Sunday, September 30, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 18: Knackered

Today's word is...

"Knackered" is a British expression (an adjective) meaning tired and exhausted. 

This is how one is when one spends the day preparing for a long-distance trip for the sort-of-annual "conference" for the Daedalus Notes moderators.  So much to do, in fact, that one blogger forgot to blog today.  I love British expressions like these, not just because I'm an unabashed Anglophile, but because they sound right... just like those British nonsense words codswallop and tommyrot, chuffed (meaning very excited), whinge (to whine - was it any coincidence that Harry Potter's muggle relatives the Dursley's lived in Little Whingeing?), swot (to "cram" for a test) and twee (meaning quaint).  In this case, knackered is the best way to describe my current physical state: wiped out, shutting down, ready for BED!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 17: Amanuensis

Today's word is...

An amanuensis (noun) is a person employed to write from dictation or to copy manuscript - from the 17th century, referring to a scrivener, scribe or secretary.  Pronounced: "ah-man-yuh-WEN-sis."

This sounds like a very important job title.  Imagine if we secretaries and copyists went by such a title these days?  I love the way it looks.  Copy-work isn't exciting.  If you've ever read Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener", you know what I mean: three men were employed in the narrator's office to keep track of documents and duplicate them.  Margaret Lea, the narrator in The Thirteenth Tale, describes herself as an amanuensis to a famous writer telling her last scintillating tale.  Amanuensises (is that right?) are the first listeners of a story, becoming the silent narrators upon its retelling.  It is a role we inhabit when we're constructing our stories: the story/novel comes out of us, it is our job to obey and see where it wants us to go instead of the other way around.  The story dictates.  We do our best to copy.  Writing is humble, but it can indeed be glorious work.


You may have noticed I located a manual typewriter.  All I had to do was inquire of my roommate.  As this was her grandparents' house, I am surrounded by hidden treasures waiting to be used.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 16: Stymie

Today's word is:

Stymie is a verb of unknown origins which means to present an obstacle to or stand in the way of a goal.  According to Oxford Dictionaries, it was used in golf in the 19th century to describe a scenario on the turf where a ball obstructs the shot of another player.

I'm taking a break from calligraphy today.  My heart is not into dribbling ink haphazardly on parchment and pretending it looks pretty.  I'm thinking more about the word itself today rather than how it looks.  Just now I thought of a possible explanation for its origins.  Someone was playing golf, a ball went astray and the golfer whose brilliant shot was ruined shouted, "Sty me!" in lieu of stronger language.  Plausible?  Maybe just a little?

It's simple logistics.  A tree falls across the road, and there is no choice but to throw the car into reverse and go back, try for a different route.  The angles no longer line up the way they should.  There is an obstruction.  The path that we would have ordinarily taken is now inaccessible, even though by all means it was the right path, the main path, the one everybody else seems to be on.

My own obstacle isn't one tree branch in the road or a stray golf ball in my shot.  It's an amalgam of things that basically comes down to a truth that I've been trying to ignore for the last several years.  You may recall that I applied to MFA programs some years ago with no success.  A winter of rejections from eight schools plunged me into a non-creative funk - not quite a depression but unproductive nonetheless.  A few months later I somehow gathered myself and embarked on a novel, determined that this Thing was not going to stop me from writing, that I'd apply to a graduate program when I had the strength to do so. 

There is a cold fact about graduate programs these days.  Particularly humanities graduate programs.  I was told by a former professor and friend who did a little research and discovered (to paraphrase) that it is easier to get into the medical school at Johns Hopkins than it is to get into an MFA program.  If you look at university websites, most of them will be honest: they'd only accept 6-8 students per year, sometimes a few more depending on the program and how much money is available.  And in this economy, humanities and liberal arts programs have tight and tightening budgets.  So that's it.  Six students means three poets and three fiction writers.  Period.  Out of thousands of applicants.  Naturally, they choose the ones that stand out, who've shown ambition by getting stories published, who work in a field that uses their writing skills.  I am, decidedly, not a person who stands out, and being introverted and socially anxious, my only great ambition was/is to get my novel done.  Really, it was no wonder that I got eight of those "sorry but no" letters.  It's no one's fault.  Not even mine.  Definitely not their's.

The new plan was to apply this fall to an MA program at my alma mater.  Just the one program because I figured my status as an alum might improve my chances for admission.  I wanted an MFA, but an MA (Master of Arts as opposed to a more intense, more concentrated Master of Fine Arts) would at get me into fresh contact with instructors and other writers and open doors to teaching creative writing elsewhere.  I liked the idea of one day being able to help other writers develop and embrace their burgeoning skills.

