Bill Hartman

I hate to plead guilty, but I am.

It took a great reminder from the staff at the Fort Bend Literacy Council to jolt me into realizing what I’ve been missing — reading.

It’s one of the great pastimes, and I’ve been ignoring several large stacks of books that have been sitting idle during the great 2020 quarantine.

The Literacy Council does a wonderful job helping people of all ages and nationalities learn English through a cadre of volunteer tutors.

Think how hard it’d be to learn English from scratch. Throw in the antonyms, homonyms, synonyms, pseudonyms and acronyms for starters.

There are more than 20 in the “nyms” family, which take the same English word and give different pronunciation, spelling, sounding and usage of the same word.

I didn’t know until this week that a poecilonym is a synonym for the word synonym. Gad. That’s harder to catch than a major league fastball.

The Literacy Council has two great fund raising events. Both are entertaining and fun and you can learn something.

“Reading Between the Wines, a Night with the Stars” is an annual event where attendees rub elbows with authors from of all walks of literary celebrity.

Henry (The Fonz) Winkler was to be the guest author in 2020, but the event was postponed by a schedule change, then canceled because of the pandemic.

It’s back on the docket for 2021 with Winkler — actor, writer, producer and director — again as guest. More details to follow.

It’s disturbing to think that social media has taken the place of books for the younger generation. They don’t know what they’re missing.

If kiddos think a lifetime of knowledge can be edited down to a group of 280 Twitter characters (up from 140), they’ve been drinking bad Kool-Aid.

Social media is a toy compared to real literature and knowledge. Nothing beats a good book for entertainment and learning new words.

The Great Fort Bend Adult Spelling Bee is an annual hoot when teams of three attempt to be the last ones standing after a select list of words is thrown at them.

It’s friendly but hardcore competition, often with a side dish of humor. It’s even reached the point where teams name themselves and have matching outfits.

Part of my early education in the newspaper business came when I worked for the toughest managing editor I’ve ever met.

His name was Preston Pendergrass, and this wordsmith is undefeated in my book. For 30 years I tried to find a single word he couldn’t spell and never could.

He even corrected a colleague from Alabama, who used the state-preferred term Alabamian rather than the proper English term of Alabaman.

As youngsters, my dad taught my sister and me that the longest word was antidisestablishmentarianist, meaning one opposed to the disestablishment of the Church of England.

Since then, it’s taken its place in the top five.

Now, it is said the longest in an English dictionary is pneumonoultramicroscopisilicovolcnoconiosis, a lung disease.

That’s being challenged by a new word proponents say has 189,819 letters and took a man three hours to properly say and spell. It’s a chemistry term.

That won’t make the Literacy Council list because it’s doubtful anyone could say it.

I saw a cartoon this week of two young lads looking at a book lying on the floor.

One of the boys said, “Mom called it a book, but I don’t know where the batteries go, and mom said it’s doesn’t require a password.”

Read a book this week in your “spare time.”

I am.

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