Winnie the Pooh was a favorite of my youngest daughter, the older edition, not the Disney character. At nap time we read a chapter from A.A. Milne’s book and then at bedtime we re-read the same chapter.
The stories never got old. Ernest H. Shephard’s illustrations always brought the tales to life.
The wisdom of Pooh and his companions was sometimes beyond her young experience, but Milne’s never failed to impress me with the compassion and insight his characters imparted with humor.
In the midst of this coronavirus pandemic and election mess, I needed something to cheer me up and thought about those Pooh books I’d read to my daughter. I decided to dig out the books.
My daughter’s a grown woman with grown boys herself now. I’m grateful I saved them all these years. I’m also grateful A.A. Milne wrote Winnie the Pooh. Reading it again has sure perked up my attitude.
You know what I discovered?
Piglet’s wise words about gratitude are just as true today as all those years ago.
In fact, in this chaotic world we’re living in right now, I think filling our hearts with gratitude can be key to getting through the days.
It’s November. Time to change our clocks off daylight saving time. Did you remember or were you an hour early to church or work or wherever you needed to be?
I’ve been an hour early or an hour late more than once myself. To help remember we change our clocks on Saturday evening after supper. We have lots of clocks and it’s a pain, but we haven’t been late since we started making the switch early.
The whole process makes me grouchy. One more irritation in a 2020 filled with irritations.
To me, the whole idea of daylight saving time is a waste. We’re not saving daylight. The hour we lose is gone forever. The sun rises and sets the same way it always has no matter what we do with our clocks.
Katherine Dutro, spokesperson for the Indiana Farm Bureau, says, “It is a gimmick that changes the relationship between ‘Sun’ time and ‘clock’ time but saves neither time nor daylight.”
I agree and I don’t think I’m alone being anti-DST.
These mandated time changes make our body and brain sluggish unnecessarily because our internal circadian clocks synchronize based upon the natural cycles of sunrise and sunset. Not some legislated time ordinance originally designed to make better use of natural daylight.
Statistics back up the concerns about DST changes. A rise in suicide happens around the changes whether we’re springing forward or falling back. Risk of heart attack rises 5% to 15% during the shifting days, and a walloping 24% risk increase the day after the big switches. More car accidents and more ER visits are also reported.
DST was established to save energy. In the 21st century we use energy 24/7 not just during daylight hours, the case when DST was initiated. Saving energy, I don’t think so.
A Lakotah chief once put it more succinctly: ‘Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.’
Crazy isn’t it? I’d vote to do away with DST and go back to sun time. How about you?
This time of year, pumpkins with carved faces appear on porches and steps.
Ever wonder why we carve pumpkins on Halloween?
The tradition originated from an Irish myth about an old drunk called “Stingy Jack.”
It’s easy to guess why he was called stingy. He never wanted to pay for his drinks and always tricked his drinking partner into paying. And that little habit got him into big trouble when Stingy Jack invited the Devil to have a drink.
Here’s the story…
Pumpkins replaced turnip jack-o-lanterns when waves of Irish immigrants came to America in the 1800’s to escape the Potato Famine. They quickly discovered that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out.
And, that folks is how the tradition of carving and lighting pumpkins for Halloween began.
~~~A longer version of this blog appeared on View from the Front Porch on October 12, 2013
Our morning walks are getting spooky as neighbors began to decorate for Halloween.
This yard decoration is not my favorite.
Not a fan of spiders period. Especially giant eyed spiders surrounded by ghosts and blinking jack-o-lanterns.
The yard pictured below with a recreation of Washington Irving’s 1820 “Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is more what I think of when I think of spooky and scary.
I love how the short story about a headless horseman who terrorizes the real-life village of Sleepy Hollow resurfaces at Halloween every year. It’s America’s first ghost story—and one of its scariest.
This doozy 2020 is scary enough on its own. Not sure we even need a Halloween this year, and I know the CDC will not be encouraging us to knock on random doors and share treats with strangers.