But... I'm stymied.  I was told by an advisor this week that getting into this particular program is extremely difficult, perhaps more so than an MFA, and that the number of graduates accepted is very, very small.  In other words, he was warning me what I'd be getting into.  I am, basically, facing the same obstacle: my smallness, my place in life.  If I go ahead and apply, it would be the same story and the same gloomy winter all over again.

But... you say.  It could happen!  I'd like to believe that, friend.  But these things are standing in my way.  I can see them quite clearly.  Believe me, I'd love to get accepted into an MFA program. I'd love to meet new people and work feverishly on my writing in a collegiate setting.  And, of course, the idea of having a second degree to my name "Jillian, Bachelor and Master of Arts".  Who wouldn't?  Masters degrees catch people's attention, and somehow seem to imply that you take yourself serious.  But I am starting to see that I might have to be one of those writers who doesn't/can't teach or interact with writers in what I've percieved to be the "normal" way.  J.K. Rowling doesn't have an MFA.  (Does she?)  Stephen King might not either.  But look at their success.  Both of them write stories from their souls.  Mr. King could have "retired" decades ago, but he writes because he loves to, because it's a part of him.  One simply does not need an MFA or an MA to be successful.  An MFA helps, I've read.  Believe me I know it helps.  Unfortunately, the MFA store is closed to me, and I must make do with what I have.  So, then... am I a failure?  Or is taking the alternative (though by no means easier) route actually a way of letting go and moving on? 

What is clearer to me, as I turn away and look at my options, the alternate forks in the road, is that I am still writing.  I began and finished a novel since that devestating winter - in a period of fifteen months while working full time.  I am closer to getting it published than I ever would be to an MFA program... even though publishing in itself isn't very close.  If it doesn't get published, it prepares me nonetheless for the next time - to improve my writing, to learn to navigate a competitive market, to find a niche and start little projects that could lead to free-lance writing (scary and nebulous a prospect as it is), and publications in lit magazines.  Yes, I'd still have to be a receptionist by day earning less than I care to say, but at least I'd have a little money and health insurance. 

So will be a "master" on my own time, self-taught.  I am following Mr. King's advice - read a lot, write a lot.  In his book On Writing, he said something along the lines of learning how to write by marianting in language.  Since the summer began I've been devouring books right and left.  I am also doing what I would have thought impossible several years ago: dabbling in social media.  By this I don't just mean posting notifications about the blog on Facebook or pinning pretty pictures on Pinterest.  I'm perusing other blogs, reading articles, commenting on them, and trying to join conversations.  That's what I hope to do eventually with Twitter, although right now I feel like a very small person shouting things in a room full of very loud, very talkative people.  The more I delve into the online world, the more I learn about the industry and the trends and other people's struggles.  That is learning to me.  

Again, I'd love to have the privilege of sitting in a classroom and getting my work critiqued and shaped by more experienced writers, but that luxury is only open to a few, and I am, apparently, not one of them.  Instead of standing outside in the cold whimpering because I'm not with the other kids, I'm going to stay where I am and go back to what has been most healthy, joyful, educational and life-changing for me: writing and learning as I go.  That, my friends, is not failure.  It is not a surrender to lazy impulses or stubborn quirks. It's not the most obvious path.  It's not the prettiest or the easiest.  But I am calm, and ready, and more at peace about it than I have been in a long time.

By chance I was thinking about the theme song to Firefly.  I'll be a nerd and put a bit of it here:

Take my love, take my land,
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free,
You can't take the sky from me

Take me out to the black,
Tell 'em I ain't comin' back
Burn the land and boil the seed,
You can't take the sky from me...

So there it is.  The perfect plan is gone (for now), or at least out of reach, but there is still writing.  I won't have a snazzy degree any time soon to put on resumes and query letters.  But I have what I need.  I am blessed with advisors and friends and a love of language.  Not all is lost.  So much has been found.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

On The Casual Vacancy (Jillian)

J. K. Rowling's new book was released today.  According to Allison Pearson, writing for the Telegraph, it is a far cry from the wizarding world - dark, often unpleasant and coarse about British suburbia.  There have been questions about her writing something that is definitely not for children.  She said, "I’m a writer and I will write what I want to write." Personally, she can do whatever she wants - she's had phenomenal success, such that the vast majority of writers will never experience.  If she wants to write a dark, misanthropic tale, that's fine with me and the people who will read it and enjoy it for what they get out of it.  It would be a far worse thing if The Casualty Vacancy was a self-commentary on Harry Potter, if it unravelled the magic that she wove with those stories.  But no. They are two different animals. There is no law that says the woman must write about Harry Potter for life or not at all.  Goodness, I'd hope not.  The more power to her.  I just hope her next endeavor is a little happier.

