Friday, May 6, 2011

Around the Word

The last word in gifts for Mom: If you're still looking for a present for your book-loving mother, Galley Cat has made things easy for you by compiling a variety of Top 10 Lists of Literary Gifts for Mother's Day. Our favorite: the "Top 10 Books To Make Mom Cry -- In a Good Way." Cards and iPad batteries not included.

Maybe the kids are not alright: Examining gender bias in literature is usually the province of upper-level college English courses. But in today's New York Times we learn the issue can also be child's play -- a staple in children's books, in fact, for the past century. Drawing from a new study in the April issue of "Gender and Society," the Times reports that, in a study of 6,000 children's books published between 1900 and 2000, 57 percent had male lead characters and only 31 percent had female. According to the researchers, these imbalanced representations, especially with respect to animal protagonists, "suggest that these characters could be particularly powerful, and potentially overlooked, conduits for gender messages."

Introducing the cook club: Do the serious discussions in your book club ever leave you wishing you could trade pondering plots for provolone and prosciutto? Well, you might be in (pot)luck. The San Jose Mercury News reports that culinary book clubs are springing up across the country, often sponsored by bookstores or foodie boutiques. While members congregate to dish on mouth-watering memoirs, they rarely discuss straight cookbooks, which sets these clubs apart from other cooking related groups. So if the idea of Alice Medrich passing around hot cookies from her book, "Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Melt-in-your-Mouth Cookies" sounds appetizing, get reading.

A speech barometer?: Objectively measuring the effectiveness of your speech might sound like a lost cause (unless you have your own dial testing equipment). But communications guru Angela Sinikas has come up with some convincing ways to see quantitatively how speakers actually register with their audiences. There are three key outcomes she suggests focusing on: finding the extent to which the speech increases knowledge, creates more favorable attitudes, and changes the audiences decisions and behaviors. Obviously to measure these impacts you need to have an idea of the baseline, so Sinicom provides some innovative ideas on how to set up your speech metrics as well.

Twin speaks: Certain grammatical nuances can allude even the most seasoned writers. . . . wait, I'm pretty sure we mean elude. . . . and if you can relate to our moment of confusion then you might want to check out Ragan's take on "terrible twins." Sifting through troves of mis-used words compiled from a variety of grammar sites, Ragan has compiled a great cheat sheet explaining the differences between a host of homonymns -- such as founder and flounder, bated and baited, and, of course, allude and elude.

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