When I taught English, I enjoyed having fun with my students. One of the best ways to have fun in an English class is to play with words.
My classes reacted positively when I introduced them to palindromes - words, sentences, and numbers that read the same way backwards and forwards.
The most famous palindrome is "Madam, I'm Adam." That phrase has been around for more than 100 years. Once you see those three words together, then finding other palindromes becomes a lifelong hobby.
I recall some of my students trying to create their own palindromes. Some of them made no sense, but the letters worked, One young pupil wrote "In words, drown I." So fitting for an English student!
Other famous examples of palindromes are:
A man, a plan, a canal - Panama!
Able was I ere I saw Elba.
Was it a bar or a bat I saw?
A nut for a jar of tuna.
You can even use people's names as palindromes - Hannah, Bob - or small phrases -" stressed desserts" and "a Toyota."
Once you've had your fill of palindromes, then you can move on to malapropisms - a ludicrous misuse of words, usually caused by resemblance in sound.
One of my favorite malapropisms is "We rode an alligator to the top of the Empire State Building." That was spoken by a young man who shall remain nameless in the hope of not embarrassing him.
How about "He used biceps to deliver the baby," or "His father is retarded on a pension," or "He's a wealthy typhoon."
When someone says, "A lot of water has flown under the bridge…." We know that he means "flowed," but we laugh anyway. If someone asserts that there are no "phonographic pictures" allowed, we snicker. And, as a friend tells you that her husband knows all of the "erroneous" zones, you crack up.
Finally, a third kind of word play is a Tom Swiftie - and the easiest way to explain it is to give a few examples:
"That's no beagle, that's a mongrel," she muttered.
Or - "The fire is going out!" he bellowed.
I could have been a baker, but there was no dough in it.
"Someone's at the door," she chimed in.
"Your embroidery is sloppy," she needled cruelly.
And, "I ordered chocolate, not vanilla," I screamed.
Teaching English was a great profession. Having so many words at my disposal made each day different. A love of the language has stayed with me throughout life. I wish the same for you, dear reader.
IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.