Words of Fervor & Folly

Good afternoon, dear readers. I’ve been looking at the word prompts for today, plus I read an interesting article at Pocket, now I’ll try to gather all the thoughtlets that are bouncing around.

First, I must thank Fandango for his FOWC prompt today, which is ARCANE. I thought I understood this word, but decided I’d check in the dictionary and be certain. And I was SO WRONG! Somehow I’ve gotten this word confused with INANE.

Sue’s JibberJabber prompt for today is CHANGE and I’ve had to completely change my thinking after this little visit to the dictionary. I’ll know better now if I happen to read in a story: “After making an arcane remark in answer to his question, his assistant left the room.”
How I’ve misjudged the poor person! I always thought they’d said something stupid or sarcastic.

According to Lexico, ARCANE means
Understood by few; mysterious or secret.
synonyms: obscure, deep, profound

INANE means:
Lacking sense or meaning; silly
synonyms: empty, insubstantial

ASININE, going even further, means:
Extremely stupid or foolish
synonyms: silly, brainless, nonsensical

The Your Daily Word prompt for today is PLETHORA, so I’ll tack this all together for a bit of linguistic history.

Owing to its tendency to gather words from all nations, the English language has a plethora of words that mean, or sound, almost the same — synonyms, we call them. Check out any thesaurus and  you’ll see dozens of synonyms for some words, especially slang expressions. I counted 48 shorter variations of “drunk” and a few longer ones like “in his cups.”

Quite a few dictionary words are archaic, or regional and thus arcane — do you know what a SCOP is? — while most are widely known to English speakers across the globe. Some words have shifted, like HAGGARD, which meant wild or untamed, but has shifted over time and is now understood as “having a gaunt, worn appearance.”

Over the centuries the Bible has had a profound effect on English, giving us the Ten Commandments and the  Golden Rule, along with many other expressions and lines. And poets have enriched the language with expressions that became part of everyday vocabulary.

Like Bobby Burns, with “the best laid plans of mice and man go oft astray…” Even though he wrote his “Ode To A Mouse” in 1785, I still see these words in articles today. Charles Dickens gave us Scrooge, who will forever represent the quintessential miser.

Sitcoms and stand-up comedians have added a lot of witty and/or inane wisecracks, like “He’s quite fond of John Barleycorn,” and “The elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor,” and punch lines like “Been there; done that.”

Now for a thought on FERVOR, which I gleaned a few hours ago from an article at POCKET. Here’s a list of six “weak verbs” we should use sparingly in our speech. Using these expressions make us sound INDECISIVE.* Something to consider.
I think
I need
I want
I hope
I guess
I suppose

*Synonyms: ambivalent, conflicted, doubtful, dithering,
faltering, skeptical, wishy-washy, uncertain, wavering

And now I guess…oops!…I…er…definitely WILL go and do something else. 😉

Hate Is A Transitive Verb: It Needs An Object

I wrote a few days ago about the book I was reading, If These Walls Could Talk, by Dan Walsh. This story starts out in the present, a couple doing some renovations discover a strange message scratched into some of the studs. As they uncover more of the studs, they find a plea for help.

Then the writer takes us back to June 1964 and a family divided by hatred and contempt. The father and redneck older brother are determined that blacks should be subservient; the younger son believes in equal treatment for all human beings. Walsh works into his story in a very realistic way the deep-seated prejudices, the civil rights marches, hostility and subsequent violence that took place in the South at that time.

In the Afterword, Walsh writes about watching these events on the news as they were happening, including Dr Martin Luther King delivering his famous “I have a dream” speech. I believe most of us in North America would love to see his dream come true: a society where all humans are respected as equals regardless of race, ethnic origins, or religion.

It would be tragic if, after all this time and all these years of struggle and strife, people should sink back into the attitudes so prevalent back then! God forbid that society should lose what it has gained in fair treatment for all!