We don’t celebrate Halloween at our house. With only Buster and Finn around, it’s like a repeat of all the fireworks on the Fourth of July, too much noise.
But for those of you who do celebrate and need some social distancing ideas for this year, let me suggest four.
Plan a spooky dinner with things like spaghetti eyeballs, Jack o’ lantern quesadillas, witch’s hair pasta, Dead Man’s Finger hot dogs. Or a breakfast of Vampire doughnuts. Have everyone—mom and dad included—dress in costume!
Like Easter egg hunts, hide individual pieces of candy around the house or yard and let the kids fill bags or plastic pumpkins with the bounty they find.
Or provide hints to follow for a spooky scavenger hunt to search for a pre-filled plastic pumpkin for each kid. Mom or Dad can hide and jump-scare older kids along the route.
Spend an evening watching spooky movies
Turn the lights out and have plenty of popcorn and candy treats available. Movie choices are almost endless from tame (It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!) to terrifying (Annabelle) and lots in between (Hocus Pocus).
Labor Day celebrates our workforce as this vintage postcard suggests. It also signals the end of summer though the fall equinox won’t actually happen for three more weeks on September 21. Still we consider summer gone after Labor Day.
Labor Day celebrations look different this year thanks to COVID-19. No skipping town for faraway places. No firing up the backyard BBQ for gatherings with friends and family.
While pandemic separation may make us miss catching up with cousins and neighbors with hot dogs in hand, it also means less effort preparing for the day. No rushing to cut the grass or clean the pool, or all that other prep that goes into entertaining. That’s kinda a plus.
Bonus: we didn’t have to deal with Cousin Will’s ultra-conservative (or ultra-liberal) political outbursts or the next-door neighbor’s comparisons of yards.
Labor Day does offer a break, a change from daily routines. No school. No Zoom meetings. A day to relax. To slow our pace.
And, trust me, relaxation of any kind for any length is more important than ever in these times of increased stresses.
I like what Brian Basset suggests in a recent Sunday funnies.
As we head into days with all the back-to-school uncertainties and pre-election day chatter and other things that are sure to increase our stress levels. Let’s take Red & Rover’s advice to heart and embrace the fact that slowing down can lower stress.
Turn off the news.
Skip social media.
Sit on the porch and
Focus on the little things like cooler temperatures, changing leaves, and sitting by the lake with a fishing pool.
Remember how we learned the parts of speech for different words in school?
Nouns: a person, place, thing, or idea.
Pronoun: a word used in place of a noun.
Verb: words that express action or being.
Adjectives: words todescribe nouns or pronouns.
Adverbs: words to describe a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.
Prepositions: words placed before a noun or pronoun to form a phrase modifying another word in the sentence.
Conjunctions: that join words, phrases, or clauses.
Interjections: words used to express emotion.
And we thought that covered all the word groups. Well, we were wrong. I’ve discovered there are many more words to describe the words we use.
Retronym: a modifier added to describe what was once its default meaning, i.e. cloth diaper since most diapers now are disposable, snail mail because, you know, email, whole milk because almond milk and other flavors, regular coffee, plain M&Ms also because of the additional flavors now. Get the idea?
But be cautious, a retronym is not always merely adjective/noun combinations. It’s a word with a qualifier to refer to the original meaning of the word. Thus, chocolate chip is not a retronym, neither is cellular phone.
Tmesis: a new word formed by placing one word in the middle of another.
Not a new concept, Shakespeare used one in “Richard II”—How-heinous-ever. So did George Bernard Shaw in “Pygmalion”: Fan-bloody-tastic or abso-blooming-lutely.
Capitonym: word that changes meaning, and sometimes pronunciation, when capitalize, i.e. mobile meaning moving or Mobile meaning the city in Alabama. Others include August, the month, or august the adjective meaning respected and important.
Bahuvrihi: just saying this correctly should earn you points. If you want help, try here. The word is Sanskrit and a bahuvrihi itself. The word means “much rice” but refers to a rich man. Examples would be barefoot, graybeard, redhead or blue-collar/white-collar or old money.
