The Awkward Adverb: The Truth About Seuss

In the world of classic children's literature, Dr. Seuss holds an elevated position, but
some parents disapprove of his habit of making up words—wumbus, yuzz and diffendoofer, for starters. These critics argue that children's books should teach English, not nonsense, and they worry that their children will have difficulty distinguishing invented words from real vocabulary.

But the made-up words are much of the point. Even if it doesn't build SAT vocabulary, Dr. Seuss's nonsense verse helps teach children to focus on English sentence structures, pronunciation and rhythms. Ultimately, kids will figure out that oak trees exist and truffula trees don't. Some words, like nerd and grinch, have even leaped from Dr. Seuss's imagination into common usage and dictionaries. Not all non-standard English is substandard.

Henry Alpert,the secret identity behind Action Copy, discovered his writing powers when a radioactive bookworm bit him on the hand at a young age. Before going solo many years ago, he reported for an Asian daily newspaper and taught writing at esteemed universities. He's earned a Master of Fine Arts and has worked on staff at a New York financial trade magazine. In Mr. Alpert, the creative and analytical unite to create one powerful writer. Mr. Alpert currently lives a mild-mannered existence in a quiet neighborhood of New Orleans with his wife, infant son, and dog.

The Awkward Adverb is a monthly e-mail newsletter which highlights English-language flaws that have appeared on a sign, in print, on the Web, or anywhere in the public sphere. If you wish to subscribe to the e-mail newsletter version of The Awkward Adverb, click here. This link also contains archived entries.

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