All posts by Lucy Ferriss

by

Girls, Girls, Grrrls

gone-girl-screencapHere she comes again. She’s been interrupted. She’s been left behind. She’s worn a pearl earring and had a dragon tattoo. She’s played with fire and kicked the hornet’s nest. When she’s not the other Boleyn, or working in the shop, she may be your #Boss. She’s not that kind, and she’s been gone. Only not far enough gone, because here she comes again, on the train.

You know who I mean. The Girl. The Title Girl.

Of the hundreds of books listed on Goodreads with the word Girl in the title, several …

by

Perfect!

7-Biggest_Burger_2I belong to a generation that ate in restaurants only on special occasions. You know: Mom’s birthday. Or after visiting Grandma in the hospital. Or maybe in the airport restaurant, the one with the white linen tablecloths, when we went to fetch someone who was actually flying into town to visit us. So there wasn’t a foodie culture, much less a running dialogue on the language of menus or waiter-speak.

Today, while I find much of the observations about the language of restaurants fascinating—I …

by

Setting a Watchman on the Language of the Past

Anglo-Boer-War-in-St.-LouisI heard the news of Harper Lee’s new novel—or, to be precise, of the planned release of the companion novel to To Kill a Mockingbird that she penned many decades ago—while I was doing research at the Missouri Historical Library and Research Center. My own subject, still vaguely outlined, is the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, now more than a century in the past. Lee’s subject, of course, was the Jim Crow racism that prevailed in the mid-20th century American South. In terms of language, t…

by

Me and Chris Jones, We Got a Thing Goin’ On

MS-MRGender neutrality, however loudly announced in official pronouncements or in the news, creeps into our own set of norms on little cat feet. In my case, I realized it had made another inroad when I was settling in at a symphony performance and heard the voice over the loudspeaker: Ladies and Gentlemen, please silence your cellphones and other electronic devices.

Why Ladies and Gentlemen? I thought. Why can’t he simply say, Symphony Patrons? Must he remind us at the outset of our socially assigned…

by

The Campus Culture Industry

PrimantiBros_SkylarYuenI’m sure I’m not the only Lingua Franca reader who received a communication just before the start of the spring term thanking the committee who had worked hard over break on the institutional goal of Strengthening Campus Culture. Those of us whose campus cultures were weak will see them shored up; those whose campus cultures were already strong will see them buttressed for the future.

Only I’m not certain what a campus culture is, exactly. I know: It’s marketing-speak. But we’re talking abou…

by

To Be or Not to Be Charlie

crowd-holding-je-suis-charlie-sign_450
In English, it forms possibly the shortest subject-verb-predicate sentence: I am X. But we cannot seem to agree on what it means. In my lifetime, the first phrase that rings out is John F. Kennedy’s, on the steps of the Rathaus Schöneberg: Ich bin ein Berliner! The second, echoing now from Paris across the Western hemisphere, is Je suis Charlie Hebdo. These are both rhetorical flourishes, obviously. But they also both nag at our sense of what it means to declare ourselves something—as opposed…

by

Is That a Real Novel or Did You Just Make It Up Yourself?

ItBNnDhR3tjwAMx0vEwj“Is your novel fiction, or did any of it really happen?”

I’ve started doing readings of my new novel, A Sister to Honor, and sure enough, the question came from one of the attentive listeners waiting in line to buy a signed copy.  I can’t blame her for her confusion. I’d like to blame Truman Capote, who came up with the term nonfiction novel to describe his new-journalism book In Cold Blood:

It seemed to me that journalism, reportage, could be forced to yield a serious new art form: the “nonfict…

by

Otiose Manspreading

tumblr_nfok5eFkXV1sqv9too1_1280New York’s MTA is about to mount a campaign against it. They’re debating the issue in Chicago. Even in polite Toronto, the issue—and the term—have, uh, spread widely. Manspreading first appeared, as far as I can tell, just three short months ago, on October 6, 2014, but it already garners 665,000 results on Google.

It’s a word that was begging to be coined. Manspreading refers, of course, to certain men’s habit of spreading their thighs in a wide V from the pelvis outward, often taking up two …

by

The Snowden Emails

edward-snowden-e1392785377635I’m holding Ed Snowden up as an example. Not of a patriot, or a whistle-blower, or a scoundrel, or traitor. But as an example of what I’ve been telling students and fellow teachers for years: that if you have something to express in your writing, you believe it wholeheartedly, and it carries the urgency of original thought, it will come out by way of elegant syntax and more or less error-free construction. We can yammer on about dangling modifiers and passive voice and incongruity and topic …

by

Why I Don’t Use Track Changes on Students’ Papers

icon256They arrive now, in a flood, the end-of term papers. For the most part, they are beyond revision at this point, and the task ahead consists mostly of assessment. Still, I find myself clinging to my Luddite position of accepting papers only in hard copy, regardless of the risk of germ transmission by paper, regardless of deforestation, regardless of the printing costs or the various excuses the demand engenders. The main reason for my old-fashioned insistence is that I still find some students he…