Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New RITA & Golden Heart Contest Guidelines by Romance Writers of America

The Romance Writers of America has published their new 2015 RITA & Golden Heart contest rules for published authors and unpublished writers, respectively. Some of the highlights for the RITAs, include:

1. Entrants are required to judge. Entrants will not judge in a category in which they are entered. Judges will be allowed to opt out of two categories.

2. Only the first 2000 entries are accepted.

3. A book may not be entered in more than one category, but there's is no limit to the number of eligible books that may be entered for an author in the same category.

4. Categories with fewer than 50 entries will not be judged.
[Given the currently defined categories, this is not something that will come to pass.]

5. Preliminary-round scores will be determined using a trimmed mean: the highest and lowest scores will be discarded and the remaining three scores will be averaged.

6. The top scoring 4% of each category’s entries will advance to the final round, excepting that no category will have fewer than 4 finalists or more than 10 finalists.
[Finally, a sensible solution to this year's comical situation wherein there were 17 finalists in the Historical category.]

7. The Contemporary category has books set from 1950 to present date and is to be subdivided thusly: short (40,000–56,000 words), mid-length (56,000–84,000 words), long (more than 84,000 words).

8. The Historical category has books set in time periods prior to 1950 and is to be subdivided thusly: short(40,000–89,000 words) and long (more than 89,000 words).
[While size works well to demarcate groups in the Contemporary category, time periods would work better in Historicals. There are far more books set in the extended Regency period (1800–1837) than are set in other time periods. Expecting those other books to compete with the Regencies is not feasible.]

9. There are no New Adult or Stories with Romantic Elements categories.
[I don't know enough about New Adult to judge—I'd put them in contemporaries—but the SwRE is a serious loss to the contest; some of Romance's best books are written in this category.]

Friday, August 22, 2014

Picture Day Friday: Anne Hathaway's Cottage

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

2014 TBR Reading Challenge: The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

As part of Wendy Crutcher's 2014 TBR Challenge, here are my comments on The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion.

This is a true memoir as opposed to an autobiography of whine. Some people write their memoirs as a reporting on what happened to their lives: usually sad, humiliating, and/or disgusting. They do not enter into their own feelings about these events so much. A true memoir, on the other hand, is all about the intensely intimate, the person's feelings in reaction to or in anticipation of events. And in Joan Didion's hands, the memoir is elevated to an art form in the sparseness of her prose, her unflinching honesty in her thoughts and actions, and an in-depth examination of her feelings then and now to events preceding and succeeding The Event.

The inciting event: "At approximately nine o'clock on the evening of December 30, 2003, my husband, John Gregory Dunne, appeared to (or did) experience, at the table where he and I had just sat down to dinner in the living of our apartment in New York, a sudden massive coronary event that caused his death."

The secondary inciting event: "Our only child, Quintana, had been for the previous five night unconscious in an intensive care unit at Beth Israel Medical Center's singer Division, [...] where what had seemed a case of December flue sufficiently severe to take her to an emergency room on Christmas morning had exploded into pneumonia and septic shock."

Quintana, after a long illness with relapses, eventually recovered and came home. Dunne never did.

In the days following Dunne's death, while Didion had to maintain a strong front, "I remember thinking as I did this that he would see that I was handling things," she suffered from a sense of unreality and tacit denials. "I found myself wondering [in New York City], with no sense of illogic, if it [John's death] has also happened in Los Angeles. (Was there time to go back? Could we have a different ending on Pacific time?)" and "How could he come back if they took his organs [at the autopsy], how could he come back if he had no shoes?"

The day after the funeral in March, which was as public a declaration of death as any, she took herself in hand and allowed herself to think about what she needed to do to start the next phase of her life. "Cleaning up my office could be a step toward the first day of the rest of my life." Despite this decision, in the quotidian, her sense of reality remained fluid. "I was myself in no way prepared to accept this news as final: there was a level on which I believe that what had happened remained reversible." Episcopalians say at the graveside: "In the midst of life we are in death," and this was so true for Didion.