For the record, the more I think about the bleakness and unkindness of The Casual Vacancy, the more convinced I am that I'd rather read her work than something such as Fifty Shades.  I'd rather be slapped in the face with a brilliantly-written, chilling work that makes me think, rather than slog through a boring, plotless chassis of a book. 

[These opinions are solely those of Jillian.]

Adventures in Logophilia Day 15: Quidnunc

Today's word is...

A quidnunc (noun) is a person who seeks to know all the latest gossip or news, in other words a busybody.  In Latin, it is literally "what now?"

I think we all have quidnunc moments (it can be a verb - I've decided), and I don't mean this in a bad way.  Not every is "up" on celebrity gossip, but when events sweep the nation or the world, we can't help but chatter about it - turn around to our neighbor in the next cubicle or inquire of a roommate if they "heard" about that thing the president said or what the weather looks like: "Man, if we don't get rain soon..." It's only human nature to twitter about these things... which is why something like, well, Twitter exists.  We were tweeting long before it required an email address and a password, long before ampersands and hashtags.  We do it everyday, whether it's from a blog like Daedalus or over morning coffee.  News spreads like wildfire, and we've become very good at producing a faster, more intense burn.

I just love how Latin works its way into our era.  See?  Whoever said Latin was dead obviously didn't like words like this gem!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Whimsical Wednesday: From Rowling to Rebecca

Here is the mid-week whimsy report:

  • The New York Daily News got hold of a copy of J. K. Rowling's The Casual Vacancy in advance of its release.  They've gone ahead and called it dull, but judging from how the release of this book is a highly anticipated event, I'd imagine others will have their own opinions.
  • NPR has an article on a Broadway musical-that-could-be based on Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca.  A Broadway musical of Rebecca?  I'm in. 
  • The Telegraph has a lovely article compiling reflections of authors and their first jobs.  It makes me feel like my beginnings, humble as they are, are in good company and not to be regretted.  Among the stories: Hilary Mantel was a social worker in a geriatric hospital; Attica Locke worked in her father's law office; Joe Dunthorne was an incompetant barman. 
  • The Emmys were Sunday night.  I was disappointed, of course, that none of the gentlemen from Sherlock (Cumberbatch, Moffat and Freeman) won anything.  I suppose they have a few BAFTAs anyhow, though.  There was a lot of talent in the room, I must say.  And it was a big room.
  •  Jillian is now on Twitter.  She still hasn't quite figured out how to use it.  Details to come!

Adventures in Logophilia Day 14: Tommyrot

Today's word is...

Tommyrot (noun) is a British term for nonsense - tommy meaning "fool".  Other words with similar meanings are codswallop, balderdash, poppycock and blatherskite.  All with a distinctly Victorian, Dickensian, nonsensical music to them.  I fell in love with the word in the third episode of Doctor Who Series 1, when the Doctor is explaining the existence of ghosts which haunt a funeral home and Charles Dickens himself snorts the word.   

I love these words that invent themselves, make little sense, but having so much meaning nonetheless. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 13: Shilly-shally

Am I counting the days correctly?  Day 13?  Really?

Today's most-excellent word is...

Shilly-shally (a verb) means to show hesitation or indecision; to dwadle or to waste time.

I chose this word because it suits my mood.  I spent too much time in bed this morning.  It took me forever to get organized, and all I wanted to do was sit at my desk and daydream about my stories.  (The girl who won't grow up.)  I am often oppressed by the feeling that I am lingering too long smelling the roses, and that I "don't get things done."  But, then again, how else can a writer glean and perfect his/her material without a little creative mental doodling, or musing, or gathering whimsies.

Shilly-shally must be related somehow to dilly-dally, which I heard often growing up.  I dallied often as a child - not that my attention span is bad, but that my eyes are easily to drawn to whatever is curious - a hazard when I'm driving.  Sure, I may not accomplish everything on the list, but, boy, was the day interesting.  Happy shilly-shallying!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Thoughts on Ms. Rowling (Jillian)

Today is the day J.K. Rowling's first novel since Harry Potter, The Casual Vacancy, is/will be released to the public.  As a writer about to enter into the publishing world, my little novel clutched hopefully to my chest, I can't help but admire Ms. Rowling's quest to continuing writing in spite of all the mounting pressure.  Will it be as good as Harry Potter? Will she be able to successfully separate herself from the wizarding world?  Can she handle it?  I don't have the answers to those questions, because I'm not her, but I believe she is doing a very brave, intrepid thing, breaking herself away from the creative world that brought her so much success and trying her hand at something new, a totally different kind of story.  I wish her the absolute best.