Anyone who has carefully read the Bible has surely seen these words:
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands…
And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth…
– Acts 17: 24, 26

Sad to say, Paul Simon’s line is too often true:
“Still a man he hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
–from his song, The Boxer

I once met a man who’d probably fit the category, “southern white trash.” Definitely a redneck. While his racial slurs were dramatic, it became apparent that the first person this man hated was himself. Though he put on a cheerful persona, those who knew him sensed he was deeply discontented with who and what he was. His own children suffered the fall-out from his frustration, too.

One time I read the memoir of a young boy who’d been verbally abused and severely beaten many times by his construction worker father. He did survive, got an education and became a vet. As a mature adult he asked his father one day, “Why were you so brutal with me?”

His father replied, “I saw your nature as being a lot like mine and I wanted to straighten you out. I didn’t want you to be like me. I wanted you to make something of yourself and have a better life than I had.”

He told his dad that beating a kid is poor way to encourage him. But the father seemed to know no other way; he probably got the same. It’s amazing that the son escaped that vicious circle.

My heart aches for people who haven’t found contentment in life — and for their victims. People who aren’t happy with themselves and what they are, will be inclined to severe depression, because hate has to have an object. If these frustrated ones don’t find some outlet for their hate it will blow their minds somehow, so they turn it on someone else. “Ah! It’s not MY fault. I’m the helpless victim here. It’s HIS/HER/THEIR fault that I don’t have a better place in life.”

Common sense won’t faze people determined to hate those they imagine are oppressing them. People determined to be victims must cast someone, some group or class, into the role of Oppressor. Sadly, the “victims” become the bullies, self-righteously striking back at their oppressors – who are often bewildered by the venom they feel from someone they don’t even know.

Hating the Haters

“I hate rich snobs!”
“I hate people who are prejudiced.”
“I despise religious hypocrites who look down on others.”
“I detest people who are intolerant.”
“I hate abusers and predators.”
“I just hate people who oppress the poor!”
“Of course I’m right for hating them because they’re so worthy of hate.”

Sad to say, if we start hating the haters, we become haters, too. Contrary to popular thinking, there is no “righteous” hatred of other humans.

God asks us to surrender all this hate, give it all to him, and show respect for all people. The good, the bad, the ugly – as much as we are able.
“Vengeance is mine, said the Lord, I will repay it.”

 Through the pen of the Apostle Peter, our Heavenly Father gives us this command:
“Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
– I Peter 2:17-18

Show the same respect to males and females, all races, rednecks and preppies, rich and poor, janitors and CEOs, the government, the Donald Trumps and Vladimir Putins of this world? Doesn’t that just choke you!

We don’t have to approve of what they do; we may denounce their actions as wrong. But Jesus clearly warns us never to call any person a fool, an idiot, or a good-for-nothing:
“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”
Matthew 5:22

Pretty sobering stuff!

Dear Christian friends & readers, have you taken these Scriptures to heart? Each of us needs to be sure that we are as free of anger and name-calling as the Lord wants us to be.

Books Galore!

WRITE-CLICK

I’ve decided on a new style, with a new heading, introducing my BOOKS-and-AUTHORS commentary. I’ve ready many books, and more are being offered to me every day. there are various sites offering free or super-cheap e-books on the basis of, “Here’s a low-cost book. The author REALLY wishes you’d read it and leave a review.”

In WRITE-CLICK I’m planning to share something about the books I’ve seen and/or read, and authors I think are really good.

Today one of the free books Reading Deals is offering sounds really interesting:
Jessie’s Song by Jeremy Williamson. I can’t vouch for it yet, but will put it on my Wish list.
“A powerful story of a childhood devastated by secrets and abuse. After years of wrestling with her true identity and running from her past, Jessie Jenkins runs headlong into her answer—a mysterious stranger who knows every detail of her life and offers the only thing she ever wanted—a love that can be trusted to heal and not harm.”
Click here for Amazon link.

