Category Archives: Words

Literary Bust

As I was reading this morning (Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith [aka JK Rowlings]), the narrator casually mentions watching a show about art and the camera pans the room, to include a bust of Beethoven.  There is a smidge of discussion about how the protagonist looks a bit like Beethoven and then the story moves on.

But as the story continued, I was distracted by the thought of the Beethoven bust. Hadn’t a bust of Beethoven just been a book I finished last week?  And wasn’t there a bust of Beethoven in a book I read a couple of months ago.  Time to backtrack in my reading history.

There was indeed a bust of Beethoven in Transcription by Kate Atkinson.  It was included in a description of a room and then later was used by a Nazi sympathizer to try to escape from the MI5 agents who had uncovered her treachery.

The previous literary bust turned out to be Baudelaire, not Beethoven, in The Alice Network by Kate Quinn.  In that book, the Nazi (yeah, I know you ‘ve all heard me say I’m sick of WWII books, but apparently not that sick) uses a bust of Baudelaire to break the fingers of the young spy.  Gruesome.

I have no idea what this means to the larger world, that busts of Beethoven and Baudelaire have shown up repeatedly in my reading the last few months, but it’s fascinating to me.

Pick a bust for your living room… any composer, artist, writer or super hero. Living or dead.  Who is it?

If You’re Going to Blow it, Blow it BIG!

Photo Credit: Reserve Bank of Australia

As part of my job, I send out communications to travelers all the time. Most of our communications are proofed by four or five people, more if the client actually reads the copy.  Every now and then we find a typo after something has gone to print and we tend to say the same thing “How can so many people look at something and not see the error?”

Well now the Reserve Bank of Australia is asking this same thing. Their new £50 note with Edith Cohen (first woman member of the Australian parliament) has a typo.  In teeny tiny letters, as part of the background, the note says repeatedly “It is a great responsibilty to be the only woman here and I want to emphasize the necessity which exists for other women being here.”  Missing an “I” in the word responsibility.  46 MILLION of these notes are now in use around the country.  Wow – when I mess up, it usually only has an impact on 100 folks or so.

Australia says they won’t recall the notes but will correct the mistake when they print the next batch of £50 notes. This makes me wonder if folks will hang onto the notes as a curiosity that won’t be repeated, like that rare Beanie Baby or Geordi Laforge action figure without a visor.

Do you collect anything?

Redeeming Science

I swear more than I like; as a child I fully succumbed to my father’s theory that people who swore just didn’t have good enough imaginations to choose better words.  But I am, in the heat of the moment, a potty mouth.  I’ve always kind of wished that I were a sailor; as I understand that sailors and longshoremen are the best swearers . Then maybe I’d have a bigger swearing vocabulary and wouldn’t need to feel my father’s disapproval from the great beyond.

So lo and behold, I see online today (SciShow) that it turns out that swearing can confer stress release, pain amelioration and increased social bonding.  This backs up a Mythbusters episode I saw a few years back in which they tested pain response (iced water) in volunteers who either had to stay silent or could swear to their heart’s content.  The swearers were able to hold their hands in the iced water longer and recorded a less intense level of pain.

Apparently the social bonding is based on the perception that you are more open/forthright if you swear, as opposed to “holding something back” by not swearing occasionally.  There is apparently science to back this up along with the stress relief aspect of swearing as well.

I don’t know if having this knowledge will make me swear more or if I will always hear my father’s voice in the back of my head.

What bad habit would you have that you’d like to be redeemed by science?

The Cruelest Month

In an email this week, Renee said to me “April is the cruelest month”. I disagree (because, of course February is the cruelest month) but it made me think about assigning human characteristics to the months.  Or days (Monday’s child is full of grace….).  Or anything non-human.

I tend to appreciate this – I supposed because it’s a version of metaphor and I love metaphor. Here is one of my favorite passages in which the non-living becomes living (from Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I)”

“Town” was the local Saturday Mecca. A barren old maid of a place, aged and weathered by all the prevailing winds and shunned by prosperity. Years ago the Town with her rich dot of timber and her beautiful harbor was voted Miss Pacific Northwest of 1892 and became betrothed to a large railroad. Her happy founders immediately got busy and whipped up a trousseau of three-and four-story brick buildings, a huge and elaborate red stone courthouse, and sites and plans for enough industries to start her on a brilliant career.