There are refrains that like ostinatos in music come up again and again throughout the narrative.
"Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant."
"You sit down to dinner. And then—gone."
"You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends."

Posthumously, she recognizes that there were conversations with and actions on Dunne's part that revealed that perhaps on some deep subconscious level he had some knowledge of his impending death. Gawain of the medieval prose-poem Chanson de Roland when asked, "Ah, good my lord, think you then so soon to die?" replies, "I tell you that I shall not live two days." Didion keeps discovering bits and pieces of their recent past where she should've listened closely and understood what Dunne was trying to tell her. She doesn't beat herself up about it, but it is with a sense of regret that she acknowledges her lack of attentiveness.

Her meditation on grief is aching in its sense of catching her by surprise by its intensity and its longevity. "We do not expect to be literally crazy, [...believing] that their husband is about to return. We imagine initially that we will eventually recover, that grief will lessen. What can never be anticipated is the unending loss, the space that is always empty beside you," the unending succession of memories...

Didion talks a lot about what she calls a "vortex effect," where a memory is triggered by a glance at a place or a song or a smell. She starts avoiding places in order to prevent disappearing down rabbit holes and the painful return to reality.

Her husband features in these trips down memory lane far, far more than her daughter, and it's mostly when her daughter was a little girl, not other ages. This struck me as very curious. Did she feel detachment towards her daughter because she was so attached to her husband? She comes across as an unemotional person on the whole, which is not to say that she doesn't feel things intensely. On the contrary. This book goes to show that what is not apparent on the surface is very deeply felt, and it is profoundly private. This is what makes this book so powerful: In her most difficult time of grieving, she volunteers this look into her most private self to a society that considers mourning as wallowing in self-pity. That took tremendous courage.

Towards the end of the book, she writes that she does not want to finish this account, because she's afraid that she'll then have to face up to her sense of John alive as becoming "more remote, softened, transmuted into whatever best serves" her future life without him. "I know why we try to keep the dead alive: we try to keep them alive in order to keep them with us. When we mourn our losses, we also mourn ourselves. I also know that if we are to live ourselves there comes a point at which we must relinquish the dead, let them go, keep them dead."

Monday, August 18, 2014

Medievalism: Tales After Tolkien Society

The Tales After Tolkien Society promotes short-form medieval scholarship in popular cultural genres, including but not limited to: fantasy, science fiction, westerns, romance, horror, crime, historical, children’s and young adult fiction, and cross-genre writing. "The Tales After Tolkien Society recognizes the foundational place J. R. R. Tolkien’s work has not only for the fantasy genre, but for popular medievalisms far more widely."

The blog also offers brief comments on recent medievalist scholarship, book and article reviews, and other popular cultural uses of medievalist themes.

The motivation for the blog came about from the 2011 issue of the Modern Language Association of America's publication Profession. "In it is a cluster of articles discussing the evaluation of digital scholarship, and in the introduction to that cluster is the suggestion that digital scholarship needs to be encouraged among junior scholars—those who have not yet been awarded tenure and those who find themselves off the tenure track but not secure in identities as independent scholars."

Other advantages that digital scholarship offers are an "ability to track emergent trends in research and scholarship," a reading and an evaluation of the pieces by peers via comments and page analytics, and a space for detailed discussion of current articles.

They are currently seeking new contributors to the blog. Please contact Helen Young for more information at

Friday, August 15, 2014

Picture Day Friday: Reply to Fan Letter by Harper Lee

On June 7, 2006, Harper Lee wrote this extraordinary letter to her young admirer in response to a request for a photograph.

[Click on the image to read better.]

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When Is a Book Not A Book?

Book of Dimma is a shrine from 11th century A book is not a book when it's a book containing parts of one book or multiple books. This medieval book reliquary was called a cumdach or a book shrine. For example, the cumdach of Dimma's Book was produced in the twelfth century to encase the eighth century Gospel Book copied by the scribe Dimma.

Another example is the cumdach of Columba's Psalter. It was a copper and silver-plated book shrine that was made in the second half of the 11th century to hold the psalter of St. Columba, a manuscript that was created in the 6th or 7th century.

