Read “Lederer on Language” every Saturday in the San Diego Union Tribune and on this site.
Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

This is the time of year when teachers send parents evaluations of their children’s academic achievements and shortcomings. One teacher actually wrote, “Here is your child’s progress report. Sign the verification form at the top where indicated and return to school with your child in the envelope.”

In truth, teachers exhibit a remarkable ability to capture a student’s strengths and weaknesses. Here are some school reports about famous people in their early years:

• Jefferson Davis prefers to play with just a small number of his classmates and doesn’t join in activities designed for the entire group. His fellow students have voted him Most Likely to Secede.

• Al Einstein is a problem child. He finds science and mathematics relatively easy, but he needs to pay more attention to his grooming.

• Tiger Woods is doing very well in golf class but failing driver’s education. While he drives well on a fairway, he doesn’t fare well on a driveway.

• In tense social situations, Marie Antoinette tends to lose her head. We recommend that she stop eating cake and go on a sugar-free diet.

• Jacky the Ripper has been tearing up the origami creations of his classmates.

• Having Tommy Edison in my class has been an illuminating experience. He is very bright, and when he gets an idea, a light bulb seems to go on above his head.

• Learned, knowledgeable, educated, studious, scholarly, well informed, well versed and erudite Peter Roget demonstrates a far-ranging, comprehensive, inclusive, extensive, embracive, encompassing, exhaustive, encyclopedic, eclectic vocabulary. Moreover, he is a amenable, cooperative, collaborative, compliant, helpful and symbiotic team player.

• Ludwig Van Beethoven behaves eccentrically in class. He hears music in his head but is not connected to an iPod. More seriously, all instructions from his teachers seem to fall on deaf ears.

• Michelangelo is continually finger-painting on the ceiling, and the custodial staff has incurred considerable expense to scrub away his drawings.

• Vince Van Gogh paints so expressively, but he has no ear for music.

• Pablo Picasso exhibits possible talent in art, but he fails to show respect for authority. For example, despite my instructions, he continues to draw both eyes on the same side of each face.

• Willie Shakespeare is failing essay writing because he refuses to write in prose, and his verse draws a blank with his classmates. If he continues in this manner, he will be Bard from the class.

• Ptolemy exhibits a strong interest in astronomy, but he needs to learn that the universe doesn’t revolve around him.

• Vladimir Putin exhibits strong leadership qualities and has been elected class dictator, but he does not play well with others. He seeks to take over the entire playroom and defiantly stands on top of a model we have of a giant cracker. He claims that he’s simply Putin on the Ritz.

• Marie Curie excels in science and radiates enthusiasm in every project she undertakes.

• Do you have any suggestions about how we can break Ivan Pavlov of his annoying habit of drooling every time the school bell rings?

• Rodney Dangerfield always tries to be the class clown, but his classmates give him no respect.

• Because of his bullying and other forms of anti-social behavior, we have had to place Al Capone in a very long detention period.

• Rodney King is to be commended for his cooperative spirit. He just wants everyone to get along.

• Although Bernie Madoff is creative with figures, he is getting a D in arithmetic because his numbers just don’t add up. Nonetheless, we are pleased to report that Bernie has been elected class treasurer.

• As prom queen and captain of the cheerleading team, Sarah Palin is the most popular girl in the class. She is also an outstanding debater, able to refudiate all her opponents’ arguments, and her peers have elected her class vice president. But she is experiencing difficulty in geography class, especially regarding the locations of Alaska and Russia.

• Although she cuts a fine figure, we had to suspend Tonya Harding because, in the playground, she keeps whacking her classmates in the knees. Due to such disruptive behavior, she is skating on thin ice.

• e.e. cummings is receiving low grades in essay writing primarily because of his lack of skill in the mechanics of composition. Despite my repeated requests, he refuses to use capital letters in his essays.