Definition essay the world according to me

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  • “I look & I write my book, And I have my say & I draw conclusions” --B. Joel
  • This essay relates your personal understanding
  • of a term or idea.
  • So, in the end, the reader understands the term
  • as you do.
  • Thus, we are not concerned with a textbook or
  • dictionary definition of the term.
  • Yes, you may consult your sociology text book
  • or your Funk and Wagnall’s dictionary or
  • encyclopedia for introductory comments,
  • BUT DO NOT make its definition the focus of
  • your essay—if I wanted their definitions, I’d
  • read their books. Your essay = your ideas.
  • *See the Introduction below.*



  • Introduce your topic (GQ’S: generalization, quote, quip, question, stat)
  • “Funnel Effect
  • Perhaps the common understanding OR the textbook definition of the term to set up the CONTRAST of your version of the term
  • Etymology of the word (if it helps illuminate current meanings and usages)


  • You can perhaps start with an interesting and relevant quote. For example, if you were to define the word “music,” you could refer to the following quote from the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night:
    • If music be the food of love, play on, Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken and so die. (1.1.1-3)
  • Then you would begin with:
  • Shakespeare suggests that music is “the food of love,” and most of us would agree with him.


  • Contrast (what the term is NOT—negation—see the “Love Chapter” below)
  • Describe the special quality of the term that CONTRASTS it with the rest of the class (the 3 traits will serve this purpose)
  • Last sentence = thesis


    • formula:
    • A flibbertigibbet (TERM) is a person (CLASS) who is silly, scatterbrained, and garrulous (3 CHARACTERISTICS).
    • Love is a fleeting emotion that results in pain, temporary insanity, and hate.
    • students’ personal understandings of terms


  • * When asked, most people would define an alcoholic as a person who drinks too much. While this may be essentially true, I discovered that this definition is a bit more complicated than that. Last year, I came to realize that I had a dependency on, or a “problem with,” alcohol, and through this experience I learned that an alcoholic is a person who is powerless over his/her addiction, who exhibits characteristic behaviors beyond simply drinking too much, and, most of all, who requires the help of a Higher Power to deal with this life-long addiction.



  • Some students have a difficulty understanding the concept of “characteristics” or “traits,” especially when dealing with abstractions.
  • It may then be helpful to think of “characteristics” in medical terms:
    • as DNA, genes, of a person or abstraction
    • as the symptomology of a condition, as SYMPTOMS


  • (1) For example, what are the symptoms of love:
  • —“Doctor, doctor, I’ve been acting really strange lately: I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t concentrate. I think I’ve caught this thing called ‘love.’ Can you tell me what its symptoms are to see if I’ve got it?”
  • (2) The symptoms of an ill person:
  • —“Doctor , doctor, I’ve been acting really strange lately….Can you look in the DSM-IV to see if I’m turning into a hypochondriac?!”


  • “Characteristics” are NOT
    • types
    • roles
    • reasons
  • These are for other rhetorical strategies:
    • Classification (the types of lovers)
    • Division (the roles of lovers)
    • Illustration (the reasons you love him/her)


  • Name the trait.
  • Explain the trait.
  • Illustrate the trait with specific people, examples, and instances.


  • BAG
  • of
  • =
  • Other Rhetorical Strategies
  • Description
  • Examples (specific person/instance)
  • Extended Example
  • Narration
  • Process-Analysis
  • Comparison/Contrast
  • Division/Classification
  • Negation

BODY (sample)

  • * First, an alcoholic is a person who is powerless over his or her
  • addiction. To be powerless basically means that it is not simply
  • a matter of will power, or a lack thereof. Rather, the roots of
  • this addiction involve biological, psychological, and behavioral
  • factors that must be addressed in order to live a sober lifestyle.
  • For instance, I realized that my inability to stop drinking was
  • not due to my being too weak to resist, that I lacked the
  • necessary will power to stop. It was not a matter of simply
  • wanting to get better—that was a good place to start—but I
  • had to realize that my drinking was an addiction and a disease
  • and that I was utterly powerless to fight it on my own. No
  • matter how much money I had or how much weight I could lift,
  • this disease was going to control me unless I got professional
  • help. The irony is that I had to be in a rehabilitation center in
  • order to realize that I needed to be in a rehabilitation center.

