Cast Iron Skillet

A blog about teaching, English, and teaching English


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What’s the difference? Part 3

What’s the difference between a simile and a metaphor?

A simile is like a drag queen; a metaphor had the operation.

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Cotton’s Law

While English class is not the place you usually expect to study equations, here is the exception. I promise that if you memorize this simple equation, and apply it at the proper time, not only will you increase your vocabulary but you will enjoy doing so.

Cotton’s Law:

New Word = Good Thing

Learning vocabulary is all about attitude. Some people see an unfamiliar word and think to themselves: I don’t know this word. Why do they have to use words like these? I hate when I don’t know a word. I feel stupid! In most cases, these people will not look up the word, and if they do, they are unlikely to remember it.

The alternative is to see a new word and think: This is good. I get to learn a new word. While this doesn’t guarantee that you will remember the word, it improves your chances. And you’ll feel a lot better about yourself, and maybe even enjoy the reading. And you’re also more likely to be at peace with the simple fact that learning vocabulary is a lifelong task for everyone.


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Rule #1: There are no rules

In language, there are no rules. There are agreements.

To speak of language as having “rules” implies some sort of official authority. But, as it has been said, language is humanity’s greatest invention, and its most democratic. There are no officials. There is no authority. What we call “rules” are simply “agreements” that enable individuals to communicate across the great gulf of space between us. We agree that this object I am sitting on is a “chair.” You don’t have to abide by the agreement, and you can call it a “customer service representative,” but communication will be impeded.