These shrines were fancy dust jackets, if you will. The cases were meant to directly resemble a book, symbolizing the important manuscripts found inside, and to protect the manuscripts from damage.

The shrines rival the books for super bling. This here on the left is the Gospel book known as the Codex Aureus or the Golden Book. It was made in the 9th century for the Holy Roman Emperor Charles II. The cover of the book is covered with gold, gems, sapphires, emeralds, and pearls.

[Both the images in this post are used with permission. They are copyrighted by Jenny Weston of Leiden University, The Netherlands and taken from]

Monday, August 11, 2014

When Did Romances Start to Get Such a Bad Rap?

"Stock characters, repetitive structures, contrived endings, formulaic words and phrases, simplistic emotions, commonplace sentiments"... Sounds familiar? How many times have modern romances been accused of this by the literary fiction stalwarts and even the science fiction and fantasy genre enthusiasts? Romances cannot be taken seriously pooh-poohs the Earnest Literature Reader; they're too pedestrian.

And yet, those quoted words above were not used to describe modern romances, but rather Middle English romances. Like modern romances, they were part of an enduring genre, ragingly popular in their heyday (over five centuries). Again like modern romances, popularity didn't mean that they didn't come under fire from the literary greats. And also like modern romances, they were commissioned by and read by people (well, men) who were well-educated, important, and successful.

Those Middle English romances and today's modern romances have been successfully popular across all demographics and yet are unpalatable to a notable few. It is as if something that is widely-read cannot have literary merit. Modern-day publishers think that reading comprehension and attention spans have declined these days—whether this is true or not, the market has bought this assessment and made the pronouncement that if something can be comprehended by many and is accessible to many, then perforce, it lacks rigor and complexity of language and thought.

And why stop at Middle English romances. Go further back to Old English tales, Nordic fairytales, and the grand sagas from Ireland and Iceland. All throughout history, you will find that stirring romantic stories of derring-do, love, the vanquishing of evil, the triumph of the noble (I don't mean aristocratic) hero (and heroine), the advancement of the underdog, and other such themes have been disparaged as the purview of the dim.

The philosophers of the ancient period and early Middle Ages are the Chaucers of the later medieval periods are the Austen contemporaries are the modern-day New Yorkers. Behind every romantic tale in history is a line of its detractors.

So modern romance novelists and readers who advocate for mainstream acceptance and respect towards the genre have an uphill battle ahead of them. But they're fighting the good fight.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Picture Day Friday: Lay vs. Lie, a grammar graphic

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer Reading: Big Fat Book Edition

Some of my acquaintances who're readers and bloggers have been talking about desiring to read long instead of quick shorts. When I mean long, I mean more than 500 pages versus the usual 80,000 to 100,000 word stories. When I mean, quick, I mean stories with fast pacing and easy characterizations and subject material. Thus, the BFB or Big Fat Book project was born.

What qualifies as a BFB is not merely size, i.e., the hefty doorstopper, but also complex story lines, intricate plotting, and not obvious character motivations and thoughts and actions.

Back in March, Sunita blogged about initiating a BFB read-a-long among her blog readers. I thought long and hard about it, and decided, nope, I did not have the bandwidth to do it. I had BFB envy, but it wasn't a sufficient motivator. However, I kept up with Sunita's BFB posts in March to see how she did.

Then in June, I was alerted by her that another BFB read-a-long was coming up in July. I still thought that it was going to be a tough sell for me. Likewise, I was tempted by Kay's post, but resisted.

Then yet another person, Liz McCausland, decided to join in and posted about it. What was different about this one was the possibility of listening to an audiobook as part of the BFB read-a-long. I went, "Hmmm..." even though I am not a fan of audiobooks. Liz tried to encourage me in the comments section. But then a comment from Kaetrin finally clicked, and I was like, "YES! Count me in."