Allan Massie of the Daily Telegraph has an interesting blogpost this morning on Ms. Rowling, asking: how do you deal with a book by an author who has achieved such a phenomenal success as Harry Potter?

Adventures in Logophilia Day 12: Ossuary

Rendered in more rudimentary calligraphy is today's word...

An ossuary (noun) is a depository box for the bones of the dead.  Creepy, no?

Why on Earth didn't I save this for Halloween, you ask?  Well, on a basic level, I say, creepiness is not bound to one particular day.  Anyway... in perusing the lexicon today, I came across this word and was struck with a memory.  I first learned that "bone boxes" or mortuary chests existed when Michelle and I studied abroad at Oxford and took a trip to Winchester Cathedral.  As I remember it, there are six such chests situated on the presbytery levels of the cathedral, each containing the remains of Anglo-Saxon (and one Danish) king of England.  I believe these bones were buried deep in the crypt of the "old minster" and were moved to a place of honor when the new cathedral was built in the 1100s.  Occupants of these chests include Cynegils, Aethelwulf, Cynewulf, Ecgbert, Cnut, Emma (wife of Aethelred the Unready and Cnut) and an assortment of bones that could be Edred (who could also be someone named Edmund). 

What I find to be so fascinating about the ossuaries is how old they are (we're talking pre-1066 here), and how certain facts are lost with time, how a few of these kings made no impression on history at all (or were erased from history), or were mixed up.  These mysteries only prompt discussion.  Like the mystery of Richard III's bones in Leicester and those of the Princes in the Tower thought to be unearthed from under the staircase of the Tower of London, there is always the knowledge that we will never know - and probably never should - what or who rests inside.  Here is a website with more interesting tidbits on these memorials.

This is the only clear picture I have from Winchester of one of the mortuary chests.  We were allowed to take photos, but the flash of my camera could only go so far.  Yet, even from here, you can see how ornate these chests are, beautiful in their ancientness. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 11: Iota

Today's word is...

Iota (noun) is the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet, used in English to mean "a small, infinitesmal amount."  In astronomy, it signifies the ninth star in a constellation.  All signs point to jot.
I've just learned from Oxford Dictionaries that jot (the verb to write something down quickly) - as in "I'm jotting this down for you" or "I don't give a jot" - is the fifteenth century noun translated from the Greek word "iota" into Latin.  It makes sense to me (this was a "Eureka!" moment for me), because until recently "j" was not actually a part of the Latin alphabet, and "i" had most of its workload.  Iota must have had quite a normal entrance into English through this road: iota spelled with a "j." This opens up a world of writing whimsies for me: marginalia and doodles and random notes.  That thing you're scribbling down may not be scintillating to the person next to you, but it is vitally important.  I jot most of the time and not always on paper - it is the way we translate our stream-of-consciousness discoveries into a more permanent form.  Sometimes those jottings make it to a journal.  Sometimes they clutter my wall.  Sometimes they serve as bookmarks that cannot be thrown away.  They seem to be of infinitesmal importance, but really they're not.  We jot because it is of vital importance.  If I didn't jot, I'd lose threads of ideas that could fill my stories, or I'd forget to do something. 
Jots are like Ariadne's crimson thread guiding Theseus through the labyrinth and out of it again.  If I didn't jot, how would I find my way home again?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 10: Huggermugger

Today's word is...

Huggermugger is an adjective meaning: confused, disorderly, or secret and cladestine.  It is a word that came about in late Middle English, the 16th century.

I always thought this word was a funny one in the same baffling vein as harum-scarum (meaning chaos) or helter-skelter.  A kinder word for chaos or for mischief.  Or, in other words, what the cat is up to when we're away from home, and one comes back to find abandoned water glassed tipped over, newspapers askew and sweaters napped on.  Yes, dear kitty is the queen of all things huggermugger.


One of these days, I promise, my calligraphy will look nice.  *Sigh*

Today is the first day of Autumn.  Yes, the equinox is here, and I always get the uncanny feeling at these times of year that we are standing on the edge of a threshold, about to walk through into another reality.  Goodbye, Summer!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 9: Ellipsis (Jillian)

Today's word is...

An ellipsis (noun) is the omission of one or more words that are clearly understood in context but must be given in order to make a sentence or phrase grammatically complete; a sudden jump from one topic to another; and the marks (as in ...) which indicate such an omission or pause.

When I was a burgeoning writer, I happened across the ellipsis and became obsessed with it.  Not in the sense that it was an excuse to be lazy with my writing, but that as I began to create elaborate scenarios in which my characters journeyed and struggled, the ellipsis indicating pause was poetry to me.  It was the only construction - punctuation or otherwise - that conveyed what couldn't be put into words: a character trailing off in thought, unable to bear contining his thought, a break in the middle of the paragraph that could otherwise sound like the space between the stanzas of a poem, an open-ended sentence that the reader could fill in with whatever he/she chose.  I was, and am, drawn to dialogue that sounds natural, full of pregnant and uncertain pauses and allusions.  Naturally, in the early days, I got carried away.

