Lael Ewy

Language commentator

Lael Ewy is a co-founder and editor of EastWesterly Review, a journal of literary satire at www.postmodernvillage.com and a writer whose work has appeared in such venues as Denver Quarterly, New Orleans Review, and has been anthologized in Troubles Swapped for Something Fresh.

He provided commentary for the Wichita City Paper and journalism for Naked City.

He holds an MFA in Creative Writing and a Bachelor of General Studies from Wichita State. Lael supports his writing and reading habits as a lecturer in English at WSU and as a peer educator at WSU's Center for Community Support and Research.

He runs an unaccredited Volvo hospice and is the current caretaker of a family heirloom, a 1965 Ford Mustang.

For fun he wrestles philosophy and literary theory.

Ways To Connect

So, I’m on Facebook the other day, where all meaningful discussion happens, and I run across several friends discussing why so many people start sentences with the word “so.”

Explaining Isn't Excusing

Sep 23, 2014
Wikimedia Commons

Though we often use them together, an explanation is not an excuse.

An explanation can be used when we give evidence for an excuse, but an excuse is about culpability, which is determined by a set of values, values that can exist outside of a set of facts. An explanation, in contrast, comes about by the application of a set of principles to a set of facts.

Mark Engelbrecht / Flickr / Creative Commons

A former colleague of mine, Rita Peters, pointed out the frequency with which teens and tweens utter the dreaded phrase,“Mom, I’m bored!”

Boredom, it seems, is a major epidemic. But, of course, it always has been. Let’s face it, most things, except perhaps sex, are boring on the surface of them.

Google Images / Creative Commons

There’s a big difference between responsibility and blame, even though we often use them interchangeably.

When GM CEO Mary Barra stood up before congress and accepted responsibility for her company’s faulty ignition switches, what she got was blame. Her attempt, it seems, was genuine: she was trying to express the idea that, unlike past GM officials, she was willing to admit that wrong had been done and something was going to be done about it.

As any Midwesterner knows, you can take responsibility for a problem by stepping up and acting on it.

Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

The U.S. goes through periodic bouts of doubt regarding what education means.

In the latest round, we have the Common Core and No Child Left Behind pushing us toward ever more measurable outcomes and ever less certainty about what kids actually should learn. These trends equate education with “performance” and “achievement,” “success” and “excellence.”

I’ve been around education circles just long enough to recognize these as only trends, soon to be replaced by other trends, none of them particularly helpful in understanding education.

The View From The Top

Jul 29, 2014
Eisenbahner / Flickr / Creative Commons

A co-worker of mine recently registered her displeasure with the term “the 30,000-foot view.”

The 30,000-foot view is meant to invoke a sense of the big picture, to show how a situation might look from 30,000 feet in the air. The attempt here seems admirable: we do sometimes lose sight of the big picture when we get bogged down in the details.

The 'Binge' Paradox

Jul 15, 2014
Aaron Escobar / Wikimedia Commons / Creative Commons

The word binge is a paradox connoting both shame and pride.

The very same binge-drinking that is such a concern for parents and college administrators is, for certain students, something to brag about. Note the pyramids of empty beer cans that grace fraternity houses and the murky recollections of weekend benders bracketed with phrases like, “Oh my God, I was sooo drunk that night!”

That some don’t survive these adventures in besottedness doesn’t stop bingeing from happening, and may even increase the binge’s mystique.

What Is 'Privilege?'

Jul 1, 2014
Quinn Dombrowski / Flickr / Creative Commons

When Princeton student Tal Fortgang recently complained on Time magazine's blog that, as a white male, he had been repeatedly “reprimanded” to “check his privilege,” the Internet exploded in somewhat predictable ways.

I'll let you and Facebook explore what all is being said about Fortgang's piece, but the word privilege deserves some scrutiny.

Steve Jurvetson / Flickr / Creative Commons

One language trait I've noticed recently is a peculiar use of the word “around.”

Someone might be describing a new organizational initiative and say, “Let's get together and have a discussion around the new viral marketing campaign.” What the person would have said prior to the around ascendancy is, of course, “Let's get together and have a discussion about the new marketing campaign.”

So what's all this about around—or rather around it? Or whatever?

bunky’s pickle, flickr Creative Commons

When I was in high school in the 1980s, well-meaning grown-ups set about trying to break down labels and stereotypes. The destructive categories of race and class, the social strata of jocks and geeks, goths, stoners, and punks, they thought, were destructive to our young psyches and to the orderly running of the school.

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