The Write Way
Friday 10 December 2010
Release the Hounds!
It could have happened anywhere.
But it didn't.
It happened in the waterfront café where the Love of My Life and I were just about to enjoy our Sunday morning coffee. To be precise, it happened at the table right next to where we were poised to take our first sip of coffee.
You're familiar by now with our waterfront and the cafés and eateries that adorn the foreshore, (see photos of the Redcliffe waterfront here if those little grey cells have gone into early retirement ) so you'll understand why we like to seat ourselves with our backs to the rest of the world and our fronts to the view across the Bay to Moreton Island.
And so it was that fateful Sunday morn, when our young waitress had delivered our coffee to the table and managed to keep a) the coffee in the cup and b) her thumb out of the cup ... an accomplishment not to be dismissed lightly these days.
We were just settling nicely into our routine -- admiring the view, drinking our coffee and reading the paper, exchanging sighs of resigned amazement over the latest exploits of our political leaders and shaking our heads at the way the world was going to the dogs, when we became aware of movement at the table directly behind us. We did the café-chair shuffle, as you do, to make room for the newcomers, then went back to the newest financial scandal.
A short time later, words from our neighbours began to worm their way into my consciousness ...
"So I try to scrape it away in the shower," I heard from one speaker.
Ah ... must be talking about some mould on the tiles, I thought and returned to immerse myself in tales of CEOs and their $16 million salaries.
"... it gets really crusty ..."
"And red around the edges ..."
"I've tried picking at it with ..." But at that precise moment, we were interrupted by the waitress delivering our order of profiteroles.
With almost sinful delight, I sank my spoon into the crispy, crusty pastry, and the soft, yellow custard began oozing onto my plate, as the voice at the next table reasserted itself into our morning ...
"So I finally got the scab off and ..."
No! No! Not scabs! Dear Lord, please. Not scabs!
"And you should have seen the pus!" she concluded triumphantly.
Do people no longer understand the importance of Time and Place when it comes to their conversations?
Well, to answer my own question, obviously not.
No wonder we're all 'showing signs of persistent disturbance, tormented as with troubles or cares, bothered continually, even feeling pestered and persecuted at times.' In other words ... we're harassed!
This wonderfully expressive word comes to us not from our very best friends the Romans, but this time from Old French, which in turn pinched it (sorry ... borrowed it) from Old German. (Every time I think about Old French, Old German, Old Norse etc, I have visions of a table outside a rustic eatery in one of those little Italian villages where all the men sit around sipping espresso so strong it could dissolve the spoon, surrounded by a smog of cigarette smoke, solving the problems of the world, while their wives are busy inside running the shops ... But I digress. We must disabuse ourselves of that image and return to old languages at once!)
In Old German, the word haren means 'to cry out.'
Why are people crying out? (I hear you ask) And where are the hounds?
Ah ... stay with me, dear reader, and all will be revealed ...
Our French cousins took the word haren and, with what I can only describe as a disturbing twist, turned it into harer, their word for those occasions when you want to set the dogs on someone. They also use a derivative, hare, as the word to urge the dogs on in a hunt.
You might think that we rather liked the sound of this one and have kept it as our word harry, meaning 'to annoy and cause a nuisance by repeated attacks,' but in fact this delightful little concept comes from the Old Norse word herja, which means 'to lay waste.'
So next time you're feeling harassed, you'll understand why part of your misery involves that urge to look over your shoulder all the time ... You're watching for the hounds and people about to launch into inappropriate topics of conversation!
And after this nightmarish experience, I'm convinced that for the next few weeks I'll be scanning the visible portions of people around me for signs of festering pustules!
I know, I know. I lead an eventful life, but then so do we all. In fact, according to editor, best-selling author, publisher and university lecturer in creative writing (phew!) Sol Stein, we all of us are "host to a treasure box of experience."
That's a very comforting thought, isn't it? Especially for anyone sitting at a desk wondering what to write ...
Delve into your treasure box and you're sure to find something fascinating. "What I'm suggesting," continues Stein, "is a construct of emotional moments in your own life that you can think about, manipulate, change, intensify, and use in the creation of a short story or novel, or, that can clue you to a humanizing touch in narrative nonfiction."
And what, I ask you, could be more humanizing a touch than sharing an experience such as the one we've survived today?
Thinking back over the past year or so, I've come to the conclusion that there seems to be some sort of universal conspiracy to torment me ... Do you remember our close encounter of the absolute wrong kind with ... furry toes?
This week's quiz:
Here are some specialists ... I'm sure one of them could do something for our friend above.
