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Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
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Tuesday, March 8

Demagogues and Pedagogues

There’s a word that’s showing up more and more often this year, “demagogue,” often used when referring to Donald Trump. I don’t think “demagogue” has had such play since the Depression days of Louisiana’s Huey Long or the hysteria of Hitler’s rise in Germany in the Thirties. It means “leader of the people.” Or at least it did originally. But then it took on a negative connotation, as so often happens with some words, coming to mean a really bad leader of people, an orator or political leader who “gains power and popularity by arousing the emotions, passions, and prejudices of the people.” Does that have Trump written all over it? The same thing happened to “pedagogue,” which originally meant simply “teacher.” It’s odd that both words, deriving from Greek, have different noun forms: “demagoguery” (de'-ma-GOG-er-ee) and “pedagogy” (pe'-da-GO-jee). A long time ago I wrote a short essay about the linguistic possibilities of “pedagogue.” See what you think.

As an English teacher, now retired, I’ve long admired the word “pedagogue,” even though I’d rather not be called one. It originally meant a teacher, a leader (agogos) of children (paidos or ped), but has now come to mean a bad teacher. The joy in the etymology remains, though, and the possibilities for creating new words are almost limitless.

For example, I often thought of my classes as “pedagroups” and their attempts to understand the intricacies of the English language as “pedagropes.” But then, they had their own kind of “pedagrammar” (Still do). Some female students too often engage in “pedagiggles,” and a group of them would be a “pedagaggle” indulging in “pedagab.” Oh, how often I wanted to be able to use “pedagags!” An especially childish student was a “pedagoogoo.” The quiet, unobtrusive student at the back of the room was a “pedagoodie” who usually wore “pedagoggles.” The class clown was a “pedagrin,” the class Scrooge was a “pedagrump,” and the class dummy was a “pedagoon” whose writing was often “pedagarble.” Those stomach noises just before lunch were “pedagurgles,” and at lunchtime the cafeteria abounded in “pedagobblers” and “pedagorgers.” The bell dismissing class was a “pedagong.” An absent student was a “pedagone.” An absent teacher was a “pedagogueagone.” A retired teacher, such as I, is a “pedagogueago.”

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