Her comment was that instead of sitting around twiddling my thumbs while listening to audiobooks and letting my attention wander then scrambling around trying to find the spot where I had stopped listening, I should do something that is not too engrossing while listening, i.e., something mindless, so I can keep my mind on the book and let my body have something to do, too. Her brilliant suggestion was to exercise while listening to the book.

I now have Game of Kings, the first book in the Lymond Chronicles, by Dorothy Dunnett from the library. It's a book I have always wanted to read ever since author Jo Beverley recommended it highly, but have been daunted by the size. The paperback version tops 550 pages and the audio version has 25 hours worth of unabridged recording on CD. *GULP*

I am hoping that this will be synergistic for me: the exercise will help the listening and the listening in turn will help the exercising. Thus, I will be trying my first audiobook and my first BFB this summer. Hoping to post updates here so you can follow along with my progress (or lack thereof).

Monday, August 4, 2014

Book Benches of London

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame When I first came across this concept of book benches, titled Books About Town, I was thrilled as all get out. Imagine sprinkling the entire map of London with scenes from books that are in a permanent, functional sculptural form. Time Machine by H.G. Wells
Here was another way to get literature to people by making it accessible and fun. You could take a tour of London by following various trails of book benches. Here's a detailed list of all the benches.

1984 by George Orwell When you read the bios of the artists, you notice that they have a love of reading, interpreting the books, and bringing the messages contained within to the masses. For example, Thomas Dowdeswell chose 1984 by George Orwell, "because of its rallying cry against the corrupting powers of the mass media, boundless corporate greed, sinister or misguided government policy and the constant threat of war and terror."

In order to draw more attention to the benches, different events have been scheduled on different days at different benches. For example, on Sunday, July 6, a person dressed as Mary Poppins was giving away books at specific times at the Mary Poppins book bench.

The book benches will be on view in open public spaces for the months of July through September. Then on October 7, 2014, they will be sold in an auction with proceeds going to "the National Literacy Trust, a charity dedicated to raising the literacy levels of disadvantaged children and young people across the UK."

[All images in this post are copyrighted by]

Friday, August 1, 2014

Read-a-Romance Month

Katharine Ashe kicked off 2014 Read-a-Romance Month today. Every day three authors post blogs and book recommendations, and short interviews are included. All commenters are eligible for a giveaway of the authors' books.

While the main post is free-form, the interview has these three questions:

1. Describe the most daring, adventurous or inspiring thing you ever did.

2. Tell us about your journey to becoming a writer (or a reader). (How did you decide to get started? Did you always know or was there a specific moment when you knew?)

3. Tell us about The (or A) Book That Changed Your Life. (Why?)

Here's Day One's Kristan Higgins who blogged about the qualities she loves best in a hero. She writes laugh-out-loud contemporary romance, and you get a feel for her writing in her blog presence. She recommends Laura Moore and Huntley Fitzpatrick.

So follow along every day of the month of August for great blogs, interviews, recommendations, and giveaways.

Picture Day Friday: The Churchill Arms in London

The Churchill Arms is one of the most famous pubs in London. Built in 1750, this place was known to be frequented by Winston Churchill's grandparents.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

The Shambles of York

[Click on the images for a bigger, better view.]

Have you heard of The Shambles? It's the Yorkshire version of ambling, twisting, turning, narrow, cobbled streets of medieval York.

However, there's also an actual lane called The Shambles, which is considered to be one of the best preserved medieval streets in Europe. It even has a mention in the Doomsday Book (commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1086). The street that you can visit now has been modernized since then with buildings from the 14th and 15th centuries. (Modern is as modern does, eh?)

The name, Shambles, is Anglo-Saxon in origin; shammel meaning shelves, and stands for the shelves that were commonly found in most open-front shops.

The street had many butcher's shops, their homes, and also slaughterhouses. The meat was hung up on meat-hooks for sale on the outside of the shops with smaller pieces set out in shop window shelves for display. Lacking a sanitation system, the pavements of the street were raised on either side of the street to provide a channel for washing off the blood and offal that naturally ended up on the street.

