Things that Crepitate in the Night

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today was CREPITATE.

Never heard of it? Well, perhaps you’ve encountered some of its relatives:
CREPITANT – making a crackling or rustling sound
CREPUSCULE – Twilight
CREPUSCULAR – relating to or resembling twilight; active during twilight

DECREPIT – worn out or ruined by age or neglect
DECREPITUDE – the state of being decrepit
DECREPITATE – roast a substance such as salt to cause crackling, disintegrate audibly when heated – rather the opposite of popcorn. 🙂

CREPITATE and its cousins originated from the Latin verb crepitare: to crackle or rustle.

And now to use these crinkly words. Last night I read a short memoir from the winter of 1919-1920, one of the most severe on record here in western Canada. The writer told of how a family spent it in a log cabin near Olds, in the southern Alberta foothills. Ill use some of her memories as seed for my story.

Winter hit us early that year; snow came in October and stayed. Hit us hard, too; when it got cold, it stayed cold. Worse yet, we as a family had to move to an abandoned shack twenty miles away after a chimney fire damaged our home. We arrived on our wagon with our smoke-smelly belongings just before sundown and looked at the decrepit cabin that was to be our home this winter.

“Doesn’t look the best right now,” Mother said, “but hopefully it’ll be snug. It was home to another family just two years ago.”

Dad put his arm around her. “We’ll get a fire going and warm up the place. And we’ll do what we can to make it livable.”

My seven-year-old brother Willy and I eyed the steep hill not far from the house, thinking with delight about the sledding days we’d have.

The Rockies loomed in the crepuscule as we moved in, crunching through the deep snow with our stuff. While the last things were being unloaded, Mother began shifting the kindling wood beside the cook stove with the thought of making a fire. Crepitant sounds came from one corner and Father had to evict the first of our tiny tenants.

“We’re apt to see a few crepuscular critters come out tonight,” he said. “Skunks and raccoons move into an abandoned place pretty quick.”

Our problem didn’t come from skunks, thankfully. But once the house was warm we did hear smaller creatures crepitating under the floor boards and wondered what they were. A couple of days later as we were finishing our supper Willy dropped his spoon on the floor and forgot to pick it up. The next morning as I helped Mother set the table I noticed we were short a spoon. “Hey Willy, didn’t you pick up that spoon last night?”

He groaned and scrambled under the table to retrieve it. A moment later he held up something small and dark between his fingers. “Look! The spoon’s gone, but see this. An arrowhead. Wow!” He was thrilled with his find.

“Pack rats,” Mother pronounced. “Likely that’s the rustling we’ve been hearing. We need to be careful not to leave anything shiny laying around.”

A lesson we learned the hard way. Buttons, bottle caps, and other small objects left lying would disappear overnight and we’d find small, pretty stone in its place. We’d nod and say, “Our pack rats are trading again.”

Dad worked at making the shack as cozy as possible and Mother made it as homey as she could. Willy and I had great fun on that hill. It proved perfect for our sled and we the abundance of snow softened our tumbles when we rolled down. Near the top of the hill a poplar sapling stuck out of the snow and Willy decided one day to carve a big W in the white bark.

In spring we moved back to our house that had been “in the fixing” all winter. While we were happy to be home, we thought about the old cabin and one day in June we all got on our wagon and went to have a picnic on the hill there.

When we got to the cabin we were amazed to find there was no hill. Rather, there was a big slough full of cattails where the hill had stood. There were smaller trees around the slough, but the poplar we thought was a sapling turned out to be tree twelve inches around the base of the trunk. We knew that must be our tree, because Willy finally spotted his W – 25 feet up the trunk.

We spent all that winter playing on a huge hill of snow!

Feeling Oorie on a Lowering Day

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was OORIE – Also spelled OURIE, says Lexico.

Never heard of it, but it’s supposedly a word Robert Burns used in one of his poems. Since I think a lot of Bobby Burns, I won’t knock it. I frequently quote his ”The best-laid plans of mice and man gang oft aglay.” The story of my life, it seems. 😉

Lexico’s definition of OORIE: dismal, gloomy, cheerless, miserable (as a result of cold, sickness) Nowadays we’d say, “I’m feeling rotten.”

Yesterday I was definitely feeling OORIE. At times my brain seems to be firing neurons at random, which makes every task feel overwhelming and the general outlook gloomy. Haven’t painted for six weeks. Nor written much; maybe I should give up blogging indefinitely? It didn’t help that I lost my car keys the day before.

We had our belated Christmas dinner with our children and grands on Sunday. Chewing on a caramel candy after dinner, the best-laid plans of mice and man went aglay when I bit on something hard – which turned out to be a piece of my back molar. Leaving a jagged hole for my tongue to rasp against. On Wed I was finally able to get to my dentist and have that smoothed down to bearable and “let’s leave well enough alone for now.

Bob’s car key clicker (automatic door opening button) wasn’t working well, so at one stop I gave him my keys. He gave them back once we were in the car and I must have put them in my coat pocket, thinking he’d need them again. We went to the food court at a mall for dinner. Walking out afterward, I couldn’t find my keys. Went back to our table. Nope. Emptied my purse. Nope. Checked the car floor. Nope. Phoned the mall lost & found. Nope. They’d gone aglay big time.