Do that thing you do!
nephrologist, pulmonologist, gastroenterologist, toxicologist, otolaryngologist, immunologist, cytopathologist, ophthalmologist, cardiologist, neurophysiologist
1. treats diseases of the ear, nose, and throat and some diseases of the head and neck, including facial plastic surgery
2. treats eye defects, injuries, and diseases
3. treats stomach disorders
4. conducts the diagnosis and treatment of allergic conditions
5. treats heart disease
6. treats kidney disease
7. treats disorders of the nervous system and muscles
8. diagnoses disease by studying cells obtained from body secretions, scrapings, or aspiration
9. treats diseases of the lungs
10.treat people who have been poisoned by household or industrial toxins, environmental toxins, and prescription and nonprescription drugs
A consultant at St Mary's
Hospital, Portsmouth, England said that while passing through a frantic ENT
[Ear, Nose and Throat] clinic, he overheard this curious bit of conversation:
Last week's quiz:
1. requiring a sacrifice (The usefulness of this word all rather depends on the nature of your family gatherings.) PIACULAR
2. a nosey person; a gossip (Don't feel bad ... we all have at least one.) QUIDNUNC
3. coloured as if or by soot (This one's easy ... Santa coming down the chimney!) FULIGINOUS
4. common brownish-yellow short-legged toad; runs rather than hops (Say ... doesn't that sound a bit like that fellow who works next to you? You know the one ...) NATTERJACK
5. intended to ward off evil; a talisman (Now don't try to tell me there won't be times in the days ahead when you'd give a small fortune to get your hands on one of these!) APOTROPAIC
6. the curve formed by a perfectly flexible, uniformly dense, and inextensible cable suspended from its endpoints; the slightly-drooping curve that a stretched rope or cable assumes under the influence of gravity (I know this is something we'll all be able to relate to after eating Christmas dinner!) CATENARY
7. hulled wheat boiled in milk and flavoured with sugar and spices (Sounds a bit off at first, but when you think about it, this could be quite tasty.) FRUMENTY8. a distortion of memory in which fantasy and objective experience are confused; an inability to recall the meanings of common words. (Tell me about it!) PARAMNESIA
9. any of various funnel-shaped bodily passages, openings, structures, or parts (Like nasal passages - whether you find use for this one depends on just how annoying your rellies get. Just think how you can take the wind out of their sails by commenting on their ... nasal passages.) INFUNDIBULUM
10. strongly smelling perspiration (Oooerr yuck!) BROMIDROSIS
A man was involved in an industrial accident and lost his ear. As luck would have it, the doctors replaced it with a pig's ear. They cut it to size and made it look more human before sewing it, invisibly, in place.
Several weeks passed before the man felt it necessary to return to his surgeons.
When he did, he complained bitterly, "Doctor, I keep hearing this noise and it's driving me crazy!"
The doctor, totally unconcerned answered, "Don't worry, it's just a bit of crackling."
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A Little Something Extra
And now for some tips to help you add those extra touches to your writing -- whether it's fiction or non-fiction.
In his latest book, Sol Stein's Reference Book for Writers, Sol Stein likens tension in writing to stretching out a rubber band, in that it can't go on indefinitely, it has to be relieved to give the reader respite. But then, of course, when you bring back tension, your reader is going to be on the edge of his or her seat in anticipation.
"Readers," writes Stein, "hate tension in real life but they love it in fiction."
Through this book, Stein continues to emphasise the importance of getting every word just right, and one way of doing this is, as he suggests, to switch the way you use different parts of speech. "Crowded" is usually an adjective, but sometimes you can take a bit of poetic licence and use it as a verb, as in Stein's example: "A crazy though crowded into my headache."
And we can't overlook the role of punctuation in adding to the rhythm of your writing ... here's an example from Sol Stein's Reference Book for Writers: "He dressed nattily, nearly always wore a hat jauntily, had an answer for every current subject, but Ellen found him a bore."
This is a great book for anyone keen to write for a living. It's not a book you'd sit down to read from cover to cover, but it's perfect if you need a quick boost to help you with your writing. It's organised into an alphabetical list of writing tips that go from Action, Aphorisms and Autobiography, through Conflict, Eccentricity and First Drafts, to Hooking the Reader, Monologues in Fiction and Screenplay Technique in Fiction and lots more.
As a writer of fiction and non-fiction, Stein's published works include his best-selling novels The Magician, Living Room and The Touch of Treason and non-fiction works How to Grow a Novel, Stein on Writing and A Feast for Lawyers.
Click now to read more about Sol Stein's Reference Book for Writers and to get your copy.
Oxymoron of the week: Gourmet hamburger
Word of the week: Verruca (n) a wart, esp one growing on the hand or foot
How nice. We now have another name for those unwanted bits.
And this week's Latin phrase is made for our spotty diners ...
De gustibus non est disputandum
[DAY goos-TEE-boos NOHN EST dees-poo-TAHN-daym]
(In matters of taste, there is no argument.)
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: http://www.cafepress.com/write101
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Copyright Jennifer Stewart 2010
Individual articles copyrighted by their authors.
Copyright 2009 Jennifer Stewart Write101.com