Due Oct 9
Writers have two obligations which sometimes compete: clarity and sensitivity. It’s now widely considered offensive to use the word “crippled” to describe a person, but it hasn’t really been replaced by a new word which conveys the same information. “Disabled” or “challenged” are more sensitive, but also vague, since the new terms include a wide range of possibilities not connected to physical mobility.
Our words which express nationality, ethnicity, political affiliation, disability are especially prone to regular changes, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the nuances of meaning as they develop.
Select two words or terms and compare their various meanings. Be sure you start with words which have the same “denotation”: that is they have the same basic meaning. Your job is to consider the terms’ different “connotations.”
When you break the terms down and examine them carefully, what do you discover?
In your introduction you’ll have to explain what you’re doing, and identify the terms you’re discussing. Your thesis must make a recommendation. Maybe you think one term should be rejected and the other adopted, or maybe you think the words are both appropriate but for different situations. Your thesis should briefly state that you prefer one term because it’s “better” (clearer? more precise? more sensitive? comes closer to expressing your own beliefs and ideals?).
The body of your essay will have to discuss your interpretations of the words, and you’ll have to display contexts where they’re used by the general public. How is the word used? Is there a difference in uses of the word as it’s used by those with different political opinions?
Write your whole essay without using more loaded buzz terms, especially “politically correct” and “political correctness.” If you want to express those ideas, let your own words do your work; don’t rely on prefabricated language of other people.
You’ll have to check a variety of sources, including newspapers and news magazines, dictionaries (both old and new). Usually it’s important to find sources which are reliable and authoritative, but in this case you’re looking for common usage of words, so it’s fine (even smart!) to use sources which have their own built-in agendas, even if they’re clearly biased and overtly political.
You must use at least five sources, including
One of these:
Oxford English Dictionary (usually called OED)
Oxford Reference Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins
Concise Dictionary of English Etymology
(find these through the topic Literature and Language on the CPCC Library’s Database page.)
One of these:
Rawson’s Wicked Words (somewhat outdated; from 1989)
(find this through Credo on the library’s database page)
And two of these:
Any regular newspaper or news magazine (e.g. Charlotte Observer, Time)
A website which defines words based on its political or social agenda. A scientist’s blog which defines Global Warming will give you a specific definition based on a specific point of view.
You’re not limited to the words and terms listed here, but make sure you check with me before you choose something else. The main thing is to choose words which have the same denotation but different and complex connotations. You might be tempted to write about more than two words, but keep it simple, and just choose two, unless you talk to me about it first.
A Way Too Short Sample Essay
Athlete vs. Jock
“Athlete” and “jock” are pretty similar words; both denote people who spend a lot of time perfecting their skills and playing their respective sports. And even when they’re not training or playing, they’re recognizable for their obvious strength, stamina and healthy good looks. “Athlete” is a better term, though, because it includes a wider variety of people, and “jock” has more ugly associations, so I would recommend the word “athlete” be used instead of “jock” in most situations.
In my own mind, the word “athlete” brings up memories of watching the Olympics, the winners bathed in sunshine as they proudly listen to their national anthems and receive their medals. The first example that the Miriam-Webster dictionary gives for “athlete” is “Athletes from around the world compete in the Olympics” (“Athlete”), so clearly the dictionary and I agree. “Athletes” could represent any sport, and the word doesn’t make me imagine only men or only women.
“Jock” is more limited. I associate it only with men, and I imagine big-time college sports when I think of jocks. Athletes might be pole vaulters or swimmers or bobsledders, but jocks play basketball, football and baseball, and maybe soccer.
“Jock” makes me think of all sorts of bad things, too. Whenever I hear “jock” I automatically think of “dumb jock”—the jock in question might be a fine scholar, but dumb is part of the usual definition, at least in my mind. “Jock” is also close to “jockey,” the tiny person who races horses. Jockeys are undeniably good athletes, but I don’t usually think of athletes as small. Grossest of all is the real meaning of “jock”—if I have respect for someone, I don’t usually name him after his underwear. Calling Cam Newton a “jock” is sort of like calling Serena Williams a “sports bra.” Miriam-Webster agrees with me again. Their first definition is “athletic supporter,” and the second is an athlete, especially a college or school athlete (“Jock”).
A quick Google Images search confirms my opinion. All of the first pages of “jock” images are of hunky men wearing jockstraps, so it’s hard to tell if the picture fits the definition because of the model or his underwear. The Google images “athletes” were men and women of a variety of races, and most were track stars. I had to scroll down a good way before finding a single basketball player.
My investigation of sample uses of “jock” and “athlete” confirm my suspicion. “Jock” is just not a nice word, and I’d use it only if I were in a mood to express contempt for someone. I might call that Stanford University swimmer, the rapist who got off with a miniscule sentence after a brutal assault, a “jock.” But for ordinary use, “athlete” is a better word because it includes more sports and both women and men. Best of all, “athlete” doesn’t remind me of sweaty, fungus-infested underwear.
“Athlete.” Ex. 1. Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 11 Sept. 2016.
“Jock.” Defs. 1 and 2. Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 11 Sept.
Turn this in with your paper!
(Don’t submit the whole assn sheet—just the rubric)
Grading Rubric: Assn 2/Comparison
Sources (Don’t submit a paper with an incomplete list—you’ll fail right away. If you’re uncertain, talk to me before the essay is due.)
All sources 10 Missing sources: 0 for the paper
Bibliography: Sources are listed in correct MLA style
10 Flawless 7 Generally good, but slips 0 No attempt
Quotes and paraphrases: Quotes are blended into the paper’s prose, and paraphrases are true paraphrases. Both are given correct in-text citations.
15 Flawless 7 Right idea, slips in execution 0 No attempt
Thesis: A single sentence at the end of the first paragraph clearly states the essay’s main point: Terms x and y basically mean the same thing, but x is better because . . .
20 clear & thoughtful 15 unclear or illogical 0 No thesis
Paragraphs and topic sentences: Each body paragraph explores a single point, consistent with the assignment’s purpose and the essay’s thesis.
10 7 0
Two discussions of “definitions” from dictionaries or online magazines: The essay cites and responds to at least two attempts to define and prescribe those terms.
10 7 0
Analysis of Context: The essay makes some attempt to imagine the intentions of writers and speakers as they might use the terms. Who would say a thing like that?
30 thoughtful & creative 24 too un-nuanced or obvious 0 none
Penalties for proofreading errors
Misspelling or misusing the words on the Deadly Errors sheet:
-3 points each
-5 points for fragments -5 points for garbled, unclear sentences
-5 points for having one sentence flow directly into the next without punctuation
-3 points for errors punctuating compound sentences
-3 points for mistakes in subject verb agreement, (ex. “She live with her cat.”), verb tense (ex. “I seen Pulp Fiction seven times.”), leaving off the –d when necessary (ex. “I use to live in Maryland.”)
Possessives/Plurals/and the letter S
-3 points for misused or missing apostrophes