Discussion Topic

Nick's relationship with Mrs. Granger and their differing views on language and the dictionary in Frindle


In Frindle, Nick and Mrs. Granger have conflicting views on language and the dictionary. Nick sees language as dynamic and open to change, while Mrs. Granger believes in the authority and stability of dictionaries. This difference in perspective creates tension but also drives the narrative, highlighting the evolving nature of language. Ultimately, their relationship evolves from adversarial to respectful as they recognize each other's viewpoints.

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In Frindle, why does Nick disagree with Mrs. Granger's view on the dictionary?

Frindle centers around an epic battle of wills between Mrs. Granger, a teacher of language arts, and one of her students, Nick Allen. The battle is based around words, how we use them, and where they come from.

Mrs. Granger loves the dictionary; in fact, as Nick tells us, she almost worships it. She believes that dictionaries are the ultimate source of vocabulary and that her students should regularly learn new words by consulting a good dictionary, which, as far as she's concerned, every home should have.

Nick couldn't disagree more. He has no particular use for dictionaries. That's because he gets his vocabulary from reading, and as he reads an awful lot of books, he has quite a large vocabulary for his age. A boy who enjoys words and knows how to use them effectively, Nick doesn't really see much point in raiding the dictionary to find new words.

When Nick comes across a new word that he doesn't know, he asks his brother or dad what it means. If they know the answer, they'll tell him. But Mrs. Granger doesn't. She wants Nick and her other students to find out what words mean by looking them up in her beloved dictionary.

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What helps Nick understand Mrs. Granger's comment about words in Frindle?

At the end of Andrew Clements' Frindle, after reading the letter Mrs. Granger had written him ten years ago, Nick comes to understand the significance of a comment Mrs. Granger made ten years ago about the ability to create new words by making them up; Nick comes to realize she actually supports Nick's ability to invent brand new things.

One comment in the letter that stirs his memory about earlier comments is her explanation for why she values the dictionary so much. She values it because, no matter how much change has occurred in the world, words are still persistently important:

Words are still needed by everyone. Words are used to think with, to write with, to dream with, to hope and pray with. And that is why I love the dictionary. It endures. And as you now know, it also changes and grows. (p. 86)

After reading her remark about changing and growing, he remembers her comment ten years ago that "words could be made up brand new, I suppose" (p. 41). He further remembers that, after she gave the long history of the origin of the word pen, he had asked, "And after all, didn't somebody just make up the word pinna, too?," which ignited a spark in her eye as she had asked, "Then you are not going to stop this?" (p. 41).

The words of her letter help him understand exactly why she had commented about making up words, remarked that he wasn't going to stop, and developed a spark in her eye: she was happy that he was not going to stop trying to rename a pen a frindle;  she had been rooting for Nick's new word change all along. She firmly believed that if Nick kept pursuing calling a pen a frindle, the word frindle would be added to the dictionary, which was a success she wanted to see. Mrs. Granger admired Nick's creativity and knew he could accomplish great things with it; adding a new word to the dictionary would just be one small achievement among what Nick would be able to accomplish during his lifetime.

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In Frindle, how does Nick introduce his new word to Mrs. Granger and what is her reaction?

To best answer this question, I recommend starting to look in chapter 6. This is the chapter in which Nick first comes up with the word "frindle" as a new word for "pen." In this chapter, Janet drops her pen, and Nick picks it up for her. As he hands it back to her, Nick calls the writing utensil a "frindle." Janet has no idea what Nick is talking about, but Nick decides to test out the word at the Penny Pantry. It only took five kids asking for a "frindle" for the store employee to learn that a frindle was a pen. This gave Nick the confidence to get a group of his classmates in on his plan to always refer to pens as frindles in Mrs. Granger's class.

Chapter 7 begins with Nick's plan being implemented in Mrs. Granger's class. As soon as class starts, Nick announces to Mrs. Granger that he doesn't have a frindle for class. A classmate immediately responds by calling out that he has a "frindle" that Nick can borrow. The word "frindle" gets used far too often, and Mrs. Granger does not respond in any way. She carries on with class as normal. When the class ends, Mrs. Granger asks Nick to stay behind. She gives him the standard "I know what you are doing" type speech and tries to convey the message that his antics need to stop. Nick holds firm and defends his missing "frindle." Mrs. Granger decides that the confrontation is done for the day and dismisses Nick.

I see. Very well. Then I guess we have nothing more to discuss today, Nicholas. You may go.

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