Posted by: Dorianne Cotter-Lockard | 25 August 2008

Burke’s 5 Dogs – Writing Tips

I just attended a wonderful weekend writing workshop with my faculty advisor, Dr. Valerie Bentz and her scholar husband, Dr. Steve Figler. I got so much out of the workshop (reasons to be revealed shortly). One of the exercises that they gave us was derived from Kenneth Burke‘s book Language as Symbolic Action. In the exercise, Dr. Burke suggests you take a word of interest and think through its meaning in five different modes. He uses the example of the word “dog”

Lexical – the dictionary meaning (per Webster: a highly variable domestic mammal (Canis familiaris) closely related to the gray wolf)

Jingle – rhyming words, songs, etc. that run through your mind when you think of the word (smog, fog, god)

Entelechial – the ultimate ideal (for me it would be a chocolate lab puppy that is already house-trained, with a dog yard that is separate from my flower and vegetable gardens)

Primordial – the first memory that is embedded in one’s consciousness and often associated with feeling (delivering my first dog’s nine puppies by myself when I was 13 years old)

Tautological – associations or “what goes with” the word (walk, leash, yard, fleas, poop, love)

We were asked to take our dissertation topic area, boil it down to one word and work through this exercise. The results were fascinating for all of us and really helped me to clarify one of my three words (consciousness, leadership and spirituality).



“The quality of state of being aware, especially of something within oneself” or “the state of being characterized by sensation, emotion, volition and thought: mind” (Webster, 2005)


A song that a friend wrote prompted some phrases: One power, one light, one love, one intelligence, one energy


  • One who is always aware of the energy surrounding and running through them
  • One who feels immersed in and connected with everyone and everything
  • One who brings a presence of light, intelligence, love and energy wherever they go


When I was eight years old, laying awake at night in my bunkbed, I remember felling at one with the universe. I felt very expansive, yet small at the same time. I was just one speck in the vast universe.


meditation, contemplation, dance, music, play, joy, compassion, love, relationships, decisions, action

The tautological section drew a very interesting set of associations for me. Valerie commented that moving from meditation to action is a Buddhist concept. This may be one of the themes I seek out in my future research. It definitely appeared in my recently completed study on meditation.

FYI, I will be a panel speaker on “Entering and Leaving the Workforce” at the Office 2.0 conference, Sept 3-5 in San Francisco. If you’re in the vicinity, it will be an interesting conference.



  1. An amazingly helpful practice. Thanks for sharing it.

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