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The Write Way

8 February 2008

Up She Comes!


You must get tired of me rabbiting on about things I hear on the radio or see on TV, but I just have to get this one off my chest and you're a captive audience ... Sorry, but you're it.

An ad has recently appeared on the Box in the Corner that shows some wrinkly old actor (who's obviously someone we're all supposed to instantly recognise) seated in an easy chair, Looking Earnest.

He begins by reminding us about our families and how important they are, then he changes position, adjusts his profile and discusses our material possessions ... All those fine furnishings, the car, the boat, the wall-mounted flat-screen digital telly. Then he assumes his Serious Look and in a hushed voice reminds us that we shouldn't take all this for granted.

Hmmm, I'm thinking, trying to guess what he's advertising ... Another bank flogging loans as the Reserve puts up interest rates yet again? A mobile phone company urging us to sign up for a three-year contract with a phone that will be obsolete by the time it's delivered? Yet another miraculous combination of multi-vitamins that will propel us all into a debt-ridden old age?

No, boys and girls, none of the above.

He's actually trying to sell us the services of a funeral director. But not just any old funeral director, because this one offers what must be the world's best guarantee. He clearly says, and I've listened very closely and written it down so I can pass it along, "We have a 30-day money-back guarantee ..."

So there you go ... No more fear of What Comes Next ... now you can Try Before You Buy!

The first time I heard this, I immediately thought of a framed letter we used to have hanging on the back of the door in our outside loo many years ago. It was a letter my dad came across while holidaying one year and couldn't resist buying for me. (And lest you think me an ungrateful wretch for hanging this gift in the loo, let me just say in my defence that it gave many people a giggle over the years when we had friends around for pool parties and barbeques.) 

This object of our interest was framed and was a Letter from an Irish Mother. Now, if you have Celtic ancestors (as I do), don't get your knickers in a knot and go off in high dudgeon over this ... Just remember that it dates back to those halcyon days before every joke had to be assessed for political correctness.

You can read the letter from an Irish mother and you'll see the point of this week's title. And if you're scratching your head and wondering what happened to the point of this week's ramble, relax ... it's coming ...

Were you even a teensy bit offended by the letter? Did you stalk off in high dudgeon? I bet you didn't slink off in low dudgeon, did you?

'Dudgeon' is one of those strange expressions that always has to be linked with one word and one word only, and that's 'high.' tells us dudgeon means, "a feeling of intense indignation; resentment; ill humour (now used only in the phrase 'in high dudgeon') 

Of its origin little is known (there must be something about these -dgeon words, because when you start searching for the origins of bludgeon and curmudgeon, you find the same admission of defeat: "origin uncertain.") confesses: "1573, duggin, of unknown origin. One suggestion is Italian aduggiare "to overshadow," giving it the same sense development as umbrage. No clear connection to earlier dudgeon (1380), a kind of wood used for knife handles, which is perhaps from a French word"

But since all three words have much in common, I'm betting it's something to do with the suffix. What do you think?

curmudgeon: an ill-tempered person full of resentment and stubborn notions; a crusty irascible cantankerous old person full of stubborn ideas 

bludgeon (as a noun): a short, heavy club with one end weighted or thicker and heavier than the other

bludgeon (as a verb): to force into something; coerce; bully; to strike or knock down with a bludgeon

Are you starting to see a theme emerging here? Me, too.

An interesting side-note ... did you notice that you can only bludgeon someone with a bludgeon? (Or a similar, weighty, bludgeon-like club? You learn something every day!)

And did you hear about the composer who could only compose music in 3/4 time? 

He had waltz timer's disease.


This week's quiz:

Some surprising words this week ... Match 'em up:

enormity, staunch, forgo, stanch, fulsome, noisome, discomfit, forego, peruse, egregious 

1. offensive to good taste, being excessive; overdone or gross; disgusting; sickening; repulsive 

2. to stop the flow of blood or other liquid from a wound, leak, etc.; check, allay, or extinguish 

3. to confuse and deject; disconcert; to frustrate the plans of; thwart; foil; to make uneasy or perplexed 

4. an act of extreme wickedness; the quality of extreme wickedness 

5. to abstain or refrain from; do without; to give up, renounce, or resign 

6. extraordinary in some bad way; glaring; flagrant; conspicuously bad or offensive 

7. firm and dependable especially in loyalty 

8. to read through with thoroughness or care; to survey or examine in detail 

9. to precede, as in time or place; to go before 

10. offensive or disgusting, as an odour; harmful or injurious to health; noxious

Here's a little tale from Marvin that could illustrate many of this week's terms ... 

