Tag Archives: Love of Words

Start of the Term

I like going down the rabbit hole of etymology of writing terms. Some terms are hard to pin down. Here are three of my favourites, and if you can enlighten me further I would be most grateful.

The Easter Egg

song of the lark

An Easter egg in a game or video is a hidden or secret feature, often for the amusement of the creators rather than the users/audience. Wikipedia states that “The use of the term “Easter egg” to describe secret features in video games originates from the 1980 video game Adventure for the Atari 2600 game console, programmed by employee Warren Robinett.” HOWEVER! In the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show, the crew and cast had an Easter Egg hunt on the sets, and eggs turned up during filming. I would suggest that – since the movie was released in 1975 – that Robinett may have been a fan of the musical and this inspired the name.

Jumping the shark: when Fonzie defined a TV show's decline on Happy Days

Jumping the Shark

The origin of this term is straight from an episode of Happy Days, the television series, when Fonzi feels the need to prove his courage by jumping a shark. ‘Jumping the shark’ is when a show starts doing ridiculous storylines in an attempt to stop haemorrhaging viewers; it usually means the show is about to be cancelled. Often, it is these bizarre storylines that deliver the death blow.

DIY lamp rewire | Pearson Blakesley

Lampshading

Lampshading is a way of dealing with any element of the story that threatens the verisimilitude of a narrative or television show or movie, and interferes with the audience’s suspension of belief. Lampshading is calling attention to the very implausible plot development, or overused stereotype or tired cliché, by highlighting it. By pointing out the issue, the writer hopes to turn it into a in-joke with the audience, rather than an example of lazy writing. So where did the term come from? My research couldn’t turn up a straightforward answer. It seems to have its murky origins in vaudeville, where it was a common comedic ruse for a character to hide by sticking a lampshade on their head.

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Filed under Etymology, Language, Linguistics, Love of words, Verisimilitude, Word Play

Word Families

Writer's Tears

Frenetic, frantic, frenzy…

Glimmer, gleam, glitter, glisten, glow…

I am currently in the middle of editing my Steampunk narrative. I have become obsessed with using the right word.

"I'm a writer. Therefore, I'm not sane." - Edgar Allan Poe:

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Filed under Editing, Love of words, writing, Writing Style

The Paradox of Black and White

English is not the easiest language to learn, because it isn’t very logical. I can remember how frustrated my youngest child was with her first grade spelling, trying to understand how ‘going’ and ‘doing’ were spelt as if they rhymed, when they did nothing of the sort. But it isn’t just our spelling and pronunciation that can be a bugbear; our idioms can also be a conundrum for both writers and speakers.

Look at how the words ‘black’ and ‘white’ can have a multitude of meaning. We can’t just assume black symbolises bad, and that white stands for good.

Black had traditionally been seen as unlucky, sinister, or downright evil. There is a large number of sayings, similes, and idioms that use black in this sense: to be listed in someone’s black books, the black sheep of the family, black hats (particularly in Westerns), to blackball a candidate, to be black-hearted, to be in a black mood, to give a black look, to be blacklisted, to have a black mark against your name, the black arts, unlucky to have a black cat cross your path, black magic (as opposed to white magic), to blacken someone’s name, blackmail…  I’ll stop now, because I am sure you have the idea. And yet, to be in the black has the positive connotation of having money in the bank and not being in debt.

White is generally use to represent innocence and purity: as pure/white as the driven snow, white as a lily, white as a swan (Australian swans are black), fair skin is aristocratic, as mild as milk, brides wearing white to their weddings, little white lies, wearing white to your baptism, the white glove test for cleanliness, and so on and so forth. However, white seems to have more negative connotations than black has positive ones. White lips are a sign of pain or sadness – such as pale with suffering, or of anger – think of a white-hot fury. White skin can be pasty. If you are frightened, you are lily-livered and may need to be handed a white feather to shame you for your cowardice. You surrender by waving a white flag.

shadow cat

So, as you can see, the use of black or white in a metaphor isn’t black and white, and has something of a chequered history. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) If you are using black or white in your prose, you have to make sure that your audience knows exactly what your trying to say by using them. For example: “Her horse was as black and as gentle as the night, and as beautiful as the stars therein.”   From the deliberate use of the word ‘gentle’ you can surmise this steed isn’t a black charger snorting brimstone. But if ‘gentle’ had been left out, you might be uncertain of the nature of the black horse. A milk-white horse might not need the word ‘gentle’, because – as previously noted – as milk is generally associated with mildness. So if you have a wicked white steed, you need to make that clear from the start.

So, as you can see, English can be confusing for those who have grown up speaking it. I can’t imagine what it must be like for people trying to learn it as a second language.

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Filed under Analogy, Language, Love of words, Metaphors, Writing Style

A Lighthearted Assessment of this Blog

Bliss

My last few posts have been of a serious nature. I think it is time to take a breath, sit back, and assess how this blog is doing. I started this blog when I noticed I was writing a lot of notes on my personal Facebook site, and decided it was time to take things to the next level. As you might have guessed from the name, it was to be an outlet for my passion for both writing and for Steampunk. From that point of view, the blog has achieved everything I set out to do.

I use this blog as the warm up for my day’s writing. It is a place to share the research I am doing for my Steampunk novel …so that even if the research never appears in the novel, it isn’t ‘wasted’. It gives me a feeling of connection to the writing and the Steampunk communities. I really enjoy the comments from other people, and this has motivated me to comment more on other blogs. I was kind of a ‘lurker’ for a while. These were advantages I hadn’t counted on when I started this blog.

I know that a lot of writers use their blogs as marketing tools, but that was never my ambition for this blog. I want to entertain and educate. When I do start my website as an author, this blog has given me some strong opinions as to how it will look. It won’t be a full-on marketing tool. Rather, it will act as a fun site to broaden and deepen my audience’s connection to my books and stories. It will be an interactive site, allowing for comments and suggestions and the posting of fanfic and fanart. (Am I the only writer in the world who longs to have other people writing fanfiction and making art about my characters and worlds?) The marketing will be an option, not the main goal.

I find this blog is a greater resource for my own personal growth than I ever expected. And I want to take this opportunity to thank you all for coming along on my journey so far.

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Filed under Love of words, Personal experience, Steampunk, writing