Let’s go back to that student standing in front of my classroom—let’s call her Lucy—thanks to her willingness publicly to recount a story from her youth. One of the first characteristics that I try to lure her audience into discerning, I do by way of un-contextualized gestures. That is, I stand next to Lucy and periodically raise a finger as she tells the story of Little Red Riding Hood. One—and then another—and then another of my fingers goes up, until finally I have to change hands in order to account for the seven, eight, nine times that Lucy has … Done what? Like I said, I haven’t told the students what I’m tallying. They have to figure it out for themselves, and eventually they always do. They realize that what I’m keeping count of is Lucy’s repeated use of a single grammatical construction, the conjunction: those tiny little words that adjoin words to phrases, and independent clauses to other independent clauses. And Lucy’s stringing her sentences together by way of a veritable litany of them:

But then came a hunter, and he killed the wolf with an axe, and out of his body appeared Little Red Riding Hood and her grandmother. Then, all three filled the wolf’s body with stones and they sank it in the river.