Category Archives: Word Wonders

Inspiration from Anywhere

Brahminy KiteThe past weekend was a birthday bonanza – I turned the ripe old age of 26 (*melts in to melancholy heap*) on the Friday, and Mum turned *cough* on the Saturday (suffice to say it was a significant one). Which meant a lot of family time (Little Sis was even around for some of it) and way too much food (my diet doesn’t understand why it’s been so neglected and is sulking). And it also meant day trips! Continue reading

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Etymology and the Art of Language

WordsDid you know that a bracket (←one of these→) is inspired by the codpiece and can thank its origins, in part (not that part), to Captain John Smith of Pocahontas fame? And, did you know that “a stone’s throw” comes from a rather peculiar game of throwing stones at chickens? Continue reading

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Why Grammar Saves Lives

Yes, people, grammar does save lives. And not because of this humorous quip:

No, it also saves lives because it means I won’t MURDER YOU IN YOUR SLEEP WHEN YOU GET IT WRONG.

I have a variety of pet peeves about grammar. Check out Hyperbole and a Half for a good old rant about “alot” (Pet Peeve No.1).

I’m a bit of a grammar psychopath in honesty.

I can’t bear to see anything misspelt or poorly written (even if it’s used in a deliberate “amusing” way). I’ve only really come to terms with Text Talk. And don’t even get me started on the use of these ridiculous TLAs that seem to be appearing in real speech nowadays (I genuinely heard someone say “LOL” the other day instead of just laughing out loud).

Over the years English language has been butchered enough without laziness making it worse. There are rumours that one day people will be allowed to write their exams in Text Talk. This upsets me. This is not the evolution of language, this is pure and simple idleness. People just can’t be bothered to put the time and effort in to write something properly. Perhaps people are more short of time than they used to be, but is that an excuse for running words together, or failing to put apostrophes in?

I don’t think so.

Which is why my friends have learnt to keep their head down when I start on my “grammar isn’t a joke” rant. (I honestly think I said that once, much to my shame). Of course, I get grammar wrong too – I misspell things and put apostrophes in strange places – and sometimes I even use poor grammar to my advantage (colloquialisms are a nightmare of grammar hiccups). But I would never, ever presume to ignore grammar.

Have you ever had a pet peeve that makes you so angry you can’t even drink your tea? (I know, horror, there IS something that comes between me and tea. So get your grammar right, kids, and we’ll all sleep better for it).

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The Art of the Point of View

I am currently reading The Crimson Petal and the White and a hundred or so pages in, I’m still getting used to the point of view (second-person present). I am so comfortable with third-person and first-person that I’d almost forgotten about the little-used second. After, aren’t all books addressing the reader anyway? You’re taking them on the journey with you, and so why not talk to them?

When I began writing, I was a strictly first person kind of girl – I couldn’t imagine writing any other way. It could have been the egomaniac in me, or it could have simply been the fact that each character was someone I wanted to be, and therefore why not write in a way that comes across as Me? Whatever it was, each character was a “Me, Myself and I” type. Then I wrote a short story about a She… I wrote about something I hadn’t experienced myself and somehow it just felt right that it should happen to someone else. And thus it was that I discovered a whole new universe of writing.

I could change characters and write from several perspectives, I could write as a boy (which I had never attempted in first-person). The stories became more malleable and much more exciting – both to write and to read. How had I not realised this before? How had this third-person world been so ignored all this time?

So now I’m a third-person kind of girl. It’s much easier to kill someone off that way as well (which I have discovered I am fond of in a slightly upsetting George R.R Martin kind of way). This is why it’s a bit of a shock to the system when I open a book and find it talking directly to me. Is the second-person another undiscovered mine of possibility? Will I start writing in second and wonder why I ever bothered with anything else?

I wrote some poetry once… well, more than once…in a very misguided assumption that as a writer I should be able to write poetry with great ease (cue disgust at self and a great deal of respect for poets). Those, I found, were very much first- and second-person territory. But the idea of writing a novel from the second-person makes me nervous still. I even feel a little nervous reading second-person!

What’s your choice in Point of View?

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Story Cubes Take Two

If you’re new to this, the rules are simple. You take the nine images and create a story about them, starting with the words “Once upon a time”. You can see my first attempt here.

