Wednesday, March 21, 2007

5th grade standards: linguistics

An AP story by David Bauder reviews Jeff Foxworthy's "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?", with the obvious focus on how the show is dedicated to humiliating people (the adults, I mean ... sounds like the kids are the heroes). I mentioned way back when that an ad showed "what's a pronoun?" as a real stumper. Bauder's list of questions from the show includes:
Which of the following words is an adverb: lovely, lonely, lazily?
That just seems kind of, I don't know, lame, compared to the other questions (which aren't obviously visible in the on-line version):
True or false? A bat is a mammal.
What planet is closest to the sun?
What is the largest artery in the human body?
A polygon has a minimum of how many sides?
And so on. I'm worried that those are somehow more engaging questions. The grammar questions both have a dusty old smell about them, compared to a flying mammal, 'My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas', and how blood flows through the body. Maybe I'm just being paranoid about how language is taught before, say, undergraduate introduction to linguistics, or maybe it's just from my own experience, as somebody who really disliked 'grammar' classes, until I got took a class that was expressly dedicated to answering questions about how language worked.


Anonymous said...

If someone is held up at gunpoint and it's life or define "adverb," which I quickly reassure my high schoolers rarely happens, most people will only buepuxmremember it's a word that ends in -ly. That whole issue of modifying a verb, adjective, or another adverb--well, now that could be a matter of life or death.

Mr. Verb said...

Yeah, when I hold people at gunpoint, I'm mostly asking about zero-derivation of verbs.

So, assuming that being humiliated on national TV is sort of like being threatened with a gun, you anticipated the premise of this show and even the trick behind this question? That's good.

What language questions will they ask on "Are you smarter than a high schooler?" Now that I think about it, that's aiming a little high for the Fox Network.

Anonymous said...

I just reread my post. I'm not sure how BUEPUXM attached itself to the word remember...A Homer Simpson derivation?

Mr. Verb said...

Oh, I figured that was the string for 'verification' that had gotten plugged into the text.