Yesterday BookBub listed the freebie book Two Minutes to Noon by former Times correspondent Noel F Bush. (Amazon Link here.) Being interested in history and also natural disasters, this one caught my attention.
The Tokyo earthquake of 1923, with the huge fires and tidal waves that followed it, destroyed two of the largest cities in the world. Tokyo and Yokohama experienced a devastation that almost dwarfs the atomic damage at Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Another site I’ve gotten a book from is Books2Read. Here’s my write-up about that book, to which I gave a five-star rating:

Loveday Brooke: Lady Detective
by Catherine Pirkis
© 2018 by Midwest Classics Press

Miss Brooke grew up in an upper class family in London, but hard times left her penniless. To support herself she went to work for Ebenezer Dyer, head of a detective agency on Fleet Street. Over time Mr Dyer developed a high regard for Loveday’s crime solving abilities and sends her off on various short assignments. This book is a collection of her adventures.
Her cases are not so much the murder and mayhem kind, rather something or someone has gone missing or was stolen. Ever prim and proper, plainly dressed and nondescript in appearance, she blends in with all classes and ferrets out the details of the crime. The deductive reasoning that brings her to a quick solution is much like that of fellow detective Sherlock Holmes.

British author Catherine Louisa Pirkis, 1841-1910, wrote numerous short stories and fourteen novels during the years 1887 to 1894. She’s best known for her lady detective, Loveday Brooke. Midwest Classics Press has republished Pirkis’ novel. See their website here.

Being Inscrutable

When I saw Fandango’s word for today, BEING, I thought the passive voice in writing, and of this tongue-in-cheek discourse I once wrote. Warning: confusion ahead. 🙂

A PASSION FOR PASSIVE

Attending a writing workshop, the subject was raised as to passive voice, herein referred to as PV, versus the active voice. It was explained to us by the workshop leader that the PV is seen as a grave error by modern editors.

It was explained to us by our instructor that the verb “to be” is always used (by writers) to form the passive voice. Hence, we were told, a careful examination must be made of each “to be” verb in every form — is, are, was, were was, etc— lest a passive voice be allowed (by carelessness) to slip in. In fact we’re urged to avoid the state of being verbs in general, to use went instead of was/were going, go instead of am/are going, etc.

Later, while a lovely walk in the country was being enjoyed by me, my mind was being teased by a brilliant idea: a writing should be composed as completely in the PV as possible, that its virtues may be lauded (by me). Thus this writing is being offered to you as an alternative to thinking being promoted by short-sighted editors.

(Wherever a slip into the active voice is deemed necessary, proper notice will be given by the initials “AV”.)

The passive voice is formed when the subject of a sentence – the doer of the deed – is obscured (by the one telling the tale) somewhere among stated or implied end-of-sentence phrases, while the object of the sentence has been forced (by the writer) to lead the way. Whenever such convolutions are made in sentences (by said writer), there must always be a “by” — stated or not. For purposes of clarification during this whimsical writing, these shall be duly marked (by me) in brackets.

Hence the AV construction, “I slipped on a banana peel” is turned into the passive “A banana peel was slipped on.” By me, but that part need not be added, lest (subjunctive) I appear rather clumsy. After all, it might have been dropped by someone else, which (AV) makes it their fault anyway, right?

During our workshop it was explained to our instructor that the passive voice can be used (by writers) to remain anonymously humble – or leave someone else anonymously humble. The self-promoting “I” can be buried forever (by the writer) in the “back forty” of the sentence.

And not only “I + me” but any other indication of something outstanding being done by someone among us. Several reasons may be offered (by whoever wants to) for this: if some action has been taken (by whoever) that may be deemed (by the hearer) offensive, the perpetrators can be forever hidden (by the teller of the tale.)

Likewise, a solution can be found (by someone) without any congratulatory pat on the back (by recipients) to the finder. And if it was a poor solution it will be unknown (by the ones upset) on whom to put the blame. Thus the most words can be used (by the prudent) with the least information actually being revealed. This same policy has been specialized in by government officials for ages.

