A Way with Words

My favorite podcast is “A Way with Words,” hosted by Grant Barrett and Martha Barnette. It’s a call-in show featuring conversations about language, usage, dialects, slang and trends in American English. It’s a treasure trove for word nerds like me.

I was “featured,” however briefly, on a show a while back. I had submitted–what else?–a pun about the serial comma.

Here it is.

The Maine Attraction

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{This story appeared on Ten to Twenty Parenting, a website about raising teens and tweens.}

My wife and I have been going to the same location for about 20 years. It’s a family-owned cabin in Lincolnville, near Camden on Route 1 along the coast. There’s not much to Lincolnville, really. You’ll find a small beach nestled between two seafood restaurants and a rocky inlet named Duck Trap. I’m still not sure how Duck Trap got its name because I’ve never seen any ducks trapped there and can’t imagine how one might, in fact, become trapped. Camden lies to the south of town, Belfast just north.

Our trip from Connecticut takes about six hours, allowing for a couple of pit stops. We have three kids—two young teens and a tween—and a beagle who hates, above all else, car rides. Thankfully he’s getting better; his vomiting and defecating used to add another hour or so to our journey. Continue reading

Happy New Year’s Eve

For those who celebrate the beginning of a new fiscal year on July 1, today is New Year’s Eve–kinda. And for fundraisers in particular, this can be a busy day filled with phone calls, emails and perhaps local visits to folks who somehow have thus far missed out on the incredible opportunity to give to your organization this year.

Some time ago I wrote a Chronicle column about this very phenomenon. Here’s a teaser:

People often ask me, I suppose just to make conversation and appear curious, if fund raising has a “busy season.” The question implies there are cycles in the development calendar, with some “seasons” involving heightened activity and others offering rest, relaxation, and spa treatments.

The answer, of course, is yes. We do have our busy seasons, at least in my experience. Two, to be exact. One is December, when folks scurry to make year-end gifts in order to realize tax benefits the following April. Christmas has concluded, and the credit-card bills haven’t yet come home to roost. I call that sudden realization of tax strategy “emergency philanthropy.”

Our second busy time occurs at the end of the fiscal year. At most colleges, that is June 30. I don’t know exactly why the higher-ed gods chose that date when drawing up the master plan, but someone got the bright idea that it made eminent sense to kick off fiscal festivities on July 1, and it stuck. So June 30 signifies our year end. Naturally, that confuses folks whose calendars conclude with December. I can instantly recognize the quizzical look when I remind someone in September that he’s yet to make a gift “this year,” even though he wrote his last check in April.

Come May, my fund-raising staff kicks into overdrive with an 11th-hour direct-mail and phone blitz. I call board members who haven’t given since July and encourage them to accommodate our fiscal time frame instead of theirs. Most comply. By the time late June rolls around, we get rather frantic.

Read the rest here.

Transgender Benders

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The recent debut of Caitlyn Jenner has me pondering this bit of news from Smith College. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, Smith will now accept transgender applicants who identify as women.

The college’s new policy makes gender an issue of “self-identification,” according to Smith’s website. Notes the Chronicle: “To be considered for admission,” it says, “applicants must select ‘female’ on the Common Application.”

It’s not readily apparent in the article what constitutes “female.” Does this apply to women who identify as male, to men who identify as female, or both? A bit of digging on the Smith website provides the answer. “Applicants who were assigned male at birth but identify as women are eligible for admission,” it says. “Those assigned female at birth but who now identify as male are not eligible for admission.”

So should we conclude that Smith is going co-ed by admitting males, or is it still a college for women only because these will be males who believe they are female? At the very least, the lines are blurred a bit, though there’s no mistaking that we will soon see individuals who are biologically male in Smith classrooms.

The transgender revolution marches on.