Embolalia: words or sounds added into speech. It’s stammered speech as we arrange our thoughts. Examples: well, but, I guess, um, you know.
Metonym or Metonymy: using the name of one object or concept for that of another to which it is related, or of which it is a part, i.e. the bottle for strong drink, count heads (or noses) for count people, hoops for basketball, Capitol Hill for US. Congress.
Mondegreen: is a mishearing or misinterpretation of a phrase in a way that gives it a new meaning. Mondegreens are generally understood not to be intentional.
Around our family the song “Elvira” is forever called It’ll fire up. Other examples dawnzer lee light for the mishearing of “dawn’s early light” lyric of the “Star- Spangled Banner” or The ants are my friends for “The answer, my friend” in “Blowing in the Wind” by Bob Dylan.
Portmanteau: two or more words are joined to coin a new word, which refers to a single concept, i.e. education + entertainment = edutainment, fan + magazine = fanzine, motor + hotel = motel, spoon + fork= spork
Slurvian: basically, this is a portmanteau that is slurred together. Examples d’ja slurred form of did you, wanna for want to, and the ubiquitous y’all for you all. Of course, that last example of a slurvian is standard English where I live. 😊
I’m a wordsmith and a word game player. I love learning new words.
Now you, too, know a few new words in case you want to wow your next Zoom meeting and drop one in. I’m not sure they’ll appreciate them as much as I do, though.
Alan Greenspan once said, “I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”
To me, the quote describes the biggest issue in communication—written or oral.
An obstacle that’s brought home to me every week with my critique partners. The way critique groups work is pages are shared weekly then participants meet – pre-COVID-19 in person, now via video chat – and discuss what was sent.
Greenspan’s quote becomes reality when we discuss what we’ve sent.
Way too often what my critique partners read is not what I wanted to convey. Sometimes it’s the way I wrote something or the words I chose. Other times it’s a total fail because my critique partners didn’t get what I meant.
It’s no mystery why this happens. Each of us brings a distinct perspective to our critiques. We’re all from unique backgrounds and geographic areas and grew up during different time periods (age span of our members is over thirty years).
Misunderstanding what’s on the page can be the kiss of death for a writer because a reader will stop reading. It’s the reason fiction writers spend hours scrambling for the perfect word and rewriting a sentence a gazillion times to capture the perfect nuance.
Reading an incorrect meaning into words–whether written or spoken–happens too often.
Finding, and using, words—spoken or written—that are mutually understood is critical for effective communication, especially in this tense, trying time with COVID-19 hovering, hurricanes lining up, and important elections on the horizon.
So, let’s disprove Mr. Greenspan’s quote and make what we say, or write, match what we mean to eliminate misunderstanding.
I recently read a blog for writers discussing disembodied body parts. It got me to thinking. Do readers even notice such minutiae?
For example, do you stumble over sentences like these?
Their eyes locked across the room.
His eyes zeroed in on the man lurking in the shadows.
The man eyed the chocolate cake with the longing of a starving man.
In the first two sentences, I don’t picture actual eyes flying across a room to collide or zoom across space. I guess some people might and do according to the blog I read.
In the third, eye is being used as a verb, which it can be, and should cause no issues.
Some writers would substitute gaze for eyes in the first two sentences. And that’s the writing communities’ preferred word.
Sometimes, I will use gaze too. Other times I go with eyes. It depends on how the sentence reads. Consider this sentence:
The softest green eyes he’d ever seen rambled from his head down to his toes and back again.
I picture eye movement (something you’d see) traveling downward then back up. To substitute eyeballs which is actually what’s moving would sound ridiculous. Using gaze instead of eye would work but, in my opinion, decrease the subtle tension.
Eyes aren’t the only body part that roam.
Fingers fly: Her fingers flew to his cheeks.
Jaws drop: His jaw dropped to the floor.
Arms get shot: She shot her arm out to catch him.
Hands get thrown: He threw up his hands.
Faces fall: Her face fell.
