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Archive for the ‘nanowrimo’ Category

Hello and Happy May Day,

I’ve an extra fondness for May as it’s my birthday month and I wish this first of May had less rain hereabouts, but I’ve enjoyed learning about Irish May Day traditions this morning on twitter. Apparently the day is celebrated with bonfires. I don’t fancy my chances of lighting the fire pit in today’s driving rain. Maidens would go out and wash their faces in stream junctions to avoid sun-burn. I’d try, but sun-burn isn’t looking too scary right now. Finally, wildflowers were gathered and placed on doorsteps to avert evil spirits. Now that I can do.

Rainbow wildflowers on a doorstep

This week’s word is bumptious. I came across it in an interview with the author Deborah Moggach who used it to mean being intolerant in relationships. I hadn’t met it before and scurried to my dictionary. It told me that a bumptious person is unpleasantly confident, arrogant, and conceited. The example given was of a bumptious young man but I’m sure this can apply to all genders and ages.

Bumptious doesn’t have ancient roots. It first appeared in English around 1800 and is believed to be a wordplay on the words bump and fractious (quarrelsome). Bump is older though, possibly from Scandinavian origins. It joined English in the late 1500s with the meaning of a blow, or the sound of a blow. One variation was bumpsy which was slang for drunk and certainly provides an image of a bumptious drunk staggering around, bumping into things.

Until next time enjoy the May Day traditions and avoid being a bumptious bumpsy,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. I won my April CampNaNoWriMo challenge with 50 hours of editing.

 

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Hello,

This week’s word is champion. If you’ve ever read or watched the “Game of Thrones” series by GRR Martin you’ll be familiar with nobles in trouble invoking the right to Trial By Combat and that’s where the champion enters the story.

In medieval times a king could only fight their peer, another king. Unless they met on the battlefield this was an unlikely event as the monarchs had to be protected at all costs. Instead the king would nominate a champion to meet any challenge on his behalf.

My Champion is Ready for Combat

 

Champion entered English during the 1200s but there are earlier mentions and given the prevalence of French as the language of nobility at the time it is unsurprising to find champion’s roots in French soil, with a light dusting of compost from Latin.

In Old French a champion was a combatant in single combat on the champ (field) and came from the Latin word campus which means field of combat and makes me wonder what transpires on university campuses.

Related words to champion are the French words for countryside (campagne) and mushrooms (champignon) which make sense in relation to fields, but the one I like is scamp – one who flees the field.

The British monarchy retains the concept of a Royal Champion since 1066A.D. This noble, whose family was given lands as a reward for the work, had to ride up and down before coronations asking if anybody objected. This tradition persists but without the horse these days. The current Royal Champion is also a chartered accountant.

The idea of a champion being a superior sporting star dates from the 1700s.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. My CampNaNoWriMo 2018 project is coming along well. I’m editing my middle grade adventure book “Red Sails” and enjoying the company of other dedicated writers in the “Editors Unite!” camp cabin.

 

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Hello,

The word thumb has been on my mind this week as I sprained mine at the weekend – not via excessive texting but by putting too much weight on it during a rock scramble on a mountain hike in Kerry. As a result I’m typing very carefully today with a swollen thumb.

Teermoyle Mountain, Kerry

Thumb fascinates me as a word because it’s so different to the word finger. Does the lack of a joint really make it so different? One thing I can vouch for this week is a) a swollen thumb is no joke and b) thumbs are really important in human evolution for a reason – they’re vital.

The word thumb has ancient roots in the Indo-European base language where tum meant swell (very appropriate for this week). By the time it reached the prehistoric West Germanic it had become thûmon. From there we get daumen (German),  duim (Dutch), and thumbe in Middle English. This was pronounced as two syllables, thum-be, but over time the second half became silent and we ended up with thumb in English.

Thumb in other European languages has Latin roots instead. Italian pollice and French pouce come from Latin pollex which means strong rather than swollen.

I assume the idea is the thumb looks like a swollen finger. Interestingly the words tumour and tumult have the same root. Phrases involving the thumb are pretty ancient too. We have rule of thumb where it’s a rough approximation of an inch from the 1500s and to be under the thumb was known since the 1580s.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. mercifully I passed the finish line on NaNoWriMo 2017 before I hurt my thumb, but I’m still mentoring my region.

 

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Hello,

This week’s word is courtesy of Linda Keller in my local knitting & crochet group. I’ve been crocheting for thirty years and she surprised me with a yarn term last week I’d never encountered before – nepp (pronunciation here). As I was crafting a scarf with the yarn in question, I decided to investigate.

Neppy yarn – Northern Lights by James C Brett

A nepp yarn is one which has tiny flecks of a contrasting colour twisted into the fibre during the spinning process. This technique is particularly popular in tweed style textiles. Technically a nepp yarn creates a nub or knot by tightly twisting an effect fibre around the base fibre, typically in a different colour. I hadn’t heard of a nub either, except in the idea of “getting to the nub of an issue” which I presume refers to exploring a knotty topic until you uncover the final core tangle.

