Ever heard the term 'keeping up with the Jones's'? It is said that this expression refers to the family of Edith Wharton (American writer, née Newbold Jones), American-Dutch landholders.
The expression refers to social status. If you keep up with the Jones's you aim to maintain the same (usually high) level of lifestyle as your neighbours. Strangely Edith can be considered as a critic of this practise.
I must admit I did not know Edith Wharton but I like her already, because like me she loved learning European languages and Paris and enjoyed the good things in life like art and travelling. She was also a femminist at a drammatic time for women.
She has a great smile, don't you think?
From a noble family, Edith was well-travelled and educated and spoke many European languages. Despite not being allowed to read novels herself, perhaps for the risk of corrupting her society education and what was considered right for a young lady, she published her first novel under a false name at the age of 15. There was a conflict between how she should be and what she did. She was a strong woman, her first marriage was ruined by her husband's depression and she divorced in 1918 which was very difficult at that time.
In France, she campaigned for women's rights and opened a fcatory for unemployed women in Paris. During the First World War she helped Belgian refugees and was one of the first foreigners in France allowed to travel to the front lines, an experience she described in a series of articles. In 1916 she was awarded the Chavalier of the Legion of Honour. Her art and poetry collection 'The Book of the Homeless' included an introduction by Theodore Roosevelt.
She loved France and kept a house in the countryside near Paris all her life.
She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1921 for the novel 'The Age of Innocence'.
I am excited to learn more about this interesting, strong woman.
Join me in my Facebook group in April to learn more about this fascinating woman and her work.
Don't be afraid of a new word you meet when reading - more than likely it will be a synonym for a word that you do already know. To be safe we tend to repeat the same words we know and are sure of but when reading we discover that there are many synonyms that can enrich our language adding variety. But how can you remember these synonyms. To make them more familiar why not record them using a word gradient like the one in the photo?
Start from a familiar word and arrange new vocabulary in degrees along the line. This is something that you can add to every time you read. It will also help memorization because as you add a new word you can review the words that are already there and so add and revise each time. You can also associate words. Be curious when you learn new words, use it as an opportunity to learn more words in the same family. If it is a verb what are the nouns, adverbs and adjectives that share the same root. Are there synonyms and antonyms?
This sounds like fun to me, but those of you who are not word nerds might be asking yourselves, why bother? In a reading or listening question in an English exam, you will rarely find the same words as in the test script. This is because the ability to paraphrase or understand and use synonyms is a very important exercise that enables you to work with the language that you already know to find new degrees of meaning.
If you don't remember a word you can describe it using other terms, like the ones in this video.
It's a person who
It's a thing which
It's a place where
It's similar to
It's the opposite of
Likewise, to check if you have understood what someone else is saying you can paraphrase in your own words.
Do you mean...?
So are you saying...?
Correct me if I'm wrong, but do you mean...?
Sorry, I'm not sure if I got that. Are you saying...?
Words often have many different synonyms. You can make your language much more interesting by choosing synonyms for the words in your sentences.
A thesaurus will give you a long list of synonyms for a word and can be very helpful. One thing to be careful of when using a thesaurus is that some words have slightly different meanings or are meant to be used in different ways.
Repeating the same words numerous times can make your speech dull or uninteresting. Replacing a word with an equivalent one, perhaps even a more specific one, can improve how you are communicating your ideas.
If you are looking for ways to improve your expression start by learning some new synonyms. The correct use of synonyms can transform your language from boring to exciting or from repetitive to imaginative.
Dickens' style of writing
In this extract we will look closer at Dickens' writing comparing a graded reader with the original.
As you work on a particular section of text from A Christmas Carol, look for the following characteristics of Dickens' writing:
⦁ Dickens was once a newspaper reporter; his descriptions show a wonderful eye for detail.
⦁ Dickens loved words, and liked to produce a 'pretty piece of writing' in different styles. He included lots of powerful adjectives, and is famous for his use of metaphors and similes. His descriptions often present people, their surroundings, and even the weather, in ways which reinforce each other, so that a certain 'feel' is built up through the passage.
⦁ In 1849 he began public readings of the story which proved so successful he undertook 127 further performances until 1870. His writing is rhythmic and designed to be read out loud. He loved to make young women in his audience laugh or weep, so many of his characters are either hilariously comic or heart-breakingly sentimental.
⦁ Dickens was a master of dialect and used what is called 'substandard' speech to add to the picture of a character he was building up.
⦁ Dickens is famous for his exaggeration, which critics have linked to his love of the stage.
Here you can read the first paragraphs of the novel, first in the original version, then in a simplified version. Comparing the simplified version, from a graded reader to the original version can help you to understand more difficult words.
1) MARLEY was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to.
Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise?
Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.
The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot—say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance—literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.
Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names. It was all the same to him.
Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.
2)It is important to remember that Jacob Marley was dead. Did Scrooge know that? Of course he did. Scrooge and Marley had been partners in London for many years, and excellent men of business they were, too. When Marley died, Scrooge continued with the business alone. Both names still stood above the office door: Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people who were new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names. He did not care what name they called him. The only thing that mattered to him was the business, and making money.
Oh! He was a hard, clever, mean old man, Scrooge was! There was nothing warm or open about him. He lived a secretive, lonely life, and took no interest in other people at all. The cold inside him made his eyes red, and his thin lips blue, and his voice high and cross. It put white frost on his old head, his eyebrows and his chin. The frost in his heart made the air around him cold, too. In the hottest days of summer his office was as cold as ice, and it was just as cold in winter.
Find the equivalent phrases for 1 to 10 in the simplified text
1) It was all the same to him.
2) Scrooge knew he was dead?
3) tight-fisted / squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous / no steel had ever struck out generous fire
4)hand at the grindstone
5) sharp as flint
6) secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster
7) grating voice
8) A frosty rime was on his head
9) he iced his office
10) in the dog-days
b) In the hottest days of summer
c) Did Scrooge know that?
d) The frost in his heart made the air around him cold
e) He did not care
g) voice high and cross
h) The only thing that mattered to him was the business,
i) It put white frost on his old head
j) There was nothing warm or open about him. He lived a secretive, lonely life
Which are for you the most difficult aspects of Dickens’ style? Which are the most interesting?
Share your thoughts with me.
Sites for further research
What is this?
When I started lostinclassics I looked for language lessons in the books I was reading, such as for example the use of phrasal verbs or inversion in conditionals and I explained them through examples found in the text. I also did reviews of the books I read and tried to give some advice on how to read classics using the various resources I know of. Then I switched to just reviews and lately I have been doing a bit of creative writing inspired by my reading. Who knows what I will come up with next!