Bar jokes for English majors

bluebird of bitterness

A dangling participle walks into a bar. Enjoying a cocktail and chatting with the bartender, the evening passes pleasantly.

A bar was walked into by the passive voice.

An oxymoron walked into a bar, and the silence was deafening.

Two quotation marks walk into a “bar.”

A malapropism walks into a bar, looking for all intensive purposes like a wolf in cheap clothing, muttering epitaphs and casting dispersions on his magnificent other, who takes him for granite.

Hyperbole totally rips into this insane bar and absolutely destroys everything.

A question mark walks into a bar?

A non sequitur walks into a bar. In a strong wind, even turkeys can fly.

Papyrus and Comic Sans walk into a war. The bartender says, “Get out — we don’t serve your type.”

A mixed metaphor walks into a bar, seeing the handwriting on the wall but hoping to nip it in the bud.

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The blogger at Purple Blogger hosts the meme Tuesday Teaser.  The idea is to take the book you are now reading and at random, copy a couple of sentences that might tempt another person to read the same book. I am still reading The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, and here is where I left off:

(1939) “Percy didn’t go home. Neither did she go on to the village hall to assist with the arrangement of corned beef tins. Saffy (her sister) would later accuse  her of forgetting to collect an evacuee on purpose, of never having wanted one in the first place; but although there was an element of truth in the latter accusation, Percy’s failure had nothing to do with Saffy and everything to do with Mrs. Pott’s gossip. Besides, as she always reminded her twin, everything had worked out in the end…”

Three old maids live in their author-father’s ancestral home, a literal castle, during WWII when London children were evacuated to the country towns to be saved from the bombings in London. Meredith, the evacuee who eventually ended up with the three women and their senile father, is involved in mysteries and family secrets that are not unravelled and revealed  until 1992 by Meredith’s daughter, Edie.  This generational tale of eerie settings, Mud Monsters rising from the old moat, young romance, friendships and betrayal is written in the most artful style imaginable.  Little clues, dropped here and there like breadcrumbs for the reader to follow make unraveling the quirks of the characters and the family secrets a pleasure.

Please look at what you’re currently reading and leave a teaser from it in the Comments box. Please remember to give title and author, and no spoilers, please.


Tweens are a whole new group of readers according to those trying to market books and authors in their direction. We are talking here about middle graders: not still children, not yet teenagers, but in-between the two categories. If we had to attach a “years” label on them, it might be eight to twelve year olds. These years also coincide with first phones and a great deal of video distractions.

Here in Texas, we rank “38th nationally in reading test scores for 4th graders and in HISD (Houston Independent School District) only 23 percent of 4th graders tested at or above grade level proficiency in 2015.” ( Bobbie Samuels, retired educator in The Houston Chronicle, “Houston Tweens Should Read for Fun,”) Embarrassing to say the least! I agree with the article, for as she states, “The importance of the love of reading–separate and apart from school–cannot be overestimated.” I found that statement true in the hundreds of 6th-8th graders I taught from 1968-1984 in the Alvin Independent School District. A student who reads separate and apart from what is assigned in junior high is a good student in most subjects in high school. A non-reader or even a struggling one is a poor student in almost everything.  Good readers develop…”growth in vocabulary, reading comprehension, verbal fluency, and increased general information.” (Berniece E. Cullinan of New York University as quoted in Samuels)

Samuels points out that The National Endowment for the Arts, in its article, “To Read or Not to Read, ” states there is a correlation between the amount of time students spend reading for pleasure and scores on national and standardized tests in both reading comprehension and writing. Samuels continues to describe The British Cohort Study, which followed the lives of 17,000 individuals over decades, which “has found that reading for pleasure outside of school has a significant impact on young people’s educational attainment and social mobility…” The study also found that “recreational reading has more than triple the impact on student achievement than their parents’ level of education, previously thought to be a leading factor in student success.”

