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15. Names From a Place
By Gretchen Legler
Genre: Non-fiction
Year: 1997 Category: Student Examples

Writing Assignment:

Come up with a list of four or five names that are unique to your place. They can be names that are peculiar to your region, or just names of things like birds or types of weather, that signify the specialness of your place. Make a list, and briefly describe each name on it.

Writing Sample:

Herbie: A term used in McMurdo to describe the fierce storms that come up out of the south, coming down off the South Pole and rolling onto the Ross Ice Shelf. The rule at McMurdo is that if you cannot see Mina Bluff, a thin peninsula south of McMurdo, then you have about an hour and a half to find shelter before a Herbie crashes down on you. The narrow pass between White Island and Black Island, islands just south of McMurdo, is known as Herbie Alley. Skua: An infamous gull-like Antarctic bird. The Skua comes back to Antarctica in the summer months to nest and feed. They are aggressive birds, known around McMurdo for dive-bombing humans and for their tenacity when it comes to foraging for food. They are so intrepid that they've been known to perch, switching hot feet one at a time, on the edges of sizzling barbecues, in order to get first dibs on the hamburgers grilling there. They are also known for being dumpster divers. Skuaing: A term used to refer to human activity in McMurdo, the equivalent of Antarctic garage-saling. To "skua" something means you have put an item of clothing or a book or a coffee mug in the "skua pile," which means you are getting rid of it and offering it up to someone else. To go "skuaing" or to have "skuaed" something means you've visited such a skua pile and snagged something good. Typically, anything good left in a skua pile lasts about five minutes. Katabatic: Antarctica is shaped like a bottle cap, sloping from the interior plateaus down to the coast. As elevation drops and the air warms, gusting winds, called katabatics, grow strong and rush down upon the lower elevations. These winds can get up to 200 miles per hour and can erupt quickly and last for days. The name comes from the Greek word katabasis, which means descent. Sastrugi: Hummocks and drifts of snow built by the wind that make the seemingly flat Antarctic landscape a maze of small hills and dales. Sastrugi are hard on skiers and vehicles trying to cross vast flat spots. Piedmont: This word means "mountain foot" in French and is used to describe the "foot" of glaciers that spread out in much the same shape as a bird's foot. Piedmonts are glaciers that come from land all the way to the edge of the sea.


Listing unique names that have to do with a place is a good generating technique. You may not use the names themselves in any piece of writing, or the exercise might not yield anything that you'll want to put in an essay, but it may help you see patterns in the place you are writing about, or it may help you think of incidents or ideas associated with the words themselves.
Copyright 11.24.97

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