BODY (more specific)

  • * For instance, I used to have periods in which I did not drink, and I arrogantly and erroneously thought that each time I had my dependency beat. However, all it took was a bad day at work or a fight with my spouse to find myself drunk in my favorite dive bar. What would begin with “only one drink to take the edge off,” repeatedly ended with me hopelessly and helplessly trapped in my addictive, destructive, and dangerous cycle again. Sadly, all that triggered my last binge was an encounter with an idiot driver. It was after that experience, not to mention the consequent jail time and mandatory rehabilitation order, I realized that I needed professional help.


  • name trait,
  • explain trait,
  • illustrate trait with specifics
  • *(Most Important Trait—Emphatic Order)*
  • name trait,
  • explain trait,
  • illustrate trait with specifics
  • WHO vs/ THAT
    • who refers to people;
    • that refers to animals & objects
    • another, on the other hand,
    • in contrast, for instance
  • This is neither a CLASSIFICATION (types) nor a NARRATION (story) essay
    • so follow the proper format for the DEFINITION (characteristics) essay
    • use terms like traits, characteristics,
    • features, qualities, aspects, attributes
  • Define either a person OR an abstraction
    • an alcoholic OR alcoholism
    • remain consistent throughout essay
    • whatever you use in your Introduction



  • Refer back to your introduction/
  • purpose/scenario
  • Repeat thesis/definition& traits
  • Clincher sentence


  • 4-6 PAGES
  • No fewer than 4
  • To reach this length:
    • utilize 2 examples per characteristic
    • make those 2 examples detailed and descriptive
    • go to the lower level of specificity: refer to specific persons in specific instances
  • Definition Essay VS Other Essays

Definition VS Other Rhetorical Modes

    • Characteristics
    • Features
    • Qualities
    • Aspects
    • Attributes
  • FOCUS:
    • Focuses on only 1 type
    • Focuses on 1 term
  • SUPPORT: (for each trait)
    • Examples
    • Narration
    • Description
    • To define a term through personal understanding.
    • Types
    • Focuses on 3 types
    • Detailed story
    • Focuses on telling a story
    • Sense details
    • Focuses on supporting a Dominant Impression
    • Uses sense details, similes



  • (1) Choose an ORIGINAL word (used with friends or family—just keep it clean, please)
  • OR
  • (2) Choose an EXISTING word (see list below)


  • (3) Put a positive spin on a negative term. That is, some words carry negative connotations, so it would original if you were to twist the meaning of such a word.
  • — Examples of such words include the B-word, the N-word, and the F-word. See also Hick, Hayseed, Cracker, Redneck, White Boy, Yank, Faggot, Homophobe, Catholic?, American?, Republican?, …
  • — See what Meredith Brooks did in her song:


  • “Bitch”
  • I hate the world today You're so good to me I know but I can't change Tried to tell you But you look at me like maybe I'm an angel underneath Innocent and sweet Yesterday I cried Must have been relieved to see The softer side I can understand how you'd be so confused I don't envy you I'm a little bit of everything All rolled into one
  • Chorus: I'm a bitch, I'm a lover I'm a child, I'm a mother I'm a sinner, I'm a saint I do not feel ashamed I'm your hell, I'm your dream I'm nothing in between You know you wouldn't want it any other way
  • So take me as I am This may mean You'll have to be a stronger man Rest assured that When I start to make you nervous And I'm going to extremes Tomorrow I will change And today won't mean a thing
  • Chorus
  • Just when you think, you got me figured out The season's already changing I think it's cool, you do what you do And don't try to save me
  • Chorus
  • I'm a bitch, I'm a tease I'm a goddess on my knees When you hurt, when you suffer I'm your angel undercover I've been numb, I'm revived Can't say I'm not alive You know I wouldn't want it any other way

TOPICS (abstractions 1)

  • Crime
  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Alcoholism
  • Chocoholism
  • Workaholism
  • Shopaholism
  • Slacker-ness
  • Yuppie-hood
  • Freak/Geek-ness
  • Love/Hate
  • Family
  • Family Dysfunct.
  • Big Bro./Sister-hood
  • Identity Theft
  • Role Model (inspir.)
  • Specific Zodiac Sign
  • Determin./Courage
  • Commitment/Heart
  • Energy/Laziness

TOPICS (abstractions 2)

  • Loneliness
  • Honesty
  • Faith
  • Betrayal
  • Disillusionment
  • Will Power
  • Ambition
  • Arrogance
  • Class
  • Common Sense
  • Conscience
  • Danger
  • Curiosity
  • Depression
  • Equality
  • Escape
  • Innocence
  • Freedom
  • Fear
  • Insecurity

TOPICS (abstractions 3)