The winding lanes, which surround The Shambles, are so narrow in spots that if you walk down the lane with your arms outstretched, you can touch the buildings on either side of the lane. This is not a design by a drunk architect, a resettling of buildings over time, or the building McMansions in tiny spaces. Medieval towns were deliberately built like this.

In The Shambles, the overhanging timbered fronts of houses were close-set on purpose to protect the wattle-n-daub walls below and also to prevent the meat from spoiling due to inclement weather.

So there you have it. The next time you visit York, be sure to include this spot in your itinerary of places to see.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Medieval Meal for Real by Ivan Day

In his blog, Food History Jottings, Ivan Day tries to dispel many of the myths and outright falsehoods that written about the history of British food. Ivan's website, Historic Food, chronicles his life and all his activities of being a celebrity chef.

In his own words, Ivan Day is an independent social historian of food culture and also a professional chef and confectioner. He runs practical courses on all aspects of British and Italian food history at his home in the English Lake District. He is also the author of a number of books and many papers on the history of food and has curated many major exhibitions on food history in the UK, US, and Europe.

It was by a lucky coincidence that I came across Ivan's blog on a medieval meal at Gainsborough Hall. After reading it, I asked his permission to quote and paraphrase parts of his post and also use his images here. So all the quoted text and images are copyrighted to Ivan Day.

Here're some excerpts from his work for KBS, the South Korean equivalent of the BBC, on authentic English medieval food and dining. For their show A Food Odyssey, KBS didn't wish for the popular versions already available from many sources, but were looking for someone with well-cemented historical research credentials, who was a celebrated chef to boot.

"My aim was to accurately recreate an ambitious medieval meal in a high status household, so we chose to film at Gainsborough Hall in Lincolnshire with its wonderful great hall and kitchen complex. I enlisted the help of the outstanding re-enactment group Lord Burgh's Retinue, who regularly work at the hall. [...] At Gainsborough we filmed a high table sequence led by Paul with full Plantagenet dining ritual, from Latin grace and blessing to washing of hands with an ewer and basin. The table and buffet was dressed correctly for the period and there were demonstrations of carving, sewing, and correct service."

The roasting range in the kitchen of Gainsborough Hall, above, was "probably being used for the first time in four hundred years as it was intended, for roasting a full range of meats and poultry for a high status meal. A goose sawce madame, four rabbits, four mallards, a woodcock, and other game birds roasted on the hand-turned spits."

Here're some pictures of some of the foods that were served at the feast.

A chastelet, a pie made in the form of a castle with different fillings in each tower, awaits a spectacular flambé with brandy before being brought to the table.

An early fifteenth century gingerbread coloured with red sanders wood is ornamented with box leaves pinned on with cloves.

The pièce de resistance: A soteltie waits to be taken to the top table. This was originally made by Ivan's incredibly gifted friend and colleague Tony Barton for his 2003 exhibition, Royal Sugar Sculpture at the Bowes Museum.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Picture Day Friday: Ancient Library of Ephesus

The ancient Library of Celsus is located in the Anatolian city of Ephesus, now part of Selçuk, Turkey. It was built by and named for the Roman Senator Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus. Construction on the library began in 117 CE and was completed in 120 CE. The Romans were among the earliest peoples to build public libraries for scholars and common people to come in and peruse the texts. The collections boasted a wide range of topics and local and internationally sourced texts, in the original or copied by scribes.

[Click on the image for a better look.]

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Bath: The Happening Place in History

Anyone who has visited Bath, England comes away with loving memories of a city rich in history and beauty. As Samuel Johnson [1709–1784] wrote: "Let me counsel you not to waste your health in unprofitable sorrow, but go to Bath and endeavour to prolong your life." For seventeen centuries, the City of Bath has hosted visitors from all walks of life believing exactly that. There's this fan of Bath, H.V. Morton, who in 1927 wrote: "I like Bath. It has quality. I like Bath buns, Bath Olivers, Bath chaps, Bath brick, Bath stone (which to my London eyes is the beautiful sister of Portland stone), and watching the Bath chairs dash past." Honestly, do you see any denizen of a Bath chair (AKA wheelchair) wanting to dash about the steep hills of the city?


