Category Archives: blog tour

The Origin of Run Amok


This week’s phrase is “to run amok”, although you may be more familiar with “run amuck”. In fact there are a few spelling variations on this one. Amok appears to be correct one for English language use.

You will find a few different stories about the origin of the phrase too, including a spurious nautical one about running a ship aground into the muck.

Etymology Online tells me it was a verbal phrase recorded in the early 1500s in “The Book of Duarte Barbosa – An Account of the Countries Bordering on the Indian Ocean and Their Inhabitants” as Amuco “who go out into the streets, and kill as many person as they meet”. They add that the Malay word amuk meant to attack furiously and in Portugese amouco or amuco describes a frenzied Malay.

Either way, it’s clear that somebody running amok is somebody to avoid and something like a Viking berserker.

Viking Chessman from the Isle of Lewis. He is biting his shield, a beserker tradition and “Sticklers, Sideburns and Bikinis” by Graeme Donald flesh out the story, but be warned it doesn’t become gentler.

In the 1600s, Malays occupied Malabar (on the west coast of India) and in their tradition the king was required to kill himself after 12 years of power, by cutting his own throat in public. With time, and I’m guessing at the request of the monarchy, this was modified to allow a team of warriors (amokers) run at the king and usually be cut down by the bodyguards. If one killed the king then he claimed the crown. Stories of this dramatic power struggle were brought back to Europe by shocked travelers.

The amokers, or amuco, were dedicated warriors who believed failed missions were punished with dishonour and fallen soldiers became favourites of the gods. Captain James Cook, who traveled in the region in the late 1700s, mentioned opium use in connection with this tradition so it’s possible the warriors combined skill, faith, and narcotics before running amok.

I used to accuse my children of running amok when they played rowdy games or scattered toys throughout the house, but having discovered more about the amuco, I have to retract that allegation.

The lovely Andrew Doherty of Tides and Tales blog has been kind enough to read and review “Words The Sea Gave Us” on his blog this week. As a landlubber myself I was relieved to find somebody from a nautical family giving it the stamp of approval. His blog is fascinating to anybody with an interest in Irish maritime history and illustrated with wonderful photos, both old and new. Andrew has already published one book about maritime history and his second, “Waterford Harbour, Tides and Tales” is launching this month with the History Press.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Listen to Wordfoolery on the Bunny Trails Podcast


Last weekend I had a great chat with Dan and Shauna on the Bunny Trails podcast (a whimsical exploration of words and turns of phrase coming from Kansas, USA) all about my latest book “Words The Sea Gave Us”. I really enjoyed taking part in my first ever podcast session (despite a massive cargo ship full of nerves) and I hope you enjoy listening too. At the very least it offers you a chance to finally hear what I sound like! And yes, I know, I speak far too fast, call it an Irish thing.

You can read the transcript of the episode if you click the image below, listen to the audio here, or search for Bunny Trails wherever you usually pick up your podcasts. I’ve tried some of their back catalogue too and they are well worth a listen.

There won’t be a Monday blog post for the next two weeks as Wordfoolery and family are heading away (beside the sea, of course!) but I’ll be back on Monday the 17th of August with more strange and unusual English words.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,


The History of the Word Barber and their Poles


Today, if you live in Ireland, you can once again get your hair cut. As I write, the menfolk of my household are making the trip, through rain and wind, to resume their pre-virus hairstyles. It’s been a hard three months for those who like a neat trim.

Beard growing became a staying-at-home hobby for some.

For the day that’s in it I’ve decided to explore the word history of barber – a word the Romans gave us, with a little help from those fashionable French. If you’ve stumbled on this post looking for barbarians and barbarous, you can read more about their roots (pun intended) in my earlier post, or take a look at the barbaric yawp.

Despite the many shaggy hairstyles sported in historic sculptures, tapestries, and portraits, barbers have been part of life for longer than you might guess. Barber entered the English language around 1300 from the Anglo-French word barbour. It came from Old French barbeor (or barbieor, spelling was fluid back then) and ultimately from the Latin word barba (beard) which also gives us the word barb (as on an arrow or other weapons).

Barbers were early practitioners of the portfolio career concept. As somebody with access to cutting implements they often performed minor surgeries as well as hair-cuts and shaves. By the time of King Henry VIII of England they were limited to hair-cutting, blood-letting, and dentistry – hopefully not all at the same time.

The red and white striped barber’s pole used to identify their shop dates back the late 1600s and was a visual reminder of somebody’s arm, wrapped in a white bandage, after a blood-letting procedure. The pole itself was meant to represent the stick the patient would squeeze to make their veins stand out and make the cutting easier.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. Don’t forget “Words The Sea Gave Us” is now available for digital pre-orders. If you’d like a review copy – drop me a comment below. I’m planning a blog tour too – if you’d like me to guest post / be interviewed on your blog – let me know.

p.p.s. CampNaNo runs in April and July each year and I’ll be taking part again this July – aiming for another 30,000 words of my serialised novel “The Librarian’s Secret Diary”. Between camp and my book launch, it’s going to be a very busy July!



Wordfoolery is now open to Guest Posts


This year the Wordfoolery blog is ten years old and I’ve been celebrating by quietly making a few changes around here. I’ve spruced up the theme, tidied some pages, and refreshed the banner. I’ve expanded the reach of the blog via pinterest, mix, and bloglovin’ too. I’m also working hard on my second and third books inspired by the blog (“Words The Sea Gave Us” and “Words The Vikings Gave Us”).

