new middle school class???

Cohen, Gerald Leonard gcohen at UMR.EDU
Thu Apr 7 02:19:58 UTC 2005

Dear Ms. Kammert,
    For an initial course you might do best by concentrating on word/phrase origins (i.e., etymology). There are many other topics, but I don't see how you can digest the necessary information and prepare a good proposal in less than two days.
    For etymology I could help you with the considerable material I use in my Etymology class--based on some 34 years of research in this area. And Barry Popik's website ( has a wealth of relevant material.
Sample topics we've worked on: NYC's nickname "The Big Apple," "I'm from Missouri, you've got to show me," "dude," "hot dog," "Windy City," "gung ho," "brainstorm," "Slick Willie" (Bill Clinton), Spoonerisms (e.g., "it's kisstomary to cuss the bride"), hashhouse lingo (e.g. "Adam and Eve on a raft" = poached eggs on toast), "jazz," etc. etc. etc.
     All this took lots of research, but the results are comprehensible to anyone, and I do believe that the topics are of widespread interest.

Gerald Cohen
Professor of German and Russian
(research specialty: Etymology, especially of British and American slang)
Editor, Comments on Etymology
University of Missouri-Rolla
Rolla, MO 65409
e-mail: gcohen at

> ----------
> From:         American Dialect Society on behalf of Jan Kammert
> Reply To:     American Dialect Society
> Sent:         Wednesday, April 6, 2005 8:08 PM
> Subject:           new middle school class???
> Those of you on this list have always been fantastic about answering my questions.  I hope you can help me out again.
> I teach 8th grade, and my principal has invited teachers to come up with new elective classes for grades 6 through 8.  I'm thinking about a course on language.  I'm thinking of having a bit of vocabulary, grammar, and the history of English.  The course would be one semester (18 weeks).
> I have to write a course description by noon on Friday.  Teachers only got this request yesterday.  I don't know how anyone can write anything very thoughtful in that amount of time, but I'm going to give it my best try!
> Do any of you have thoughts about what topics could be covered in this
> course?  Thoughts about printed resources?  Thank you in advance for any
> ideas you have.
> Jan

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