English How She Is Spoke

A living language is a dynamic language. It changes and evolves over time to better fit (and boldly go!) the changing and evolving milieu of its speakers. New inventions and concepts need names so that they can be talked about. (Insert video clip of the Dowager Countess of Grantham ingenuously asking, “What is a ‘weekend’?” here) Words also drop out of common usage because people don’t need to talk about those things anymore for whatever reason. (That’s what makes Shakespeare so difficult. Everyday life has changed rather substantially between his time and ours, and many of the words that described everyday life at the turn of the 17th century have dropped out of “common knowledge” over the intervening 400+ years.) (Ask a Millennial why you refer to ending a phone call as “hanging up.” or what “Betamax” is)

One way we make new words for new things is to combine words in new ways (which English inherited from its Germanic roots), like “hatchback” and “skateboard.” “History bounding” describes the practice of recreating and adapting garments from a particular historical period to make them part of your everyday wardrobe. CosTubers (Costume+YouTube) have whole channels devoted to the practice. This is not to be confused with “Cosplay,” (costume+play), which is the hobby of recreating the costume of a character in film, television or print to wear for fun, or “-core” where a person incorporates aspects of their “core interest” into their daily life (cottagecore, medievalcore, bardcore, etc.). We now have “spheres” or the concepts, practices, and participants to do with a particular interest or activity (the blogsphere, the Twittersphere), and “-verses” — the “fictional universe” in which a particular film, book, or TV series is set (the Potterverse, the Duneverse, the Whoniverse, etc.)

The meanings of words can change over time. A case in point is the word “terrific,” which literally means “causing terror.” It has acquired the additional meanings of “great size, amount or intensity,” and is now used as an exclamation of approval. Terrific! One has only to listen to a Millennial or GenZ to appreciate that the words “sick” and “stupid” have also acquired additional meanings beyond the literal, as has the word “awesome.” (If a Millennial describes your child as “stupid cute,” that is a high compliment.) In addition to its literal meaning, “gnarly” has acquired two other meanings that are exact opposites: awesome and excellent versus gruesome and unpleasant.

Words become streamlined, like “app” (from “application”) and “phone” (from “telephone”). A “fanatic” has been a “fan” for quite a while, but now they congregate at “cons” (from “convention”), buy “merch” (“merchandise”) and there is typically cosplay involved. “High resolution” becomes “hi res” and “low fidelity” becomes “lo fi.” Some phrases get stripped right down to acronyms. “By the way,” becomes BTW, “laugh out loud” becomes LOL, and “in my humble opinion” becomes IMHO. We used to have a US President; now we have a POTUS.

How we use words changes, too. Not so long ago, “extinction” was a state of being. The dinosaurs became extinct. They were no more. Now it’s a destination (“the point of no return”) as more and more species go extinct. We’re doers now. Scientist do science. Mathematicians don’t analyse things mathematically anymore, they do math to it. Pregnancy went from a state of being (you either are or you aren’t) — “she became pregnant,” to something you caught like a disease — “she got pregnant” to the result of encountering a trip hazard — “she fell pregnant.” We used to “set foot” (A virgin forest is where the hand of Man has never set foot.) Now we “step foot” — which has a certain logic to it, I suppose, but not quite the same ring.

Mysteries and No Wonders

Caught a glimpse of something shiny on the carpet. Found this on the floor beside my dining table. No idea what it is or where it came from. My best guess is that somebody lost it, and it was on it’s way to Plainview (where all lost things go to be found) and it overshot the runway. . .

I had just woken up when my brain broadsided me with this scene set in a story in progress. Didn’t dare wait for the desktop to boot up. Just grabbed a piece of paper out of the printer and a bp pen to put it someplace where I could find it again. No wonder word processing is so much better than writing in longhand.

I Made Good on My Threat

I’ve been threatening for some time to gather all my prose writings into one place, and I’ve finally made good on my threat.  The new blog is called “A Box of Special Things.” Not only does it collect bits of creative writing posted in other places, but there are two new bits never before posted.  So, if fiction is your jam, hop over and take a look.

So the Darkness Shall be the Light, and the Stillness the Dancing.

The title is a quote from T.S. Eliot, East Coker, The Four Quartets.   The stillness has been my dancing lately.  I’ve stories I’m working on that have been going well.  I’ve a piece of knitting by my computer that I knit a row or two on while I’m rereading or thinking about what comes next.

I’ve accumulated a list of tasks to do when I reach critical mess*: Two loads of washing — my dirty clothes hamper is almost too full again and the bed is due for changing, plus another load or two of blankets and lap robes that need to be washed and put in storage for winter, now that summer is half over.  There is my yarn stash to be sorted through and organized, and the new additional** storage bins to be put in place and WIPs to sort into finish-its  or frog-its.

With a drawer and a basket full of WIPs, of course I’ve started a new shawl out of Malabrigo sock yarn, color “Teal Feather.”  One of those easy, mindless garter stitch shawls growing out of a two-row repeat with fiddly bits at each end, asymmetrical with a crescent curve and a nice little detail for each edge.  Something light for autumn.  It’s currently living by my computer, handy for story work.  From all my years as a transcriptionist, I tend to think with my hands. It’s such a hard-wired circuit, from brain to fingers.  Knitting when I’m not typing, to keep the fingers busy and the thoughts flowing.