I have pages from my old high school class journal where my writing teacher, a grammar expert, told me not to use them at all, even though I wrote about how "cool" they were.  In high school, anything you're obsessed with, anything that defines you in the remotest way must be defended.  Ellipses were important to me.  For his class, I did my best to refrain from using them but... obviously... I still love them.  It me a while to realize that there isn't anything particularly wrong about the ellipsis, but that if it's being used in place of proper punctuation, it tends to muddle things.  Used sparingly, and I mean once in a blue moon, it can add just the right amount of nuance, the faintest touch of cinnamon.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 8: Vade Mecem (Jillian)

After a thorough search, today's word, conveyed in to you in rudimentary calligraphy is...

Vade mecem (noun) is from the Latin (in case you couldn't tell) for "go with me" (or "come hither", as I'd say).  It is a book or manual for easy reference, or an item regularly carried about by a person.  Sometimes both, I'd imagine.

I'd like to think the blog (and perhaps Twitter) is the vade mecem of the internet age.  Now that many of us (not myself, however) have smarty-pants phones that connect to the internet and convey updates on our friends' thoughts, the latest celebrity melodrama or the weather.  We google from where we're standing.  We search and follow directions from these devices.  From an intellectual standpoint, the blog is a public journal, a different kind of vade mecem.  Depending on your subject matter, you're inviting your readers along for an adventure - not necessarily plotting directions but experiences.  I'd like to think that Daedalus is helpful - perhaps not a manual, but a source of encouragement to be carried about through the year.  This isn't my or Michelle's personal-minutia blog, but I'd hope we can share our challenges as writers. 

Honestly, this Autumn might be a tough one for me.  I might have mentioned it before, but I'm currently drafting a query letter for my novel.  I hope to get the first query sent to a literary agency in the next couple of weeks.  I've never done so before, and the more I think about it, the more it's like standing on the edge of an abyss.  The only way to know what lies beyond is take a leap of faith.  As that unfolds, I'm considering applying to a graduate creative writing program again.  I hope that through Daedalus you can come along with me on this journey in the dark, and we can figure out the world that is literary agents and publishing and graduate school applications together.  Who knows where we might end up?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Whimsical Wednesday (Jillian)

There have been quite a few little news tidbits in the writing world-at-large in the last week, and I thought I'd compile them here for a Whimsical Wednesday.  Ready? 

  • Today, Stephen King announced that he is penning a sequel to The Shining, his third novel, to be published next year, entitled Doctor Sleep.  It follows Danny Torrance, who was a young boy in The Shining, and whose father succumbed to evil spirits that inhabited a winter hotel.  This was made into a film starring Jack Nicholson, generally thought to be one of the scariest films ever.  I've seen parts.  I was properly freaked out.  I am just amazed at Mr. King's work ethic, this drive to create.  If you're a King fan and want to know more, here is his website:
  • Last week, we heard from Mandy Patinkin (read article here) about why he left the violent television show Criminal Minds several years ago.  He says his role as a criminal profiler was "very destructive to my soul and personality," and Criminal Minds was not the show he thought it would be.  He has made a very good point about the sort of destruction that we take for granted on television these days. 
  • For history buffs, you may be following the news that the grave of Richard III was found in Leicester, Great Britain, at a site underneath a car park (parking lot) where the Grey Friars church was believed to have stood.  Richard III had a short, tempestuous reign and was defeated at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.  His body was paraded through the town by the victorious Tudors and buried at the church, which was later lost in obscurity.  The skeleton in question appears to have signs of scoliosis - perhaps resembling the hunchback of Shakespeare's play (though not quite), and an arrowhead through the neck.  DNA testing will commence to see if he is in fact the lost king.  If he is, he may be entitled to a state funeral, five-hundred twenty-seven years after his death.  The Telegraph as all the intrigue
  • The trailer for The Hobbit was released today.  The Telegraph has the trailer embedded here.  I am excited to see these beloved stories come to life once again, and see Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage and Benedict Cumberbatch among familiar faces... although the latter, also known as Sherlock Holmes (Freeman being Watson), may not be particularly recognizable.

Adventures in Logophilia Day 8: Entropy (Jillian)

Today's word is...

Entropy (noun) is a degree of disorder in a system; an ultimate state of inert uniformity.

So... it is fairies, then? 