These short stories are currently the only fictional writing I’m managing at the moment – so I am subjecting you lot to it too. Did any of you have a go at the other one!? If so, if you fancy it on the blog, let me know and we can have some guest posting going on.

Anyway, I have some bad news for you wonderful people – I will be quiet for the next few days. I am visiting a friend in Newmarket (snow permitting) and so the blogs will go silent. Sad times!

In which case, I thought I’d give you the next few days to ponder on this selection of story cubes, and when I return I will have lots of shiny new posts to entertain you with (namely a review of The Hunger Games, and a short story followed by more ramblings and maybe some interesting stuff).

Have a beautiful weekend my lovely ones, and have fun writing!

Eye
Fire
Plane
Sad face
Hand
Mobile phone (cellphone for you Americans!)
Clock
Fish
Bridge

P.S. A plea for followers on Twitter – I’m on 93 and will do the happy dance if I’m at 100 by Monday (also I will be tweeting over the weekend, just so you won’t get withdrawal symptoms).

Oh, and I will FILM the happy dance and post it for you if I can reach over 100 followers on my fashion Twitter!!!

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Story Cubes

Tuesday was Tea with Bits Day. We did the usual – meet in Caffè Nero in Waterstones and put the world to rights, and then spend the next hour browsing to our hearts’ content. I had a couple of books in mind that I wanted to get: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (in the posh new cover, not the teen one) and Ulysses by James Joyce (after a long discussion with E at work, who happens to be a bit of a Joycian). Well, I failed on the first point, but managed to nab a copy of Ulysses and also a copy of The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore – because after my last post I was too overwhelmingly excited to wait. Standing at the till – waving loyalty card and stamp card and money at the bookseller with too much enthusiasm – I noticed THESE little bad boys. Have you ever had those decision dice that you rolled to decide what to do (“homework”, “eat”, “sleep” etc.)? These are almost the same – dice with little images on that help you decide what to write a story about. You simply start with Once Upon a Time and use the upward facing pictures for the rest.

Okay, so they’re a daft little game to pass the time (and procrastinate) and I’m pretty sure most of the stories I can come up with are surreal humour pieces, but I really fell in love with them. Just think of the possibilities!

So I’m starting a blog game… Each week I will roll the dice and write up the short story for all to see. However, before that begins, I thought I’d let you lot have a go.

Here’s what the dice have given you today!

Keyhole
Beetle
Footprint
Arrow
Crescent moon
Castle
World
Clock
Shooting star

Let me know what you come up with – I will be posting my own short story from this soon.

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White Rabbits

Twitter (the fount of all knowledge) kindly informed me today that it is lucky to say “white rabbit” on the first day of the month. This I did not know! Hell, I’ve been using “pinch, punch” for years – mainly to torture my sister – but now I get to run around yelling “white rabbit” too!?

Excellent.

Although this now begs the question – how do you slip the words “white rabbit” into conversation?

Ana suggested trying for an Alice in Wonderland discussion. I proposed talking about owning (fictional*) white rabbits, or pretending to see one. Either way seems a bit of a stretch. Any suggestions on how to get “white rabbit” into a normal conversation without coming across as deranged?

And if you too are new to the white rabbit trend, here is how it came about (*ahem*, thank you Wikipedia):

“Rabbit rabbit” is a common British superstition. The most common modern version states that a person should say “rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit”, “rabbit, rabbit, rabbit”, “rabbits, rabbits, rabbits”, “rabbit, rabbit” or simply “white rabbits” upon waking on the first day of each new month, and on doing so will receive good luck for the duration of that month.

The exact origin of the superstition is unknown, though it has appeared in print at least as early as 1922:

“Why,” the man in the brown hat laughed at him,“I thought everybody knew ’Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit.’ If you say ‘Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit’—three times, just like that—first thing in the morning on the first of the month, even before you say your prayers, you’ll get a present before the end of the month.”

However, some reports place its origins even earlier, into the 1800s. Today it has spread to most of the English-speaking countries of the world, although, like all folklore, determining its exact area of distribution is difficult. This superstition is related to the broader belief in the rabbit or hare being a “lucky” animal, as exhibited in the practice of carrying a rabbit’s foot for luck. Some have also believed it represents jumping into the future and moving ahead with life and happiness.