This was why there was a plate beside my keyboard, a roast beef and Münster cheese sandwich on a piece of pita bread cut in half, and a package of apple slices.  I had some of those breaded shrimp the other day, the kind you buy frozen and bake in the oven.  Of course, I had Tartar sauce with, and I always save the left over Tartar sauce for roast beef sandwiches later, to spread on the side of the bread the roast beef goes on, with mayo on the cheese side.  The pickle bits in the Tartar sauce always go so well with the beef.  I have these little sauce dishes I got from Pier One, blue and white to match my dishes, although not the same pattern.  They’re made for the various dipping sauces you get with Japanese food, but they work just as well for Tartar sauce for shrimp, or ketchup, or individual dollops of margarine to set on the bread plate at each place when I have dinner parties.  Anyway, I just slip dish and all inside a baggie and put it in the refrigerator.

Next Tuesday I get to go to the dentist for the next step in the jaw-tooth implant.  This will be the  setting of the post, which will also entail bone grafting, and which is why I’ve been wearing this (tea-stained) thing on my lower teeth, at first all the time (except when actually eating), and now just at night.  Still fighting the legacy of large teeth and small jaws — I had to have 4 wisdom teeth plus 4 perfectly healthy bicuspids pulled just to make room for the teeth I had.  But because my front teeth are so long, I couldn’t open my mouth wide enough to get the guide into my mouth that is required in order to place the post for the implant to replace that way-at-the-back molar. So my dentist made this mouth guard for me to wear to lengthen (and relax) my jaw muscles enough so that hopefully I could open my mouth wide enough for him to get all the gear in that he needed to finish the implant.  Anyway, it worked and all that happens Tuesday.   Then there will be more months of waiting while the bone graft heals before we can proceed to the final step, which is placing the crown.

My mom’s new phone came in today so tomorrow I will go over and do the change out.  As I said, hopefully I can save her phone book to the new SIM card so I won’t have to re-enter all those phone numbers for her.  Again.  I’m going to go early enough in the afternoon so that I can stop by the nail place on the way home and get a manicure.  My nails are bad about getting those little slivers at the edge of the nail that peel up into the quick, and a professional manicurist can nip those in the bud.  And anyway, we’re supposed to stimulate the economy, right?

T.S.Elliot can be a bit impenetrable, but now and again, a gleam of something sparkly. It’s 9 p.m. and I want to get on to other things.  I’ll end as I began with another quote from the same poem.

“The dahlias sleep in the empty silence.
Wait for the early owl.”

*"critical mess" is like "critical mass" (the minimum amount of fissile material needed to maintain a nuclear chain reaction. in atom bombs), only it's the minimum amount of clutter, disorder or dishevelment required to trigger the "I can't stand it another minute" response that provokes you to do something about it.

**skeins of yarn, like cats, accumulate.

In App Purchases and Other Abominations

Some marketing genius came up with this thing for games called “in app purchases” — You give the game away for free but let people buy more of the tokens they need to continue playing the game for some piddly price like $1.99 or $2.99.   Loose all your lives?  Buy five more for just $2.99.  Need more bombs or fizzies?  Buy 10 more for $9.99.  You get the idea.  Insidious and not a little sleazy, if you ask me.   Of course, you can get more lives for free if you wait a set limit of time — like five more lives if you wait 24 hours.  I’ve got about six games of this ilk downloaded to the Fire 10-inch tablet.  When I’m in that mood, I play one until I use up all the lives on that game, then go on to the next one.  I can play for quite a while doing that and I get the additional satisfaction of beating their racket.

I’m teetering on the brink of starting the first of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander books.  I’ve read all her “Lord John” books, and I really liked them, but I just don’t know whether I want to get into that whole Stürm und Drang of a soap opera that is the main story line.  I got the first book (“Outlander“) as a free download for Kindle at some point and I’ve bought the second book in the series (“Dragonfly in Amber“).  They’re hefty books — door-stop class. Lord John doesn’t even make an appearance until Dragonfly in Amber and he’s only 16 at the time.  Sheesh.  Maybe after the first of the year.

— Speaking of “in app purchases,” Amazon Kindle frequently takes an older/longer/completed series of books whose sales are starting to run out of gas and offers the first book in the series for free as a limited time offer — which is how I got the first Outlander book as well as several others.  The idea is, of course, that if you like the first book, you’ll spring for more books in the series.  That’s “Amazon” spelled “o-c-t-o-p-u-s.”

Pet peeve number umpty-eleven:  Books written in first person.  Just not into it.  Not sorry.

Here’s your helpful homemaking hint for the day:  How to serve toast (for three or more people).  Cut the piece of toast on the diagonal, from the left upper corner to the right lower corner.  Then close up the two pieces like they were a book cover and stand them up on a plate.