Michelle sent me a lovely card once with a quote from A. A. Milne, which has followed me around ever since.  He says, "One of the advantages of being disorderly is that one is constantly making exciting discoveries." This quote was accompanied by an illustration of an 18th century gentleman in an untidy office reading a book with a cup of tea and smiling in contentment. 

It was once explained to me that entropy is what happens when neglect to pick up your room.  I don't know if this was an elementary school science-y thing or what, but all I know is that I cannot come into my bedroom these days and attribute the clutter of neglect to anything but the entropy fairies.  This is how shoes wind up under the bed.  They're taken off and kicked aside.  Papers aren't tidied from a morning of blogging.  Over here is a plate that once held my breakfast.  Under this thing is a copy of Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener" that I'd printed out 1 August, forgotten since then.  It's like finding a favorite shirt that you've wanted to wear for weeks deep under layers of laundry; it emerges from the wash in a fanfare. 

I think we whimsy hunters are like that, too, when we think about a nugget of knowledge and seek to find out more about it.  And the internet with its twitterings (I like that word better than tweets, by the way, I'm not just being silly), pinterest-ventures and facebookings, is Entropy itself.  You can find anything in that gargatuan sphere!  Anything!  From a tutorial on how to bind your own journals to timelines of the First World War to fan chat rooms for Doctor Who where fans hang out their windows and snap pictures of a Tardis that has magically appeared for filming in the neighborhood.  As intimidated as I am sometimes by the vastness of the internet and my comparative smallness, I know in general it can be a good thing. There are corners on the web to look in and poke about and find little seeds that will eventually grow to fill the garden beds of a story.

Happy hunting!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 7: Petrichor (Jillian)

Today's word is...

Petrichor (noun) is the smell given off by the first rain after a long dry spell. 

I apologize once more for my calligraphy.  That c is rather lopsided and it throws off the whole word. Ah, to err is human. 

Anyway... petrichor.  This harkens back to last season of Doctor Who, the episode written by Mr. Gaiman entitled "The Doctor's Wife."  Petrichor was part of the psychic door code on the TARDIS.   In order to open the door to one of the old control rooms, Amy must think of "the smell of dust after rain."  This is why I love Doctor Who.  And Mr. Gaiman's poetry-in-prose.

Oxford Dictionaries says this is a rather new construction from the 1960s.  Petro, meaning rock.  I gave it to a background character in my recent novel - back ground as in, he lived five hundred years before the characters did, but he founded an important abbey and he needed a last name, and petrichor for some reason was on the tip of my tongue.  No matter how old the word actually is, is a marriage of science with poetry.  I can't say why I'm drawn to words like petrichor and downwelling, except that perhaps these words point to simple but vivid descriptions of things that I would other wise find trouble putting into words.  They're also mysterious.  Did the scientist (I'm only assuming it was a scientist) who invented this word realize how it rolls off the tongue?  Perhaps he didn't know, but that leaves the door open for us.  Not to reinvent meaning, but to add dimensions and colours and shadows to it.  The smell of dust after rain could very easily become some legendary person's name, the name of a ship at sea or a new shade of blue.  The possibilities are endless.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 6: Nephology (Jillian)

Today's word is...

Nephology (noun) is the study or contemplation of clouds.

Yes, there is a sophisticated study-name for something we wouldn't think of. Cloud studies. That's a thing?  Apparently.  When I was in college and had to take a science glass (the second worst thing for an English major to have to do.  The first thing is math.) I chose the most elementary meterology class for the credit.  The most fun I got out of it (if fun there was) was the names of clouds, and what sort of weather they indicate.  I couldn't tell you much about that these days, but the names follow me.  It isn't prophecy, but it's the shape of things.  And it's always a lot of fun to discover a wealth of synonyms and alternative names for clouds instead of, well, clouds.

This fluffy formation here is your basic breed of cumulus.  The weather must have been excellent the day I took this picture from my dorm room five years ago.  Cumulus clouds develop 2000m above the surface of the earth - in other words, relatively low in the Earth's atmosphere.

Cirrus clouds are clouds formed at 6000m in the atmosphere from tiny ice particals.  I always think of them as the brush strokes of God, but I could be overly sentimental. 
We have several different layers of clouds here as they gather over campus (see the stadium?).  You can see the cumulus gathering into cumulnonimbus (gathering into a storm) with those low-lying nimbostratus clouds darkening the sky.  Stratus clouds are thick strata.  Cumulus are more often than not fluffy.

In this picture are contrails (yes, the exhaust trails left behind by airplanes are considered clouds), a little cirrus, and what appears to be (from my layman's eye) a smudge of middle-level clouds called altostratus.

