The Three Degrees

These last two writing prompts have given my muse a workout. Yesterday’s Ragtag Daily Prompt was PURIST. The question came to me: So when are you a PURIST and when are you NITPICKING?

In some respects I’m a purist. Incorrect word usage makes me grit my teeth. I hear someone say, “He contributed his success to luck and hard work,” and I think, NO! You contribute–donate–to a worth cause. You attribute–ascribe–some (usually good) result or quality to what you’ve done or received.

People usually attribute their success to hard work, a good education, helpful parents, or just plain luck. On the other side, someone may attribute (credit or blame) their life of crime to their miserable childhood, but their behaviour contributes (add) to the rising crimes stats.

If I verbalize my dissatisfaction some people will say, “Why nitpick? You know what they meant.”

Today’s prompt word is FLATTER. Again, when are we FLATTERING and when are we simply ENCOURAGING? Am I flattering or encouraging if I say, “You have a beautiful voice”?

When praising children – which we definitely should do – I feel it’s better to encourage them when they’ve done their best, rather than flatter them with, “You’re the greatest!” or “You’re a STAR!” Life has some sharp reality checks for teens and adults who think of themselves as the greatest.

As the old school song says, “I’d rather be a little thing climbing up than a big thing tumbling down.”

Every coin has a flip side, likewise most virtues. Thrift can become parsimony. Determined can become pig-headed or pushy. Honesty can become offensive, even brutal, if not infused with kindness and tact.

Years ago the Toronto Globe & Mail had a little humor section that made use of this fact. Readers could send in their responses to these three viewpoints:
I am…
My friend is…
Someone I don’t like is…

For example:
“I am decisive; my friend is steadfast; that other guy is obdurate.”
“I am circumspect; my friend is astute; the one I don’t like is cagey.”

This is a great exercise for writers, or anyone who likes adjectives. Want to try it and leave your response in the comment box below?

Holiday Plans

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is LITTORAL

Actually, I was thinking of the sea this morning, as I just read a poem about the sea, written by someone who loved it dearly. The verse is long-winded but delightful, written in the early 1800s. I’ll post it later for those of you who enjoy such poetry. But now for my response to the prompt…

Holiday Plans

Ellen, studying the inviting seaside scene on their calendar, turns to her spouse. “Fancy a LITTORAL holiday this summer, dear?”

Ed frowns. “Littoral? Nah. I don’t want to hang out in libraries, or spend a week wandering through bookshops, either. Or were you thinking of Stratford, taking in Shakespearean plays and such? I find them rather boring, to be honest.” He looks up at the calendar. “I’d rather go fishing.”

Ellen laughed. “Actually Littoral and Literary are different genres altogether. Mind you, I’d love to spend a few days visiting bookshops. Especially used bookshops…finding some old classics I haven’t read yet.” She pondered the thought. “There are some huge ones in Toronto.”

“Blah! Coping with all that traffic and the crowded streets, carting around a ton of books? Not a holiday for me!” He points to the calendar. “Why don’t we rather go to the coast this year? Some place like that.”“Walk along the sand, hear the sea roar, maybe watch the whales.”

“An excellent idea, Ed. I’ll see what I can find.”

“That we can afford,” he adds.

Image: dimitris vetskias 1969 — Pixabay

The Uninvited Guest

Here’s Sammi’s Weekend Writing Prompt

And here’s my little story in response:


“There he is, just like clockwork. I’ve no idea how he knows when I’ve made roast and mashed spuds for Sunday, but soon as I’m dishing out the meal, he’s knocking at our door.”

“We can pretend deafness,” her son Lance suggested. “He’s bound to leave if no one answers.”

“Dream on,” Sue retorted.

“She’s right. He won’t leave.” Dad chuckled. “I wouldn’t put it past him to climb in a window.”

“Mavis says he shows up every time they have barbecue,” Mom said.

Lance grinned. “Must be great to have a nose that keen.”

Sue rolled her eyes.

Telephone & Saxophone


One of the first things Sam noticed when he walked into the CEO’s office was a young girl at a desk, off to one side. She looked up briefly then went back to filing her long fingernails.

Approaching the main receptionist, an efficient-looking woman, Sam gave his name and informed her that he had an appointment with Mr Winsett.