Do the same for each slice. This way there’s room for you to insert a finger to pick up the piece of toast without touching the piece next to it.  (Of course, you’d want to use a bigger plate.)  This would also be a great way to serve Texas Toast if you garlic-buttered each slice, then cut them and put them together like this on a sheet of foil, which you wrapped them up in, then put the foil package in the oven to melt the butter.   You, too, can be the hostess with the mostest.

Nuts.  Now I’m hungry.

n.b.  In case you haven't sussed what I'm doing, I have long made a habit in this blog of linking words to their definitions when I think the usage is idiosyncratic to a particular place (Texas), region (South), or country, or is one of those off-the-wall idiomatic expressions English is prone to; this for those countries who speak a different brand of English, or for whom English is not their first language.

Independence Day

I was reflecting on the fact that yesterday was “Independence Day” and, in view of the current political climate, I thought this was apropos.   We’ve needed a day of reckoning for way too long on way too many scores.

I’m in pursuit of my own personal independence day in my quest to return to full mobility after my total knee replacement surgery.  The VA finally got its rear in gear and I had my “induction visit” for outpatient physical therapy Wednesday — only three weeks late.  Fortunately, it turned out that the facility I wanted was in TriWest’s network so I get to go to the one that’s literally right around the corner instead of to a facility that’s way over on one side of town, or one that’s way over on the other side of town.

I like it.  The therapist is not only professional but nice.  I was pleased to note that I did not lose all that much ground in the three weeks I twiddled my thumbs waiting for Godot. . .  I actually did gain some ground.  I went from 82 degrees of flexion at 18 days postop after a week in-home PT (which is really good, BTW) to 102 degrees of flexion at 6 weeks postop, which is past 90 degrees (a measurement of how far I can bend my knee, assuming a straight leg is zero degrees, and remembering that the furthest I can bend my good leg is 125 degrees because I’m a real woman with a real woman’s thunder thighs!, not some anorexic stick-figure of a fashion model, so there. )  Starting next Wednesday, I will have two sessions a week of PT for 7 weeks.

All since the surgery, I’ve been having intermittent nerve pain as part of the healing process — as nerves heal and reconnect, they yell at my brain, “Can you hear me now?!”  It’s like being savagely stabbed six or eight times with an electrified fork, suddenly and without warning.  Sometimes the jolt is so strong my foot even jumps.  Then it stops.  Not everybody gets this, but apparently I do, and it’s totally on the curve of a normal healing process.  Remember, I’ve done this whole thing, surgery and all, on nothing but a local nerve block for immediate post surgical pain, Tylenol and Aleve, that’s it.   Of course, I had no choice in the matter, because I’m allergic to practically everything else, but still.   I stopped taking anything for pain over two weeks ago.

The reverse osmosis water guy was out Wednesday afternoon for the 6-month filter change on my under-sink unit, and ever since, when I’ve turned the regular sink tap on, I get the spits and splutters of air in the line.  I let the water run for a good minute that first time, and that should have taken care of it, but when I ran water a couple of hours later, it spit and spluttered again.  It’s happening consistently.  I’ve got to try calling them in the morning and have the guy back out because something is out of kilter.   Bother.

For weeks now, high temps have been in the 90’s F(32-37 C) with lows in the low 70’s F (21-24 C).   Thankfully, I haven’t had to go out in it much.  We’ve been having thunderboomers intermittently.  Afternoon and late evening storm moves in, with a lot of thunder and lightening.  It rains torrentially for about half an hour with pea to marble size hail more often than not, then it quits.   Then for a couple days afterward we get 60%-70% humidity (stop laughing, you east Texans!) which is really high for us (39% to 49% is average).  (Where I live up in the flatlands is considered “semi-arid” with average rainfall of 16-17 inches/40-43 cm a year.)

Late Wednesday night, after things cooled down some, I baked three potatoes in the oven.  The way I do my baking taters (wash potatoes, rub them with olive oil while still damp, cook at 360º for 1 hour) makes the skin tender and thin.  I had some of those Birdseye steam in the microwave packages of broccoli and cauliflower mix veggies which I nuked, and some thick cut deli chicken, and a green onion, and some Sargento sprinkle cheese to load my tater with.  I got one tater left.  That’ll be lunch mañana.

I thought I’d leave you with this little vault over the language barrier from a restroom in Japan (?).  Words to live by.



Relevant to one facing another decade birthday (30, 40, 50, etc.,).  The Calvin and Hobbes comic strip was such a wonderful thing.  He drew just exactly enough of it and then walked away.  I have all the books.  Hmmm.  May be time for a reread. . .



Yep.  What I wanted to tell a middle-school English teacher who was a squee-ing fangirl over Shakespeare.  Actually, “Romeo and Juliet” has a fairly low body count for Shakespeare, especially if you’re only counting the onstage carnage.

I love this so much.

This would be hysterically funny if the durn Bradford Pear trees  (Pyrus calleryan) that are all over town weren’t in bloom again.   At the moment, (achoo!) it’s just bitterly (achoo! . . . .ACHOO!) iron(achoo!) ic.  TWONK!  God, I hate them.