A woman had gained a few pounds. It was most noticeable to her when she squeezed into a pair of her old blue jeans. Wondering if the added weight was obvious to everyone else, she asked her husband, "Honey, do these jeans make me look like the side of the house?"

"No, dear, not at all," he replied, "Our house isn't blue."


Last week's quiz:

1. transient- temporary, fleeting

2. qualify- to limit

3. nascent- coming into existence, emerging

4. Quixotic- extravagantly chivalrous, romantically idealistic, impractical

5. reprobate- person hardened in sin; one devoid of decency

6. libertine- immoral person

7. tractable- easily influenced, obedient, docile

8. craven- cowardly

9. picaresque- involving clever rogues or adventurers. Don't confuse with "picturesque," which means picture-like, charming, or quaint.

10. sedulous- diligent, assiduous, devoted to a task


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Never-Ending Story

An Ape that wants to play Hamlet after being type-cast as King Kong, a talking anvil and that rottweiller ... Dr Morgenes is still caught in the nightmare that is the casting couch. Help him find a plot!  Just click on the Comments button at the end of the entry to add your contribution. If you have friends who fancy themselves as writers, invite them to contribute (just forward this newsletter in its entirety to them).

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Who said the young have no common sense?

A police officer was interviewing a young recruit. "If you're driving at night," the officer asked, "and you're being chased by a gang of criminals going sixty miles an hour, what would you do?" 

The applicant replied, "Seventy!"

And a second story in case you missed the point the first time ...

A young schoolboy was having a hard time pronouncing the letter ''R'' and all the other kids were, of course, teasing him about it. To help him out, the teacher gave him a sentence to practice at home: ''Robert gave Richard a rap in the ribs for roasting the rabbit so rare." 

In class a few days later, the teacher asked the boy to recite the sentence out loud. The boy nervously eyed his classmates -- many of them already laughing at him -- then replied, ''Bob gave Dick a poke in the side because the bunny wasn't cooked enough."

A Little Something Extra

This week's LSE gives you ways to get your story straight!

How to Get Your Story Straight
by Susan J. Letham

You were probably just a kid when you learned about getting your story straight. I mean, if you were going to tell a grownup a "story," you had to get it straight or run the risk of tripping yourself on the details. Right?

Well, the same is true in fiction. If you're going to write a story for your readers, it has to be believable, and it has to have a point. That means you need to know a few things about your reasons for writing the story. It also means you need to try and see some things through your future reader's eyes. Doing that will help you think about
how logical the story is from a reader's point of view. Knowing your story before you start will also help you predict what your reader will think and feel about the events your story describes.

The easiest way to do all that is to answer the following set of questions before you sit down to write.

Click here to get your story straight: 

Word of the week: Ultracrepidarian (adj) beyond one's knowledge or province; pertaining to opinions given on matters beyond one's knowledge

According to, this recently coined word comes from the Latin 'beyond the sole.' (Isn't it good that people are still pinching bits of words from the Romans?)  

And if you can work out the connection, you're a better man than I am, Gunga Din.

Oxymoron of the week: helpful call centre

This week's Latin phrase may come in handy if you happen to have a bad hair day ...

Quomodo cogis comas tuas sic videri? 

[kwoh-MOH-doh KOH-gees KOH-mahs TOO-ahs SEEK wee-DAY-ree?]

(How do you get your hair to do that?)

Did you know that you can have your very own Latin reminders? How about undies proclaiming, Bene est rex esse? (It's good to be king) Or a shopping bag that warns, Emptrix nata sum (Born to shop)? Click here for these and more.  

Kind regards,


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Copyright  Jennifer Stewart  2008

Individual articles copyrighted by their authors.