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“Mitchell is invaluable. Also, he’s enormously entertaining.” –Clifton Fadimon
“These pieces, articulate, intelligent, often wildly funny, and frequently dazzling, spring from a splendid mind, tuned to just the right pitch, and fired with an angry passion. . . .” –From the Introduction by Thomas H. Middleton
Richard Mitchell is author, editor, printer, and assistant circulation manager of The Underground Grammarian, a journal that is the frequent subject of comment and consternation in The New York Times, Time magazine, and The Wall Street Journal.
In The Leaning Tower of Babel Mitchell has gathered together a sparkling collection of the best pieces from The Underground Grammarian. In “Hopefully, We Could Care Less” he probes the nature of contemporary language. He ponders the sanity of spending millions to determine exactly how little our kids should know in “A Minimum Competence to all, and to all a Good Night!” Essays such as “Maximum Brain Dysfunction” and “All-Purpose Gobbledygook” speak for themselves. He levels his shaft at the illogical, the faddish, and the foolish.
Behind, beyond, around, and under Mitchell’s vivacious wit lurks a serious message. It is easy to poke fun at the manglers of language and thought: despite our knowing superiority, however, those manglers, who cannot read or write or think, are ruining our language, our schools, our institutions, our society. Those who care about these things, as Mitchell does–read and heed.
Mitchell’s readers say it–
“If others could offer as much insight into politics and economics as Richard Mitchell does into education, we might find the path to world peace and prosperity. Of course, if more people would heed the Underground Grammarian’s advice, our future leaders might actually learn something useful about politics and economics.” –Bob Verdun
“…a master diagnostician of the current grave disease in education. His commonsense solutions for the rehabilitation of our schools are worthy of the attention of parents, students, administrators, educators, government officials, and all concerned citizens. Reading his essays is not only enlightening, but thoroughly enjoyable.” –Lois De Bakey
“The Underground Grammarian often makes me writhe with self-doubt and guilt, yet masochistically I ingest each issue. Without it, life might be worth living again, but much more boring. UG is never polite, never gentle, never nice, and never dull.” –Roy Meador
Richard Mitchell, professor of English at Glassboro State College, is also author of Less Than Words Can Say and The Graves of Academe.
Introduction: Mitchell’s Muse by Thomas H. Middleton
He instantly denied authorship of them. “It’s a muse,” he said. “Something out there comes down and guides my hand.”
I. ON THE NATURE OF LANGUAGE
* Hopefully, We Could Care Less
* The Leaning Tower of Babel
* The Proud Walkers
* To Be to Some Chewed Books Tasted Are Swallowed…
II. READING AND WRITING A LA MODE
* Yes, Virginia, there is a Free Lunch
* A Minimum Competence to all, and to all a Good Night!
* Three Mile Island Syndrome
* The Turkeys Crow in Texas
* New Highs, New Lows
* The Same Old Witchcraft
* The Teacher of the Year
III. ON LANGUAGE AND THE POWER OF THOUGHT
* Instruments of Precision
* All-Purpose Gobbledygook
* Naming of Parts
* Forging out, from a very pluralistic Dynamic…
* Sayings Brief and Dark
* The Master of Those Who Know
* Prometheus Rebound
IV. BASIC MINIMUM CHRISTIANISM
* Uncomfortable Words
* The Other Ignorant Army
* Tongues of Ice
* Over the Rainbow Way up High
* The Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat
V. THE SOCIAL SCENE
* I’m All Right, Juanito IV:7
* Voucher, Schmoucher 2/81
* Maximum Brain Dysfunction 4/82
* The I of the Beholder 3/83
* The Invers Proportin 5/83
* The King Canute Commission 4/83
VI. MANGLED LANGUAGE (ELEMENTARY DIVISION)
* Sticht in the Eye
* Eric Smeac’s Practice-related Information Domain
* A Brief Note
* The Lady with the Lump
VII. QUIS CUSTODIET…
* A Big “A” for Effort
* The Principal and the Interest
* The Interest and the Principle
* …And furthermore
* The Great Iacono Flap
* Sheer Doctoral Competence
VIII. THE MAKING OF TEACHERS
* Awareness Grows in Cincinnati!
* Department of Gaga
* Voodoo Educology
* The Glendower Glitch
* The Sound of One Eraser Clapping
* The Ballons Nodule
* Yet Another for the Gipper!
IX. MANGLED LANGUAGE (ADVANCED DIVISION)
* The Porseffors of Eglinsh
* The Reformulation of Conceptualization
* Strangers in Paradigms, or, The Hegemony Connection
* Respeak in Monmouth
* They Also Serve Who Only Look for Work
* Missing Linker?
* Camera Obscura
* Politics and the Eglinsh Language
X. THE POLITICAL WORTH OF IGNORANCE
* The Answering of Kautski
* The Necks and Minds of the People
* Nox quondam, nox futura!
* The Children of Perez
* …And furthermore
* Joanne the Jack-Killer
* The Mouths of Babes
* As Maine Goes…
* The Children of the State
* A Lecture on Politics
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