So there you have it. Running around yelling about rabbits is considered lucky. But only once a month. I guess it makes about as much sense as beating someone up for luck and then crying “no returns!”when they try to retaliate (shortly followed by “Muuu-UM! She HIT me!”)

 

*I have never owned a rabbit. The closest I came would probably be guinea pigs…

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The Great Apostrophe

Waterstones or Waterstone’s? Technically, the bookshop is founded by Mr Waterstone, and therefore Waterstone’s is correct. (Also, note that if you write/say Waterstone’s too many times you start to sound really daft). Which is why there is just a touch of public outrage – if you hadn’t noticed – because Waterstone’s is now Waterstones. Yup – they dropped the apostrophe. The chairman of the Apostrophe Protection Society (true story – the apostrophe really is an endangered species and has a society dedicated to saving it) announced:

“It’s   just plain wrong. It’s grammatically incorrect. If Sainsbury’s and McDonald’s can get it right, then why can’t Waterstones. You would really hope that a bookshop is the last place to be so slapdash with English.”

But Waterstones’ (I’m getting confused with apostrophes now) managing director, James Daunt, explains that there is a good reason to drop the apostrophe… and he blames it on the digital age. URLs and email addresses have all but erased the apostrophe from the digital world, and to remove it from the Waterstones name is simply a practical move. The outrage from the public came in the form of quips such as “wish I’d used that excuse in my spelling tests” and dramatic The End is Nigh for the Apostrophe statements.

What do you think about the apostrophe? (You can stop saying Waterstones now).

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R. E. S. P. E. C. T.

I have both shown and had plenty of it in my time. I have also been shown none more often than I would care to think. So what is respect? Why do some people deserve it when others don’t, and what happens to change respect? I like to think I earn my respect and that I deserve it and keep it. But then I know that human error can affect respect, and human values are so different that what you do that earns respect from one simply loses respect from another. Talking with Poppaloo today, it’s funny how respect manifests itself. He now respects me as an adult to have grown-up conversations, about politics and business and the new Rihanna album, but he also respects me as his daughter, to know me enough that we don’t have to have serious conversations, and when to stop teasing me. I have the same sort of respect for him too. And at work, from my sudden change from a warm, family-like embracing office, to a big, new, super-professional office, my respect radars are wavering. How do I earn respect from these new colleagues, when it came so easily from the last? Or will I forever be condemned as “the temp” until one day they have forgotten what I was temping for? And why does a temp demand less respect? Especially nowadays when work is so hard to come by, and thousands if not millions of people scrapping for the tiny amount of jobs, surely those who get those jobs deserve praise for their hard work? Don’t get me wrong, I’m actually doing backflips of joy that I have this job – it’s a step in the right direction, a hint that my career might be going in my favour. But I’ve yet to figure out what earns their respect… It is not a matter that they have dismissed me, they are trying to figure me out too. I’ve been there one day, and had plenty of welcomes and friendly conversations to make me feel that I’m not a complete outsider. The only person making me feel like that is myself – the innate fear of “fucking up”. I am keen to earn their respect because I don’t want to be dismissed, I want to be part of that team that smiles at the newbies but also knows all the tricks of the trade. I want to be the dab-hand, the old dog, the mentor. But first I have to earn the respect of these new colleagues, for them to show me the ropes.

What do you respect, and what makes you lose respect?

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Being a Writer…?

I had an interview today that proved very interesting. In one question, he asked about my creativity vs. writing for business. It made me wonder – is writing split into two groups? The “creative” stuff and the “business” stuff?

I would say that a writer is a writer, whether it be factual, fictional, professional, blog or personal. You are still putting words on the page, and you are still accessing that creative part of the brain. An artist is still an artist whether painting, drawing, moulding or building, right? So why is it that creativity should be so far removed from “professional”? We have professional writers – what they write is for their business.

Do non-writers read this blog because it’s got books in it? Probably (hopefully). Does this mean I’m not a writer because my audience isn’t reading it with a “creative” thought in mind?

You’re on a speed-dating night. You approach a new table and have one minute to describe yourself… what is your opening line?

For me, it’s probably going to be something along the lines of: “I’m Fran, I’m a writer.”

And my most likely response: “Oh, yeah, and what do you write?”

If I was to say marketing documents for a corporate company, would you still think I was a writer?

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