Some US dictionaries contain neppy as an adjective to describe fabric containing neps (note the single p) but if you check out nep you’ll stumble into New Economic Policy which doesn’t help us. Nepps can be regarded as flaws in a fabric such as denim but most yarn-crafters would see the little flecks as decorative rather than defective.

Be careful to avoid neppy confusion with nap. Nap refers to the plush pile on fabrics like velvet and moleskin.

As for word origin, nepp’s history is a knotty problem. I did find it in German, however, where it refers to a rip-off or highway robbery so perhaps the idea of nepps indicating poor quality comes from Germany. My own neppy yarn looks great, so I don’t think I was a victim of highway robbery when I bought it last week.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. NaNoWriMo Update – I made it to 40,132 words today and hope to pass the 50,000 word finish line by the end of the week. I’m participating in the All Ireland Word War (a friendly team writing event) so I’ll push on with “Nit Roast & Other Stories” until the end of November. As usual, I’ll need to invest more time in finishing my story after NaNo is complete.

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Hello,

The recent outcry about workplace harassment reminded me of the interesting history of the phrase “making a pass at somebody”. While the two things should be entirely different, of course, it’s undeniable that there’s now concern that making the first move romantically could cause trouble if either party is reading the signals wrong and this has been true with this phrase from the very beginning.

There are two possible sources for this phrase, both of them more military than romantic.

To make a pass in swordplay is to make a lunge or thrust and it’s used with this meaning in “Hamlet” in 1604.

This very likely entered military parlance from the high seas during the Age of Sail where making a pass wasn’t between two combatants but between warships according to “Sticklers, Sideburns and Bikinis” by Graeme Donald. The ships would make a side by side pass of each other to enable the captains to assess their gun-power. This would sometimes involve firing at the same time because the guns were primarily mounted in the sides of the ships. To fire a broadside, the ships had to be roughly parallel.

This nautical origin for the phrase isn’t listed in any of the dictionaries I checked but does seem reasonable. Sailors could easily have brought the term ashore to their notorious romantic lives when the mutual “checking out” was a precursor to a dalliance if acceptable to both parties.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and nautical wordfooling,

Grace

p.s. I’ve made it to 27,000 words in NaNoWriMo. If you’re trying it this year I hope your story is flowing well.

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Hello,

This week’s word is a phrase, I hope you won’t mind. The expression “to handle with kid gloves” has an intriguing origin story and I couldn’t resist.

vintage white leather gloves

Kid gloves have nothing to do with children, well not human children. Kid is a soft white leather from the skins of goat kids popular among the wealthy from the 1700s. Sometimes they were made from lambskin.

Kid gloves are very thin so if you’re wearing them it is as if you are barely wearing any gloves at all. We’ve all had the sensation of wearing thick, bulky gloves and having to remove them to perform a delicate task. Here the idea is that even delicate tasks are possible while wearing kid gloves.

Kid gloves are also easily marked. If you handled an object roughly while wearing such a glove you would acquire stains on the glove, not a good thing. Equally if you’re wearing visibly white gloves then those around you can see you’re not adding any dirt or damage to whatever you’re handling. This is why servants wore white kid gloves to avoid smudging the silverware. Many believe curators do the same but there is evidence to suggest a clean, un-gloved hand may be best, depending on the artifact, and they only wear gloves on TV because they’re tired of complaint letters!

The phrase came to mean over-cautious in the 1840s but when it crossed the Atlantic from England in the late 1840s to North America it regained its early positive association with delicate handling of sensitive situations and people. By 1865 the well-mannered White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland” carried a pair.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling with or without gloves,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

p.s. I’ve the first week of NaNoWriMo 2017 behind me now and 15,000 words of “Nit Roast & Other Stories” in the bag.

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Hello,

This week I’m taking a brief look at brevity which is a key tool in any writer’s toolbox. I once had a staff job for the Good Book Guide where I reviewed books in a short paragraph. It was vital training in how difficult it is to use one words when you could use ten. Mark Twain was right when he claimed “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead”.

Anybody who writes flash fiction or haiku will be familiar with the difficulty of brevity. Shakespeare understood. He has Polonius, a notoriously wordy character in Hamlet, declare that “Brevity is the soul of wit”.

Brevity entered English in the late 1400s and means shortness in speech or writing. It arrived there from Latin where brevis means short or brief. Before England brevis travelled from Rome to France as brievete meaning brevity – although it looks more like a vet for brie cheese in my opinion. Unlike many words with hundreds of years of use, brevity moved between languages with little change and has retained its meaning to modern times.

Brevity is something I shall be avoiding next month as I dive into my annual NaNoWriMo adventure. The challenge is to write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days so excess words are encouraged. I’ll be mentoring the writers in my region (Ireland North East) as usual, running writing events, and writing my own novel too. I’ll let you know how it’s going. Are any of you taking the NaNo challenge this year?

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (@Wordfoolery)

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