BreakPoint Blog

Learn to write like Julia Ward Howe

There are many fascinating aspects to this story of how Julia Ward Howe came to write "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." But I was particularly struck by this, from Harvard scholar John Stauffer: “If you read the King James Bible over and over, you can’t help but become a good writer.”

I never thought of it before, but there's probably a lot of truth in that.


That's me
Jason, I'm sure my friends would tell you; I can be pretty abominable!
Phillip, thou shalt not speak evil against facebook. It is an abomination.
learn to write
I wonder if he has the same opinion of Facebook as he does about the King James Bible.
Yes Rolley, one is a number but as someone who is only demiomnisapient and therefore has no intention to tempt fate by blasphemously claiming omnisapience, I sometimes prefer the numbers two or three or even, as in this entry, forty-four to my word numbers.
*One* IS a Number of Words, Jason
So just what have we accomplished here, my friend? Looks to me like we’ve merely changed the question from “which word?” to “which number?”

Howe odd. Howe very odd.

*One* is odd, you know (no disagreement there, eh?). And, yet, this whole discussion raises *even* more questions, doesn’t it? (Ed. Note: the discriminating reader may discern here clues as to how Möbius got his idea for continuous two-sided cassette tapes).

But we digress. (Shame on we).

In a nutshell (or should I say, “in a word”? hahaha), *odd* or *even* is neither here nor there. What IS here nor there is that Julia Ward, in her infinite know-howe and demiomnisapience, would most assuredly at this point sum things up by advising me to close with verse something very like this:

Make Rolley joke with silly words and math and trig?
Why Jason, you’re as rotten as a naughty fig.
(See Jeremiah 24:2, KJV)
Well Jason, I better sign off before *someone* decides to serve up Yams Over Duck. Just the thought of it gives me indigestion, and wouldn’t you know it, I’m all out of Rol-Adys.
Rolley that saying is definitively untrue as, despite being endowed with Jasonian Demiomnisapience I prefer a number of words.
Yams Over Duck does sound delicious.


(Sort of.)
Experts Are Divided
The Traditional School notes that “Yod (or yodh), being the tenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet, probably originated with a pictograph of a hand, ultimately deriving from Proto-Semitic *yad-. Certain manuscripts suggest it may be related to the Egyptian hieroglyphic of an arm wielding a staff or stick over the head of a hapless, witless duck, squirrel, or other two, three, four, or five-legged quadruped.”

The Progressive School argues it could stand for either a Yoyo-Obliterating Doohickey or a Yelp-Occasioning Device. Much of the evidence amassed in this century favors the latter interpretation.

Yams Over Duck was proposed in 2011 and, despite a paucity of corroborating documentation is gaining support in some academic circles.

In any event, the connection to ducks is beyond dispute.

My own opinion is You Oughtn’t Delve too ambitiously into mysteries of nature seemingly intended to abide in perpetual obscurity. On this point it may be well to remember Justitia’s maxim: “Do not gaze into laser with remaining good eye.”

Jason, be forewarned: they say a word to the wise is sufficient. (On the other hand, don’t abandon all hope; for my as-yet-unanswered rejoinder is, “which word?”)

Ultimately, it comes down to this: have we asked Julia Ward Howe about it?

Mine eyes have seen the glory… (in the pre-laser days)

Your Obsequious Double,
What is a YOD? Yams Over Duck perhaps?
There’s a Reason Diane Singer Stays Away
Dorcas and Nimrod in,
“Learn to Write Like Julia Ward! How? Like Julia Ward! How? Like… oh Never Mind”

Nimrod: Hey Dorcas, here’s something you should read.
Dorcas: What’s that, Nimrod?
Nimrod: Article called – hold on, dropped my spectacles -- “Learn to write like”, uh, lessee, “Julia Ward… Howe”.
Dorcas: How?
Nimrod: Yep.
Dorcas: You think I need to learn to write like Julia Ward?
Nimrod: And “Howe”.
Dorcas: I don’t think I need to write like Julia Ward.
Nimrod: “Howe”, Dorcas. Do you know who I’m taking about?
Dorcas: I DON’T know who you’re talking about. What makes you think I do?
Nimrod: Who said I think you do?
Dorcas: You did.
Nimrod: Sure I did, Dorcas. [begins Twilight Zone theme]
Dorcas: So you going to tell me who this Julia Ward is?
Nimrod: “Howe.”
Dorcas: Any way you want.
Nimrod: She wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic”.
Dorcas: “Battle Him of the Republic”, eh? Sounds like a feminist fight song. Which “him” was that?
Nimrod: You know, the one that goes “Glory, glory, hallelujah.”
Dorcas: You mean the charismatic guy from Cymbala’s church?
Nimrod: What?
Dorcas: Hey, I found something here YOU should read, Nimrod.
Nimrod: What did you find that I should read, Dorcas?
Dorcas: A book on etiquette.
Nimrod: You’re jumping threads, Dorcas.
Dorcas: Not to worry, Gina’s gone for the weekend, sequestered in her log cabin in the Poconos. Took her YOD with her.
Nimrod: Can’t blame her. Diane Singer’s taking refuge up that way from all the nuttiness around here. Imagine Gina’s doing the same thing.
Dorcas: Nah, my guess is she’s there to write an informative piece on this mysterious Julia Ward.
Nimrod: Howe?
Dorcas: Why, in the King’s English, of course.

[more Twilight Zone, interspersed with maniacal quacks]
Surprisingly Lee, I didn't know that. I did know that the Alabama was sunk by the Kearsage.
Shucks, Kevin, I'll bet Rolley even knew - without any help from Jason - that it was the motto of the Confederate warship Alabama, in French, as "Aide Toi, Et Dieu T'Aidera". And that the Alabama was sunk in 1864 by the Union's USS Kearsarge, in the Battle of Cherbourg - just off the coast of France.

'Cuz Rolley knows better than most of us that God's ironic sense of humor, and His seizure of teachable moments, is way better than any of ours.


I like the story about the modern-day U.S. Army commander, who decided his staff was spending way too much time devising clever acronyms. His memo to them stated "Henceforth we will have no more straining at GNATs (Garish Name Acquisition Techniques)."


I'll wonder aloud if reading any Bible translation over and over would make one into a good writer, or if it would have to be the King Jimmy. I love the phrasings in The Message, because they remind me of the work of my *other* favorite poet, who happens to publish his poems in this blog. But I don't believe there's any causal connection between the two.

And of course, there's the college student's excuse "I'm sorry, Professor, but I couldn't complete my essay because my parents raised me on the NIV."

I miss Diane Singer.
You're aware that phrase is from Aeschylus, I hope? And is contrary to Romans 5?

Yes, I'm sure that you are-- you're Rolley Haggard!!
King Who?
I had a team meeting a couple of years ago; about 15 people present. I used the phrase “straining at gnats and swallowing camels”. I got 15 blank stares. It did give me a chance to explain what it meant and where it came from. But still.

About the only verse anyone out there still seems to know is “God helps those who help themselves.”

My point exactly.
Quite true!
I have long felt that a big cause of the dearth of good public speakers in politics now is that people are no longer brought up on the Bible.

To me it is virtually self-evident that long exposure to the parallelisms in Hebrew expression will be absorbed into one's own way of expressing oneself, and this becomes a marvelous rhetorical device! But with this having become foreign territory to so much of the ruling class... who is there these days that makes it a pleasure just to listen to them speak?