Word Nerd Wednesdays

by Kristi R. Johnson

Conversion, also known as zero-derivation, is a kind of word-formation involving the creation of a word (of a new word class) from an existing word (of a different word class) without any change in form, which is to say, derivation using only zero.”

That’s right fellow word nerds. Today the WNW will discuss one of my favorite things to do: making up words from existing words by simply changing how they are used. Probably the easiest example of this for today’s audience would be the alternate uses of the term “Google.”

Google is of course the seemingly all-knowing and all-seeing search engine that millions of people use everyday. But the word is also used as a verb, and many users, myself included, use it as a different way to say “search.”

Friend: “Hey, how many predictions have The Simpsons made that have come true already?”

Me: “I dunno. There have been a lot though. Google it.”

This practice is known as conversion, though I prefer its second name, zero-derivation. I feel like the latter makes it sound much more complicated and lends a certain amount of legitimacy to a practice that is little more than people misusing words until enough other people also misuse it to the point that it eventually becomes official.

Probably my favorite example of this is that zero-derivation can also be described as “verbing” something, which allows us to turn the word “verb” into a verb.

Aaaaand I think I just heard your head explode.

There is one that I have been working to make stick since 2010, when it made its first appearance in an episode of Community. Currently, the term “Goldbluming” has an entry in Urban Dictionary where it is said to mean going fromhttps://i.ytimg.com/vi/Lv6mA0qyOo4/maxresdefault.jpg extremely intoxicated to sober in a short period of time, a la Jeff Goldblum’s character in Independence Day. However, I prefer the meaning as it applied to Jeff Winger (played by Joel McHale) in Community, which is when someone loads the first half of their sentences with a bunch of filler words and non-verbal grunts. Seriously, watch Jeff’s behavior in the study room scene in the “Beginner Pottery” episode and you’ll see what I mean.

What are some of your favorite conversions in the English language? There are plenty of them out there, many of them much more tame than the examples I have given here.

(Don’t) Put a Ring On It: The Danger of Getting Married to Your Thesis

by Kristi R. Johnson


From The Simpsons episode S04E15: “I Love Lisa”

Thesis: A statement or theory that is put forward as a premise to be maintained or proved.

No, the WNW, also known as Word Nerd Wednesdays, has not quite returned for the Spring 2017 semester. But I did feel the need to address the issue of students jumping head-long into a commitment with a thesis that is just not worthy of them.

And if I am now responsible for possibly getting a certain Beyoncé song stuck in your head, I apologize for nothing. It is a great song (and an even better music video) and there are certainly songs that are much more annoying, though just as catchy, that I could have referenced.

While in school, I often told myself that finding a topic to write about, along with knowing the general argument I wanted to make, was half the battle of writing a paper. And for me, that was true, but it is not true for everybody. For most people, the actual writing is at least 80% of the battle, if not more. Of course, the topic is always important, and a thesis can make or break a paper.

If you are fortunate, you are able to go to your college library, or search the myriad of article databases out there, and come away with a sufficient amount of articles that will support your thesis. But the chances of the thesis you originally came up with being the exact one to make it into the final paper are small, for most people.

So what do you do when it isn’t working out with your thesis? Do you break up? Or do you try to make it work?

Hopefully you aren’t so far along in your paper that letting go of your thesis will require a lot of backtracking. And if it does require some backtracking, fingers crossed that you have allowed yourself enough time before the deadline to do so. If at most I had an outline, and maybe an introduction paragraph, but my research was leading me in a different direction, I was still in a position where I could go back and change things without feeling like I had wasted too much time.

But what if nine pages of a 15 page paper have been drafted, and the thesis gets weaker with every new word that is put down? Oh, and the assignment is due in the instructor’s inbox by noon tomorrow. This is when many people just try to make it work. Even if the deadline isn’t coming up within the next 24 hours, having already written a good chunk of the paper will make almost any student avoid considering a rewrite.

Or even worse, what if the paper is completed, and then you do something silly like go to the writing center at your school, and all of the feedback points to your thesis not holding up?

Full disclosure: I don’t have a real answer. I personally try not to marry my thesis in the first place. Only after I have done the research and made sure it is a point I can make in the required amount of pages do I start to become attached to it. And even then, things can still get altered slightly.

It happens all of the time that students realize, too late it seems, that it just isn’t working out with their thesis. And as a writing consultant, I am not sure if I could ever tell a student that an entire paper should be scrapped…not unless it was clear that they were missing the mark completely. However, instructors have asked that students do a complete rewrite, which is preferable to simply being given a poor grade.

Honestly, putting together a solid thesis that you can stick with can often come down to allowing yourself enough time to do the research, as well as outline the points you want to make before actually sitting down to write the paper. When I allowed myself time to plan ahead, there was a smaller chance that my thesis would end up being scrapped for a different one. When students rush and do not have enough time to edit and revise, the urge to stay married to a flimsy thesis is strong, if only because it feels like there is not enough time to find a new one, much less rework a paper for it.

But this is college. With four or more classes and at least three of them requiring various papers and essays and reports of different lengths, who has time to plan and outline? Even so, it may save you some heartache if you do.

In the meantime, don’t put a ring on it. Even if you like it.

The Thing Itself: 2017 Call for Submissions and Cover Art

The Thing Itself, the literary arts journal at Our Lady of the Lake University, seeks submissions– writing that promotes compassion and encourages empathy and equality. This issue will be produced totally by students learning about literary editing and publication. Details and deadlines at http://www.ttijournal.org.

See the flyer below for the call:

Submit your written work!
Submit your written work!

The journal is also looking for cover art:

Are you an artist? Know any artists? Share this flyer and submit an original piece.
Are you an artist? Know any artists? Share this flyer and submit an original piece.

Follow The Thing Itself on Facebook @OLLUthethingitself or just search for “The Thing Itself.”

Ready? Set. GO, MIDTERMS!

by Sabrina 


Need a boost before midterm exams?

Check out the flyer above!

For more information on this event, please contact the Academic Center for Excellence @ (210) 431-4199 or the Student Success Center @ (210) 431-3966.

We hope to see you there!

Welcome to the Mary Francine Danis Writing Center at ACE. You can find tips, news, and fun posts about the wonderful world of writing, the ACE, and the OLLU Community!