Passive voice can also be used (by writers spilling their lifeblood–or someone else’s) to avoid humiliation or acrimonious litigation. “Suggestions were made about the Mayor’s involvement,” sounds much safer than to have it admitted (by some blabbing reporter) that “Tom Smith suggested (AV) the Mayor was getting a kickback (from interested investors).” Especially if Tom Smith and/or the Mayor could sue. And if the investors are named, they might sue (AV) as well.

Of course, objections to the use of PV are usually raised by word-count-conscious editors. The most said (by writers) using the least number of words remains ever (AV) the passion of those insensitive red-pen types. That all shall be blabbed up front (by the writer) — subject first — is insisted upon (by modern editors)!

Nevertheless, a continuous demand shall always be held forth (by those afraid of offending) for the obscurity of PV. So let it be learned by us to execute it well in our writing endeavours. Should it be wished by modern editors to execute it literally, theirs will be the loss in the end. Much will remain unwritten to avoid embarrassment.

NOTE:
Dangling &/or confusing clauses are often (AV) one undesirable result. By using great vigilance, avoidance of these can be accomplished.

Anonymity is wished for by the author lest she be blacklisted by the aforesaid editors.

Mashed Up Musings

Rambling Thoughts on Genre Mashups

Puzzling.jpgYesterday over at The Write Practice, the subject was genre mashups, something I’d never hear of before — at least not by that name. The concept of taking a story and retelling it in another genre is familiar. For example, telling the story of Cinderella as a news report.

In this Write Practice post “The Magic Violinist” is suggesting mixing genres like fairy tale + sci-fi, romance + thriller, classic + contemporary. Oliver Twist meets his Mafia Godfather. That type of thing.

I read a book recently where one of the main characters is an author and in her novel Jane Austen is captured by space aliens. The title of the book will give a clue as to how successful she was at getting it launched. The Rejected Writers Book Club (Southlea Bay) by Suzanne Kelman is a funny, though none-too-believable, tale with a mixture of zany and normal characters. I found it delightful.

Mixing genres is an intriguing thought. Even in straight fiction, there are some tales I think would benefit from a dash of something else thrown in. For example, Wuthering Heights — one book I disliked extremely. I read the thing all the way through, hoping poor Heathcliff would get a grip, but there was just no improvement.

It’s billed as a romance — but I saw no actual love anywhere in its pages. Jealousy, greed, snobbery, obsession, fury, cruelty, revenge, yes. Love, no. I think Healthcliff might have benefited immensely by a visit from those three Spirits of Christmas who brought Ebenezer Scrooge to his senses in A Christmas Carol.

I think a lot of mashups of the old classics have already been done a zillion times. There are many contemporary, sci-fi, fantasy, and western versions of Cinderella, The Little Mermaid, Pride + Prejudice, Romeo & Juliet, and Hamlet floating around.

Just for the fun of it, here are a few mashups I came up with:

Lord Peter Wimsey is sent to investigate the assassination of the King of Scotland and the murder of Banquo. He deduces from various clues that MacBeth is the guilty party…
or
Miss Marple, a good friend of Banquo’s widow, does some snooping and uncovers Lady Macbeth’s duplicity in the assassination of the king.

The Three Musketeers could be three university roommates who join together to prove their favorite professor, accused of being a spy, is innocent.

I’ve never read The Great Gatsby, and the synopsis doesn’t at all inspire me to start. However, one of the three male characters could meet up with the three spirits of Christmas and come to see the error of his ways, improving the sad outcome of that story.

On the humorous side, Bertie Wooster could meet up with Ebenezer Scrooge’s three Christmas ghosts and resolve to atone for his former self-indulgent lifestyle. He tries in his inept way to donate time + talent to some worthy cause, but Jeeves has to sort things out when they go awry.