Now I’m happy to announce that Wordfoolery is open to guest posts!

The full submission details / writer guidelines are here.

If you’ve a favourite word (or words), a passion for word history, a review of a wordy book (or dictionary?), a rant about US vs UK spelling conventions etc. then send me your suggestion and we’ll see if it fits on Wordfoolery. Unfortunately guest posts are unpaid (like my own!) but I’m happy to promote the post and allow links to your writing, website, books, or blog. Please note that guest posts should be between 300 and 1,000 words in length.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

Work In Progress Challenge


This week, instead of an unusual word, I’ll be talking about my current work-in-progress “Julia and the Free Wedding”. You can blame my Rome-dwelling critique friend – Kimberly who tagged me in the 777 Work In Progress Challenge.

The idea is that I open page seven of my work-in-progress, scroll down to line seven and share the next seven lines. Please bear in mind that this is only draft level writing!

“Julia and the Free Wedding” (started in NaNoWriMo 2013) is the story of Julia, who wins a free wedding having just dumped her fiance. She’s a struggling fabric artist who runs an evening class for women adding a home-made touch to their weddings. She meets Jack there and assumes he’s gay because he’s crafting a wedding for his sister Sam and is an interior designer. However he’s actually a straight movie-designer and is only attending the class to pick up tips for his next blockbuster. As the lies mount up, their attraction grows.

Each chapter starts with a wedding tradition explained. I like to do non-fiction headers in my novels.

In this scene from chapter two, Julia is talking over her fiance’s reaction to her dumping him at a wedding fair.

“Don’t pretend to be blue, Julia. I heard the relief in your voice when you phoned me. Your main reaction was annoyance that you couldn’t take the train home.” Lisa dunked a cookie into her hot chocolate and took a bite.

“Well I couldn’t exactly dump Derek and then share a carriage with him. It would have been really awkward. I had no choice but to walk home.”

“You said he took it alright though.”

She thought back. He hadn’t seemed upset or even surprised when she explained that they were too different to make a good couple. His only comment was that he’d have to ring his mother and tell her.

“Yeah, he did. Insultingly so in fact. I’m a catch. He should have been at least a little upset. Right?”

OK readers, feel free to comment on the extract or novel pitch.

Kimberly wrote about her current work-in-progress which I’ve been lucky enough to read a little of in draft and it’s a great story. Thanks for the tag, Kimberly.

The seven bloggers I nominate for this challenge are AnneMarie, Nikki, Maria Matthews, Maria Hughes, CarolAnn, Lisa Red and Jay Dee from Carousel Creates, NaNoWriMo Ireland and Critique Circle contacts. Just found the blog for another crit partner – Lindy – you’re tagged too, girl! Have fun!

Until next week happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,


Is Über over the top?


Today’s word, Über, comes as a guest post from my online critique partner Ashlinn Craven. Ashlinn is an Irish woman, now living in Switzerland, who has just published her first novel “Maybe Baby”. Congratulations Ashlinn and over to you.

Ashlinn Craven

Ashlinn Craven

I’ve seen this trendy German-borrowed word pop up in recent years, mainly as a modifier to adjectives: uber excited, uber rich, uber connected, uber lame, but also as a prefix to nouns: ubercar, uberfic, ubervamp, the uberleft. The original German umlaut gets lobbed off for typographical convenience and the u is spoken the English way.

Über means above/over or via in German. Indeed, a German speaker might well use the “Denglish” super or total if translating English uber back into German (uber excited = super aufgeregt or total aufgeregt) .

You’d wonder why English with its uber-abundance of modifiers for nouns and adjectives (super, over, hyper, mega) has even adopted it? Wikipedia says the crossover goes back to Nietzsche who coined the term “Übermensch” in 1883 to describe the higher state to which he felt men might aspire. This notion of “super-man” found its way into nazi claptrap and then satirical literature, and maybe explains the word’s connotation of invincibility.

Others, me included, think it was the punk band the Dead Kennedys who truly popularised it with the brilliant song “California uber Alles“. It takes off the first stanza (no longer sung) of the German national anthem “Deutschland über Alles”. Although, in this example, über is used with original German diacritcs and prepositional meaning intact, and not the transformed meaning discussed above.

I’m uber confused.

Either way, it’s a handy little word with semantic flavours that a plain old “super” doesn’t quite embody—a kind of manic intensity, singularity, or over-the-topness. It hasn’t yet made it into many dictionaries, but I’m uber-confident it’ll get there in time.

So now we know how to go over the top, in English or German. Ashlinn’s novel “Maybe Baby”, a fast paced, witty, rom-com about what happens when an IVF egg donor falls for the sperm donor, launched yesterday and we’re the second stop on her blog tour.

Maybe Baby Cover

Maybe Baby Cover

Uber-organized Polly Malone leaves nothing to chance. Running her web design company on a shoestring, she’s determined to make it a success. Her career plan doesn’t include a man or a family. When she’s approached by a stranger with an unusual request, she hasn’t the heart – or the bank balance – to refuse.

Sexy, wealthy, top London games entrepreneur Julian Ripley is battling for control of the company he built and picking up the pieces of his post-divorce life. But his sister makes a plea he can’t refuse.

When Polly and Julian meet in a dusty post office, feelings spark to life, but each harbors a secret – one that both binds and repels.

Caught between family and commitments, can their love survive or is it inconceivable?

If you’re on Goodreads check out the rave reviews. You can buy the book for your Kindle here (UK) or here (USA). I’ll be back, fooling with words, next Monday, Grace