What all this tells us is that if we wait until junior high or middle school to “hook” students on reading for pleasure, it may be too late.  Further still, I have experienced many students who loved reading, and learning in general, only to be “turned off” in later elementary grades or middle school/junior high, somewhat because of the following: teaching to the test,  no time for free reading,  teachers’ insistence that a student read at grade level whether he/she is “up to it” or not,  listing unrelated vocabulary words to be memorized when they will only be “learned for the test, never used after that–all horror stories heard from students in high school, junior college, and the university levels.

In my fifty years of teaching from grades four through graduate students at university, I have almost “seen and heard it all.” Reading for pleasure and developing a love of reading are necessary at every level. From what I have seen, our K-4 teachers often instill these qualities, only to have them “stomped on” later. This is an outrage, one I probably have been responsible for committing myself. I challenge myself and all teachers everywhere to love books, words, reading with their whole hearts and share these feelings with their students.

Boy, Snow, Bird: A Review of a strange book

Helen Oyeyemi’s 2014 novel has been described as a “cautionary tale” that includes “post-race ideology, racial limbo, and the politics of passing.” (New York Times) The whole story takes on a magical, fairytale quality, but ends with a shocking revelation. It is divided into three parts: the story of Boy, the story of Snow, the story of Bird.

At the beginning we meet Boy, named so because her rat catcher father refused to care enough to think of a better name. Her mother is absent from her life. She is described as having a long, white-blonde braid and is extremely intelligent. Her life in East-side Manhattan sometime in the 1930’s is horrific and violent. Early on, she runs away and ends up at a young women’s boarding house. During her stay, she double dates with another young woman there and meets Arturo. Her first meetings and dates with him begins a love/hate relationship although she falls desperately under the spell of his lovely 6 year old daughter, Snow. When she meets Arturo’s mother, Olivia Whitman, yet another kind of relationship develops.

After Arturo and Boy’s daughter, a Negro, is born, Snow, Arturo’s daughter is exiled to live with an aunt to prevent competition and conflict between the two girls. (Part Two) As the story unfolds, one layer at a time, Bird, their daughter, seems to have a second sight about “things” and has an insatiable curiosity which strives to unlock family mysteries. Over time, the two girls exchange letters. (Part Three) At the end, all family secrets are revealed sending the characters’ emotions and lives topsy turvy.

The book has a strangeness about it, from its original setting to its unsettling conclusion, and many assumptions and conclusions the reader has made along the way are turned upside down.

This is a satisfying read, not necessarily a book you will like or even one you can understand upon a first reading, but it has literary value, and I definitely will read other books by this author.


In 2010, Miranda James (pseudonym) wrote a cozy mystery* which became the first in a series. Titled Murder Past Due, this novel featured Charlie Harris, librarian for a small college in Athena, Mississippi. It also features his cat, Diesel (so named because his purr sounds like a diesel engine) who is a Maine Coon that walks on a leash! He is so large, that people’s reaction to him is, “What is that? A cat?”

The character murdered is Godfrey Priest, best-selling author and “a most manipulative jerk.” According to his many acquaintances in Athena, he has always been one since his junior high days. As Charlie tries to solve the mystery on his own, although being warned to “stay out of things” by local police, he finds that “every last one of [his] friends and co-workers had a score to settle with the nasty novelist.” Prime suspects are Charlie’s college-student boarder, Justin Wardlaw and his mother, Julia.   “…[A]s if the murder were not purr-plexing enough,” Godfrey has offered his works, letters, and personal papers to the library’s collection, and Charlie has access to evidence the police need very badly. Will Charlie obstruct justice by tampering with evidence in his search to find clues?

The book is described on the cover as full of “southern charm” and a “great beginning to a promising new series.” It was strictly an escape read, and therein lay its charm. It was an engaging read, fast paced, and kept me turning pages.


* A cozy mystery is one where the person killed is done so without graphic descriptions of the deed or the condition of the body when it is discovered, and the victim is someone the reader “loves to hate.” There is almost always a cat, books, and a library, bookstore, or cafe in the story. (my personal definition)