This last picture is an awesome sampling of a cumulonimbus, also known as an anvil head or a thunderhead, rising over the bluffs of Fort Robinson, Nebraska.  There be a storm a coming!  These cumulonimbus clouds are the ones that produce lightning and thunder, rise all the way into the atmosphere and could spawn heaps of trouble, such as hail and tornadoes.

These are just a few of the many different species of clouds.  I find them thought-provoking and perhaps a little prophetic when I am out and about during the day.  It takes one silly writer out of herself, to look up and see something brewing up above.  There is never a dull moment in this sky.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 5: Intrepid (Jillian)

I had a hard time selecting a word today.  Nothing stuck out in my mind, even though I'd combed over the Lexicon twice in hope of inspiration.  Nonetheless, I have today's word, have put it down in ink (however imperfect my calligraphy may be) and it is...

To be intrepid (adjective) is to be characterized by resolute fearlessness; adventurous.

I'd like to think I'm an intrepid writer.  This year I've been in a sort of quest to try new things and to push my writing in new directions.  Not just where my novel is concerned, but in the everyday slog of the writing life.  Recently, I decided that I needed to get up early in order to tackle the novel before work.  As much as I hated, loathed, recoiled at the thought of getting up even a minute sooner than routine, it was actually a good thing.  I try to get up early now, and I am actually awake (if not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed) and refreshed and ready for the day.  It took a little intrepidation to do so.  And today, struggling to get out of bed when the alarm told me to so that I might blog was an intrepid battle. 

Sometimes we rail against the smallest things in life, but sometimes these little things are worth sacrificing in the greater adventure of our writing... stepping outside the box or the comfort zone or whatever you've been conditioned to call it.  We writers are curious creatures; walls cannot contain us.  I don't mean we should forgo the bonds of grammar and syntax and common sense, but use those "walls" as the starting point, the barest bones of our writing, and seek to find it viscera and blood and skin and clothes in new places.  Does this make sense?  We must go boldly into the Unknown, take risks, do what is uncomfortable or downright scary because the Story is worth it.  So... this Autumn I strive to be intrepid, sending my novel (my brainchild) into the deep, black hole that is the world of literary agents and publishing, trying again for a graduate program, and venturing into the world of online community.  I am off to see the world, pen in hand! 

One last thought: Daedalus making wings for his son Icarus to use to fly.  That's a bold move.  He warned Icarus not to fly too close to the sun, but he gave him the wings anyway.  The wax in the wings melted, and Icarus fell.  Is it Daedalus' fault?  Or is it the painful price we must pay sometimes for taking a necessary risk?  In our quest we may lose a novel or a story, our brainchildren, but we've gone forward, paving the way for what comes next over the horizon.  There will always be something to inspire.  Sometimes we must meet it halfway, or else wrest it with all our strength out of its hiding place.  As Michelle would say, Corraggio!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 4: Journeyman (Jillian)

The Earth is turning towards Autumn, and slowly the cooler air is forcing Summer into a corner.  It is in the 40s, and I can hear the echoing sound of the gibbons just a few blocks away, mingling with the morning sounds of the occasional dog in a yard and birds calling to each other.  I will never stop finding their call a hilarious sound to be heard in an otherwise quiet Midwestern neighborhood in the ides of September.  Monkeys.  Ha!

Anyway... today's word:

Journeyman (noun): a worker who learns a trade and works under another person; or, more specifically, reliable worker, athlete or performer (actor, musician) especially distinguished from one who is brilliant and stands out.  Oxford Dictionaries indicates this is a Middle English word indicating one is no longer an indentured worker and is paid by the day.  If you think about it, the French word for day is jour, and there was (and is) a lot French flavorings in English.

This is one of those words that sounds more exciting than it actually is.  It does indeed sound like it could mean "man who takes journeys for a living" or "wanderer" or "hitchhiker" or something poetic that vein.  But... I think this is actually pretty cool.  Why?  Words like this open the door for we crazy writers to turn them into something new.  Who says it can't be about a man who takes a journey? 

Several years ago, NBC had a brilliant concept for a television show called, you guessed it, Journeyman.  It starred Kevin McKidd as a journalist (there we go with the "jour" again) who begins to find himself backwards in time, sometimes a year, sometimes decades - suddenly without his cell phone, sometimes in his old apartment with his long-dead girlfriend.  So journeyman, an unassuming noun, now has a world of double meanings.  Oh, he's on a journey all right.  He's a time traveler! 

I have to say NBC cancelled Journeyman in its "freshman" year, but I still remember it, as time-travel is one of my favorite planes of creativity (thanks to Doctor Who).  The word journeyman has never been the same for me since.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 3: Widdershins (Jillian)

Today, I started with one of my favorite letters of the alphabet, the mysterious and oft-forgotten W. (Every one has a favorite!  Come on!  You know you do!) I came across...

