A Jarful of Marbles

Just wanted to write about a successful art project, but I was jarred by a bombardment of spelling and usage questions. The summer school elementary students are learning to play marbles, or at least how to use their thumbs to shoot taws at a cardboard box with openings cut to resemble a Firestone garage.

I love marbles, but I never played the game. We used marbles to play Chinese checkers. As kids we spent time sorting marbles by color and style in the same way we "played" with buttons and polished rocks. I have a big jar of old-timey marbles just because I like looking at it. So I took the jar to school for this week's art project.

Marbles fit in well with the preschoolers' unit on outer space. The kids thought the marbles looked like planets in the solar system. I had a photo of a very fancy marble with a solar system inside it. We also considered how gravity holds the marbles down to the bottom of the jar. What would happen if the jar was spilled in the space shuttle? It's plenty scary if the jar spills on Earth!

I had a lot of trouble writing about squirrels recently. When you write a word, and then look at it in several different sizes and fonts, it often starts to look improbable, if not impossible. Today I'm having that same difficulty with jar, jarful, and jar full. Is my glass jar full of marbles? Is it half empty? Is it a jarful? Or was a "jarful" one of the creatures described by Lewis Carroll?

jar (n.)
"cylindrical vessel," 1421, possibly from M.Fr. jarre "liquid measure" (smaller than a barrel), from Prov. jarra, from Arabic jarrah "earthen water vessel" (whence also Sp. jarra, It. giarra).

jar (v.)
to startle or unsettle; to shock or jolt

jarful (n.)
as much as a jar will hold

I don't want to get involved in the tussle between those who claim the nursery rhyme Ring Around the Roses refers to the Black Plague, and those who debunk their assertions. Putting posies in your pocket makes more sense than putting monkeys in a barrel, but is it a "pocketful of poseys" or a "pocket full of posies"? Both seem to be acceptable.

A tussle, of course, is a rough-and-tumble scuffle, but a tussock is a clump or tuft of growing grass, hair, or feathers. A tussock is closely related to Miss Muffet's tuffet, which was either a clump of grass or a low stool. My grandma Halma had a hassock, which my 1973 American Heritage Dictionary defines as "a thick cushion used as a footstool, or a dense clump of grass.

An earful (n.) doesn't have anything to do with either grass or wax:

  1. An abundant or excessive amount of something heard, such as talk or music.
  2. Gossip, especially of an intimate or scandalous nature.
  3. A scolding or reprimand.

Getting an earful is different, and probably less effective, than having a grandma [with her feet upon a hassock] making the alveolar clicking interjection to exclaim her disapproval, disdain, contempt, or impatience. Tsk-tsk! For shame!

An anthem based on Psalm 98 from my old high school choir days is playing in my head ... Make a joyful noise*. Make a joyful jarful of marbles! These art works are by students ages four to eight.

The Holy Bible: King James Version. The Psalms 98
Praise for God's Righteousness
A Psalm.
1 O sing unto the LORD a new song;
for he hath done marvelous things:
his right hand, and his holy arm, hath gotten him the victory.
2 The LORD hath made known his salvation:
his righteousness hath he openly showed in the sight of the heathen.
3 He hath remembered his mercy and his truth
toward the house of Israel:
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.
4 Make a joyful noise unto the LORD, all the earth:
make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.
5 Sing unto the LORD with the harp;
with the harp, and the voice of a psalm.
6 With trumpets and sound of cornet
make a joyful noise before the LORD, the King.
7 Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof;
the world, and they that dwell therein.
8 Let the floods clap their hands:
let the hills be joyful together
9 before the LORD;
for he cometh to judge the earth:
with righteousness shall he judge the world,
and the people with equity.

Supplies needed: Transparency sheets, crayons, glue sticks, colored cellophane, colored plastic shopping bags, giftwrap, scissors, construction paper scraps, some scraps of coffee filters painted with liquid watercolors.

© 2008 Nancy L. Ruder

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