Notes:

Cinderella, an old fairy tale, was recorded by French writer Charles Perrault
Oliver Twist is a classic novel by Charles Dickens
The Little Mermaid was a Hans Christian Anderson tale
Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte’s only novel
Ebeneezer Scrooge is Charles Dicken’s notorious curmudgeon and tightwad
Pride & Prejudice was penned by Jane Austen
Romeo + Juliet, Hamlet and MacBeth were written by William Shakespeare
Lord Peter Wimsey was Dorothy Sayers’ famous detective
Miss Marple was Agatha Christie’s very successful sleuth
The Three Musketeers was written by Alexandre Dumas
The Great Gatsby was an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel
Bertie Wooster + his valet, Jeeves, were created by P. G. Wodehouse

Impressionism and Haiku

We were together with friends on Monday for dinner. Ruth is a writer and Ray is an artist. Read his bio here. We got to talking about his artwork, and art in general, ending up in a discussion of Impressionist paintings. He was saying that impressionism shows something the viewer can identify, but nothing too detailed. General colour and/or detail indicate the subject, but it’s not meant to be a clear picture. Rather a scene the viewer gets as they view it from a distance.

Before I went to bed last night I spent a good hour reading various haiku at Troutswirl, the blog of The Haiku Foundation. * I had a good long read in the section on A Sense of Place: The Shore, verses all about the sounds of the seashore. Oodles of them! And then read over Haiku Master Alan Summers comments on various verses. I found this altogether so enjoyable and enlightening! (If you’re reading this, Alan, I really appreciated your long commentary.) Check out Alan’s blog here.

I should also mention Cattails, the journal of the United haiku and tanka society. Another of my favourite haiku haunts. 🙂

It dawned on me while we were listening to Ray’s artistic experiences that haiku is much like impressionism. The goal is not to produce a detailed description but rather give a few words to paint concepts and call to the reader’s imagination a scene, a thought, or feeling.

A paragraph in the introduction to the book, Japanese Haiku, © 1955 by Peter Pauper Press, says this:
One final word: the haiku is not expected to be always a complete or even a clear statement. The reader is supposed to add to the words his own associations and imagery, and thus to become a co-creator of his own pleasure in the poem.

For example, Issa’s verse — translated by David G Lanoue:
one man, one fly
one large
sitting room

Just words, until you recall your own experience of what a pest one fly can be. No matter how big the room, especially if you’re sitting quietly waiting that one fly with be a constant annoying buzz and/or it will find you and pester you no end!

Though I’m just a learner myself, I know what I like and what I don’t when it comes to haiku. The verse shouldn’t be so detailed the whole picture is there. I’ve seen some verses called haiku that may have the three-line form but are like one long sentence. Straightforward; no layers of meaning. I’ve written two verses as examples:

red and blue flashers
accident on the highway
traffic rerouted

A reader might make something of the idea that an accident reroutes people’s lives, but it still doesn’t say much beyond the initial words.

the cricket crawls
over the ripe pumpkin
a long journey

My thought is, “Oh, thrills!” However, if this says anything profound to you, please let me know.

Here’s a delightful verse from Chosu, a poet from ancient Japan.* Can’t you just picture this scene?

broken and broken
again on the sea, the moon
so easily mends

*from HAIKU HARVEST,
© 1962 by Peter Pauper Press
Verses translated by Peter Beilenson and Harry Behn

Here are two of mine: senryu, actually, dealing with people and their feelings. I hope you can find some layers in them. Critiques welcome.

the war is over
soldiers go home
to strangers

Sometimes I get into quite a dither over one word and how the meaning might change. For example, I could have written the verse’s last lines as:
soldiers go home
as strangers

Would it have made the poem better or worse? I need a second opinion. 😉

escaping
into my tears
memories  of you

Since I doubt any of the “One-word Challenge” prompters will give us the word HAIKU to write on, I’ll post these thoughts and hope some of you will find them interesting. Coaching comments and other good examples welcome. 🙂