metaphraze, randomly!

Randomly… una raccolta di letture e spunti interessanti pescati qua e là per la rete!

Si parla di espressioni idiomatiche, fluency, didattica e… grammatica!

When idioms make no sense, we try to invest them with a new kind of sense.
The Origins of ‘One-Off
by Ben Zimmer (via

As William Safire observed in a 2007 On Language column, one-off meaning “something unique” is a British expression that has been creeping into American speech and writing in recent years. And as with other Briticisms that impinge on these shores (gone missing comes to mind), the idiomatic origins of one-off are mostly lost on American ears.
The off in one-off does not, in fact, stem from some corruption of the word of. Rather, this British usage of off typically appears with a number to indicate a quantity of items produced in some manufacturing process. The Oxford English Dictionary, Safire notes, takes this back to a 1934 quotation from the Proceedings of the Institute of British Foundrymen: “A splendid one-off pattern can be swept up in a very little time.” Other numbers can fit the bill, as in the O.E.D.’s 1973 example of an advertisement for “Kienzle printers, 6 off, surplus to manufacturing requirements.” (read more here)

Can fluency be taught?
Fluency: Fact, Fiction or Farce
by Rob Howard

Having been in the business of English teaching for 12 years now, fluency you can imagine how often I see and hear the word fluency. Everyone wants it, everyone promises it, but can everyone really achieve it? Is everyone able to reach the level of language competence that is thought to be fluency? Is every school, course, online SKYPE teacher able to provide the means to reach it?

No, no and no.
Now, how could a teacher say such a thing?
Three reasons.

1) Most students don’t really know what fluency is.
2) Fluency can’t be taught.
3) Not everyone can achieve a goal without the proper actions.

First, fluency is not the ability to speak perfectly, without any hesitation, with a native accent, flawless articulation, intonation, delivery and elocution. It is not knowing every word in the dictionary. It is not being able to understand every line from every article, book, TV show and movie. Perfection and fluency are two different things. Native speakers hesitate. Native speakers make mistakes. Native speakers have many different accents and styles of delivery and intonation. As I am American and speak differently than a British speaker, am I less fluent than them or vice versa? Of course not.
So what is fluency? (read more here)

Online schools ‘worse than traditional teachers’ (via
The teacher in the classroom is still more successful than learning from a screen, a study says.

Charter schools – publicly funded independent schools – have continued to expand across the US, with supporters seeing them as a way of re-energising standards in state education.
And the educational technology sector has been pushing to bring some hi-tech start-up innovation to teaching and learning.
So it’s easy to see how the next step for a 21st Century education seemed to be a virtual classroom, combining the autonomy of charter schools with the flexibility of learning online.
Except a major report, based on research in 17 US states with online charter schools, has found “significantly weaker academic performance” in maths and reading in these virtual schools compared with the conventional school system.
The National Study of Online Charter Schools, the first major study of this growing sector, has taken a wrecking ball to the idea that pupils learn as effectively in such an online setting. (read more here)

‘Show us that you care’: a student’s view on what makes a perfect teacher (via

The perfect teacher. In Ofsted’s eyes, that probably means exemplary lesson plans and 30 immaculately marked books with targets for improvement. But, as a 16-year-old, I’m not sure I agree. What students love about the best teachers – the ones whose lessons are discussed at the dinner table, whose names are always remembered and whose impact is never forgotten – is quite different.

Show us that you care

Ofsted says outstanding teachers demonstrate a “deep knowledge and understanding of their subject”. Although passion is inspiring, a deep knowledge and understanding of their children is just as important.

I have a teacher who, from the beginning of my two-year course, has offered an after-school session every single week, for however long we need. I am often the only one there but she doesn’t mind. She has completely changed my life by believing in me, pushing me and caring about me. Obviously, I don’t expect every teacher to be like her, but to know someone values you enough to put time in is amazing.

I have been lucky to have teachers who taught me far more than the syllabus, who showed me how to tackle obstacles head-on and become stronger as a result. Perfectly planned lessons are one thing, but, to an insecure teenager, showing that you care is essential. (read more here)

Steven Pinker: ‘Many of the alleged rules of writing are actually superstitions’ (via
Bad English has always been with us, but clarity and style are far more important than observing dusty usage diktats

People often ask me why I followed my 2011 book on the history of violence, The Better Angels of Our Nature, with a writing style manual. I like to say that after having written 800 pages on torture, rape, world war, and genocide, it was time to take on some really controversial topics like fused participles, dangling modifiers, and the serial comma.

It’s not much of an exaggeration. After two decades of writing popular books and articles about language, I’ve learned that people have strong opinions on the quality of writing today, with almost everyone finding it deplorable. I’ve also come to realise that people are confused about what exactly they should deplore. Outrage at mispunctuation gets blended with complaints about bureaucratese and academese, which are conflated with disgust at politicians’ evasions, which in turn are merged with umbrage at an endless list of solecisms, blunders, and peeves. (read more here)

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