Please visit the Risky Regencies blog is see the rest of my post on the City of Bath.

This is my second post for the Riskies. The first post is here all the way from April 2008. I'm so chuffed to be writing for them. The Riskies was the first blog I visited when I started my Internet adventures in 2006. That it dealt with the Regency period of British history and featured authors writing romance stories set in that time period were definitely its biggest draws. I since have stayed on as a reader all these years because of the personalities of the authors writing the blog. So do join me there.

Monday, July 21, 2014

What Time Periods are Part of Historical Romance?

This summer, the Seattle Public Library is challenging its adult readersto read widely across the romance genre. To aid this process, the library blog has created a hand-dandy detailed checklist of subgenres and sub-subgenres.

The subgenres included are: contemporary, historical, paranormal, inspirational, romantic suspense, young adult, new adult, and a miscellaneous section.

The contemporary subgenre, for example, includes these sub categories: Straight Contemporary, Cowboy, Cop, Military, Sports-centered, Tattooed, Pets and Vets, Small Town, Firefighters, Medical, LGBTQ, and Multicultural/multiracial. You can also write in your own.

When I looked at the historical sub-subgenre categories, at first glance, I thought it was very inclusive: Regency, Rome, Middle Ages, Victorian, World War II, 1950s, Men in Kilts, Asian, Flappers, and Pioneer/Cowboy/1800s American West. Some might consider this sub-list to be not very inclusive since, for example, LGBTQ and Tudor among others are not listed and neither are many international categories, such as Egyptian, Middle Eastern, etc.

Then again, some readers might consider the list to be a little too inclusive, since historical romances are considered to be stories set in time periods prior to the Great Wars.

Since I was on the fence there on what exactly went into the historical romance bucket, I threw out the question to the authors, readers, editors, and agents on my Twitter list to see what people thought of this. Here are some of their responses:

‏@IsobelCarr I think Mad Men, Masters of Sex, & tons of BBC/PBS shows have shown ppl like 40s-60s as "historical"

‏@Miranda_Neville WWII & later seem really popular in hist fic - or mainstream fic

@esisogah will say that I know of several hist rom that are Downton insp. from NY publishers

And there were other such responses. What it seems is that while publishers of other fiction are pushing the boundaries on historical fiction, there's no consensus on what romance publishers are willing to publish.

Readers are television viewers, too, and at least in that medium they are branching out of the strictly "Before the Great Wars" line for historical dramas. So there's very likely a demand for romance novels set in those same time periods that are not currently being catered to by the publishing industry.

As we move further and further into the twenty-first century, we will even see the 1970s-era culture coming under the historical umbrella. (Ahem, that means, I will officially become historic. My children already consider me prehistoric.) I wonder if and when romance publishers will follow suit.

[Edited 7/25/14: The new rules for the RITA award by the Romance Writers of America states that historicals are those written about time periods prior to 1950.]

Friday, July 18, 2014

Picture Day Friday: Typical English Countryside

Image copyrighted by

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

2014 TBR Reading Challenge: Word Wizard by Richard Lederer

As part of Wendy Crutcher's 2014 TBR Challenge, here are my brief comments on Word Wizard: Super Bloopers, Rich Reflections, and Other Acts of Word Magic by Richard Lederer.

Lederer enjoys setting language issues to verse to better illustrate his point. "In letter play, beheadment is the lopping off of the initial letter of a word."

     The prelate did relate a tale
     Meant to elate both you and me.
     We stayed up late and ate our meal,
     Te Deum sang in key of e.

This is sheer brilliance, and there are many instances of brilliance throughout the book. Sidney Sheldon calls Lederer "The True King of Language Comedy." And I concur. I have been a long-term fan of his Anguished English books. So a few years ago, when the opportunity arose to attend a talk by him, I jumped to it with alacrity. Turned out, he was just as funny in person as in his books. Sometimes people are good in one forum (speaking or writing), but rarely in both.