  • Jealousy
  • Nostalgia
  • Obsession
  • Team Spirit
  • Persistence
  • Practicality
  • Rebellion
  • Responsibility
  • Self-Control
  • Holidays
  • Resentment
  • Fairness
  • Boredom
  • Excitement
  • Childhood
  • Sense of Humor
  • Violence
  • Stress
  • Beauty
  • Truth
  • Job Position
  • Cheating

TOPICS (people)

  • Couch Potato
  • Know-it-all/Brainiac
  • Charmer
  • Snob
  • Con Artist
  • Fair-Weather Friend
  • Good Sport
  • Show-Off
  • Class Clown
  • Jellyfish
  • Leader/Follower
  • Optimist/Pessimist
  • Pack rat
  • Whiner
  • Control Freak
  • Mother Hen
  • Toady/Suck-up
  • Fusspot
  • Clotheshorse
  • Worrywart

TOPICS (even more)

  • Daydreamer
  • Alcoholic
  • Lover
  • Friend
  • Stress-or
  • Perfect Mate
  • Jailhouse Shyster
  • Hockey Player (goalie, forward, enforcer)
  • Christian
  • Wiccan
  • Depressive
  • Optimist/Pessimist
  • Perfect Boy/Girlfriend
  • Great Song (legend)
  • Hick
  • Faith

TOPICS (S’more)

    • Faith
    • God (Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, …)
    • Christian, Jew, Agnostic, Atheist, Witness, …
    • Holidays (Christmas, Thanksgiving)
    • *Define your Higher Power
    • Relationships
    • Wife/Husband
    • Big Brother, Little Sister
    • Adult, Adulthood
    • Responsibility

TOPICS (S’more)

    • Culture
    • Civilization
    • Enlightened Society
    • Leader
    • Educator (teacher, facilitator)
  • IDOL:
    • Classic
    • Legend, Icon
    • Hero, Role Model
    • Champion
  • A
  • B
  • S
  • T
  • R
  • A
  • C
  • T
  • I
  • O
  • N
  • S
  • P
  • E
  • O
  • P
  • L
  • E
  • T
  • Y
  • P
  • E
  • S



  • Unfortunately, in the contemporary American
  • culture of the early twenty-first century, men
  • are typically defined through pop-culture media in terms of …
  • *adapted from class discussions*


  • Unfortunately, in the contemporary American
  • culture of the early twenty-first century,
  • women are typically defined through pop-culture media in terms of …


  • However, my conceptualization of a true
  • man/woman remains remarkably different.
  • Despite the pop-culture mythology, I still
  • believe that some of the characteristics of a
  • real man/woman include __, __, and __,
  • and, for me, the three most significant
  • traits are __, __, and __.


  • suicide
  • patient
  • complicated
  • life
  • forever
  • selfish
  • hell
  • paranoid
  • not enough
  • ephemeral

LOVE — 1 Corinthians 13 (NIV)

  • If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
  • If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
  • If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
  • Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
  • It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
  • Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
  • It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
  • Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
  • For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
  • When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
  • Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
  • And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1-13)

“What is Love” Haddaway

  • What is love Oh baby, don't hurt me Don't hurt me no more Oh, baby don't hurt me Don't hurt me no more What is love Yeah Oh, I don't know why you're not there I give you my love, but you don't care So what is right and what is wrong Gimme a sign What is love Oh baby, don't hurt me Don't hurt me no more What is love Oh baby, don't hurt me Don't hurt me no more Whoa whoa whoa, oooh oooh Whoa whoa whoa, oooh oooh Oh, I don't know, what can I do What else can I say, it's up to you I know we're one, just me and you I can't go on
  • (chorus) Whoa whoa whoa, oooh oooh Whoa whoa whoa, oooh oooh (repeat)
  • What is love Oh baby, don't hurt me Don't hurt me no more Don't hurt me Don't hurt me I want no other, no other lover This is your life, our time When we are together, I need you forever Is it love (chorus)
  • (repeat)
  • What is love?

“Love is Blindness” U2

  • Love is blindness I don't want to see Won't you wrap the night Around me Oh my heart Love is blindness In a parked car In a crowded street You see your love Made complete Thread is ripping The knot is slipping Love is blindness Love is clockworks And cold steel Fingers too numb to feel Squeeze the handle Blow out the candle Love is blindness Love is blindness I don't want to see Won't you wrap the night Around me Oh my love Blindness
  • A little death Without mourning No call And no warning Baby...a dangerous idea That almost makes sense Love is drowning In a deep well All the secrets And no one to tell Take the money Honey Blindness Love is blindness I don't want to see Won't you wrap the night Around me Oh my love Blindness

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