) peninsula and one island.
I have lost – it can never be has never been found –
a small-sized town on that same island.
I’ve lost smaller bits of geography, like
a splendid beach, and a good-sized bay.
Two whole cities, two of the
world’s biggest cities (two of the most beautiful
although that’s beside the point)
A piece of one continent –
and one entire continent. All gone, gone forever and ever.

One might think this would have prepared me
for losing one averaged-sized not especially——— exceptionally
beautiful or dazzlingly intelligent person
(except for blue eyes) (only the eyes were exceptionally beautiful and
But it doesn’t seem to have, at all … the hands looked intelligent)
the fine hands,

a good piece of one continent
and another continent – the whole damned thing!
He who loseth his life, etc… – but he who
loses his love – never, no never never never again –

The difference between the two is something to be marveled at. Not only for the difference between the first and final drafts, but also for the fact that Bishop had the dedication to work these scant few lines over 16 times until she found what she was looking for.

What’s Ernest Hemingway got to do with it?

This quote gets around a lot, especially during NaNoWriMo, but it bears repeating:

The first draft of anything is shit.

This doesn’t mean that all first drafts (including this one) are automatically mind-breakingly awful. (I would not deign to call a Poet Laureate’s first draft “shit”; that smacks of hubris.) Some certainly are mind-breakingly awful; some are quite good. Chances are yours will fall somewhere in between. But, with rare exception, you will think what you have written is shit. And it is your own judgment call on your work that matters the most, at the end of the day. If you are perfectly content with the first thing that comes out when you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, you are a sparkling rare unicorn but also probably have no need for motivation or inspiration or pep to sit down and write. Why are you even reading this?

Image courtesy Dodgerton Skillhause at MorgueFile.com.
Image courtesy Dodgerton Skillhause at MorgueFile.com.

But if you are not that sparkling rare unicorn who loves everything they write on the first go, then you need to embrace the possibility of your first draft being shit, because at least some of it will be. It is not a pretty truth and it can absolutely get overlooked in all the hype and run-up to NaNo. “Nothing is perfect in a first draft,” they say. True. But that’s a euphemistic spin on this cold, hard truth:

Some, if not all, of your first draft will definitely be terrible.

Not just “not perfect.” Not just “not that good.” Some of it will be awful.

Say it a few times until it sinks in. Look in a mirror if you have to. Channel your inner Elsa and let it go.

You need to have that Zen experience of realizing that you will write shit, the first draft of anything can and probably will be shit, otherwise your dreaded Inner Editor will come out and stop you from adding new words to the paper. If you cannot make peace with that fact, you are going to have a tough time—not only with NaNo, but with writing anything. Ever. For some reason, people seem to be able to apply this lesson to any other skill (drawing, learning a musical instrument, building things) but when it comes to writing people refuse to believe it. Maybe it’s because writing is a skill we study more in school than art or singing or carpentry?

Now, this got pretty bleak, and the point of this was to be a pep talk, wasn’t it? Here is the silver lining of this “it’s all going to be awful” philosophy:

It is one of the most potent cures for Writer’s Block known to WriMos.

Having that Zen moment and giving yourself permission to write shit, through some weird alchemy, turns into giving yourself permission to write. For real. Even if you just do NaNo for fun and have no aspirations to publish or revise or edit or even read what you wrote ever again. Permission to write shit is the big gun you need when a deadline isn’t enough. (For many people, a deadline becomes that path to Zen mastery, but sometimes it’s the other way around.)

It is also an essential part of the revisions process, but more on that in another post.

My first draft? Is definitely going to be terrible. It is going to be cringe-worthy and awkward and there will be moments when I will want to delete the whole thing out of shame. It’s in those moments when I recall Elizabeth Bishop and Ernest Hemingway and press on. I am, after all, in good company.

And so are you.

Here’s to writing shit! We will all do it, and we will all be better for it.

To fifty thousand!