He charmed the entire room with his anecdotes, witty replies to questions, and his hilarious dramatization of the difference between lay and lie. Then in a funny "contradiction" to his demonstration, he recited his poem, titled Take the Money Enron:
     The difference between lay and lie
     Has fallen into deep decay.
     But now we know from Enron's shame
     That Lay and Lie are just the same.

He was the consummate showman that day with the urge to teach and to explain. That persona also comes through in this book Word Wizard as well. The book is a collection of his best and most popular pieces. Here are some highlights.

Bloopers: Lederer considers himself a watcher of word-botchers. Lederer says, "These masterpieces of mangled messages are far funnier than anything I could fabricate from whole cloth, even cloth with a lunatic fringe." For example, this is a headline in a small-town newspaper: "Grandmother of eight makes hole in one"—would this be a murdering grandmother or a golfer? Another example from a student essay: "The equator is an imaginary lion that runs around the world forever." Gray Davis, governor of CA once famously said, "My vision is to make the most diverse state on earth, and we have people from every planet on the earth in this state." Lederer chastises him, "Oh, how the mighty have fallen—usually on their mouths." One last example from a student essay: "Romeo's last wish was to be laid by Juliet."

Verb Tenses: English is fraught with some of the most irregular verb tenses of any language. For example, a woman asked a Boston cab driver where she could get scrod. "I didn't know that the verb had that past tense," muttered the cabbie. Another example from A Tense Time with Verbs:
     The verbs in English are a fright.
     How can we learn to read and write?
     Today we speak, but first we spoke;
     Some faucets leak, but never loke.
     Today we write, but first we wrote;
     We bite our tongues, but never bote.

Lederer believes that "When a reader performs aerobics of the mind and push-ups of the brain to explore a linguistic concept, language play becomes language power." So here are some word patterns to add to your vocabulary.

Kangaroo Words: smaller, sub words that are synonyms to the main word and with letters in the same order. For example, diminutive and minute, flourishing and lush, blossom and bloom.

Spoonerisms: oops, slips of the tongue that occur in conversation. For example, loving shepherd and shoving leopard, punny phony and funny pony, speeding rider and reading spider.
     See a clever, heeding rabbit
     Who's acquired a reading habit
     Sitting on his money bags
     Reading many bunny mags.

Homonyms: clusters of words that are spelled differently but sound exactly the same. For example, a naked grizzly is a bare bear, a pony with a sore throat is a hoarse horse.
     One night a knight on a hoarse horse
     Rode out upon a road.
     This male wore mail for war and would
     Explore a wood that glowed.

Anagrams: a new word created out of the same letters of another word. For example, I, a magnate gateman who patrols these portals with your kind permission, have the impression that you brand me a blabbing, babbling funfair ruffian, a has-been banshee, a tearing ingrate, infield infidel, and errant ranter.

Trigrams: three anagrams of the same word. For example, alerting, altering, and relating; do you observe the obverse of the very verbose?; he will be busy mastering emigrants streaming into the tent.

Making the case for Lost Words, "the winking out of words of our youth." For example, "Back in the olden days, life was a real gas, a doozy, a dilly, and a pip; flipsville, endsville, the bee's knees, the cat's whiskers, the cat's meow, and the cat's pajamas; far-out, nifty, neat, groovy, ducky; beautiful, fabulous, super, terrif, sweet, and copacetic. We'd cut a rug in some juke joint and then go necking and petting and smooching and spooning and billing and cooing and pitch woo in flivvers, tin lizzies, roadsters, hot rods, and jalopies in some passion pit or lovers' lane."

Lederer's love of reading blossomed at a very early age and since then, through books, he has conversed with "thousands of people, ancient and contemporary, learned and light, who have set their humanity to paper and crafted language into literature." He considers himself privileged to have had access to all of this knowledge, for as Ben Franklin once said at a dinner party in Paris, "A lonesome man on a rainy day is one who does not know how to read."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Blog Hiatus

This blog is back on hiatus June 19, 2014 to July 15, 2014. Thank you.