Meanwhile all her inhabitants were industriously tatting themselves up large, befurbelowed Victorian houses in honor of the approaching wedding. Unfortunately almost on the eve of the ceremony the Town in one of her frequent fits of temper lashed her harbor to a froth, tossed a passing freighter up onto her main thorofare and planted seeds of doubt in the mind of her fiancé. Further investigation revealed that, in addition to her treacherous temper, she was raked by winds day and night, year in and year out, and had little available water. In the ensuing panic of 1893, her railroad lover dropped her like a hot potato and within a year or so was paying serious court to several more promising coast towns.

Poor little Town never recovered from the blow. She pulled down her blinds, pulled up her welcome mat and gave herself over to sorrow. Her main street became a dreary thing of empty buildings, pocked by falling bricks and tenanted only by rats and the wind. Her downtown street ends, instead of flourishing waterfront industries, gave birth to exquisite little swamps which changed from chartreuse to crimson to hazy purple with the seasons. Her hills, shorn of their youthful timber in preparation for a thriving residential district, lost their bloom and grew a covering of short crunchy grass which was always dry and always yellow—lemon in spring, golden in summer and fall. She wore her massive courthouse like an enormous brooch on a delicate bosom and the faded and peeling wedding houses grew clumsy and heavy with shrubbery and disappointment.

I also love commercials that depict non-human objects as having personalities. I really liked the Jimmy Dean sun commercials:

Did you ever name your stuffed animals as a child?

Saying “No”

I have a hard time saying “no, I can’t do that”.  I tell the intake people at my work that my schedule is too full to take on new clients, and then I get a phone call from our county social services that they have five children who need therapy, and I am the only one in the area who sees children as young as the ones they are referring, and guess what? I have five new appointments for next week. People at work just laugh at me when I tell them I am going to put my foot down and not take any new clients. I have no one to blame but myself.

Is it hard for you say “no”?  How do you manage to do it if you are able?  What is hard for you to communicate to others?  What is your favorite scene or song from Rogers and Hammerstein?

 

Libraries – A Love Fest

Yesterday was the anniversary of the opening of the first free public library, the Peterborough Town Library in 1833. The decision to purchase books and open a tax-funded library happened at the Town meeting and for the first sixty years, the books were housed in the general store.  In 1893 they were moved to the current location and there have been two expansions since then.

Here are a few fun library quotes:

“Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay.”  Zadie Smith

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know, is the location of the library.” Albert Einstein

“Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul.” Library at Thebes, inscription over the door

“My two favorite things in life are libraries and bicycles. They both move people forward without wasting anything. The perfect day: riding a bike to the library.” Peter Golkin

“I have always imaged that Paradise will be a kind of library.” Jorge Luis Borges

I’m a complete library junkie. One of the biggest selling points when I bought my house was that it was a block and a half from the Washburn Library.  On the average week I am there twice.  I know the hours by heart, am friendly with the librarians.  I even have my library card number memorized.  Twice I’ve had the opportunity to spend an afternoon in the Central downtown library in the upstairs reading rooms – times when I wanted to read resource material that they don’t allow you to check-out.  It was warm and wonderful; so relaxing that I wasn’t sure I wanted to leave at the end of the day.

Tell me about your favorite library memory?

 

I Can Spell That Word in 3 Letters

“A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the other one.”
Baltasar Gracian

Baltasar Gracian was a Spanish Jesuit, writer and philosopher who lived in the first half of the 1600s. There are many wonderful quotes by him but when I stumbled across this one yesterday, it made me laugh.

I type A LOT for my job – letters, agendas, rosters, briefing notes, website information – in addition to the day by day routine of emails to suppliers, clients and internal teams.   Over the years I’ve had  trouble typing various words correctly.  Some of these problems with words resolve themselves after a few years but a few of them have been with me for as long as I’ve been doing this:

Deposit
Worldwide
Rolls
Accommodations
Hors d’oeuvres

Unfortunately there aren’t good synonyms for some of my words, at least not that are accepted throughout my industry. Hors d’oeuvres is a good example.  I can’t use “canapes” because that actually means something specific .  “Appetizers” is more work to type and I can’t really go with “morsel”, “tidbit”, “finger food” as these would throw my hotels and supplier for a loop.

That means I have to have work-arounds. For “hors d’oeuvres” I have an auto-fill set up – when I type “hors” and a space, then the computer fills in the rest, spelled correctly every time.  Typing in “accom” will get me to “accommodations”.  I also have an auto-correct so that any time I type “rools”, the computer changes it to “rolls”.  “Deposit” and “Worldwide” I just have to struggle with as they are too similar to other words, so the shortcuts are just as long as slowing down and typing more carefully.

Any words defy spelling for you?