Flying or roaming body parts don’t trouble me. If I read the character “swims through the crowd,” I don’t see splashing water. Or if someone writes “a lump of ice settled in her belly,” I don’t picture actual ice. Describing a character’s eyes with “pools of molten chocolate,” I don’t think he’s got Godiva eyeballs, just deep brown eyes?
A writer’s job is to provide a satisfying experience for the reader by creating a vivid movie in their head. One that combines the richness of language with remarkable stories. I believe being too literal can destroy the richness of language.
So, what’s your take on flying body parts? Do you cringe when you read those sentences? Are you pulled from the story?
As a writer, and avid Scrabble player, I pay attention to the definition of words I use. This COVID-19 pandemic has introduced lots of words. I looked up these to be sure I understood the meanings.
Coronavirus refers to a large family of viruses that includes SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). The first identified SARS strain caused a two-year outbreak in 2002.
Corona comes from the Latin word for “crown.” The virus’s physical shape resembles a crown.
Virus is from the Latin for a secretion, poison, or venom and any of a type of submicroscopic agents that cause disease, or a disease caused by such an agent. For example, the common cold is a virus. It’s caused by various viruses not related to coronavirus or flu strains.
The adjective form – viral is something widely spread within a culture, primarily through social media. Think how a Facebook post or Twitter post is said to “go viral.”
The dictionary definition for viral is something with a metaphorically poisonous effect on the mind or the soul.
A novel coronavirus means a new or different virus. In 2019 SARS-CoV-2 appeared as a new/different virus and named as COVID-19.
The acronym comes from the first two letters of each word in coronavirus and the first letter of disease, followed by the last two digits of the year in which the virus strain was identified.
Pandemic, which comes from Latin for “all people,” describes a disease widely dispersed geographically and common among populations. COVID-19 is both and therefore called a pandemic.
An epidemic is different from a pandemic. Epidemic means “among or within people” and refers to an invasive but local disease.
Pandemic is used exclusively in a scientific context, while epidemic can be used in nonscientific references.
Asymptomatic means “presenting no symptoms of disease.” The connotation for the COVID-19 pandemic is what’s significant. A person, unaware of having the disease is a risk, may spread the disease to others, who are also unsuspecting.
Morbidity— I was surprised to learn in scientific and medical contexts refers to the rate at which a population contracts a disease, not death. Mortality which measures the number of people who die from a disease.
Quarantine is the policy of restricting movement of people or goods to prevent the spread of disease or pests. To self-quarantine is to voluntarily isolate.
Vaccine is familiar word—a substance injected into the body of a person or an animal to protect it against disease. It’s generally a weakened or killed form of a bacteria or virus, and the injection forces the body to produce antibodies without suffering from full-blown symptoms or succumbing to the disease.
Herd immunity is the concept of reducing the infection risk by mass exposure to the contagion or widespread immunization. Nice concept for an ideal result, but a strategy of exposing a large population to a disease to produce herd immunity only helps the survivors. Not the many people who die or continue to suffer from chronic symptoms.
These next phrases have been used so often we all know the meaning, but just in case.
Flatten the curve is the strategy of minimizing the number of cases of a contagious disease so as not to overwhelm healthcare resources and avoid an increase in cases.
The curve is charted on a graph showing the increase in cases. Flattening is visualization of the effect on the curve so that it is a long, low hump rather than a steep spike.
Flattening the curve in a pandemic is not only about mitigating the impact on hospitals and healthcare personnel but also keeping cases down.
Shelter in place originally referred to staying inside a structure when a biological, chemical, or radioactive contamination emergency is announced rather than going outside to a shelter or evacuating to another area and being exposed.
Nowadays, the phrase means staying socially isolated as much as possible to avoid contracting (or passing on) a contagious disease.
Social distancing, meaning the interpersonal interaction of individuals, is actually 200 years old. Today’s meaning refers to physical space between oneself and others to avoid contracting a disease.
Six feet apart will likely only prevent contamination through breathing and accidental exposure from coughing or sneezing because airborne solutions can project greater distances.
That’s why wearing a mask and social distancing is recommended.
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