“Oh, yes. Follow me, sir.” Shooting an annoyed glance in the nail-filer’s direction, she led him into the CEO’s office.

“Hey, Sam,” His friend Vic rose and shook his hand. “Glad to see you. Sit down. I have the reports and data I wanted to show you right here.”

“Great.” Same took a chair. “Say, I see you have a second office worker now.” He kept the remark lightly curious, watching for Vic’s reaction. It wasn’t like his friend to hire superfluous staff, especially if they so obviously look bored. Also, her dress didn’t look like the kind of professional business attire Vic expected of his secretaries.

“You mean Melody.” Bill grinned. “She’s our filing clerk – when there’s something to file.”

“She’s doing a good job on her nails right now.”

Vic shrugged. “Guess you’d call it a sinecure. She’s my brother’s niece and needs a job – or rather, needs the paycheque – for the summer. Doesn’t have much idea about office work, but filing and some follow-up calls she can handle. Evenings and weekends she plays in a band, whenever they can get a gig.”

Sam pictured the young lady strumming a guitar. “With those nails? What instrument does she play?”

“Saxophone, if you can believe it.”


“So here she is, until university starts again in fall. I’ll talk to her again about office protocol. Now about these reports…”

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is SINECURE. A new word for me.

According to M-W, this word has an interesting meaning and goes way back.A SINECURE is a job or position more-or-less in name only. That is, you get paid for barely working. Great position for an in-law or someone the boss wants to have around without expecting much productivity.

This word is derived from sine cura, meaning “without cure.” Apparently the non-cure pertained to souls. From M-W: “The original sinecure was a church position that didn’t involve the spiritual care or instruction of church members. These days the positions are more likely to be board or academic appointments that require no teaching.

The Thistle of Favoritism

Today’s prompt at the Napowrimo site: Write a “The ___ of ___” verse

Begin by reading Bernadette Mayer’s poem “The Lobelias of Fear.” (Okay, I did, and it made very little sense to me, but you might want to check it out here. It may be clearer — or at least more poetic — to you.)

Now write a verse where the first blank is a very particular kind of plant or animal, and the second blank is an abstract noun. The poem should contain at least one simile that plays on double meanings or otherwise doesn’t quite make “sense,” and describe things or beings from very different times or places as co-existing in the same space. So…

The Thistle of Favoritism

Resume in hand I came
eminently qualified —
decades of experience —
to take a seat beside another
hopeful applicant,
a young chick with her resume
one single sheet
held casually in her hand.

“Can’t have much
experience at this job,”
I mused, feeling smug I’ll admit.
Looking her over I decided,
the employer wouldn’t find
much to recommend her.
Granted, a curvy thing, and lovely
young hair, no wisps of grey. But
my skill and experience will count.

Curious, I opened conversation,
probed a bit. “So, how many years
have you done this type of work?”
She looked me up and down,
noted my thicker resume.
“Six months,” she replied.

I’m sure she noticed my smirk
sensed my “You haven’t a chance.”
Her nose tipped skyward.
“My sister encouraged me to apply.
She’s the manager’s wife.”

Relationships are thistles
apt to scratch your chances
if you’re not of the right blood.
My skill and experience
she got the job.

Killing Miss Muffet’s Spider

Today’s prompt at the Writer’s Digest April 2023 Challenge site is to write a response poem.

This poem may respond to one of your own poems, or to a poem by another poet. It could also be a response to something you read in the news, to the person who cut you off in traffic. Use your imagination.

Okay, here’s my imaginative response to an old nursery rhyme.

Killing Miss Muffet’s Spider

Little Miss Muffet
likes to sit on her
tuffet, consuming
her Cheerios and whey
but if a spider –
in all innocence, I’m sure –
happens along and
sits its minuscule self
beside, above, below,
or – Heaven forbid! –
on her,
she comes running
to me! “You’re the one,”
she flatters,
“brave enough to deal
icky squishies
their death blow.”
“Hurry,” she wails.
“Come kill
this loathsome bug
or it surely will bite me
And what can one say
to such wide-eyed terror?
So I play the heavy, 
Jack the giant killer,
the meanie who murders
the monsters that menace
Miss Muffet
while she sits on her
and leaves me to it.

Spider image: Peter Schmidt — Pixabay