Widdershins (adverb and possibly an adjective), meaning in a left-handed, wrong or contrary direction, or counterclockwise.  According to Oxford Dictionaries, it is a Scottish word indicating the direction counter to the sun and therefore unlucky.

Widdershins puts a chill through me, like a spell as been cast.  Proof that words are made to invoke physical reactions as well as linguistic meaning.  It's opposite day. Everything that could (and possibly couldn't) goes horribly wrong.  The world has been turned topsy turvy, gone amok, changed completely in a short space of time - either for what it never was or what it always was.  Alice slips through the rabbit hole and a looking glass.  Richard Mayhew helps a dirty runaway on the street and as a result finds his life disappearing, his friends forgetting and blind to his existence.  (Neil Gaiman, in my opinion, as a master of all things widdershins.  Case in in point, the above-mentioned Neverwher, and Stardust and Coraline.)  Rose meets the Doctor, windowshop manakins begin to come to life, aliens are suddenly real, and the Doctor is living proof of things that are supposed to be impossible.  Widdershins is the new normal, the atmospheric character of the setting of a story.  Oh, it's not nonsense.  It's utter brilliance.


There are advantages to the seemingly mindless office task of alphabetizing paperwork, I've found.  Why?  It gives one good practice, a daily refamiliarization with the Order of Things.  It's amazing how often we can make mistakes about something that is otherwise incredibly basic.  How else can we sharpen our skills without a little practice?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia Day 2: Downwelling (Jillian)

I've decided to choose these gems at random, because it's more interesting that way instead of going through it all in some semblance of alphabetical order.  This morning, I scrolled through my lists, not sure which word was "calling" me until I happened upon...

Downwelling (noun): the downward movement of fluid, especially in the oceans, the atmosphere, or deep inside the earth's mantle and core. 

Like upwelling, I love this word because of its simple imagery.  Upwelling, they told us in geology class (that was really more oceanology), is when the circulation of the ocean's water comes upward from the ocean floor.  This cycle of upwelling and downwelling is what maintains the temperature of those waters, the cold water coming down (sinking), the warm water coming up (rising).  One of the main fears about global warming is that if the temperature of the oceans is warm enough, the welling stops for a time.  It stops and the oceans eventually get colder.  They get colder, and the rest of the Earth gets colder.  So, global warming would lead to a global freeze, an ice age.  Or, worst case scenario, a snow-ball planet.  But that is again, how I understand it, which isn't very well.  Take this with a grain of salt, but keep the imagery in mind.

To me downwelling and upwelling, could also describe one rising to the surface or delving deep.  It is a lovely metaphor, physical movement to set the mood or direction one is going towards in life, whether good or bad.  Upwelling as a positive, optimistic course.  Downwelling as determination and bravery in the midst of darkness, going deep to confront problems or life in general at the core.  Downwelling is not sinking.  Whatever goes down, of course, must and will rise up again. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Adventures in Logophilia - Ab Inito (Jillian)

It has been two months since I've put words into this blog.  It has been four years since Michelle and I launched this project, and life continues to meander, ebb and flow in different directions, in different moods.  We've been busy bees, going to school and writing novels.  I completed my grand endeavor, a novel, on 1 September, and as I go through the process of writing query letters and sending them out and waiting for responses, I'll be here resting from the long slog of the last fifteen months.  Depending on the weather (both figuratively and literally), I might document some of my experiences in the black hole that is publishing. 

But what will hopefully bring me to the blog on a regular basis is my lexicon.  I have been collecting fun, interesting, complicated, brilliant words for the last several years, and now have a whopping 2100 at my disposal.  I've gathered this definitions from Merriam-Webster and Oxford Dictionaries, but they are paraphrased and illustrated here in my own words.  Where better to explore them than Daedalus?  I won't blog on them all, of course, because that would take me six years.  I'll blog on the words that are most useful, most special to me.  Hopefully, you will find yourself becoming a logophiliac as well.

I'll begin at the beginning with...

Ab inito is an adverb from the Latin, meaning "from the beginning." 

Contrary to popular belief, in my opinion, Latin is most certainly not dead.  Though no one goes about this day in age striking up conversations in Latin, it is everywhere.  We still read it, pour over it, become captivated by the sound of its language, the way it's sung and spoken in some Christian circles.  Latin provides the foundation for so much of our language, and sometimes asserts an authoritative voice into an other wise dull statement, a grain of wisdom into what could be a shabby string of words.  Maybe it is like the physical vestiges of the Roman empire left standing all over Britain (Hadrian's Wall).  Or maybe it just sounds cool.  We could all do with a little more Latin in our daily lives!


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