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May 15, 2011



EHHS Blue Book: Funding Fathers Contribute, Others Carry On

The last pages of the Erasmus Hall High School English Department Blue Book provide a short history of Erasmus Hall. They mention that two of the original donors of funds to build the school were Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Jay. (Wikipedia omits Jay but mentions Hamilton as well as adding among contributors such other leading citizens as Aaron Burr, Peter Lefferts, and Robert Livingston. It also mentions that land for the school was donated by the Flatbush Dutch Reformed Church.)

The Blue Book notes too that Erasmus students and faculty members went to war to fight for the ideals learned at Erasmus. Mentioned particularly is principal Dr. John F. McNeill who served in both WW I and WW II, and returned to the school at the end of WW II after serving as lieutenant-colonel in the Army Air Corps. And during the Revolutionary War the "Battle of Long Island swept up Flatbush Avenue, and the British column met the first American outpost in front of Erasmus  Hall."

The Blue Book also indicates that Erasmus has kept its reputation for scholarship and good manners down through the years. It became a public high school in 1896 and continued its high standards of scholarship, love of learning, and pride in the school and the community. But as Wikipedia reports, in 1994 the city closed EHHS, as we knew it, for poor academic scores and turned the building into Erasmus Hall Educational Campus, which became the location for five separate smaller high schools:

.Academy for College Preparation and Career Exploration: A College Board School
.Academy of Hospitality and Tourism
.High School for Service & Learning at Erasmus
.High School for Youth and Community Development at Erasmus
.Science, Technology and Research Early College High School / Middle School at Erasmus

"The Old Gray School" thus carries on into the twenty-first century.


EHHS Blue Book: Origins and Essentials, Minimum and Otherwise

One of the first sections of the Erasmus Hall High School English Department Blue Book covers courses of study available. "In addition to the regular course of study" the English Department offered "a variety of special courses designated by the following program-card symbols": (D) Dramatics; (E) Discussion technics [sic] (this one sounds like the Discussion English course you took with Mr. Balletto); (F) Creative prose; (G) Modified course leading to general rather than academic diploma; (H) Honor classes; (J) Journalism; (K) Remedial reading; (L) English to foreign-speaking pupils; (M) Radio dramatics; and the following four speech clinics taken in addition to English (S2, Voice correction; S5, Stammer correction; S6, Lisp correction; SL, Foreign accent). I'm pretty sure that some of these designations were dormant while I was at Erasmus -- Discussion technics, Creative prose, English to foreign-speaking pupils, and the S2 and SL speech clinic classes. But in addition at least two new designations were created in the 1960s while I was a student: (A) Advanced placement in senior year for college credit (class taught by Mrs. Elizabeth Lathrop), and (N) Shakespeare (class taught by Mr. Dominic Bongiorno).

Another section of the Blue Book covered the syllabus for the Minimum Essentials (ME) test, given at the start of each term. The same topics seemed to be covered every term, with the same examples covered and the same examples seemingly ignored on the exam. ME tests for all grades included sections on avoiding fragmentary and run-on sentences.

In addition the tests for grades one to four covered errors concerning: agreement (one of my brothers were, the boy and girl is, we was, two mile, two foot); case (us boys won't, its sad, it's collar, for you and I, two book's); verbs (teach/learn, bring/take, has went, has ran, I seen, he come, he et, has ate); adjective-adverb (good/well, and such adjectives as awful, careless, careful, definite, easy, fine, frequent, natural, proud, possible); idiom (off/from, graduate college, sore at, the both of you, a orange); illogicality (double negative, double comparative, double superlative, that there, this here); punctuation.

The test for grades five to eight covered errors concerning: agreement (the boy together with his dog are, no one lost their seats, these kind); case (help her and I, taller than me, between you and I); tense (I'm living here ten years, hadn't of come, had ought, he use to go); verbs (wrang out the washcloth, it freezed up, swang, rob/steal, wish/hope, leave/let, lie/lay, beat/win); adjective-adverb (same as for grades one to four above); miscellaneous errors (whose/who's, who/which, and etc., their/there/they're, your/you're, convince/persuade, in regards to, would like for him to -- but not the currently rampant usage "she read a couple books" or "he took a couple weeks off"); punctuation.

The test was usually easy but some of the examples confounded me: bring/take to me were largely interchangeable, and lie and lay hopelessly confusing. However I got the subtlety of wish/hope and convince/persuade, but the subtle or confusing items were almost always not tested. The section on idioms fascinated me and I could well understand how English could confound a non-native speaker: she caught his eye, the man was smoking, she brushed her hair, he changed his tune, she had a chip on her shoulder, it came to them out of the blue, break a leg, etc.

In conjunction with the ME test we were given an assignment to look up in the dictionary the origin of about ten words -- seemingly always the same ones. The only one I can remember now is bunk, in its sense of irrelevant or nonsensical talk. A US congressman in 1820 gave a long, irrelevant speech to delay voting on the Missouri Compromise and said it was "for Buncombe," referring to his constituents in Buncombe County, North Carolina. The word, referring to the county, was shortened over the years to bunk.

One of the most bizarre sections of the Blue Book covered words frequently mispronounced. We  are told that "the well-spoken Erasmian pronounces": finger as fing-ger (not fing-er); younger as young-ger (not young-er); England as Eng-gland (not Eng-land), but hanger as hang-er (not hang-ger). We are also told that the embedded g is silent in the following words: length, wrongly, strength, bringing, gingham, hanging, ringing, singing, and many others. I do not in practice hear the distinctions being made.

Other distinctions are more obvious: this mirror is not pronounced this smearer, student is not stoodent, twenty is not twenny, probably is not probly, and so forth. And the only regionalisms covered are those having to do with New York City: for example, Midwestern pronunciations such as IN-surance and UM-brella are not covered. Neither are such locutions as jess for just, wursh for wash, becuzz for because, heappened for happened, Jeakson for Jackson, and many others.

However, it is time to say that this Metablog commenter and former Brooklynite and ill-spoken Erasmian has decided to admit that he has no couth as a pronouncer. He says the following words proudly out loud, warts and all: sandwich as sangwich, February as Febuary, congratulations as congradulations, envelope as onvelope (from long years watching Oscar broadcasts: Erasmian wins by Hayward, Streisand, Stanwyck, and Eli Wallach; nominations to Erasmians Aline MacMahon and Jeff Chandler), coupon as kewpon, forehead as farhead, dissect as dyesect, espresso as expresso, gifts as giffs (especially when speaking quickly), talk as tawk, and especially proudly New York as Noo Yawk. His Midwest friends and their children, particularly those in Ohio and Minnesota, laugh at the way he speaks . . . .

I guess I should have paid more attention to the Blue Book while I was a student, but it seemed hopelessly detailed and time then was too tight for delving into the murkiness and illogic of the English language.


eve is a manipulative girl and pheobe will obviously con eve the same way she conned Margo .Great screenplay nominated for 14 Academy Awards -the most to be nominated from same movie until they tied with Titanic .
The film also got two nominations for best Actress (Bette Davis for Margo)and (Anne Baxter for Eve )-They didn't win-lost to Judy Holliday as Emma 'Billie ' Dawn in Born Yesterday .Also,1 of Marilyn Monroe's earliest film role as Miss Claudia Caswell .

Harold Olejarz

Donnie Most aka Ralph the Mouth on Happy Days was also a EHHS student

Axel Sprengtporten

Is that an attempt at humor, Duffy?

Duffy McGaffigan

Waite Hoyt also went to Erasmus, but as far as I know, he wasn't a movie actress.

Axel Sprengtporten

One of the best screenplays ever.

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