Today feels more hopeful, in spite of a grey sky. For one thing, it’s warmed up a lot – relatively speaking. It was -33 yesterday, only -23 this morning, and now, at 2 pm, the temp reads -18. Our cats are even wanting to step outside, where yesterday the frosty breath of winter discouraged them as soon as the door was opened a crack.

I also woke up this morning with a cheerful chorus running through my mind: “I want to leave this things behind me, want to climb to higher ground…” Great plan, don’t you think?

Some fine snow again today. Our grandson plowed our driveway for the second time this week. We wanted snow – now we’re getting it — almost daily since Christmas Eve.

Speaking of the weather brings to mind the word LOWERING. With the long oh sound (as in go), lowering means coming down; to lower something is to put it down. But with the ow sound as in flour, we get the second definition:

Lowering, also spelled louring, means dark and threatening. Cloudy, hazy, heavy, overcast. At least I’ve only ever seen it referring to dark menacing clouds.

Which makes me wonder if LOUR and OURIE spring from the same linguistic fount.

And then there’s GLOWERING, again with the ou as in flour.
An angry or brooding look. To look or stare with sullen annoyance.

These words all came into England from Scotland – so might they be cousins? The word GLOWREN has been in use in Scotland since the late Middle Ages. Originally referring to staring intently or in amazement, the meaning shifted to stares of annoyance or anger rather than astonishment.

Beyond that, etymologists have determined that glower is a distant relative of Middle Low-German glūren, which means to be overcast, and of the Middle Dutch gloeren, meaning to leer — the origin of our word GLARE.

No Encroaching Here!

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is ENCROACH

To me this is such an old-fashioned sounding word, like something Chaucer or Shakespeare might have used. Like the branches of Burnham wood slowly encroaching on Macbeth’s castle. Anyone remember that scene?

According to my book of word meanings, encroach and crochet have a common root. To encroach on something is to try snagging the thing, or attempt to catch it with a hook, coming from the French word, encrochier : “to seize with a hook.” Even more interesting, the French borrowed the root word “croc” from the Norwegian krokr, meaning hook – the word that has streamed off into the English crook, someone who snatches things wrongfully.

We got a little demonstration of encroachment yesterday afternoon. I’ve been feeding a stray cat that somehow landed on this property at some point in spring and likely found a safe place to stay in one of the farm buildings next door. He’s very timid – in fact that’s what I’ve named him. Since he doesn’t belong to the neighbours, they don’t include him when they put out food for their several tame farm cats. So, since I have a soft heart for cats, I’ve been feeding him all fall.

Yesterday one of the neighbour’s cats, a pretty calico, wandered over to our yard and happened to be near the garage when I set out a bowl of food for Timid. The calico took a notion that she could encroach on his food dish. He didn’t attack her, but expressed his displeasure quite sternly. No encroaching of any kind tolerated here!

Image by ArtTower — Pixabay

Had she reached out a claw and snagged some of his food, the calico would have been encroaching in the true sense of the word. Doesn’t work very well with dry cat food, though.

We’ve enjoyed a long mild fall with almost no snow, in fact last week was delightfully mild for this time of year. It has worked so far to feed the stray. But a cold wind is blowing from the northwest today and the temp is dropping steadily, so I suppose we won’t see so much of Timid once winter really settles in. Hopefully the mice around wherever he shelters are well fattened.

But We’re Canadians

A few days ago I received an e-mail from Merriam-Webster listing all the new words they’re adding to the dictionary this month. I see Heather at Ragtag Daily Prompt has decided to use one of these for today’s prompt. AMIRITE isn’t a word as much as a slurring together of several –something that’s been going on for quite awhile, as you will see in my little dialogue.

Mom squeezed Lanny’s shoulder. “You know our rules, Lanny. None of your friends stay here overnight without us knowing. When we’re away we want to know what’s going on here.”

“So I’m grounded,” Lanny mumbled. “Amirite?”

“Yes, you’re grounded. And can you please pronounce your words properly. It’s Am. I. Right.”

His sister Bella spoke up. “Don’t you know, Mom, that amirite is now a proper word? You can even look it up; it’s one of the newest words is Webster’s dictionary.”

“What next! People just can’t jumble a bunch of words together and call it a new word. The English language will degenerate into a series of mumbles that no one understands.”

“Too late, Mom,” Lanny replied. “People have been jamming words into each other for centuries. Like however. That’s in the dictionary.”

“And henceforth,” Dad put in. Mom glared at him.

“And moreover,” Bella added.

Mom sighed. “Nevertheless…”

“See! How many eons ago did someone run that one together?”

Bella grinned. “Yeah. Whensoever did that happen?”

Lanny waved his hand dramatically. “And furthermore, old Daniel added it to his dictionary.”

Mom shook her head. “I give up.”

“BUT,” Dad said sternly, there’ll be no amirites here. We’re Canadians and ‘EH’ will do nicely.”

“So I’m grounded, eh?”

“You got it.”

“Come on, Lanny,” said Bella. “Lets make ourselves some fluffernutters.”

Dad’s eyebrows went up. “What in the world…”

Lanny smirked. “You’ll have to look it up in the dictionary.”

Mom looked helplessly at Dad. “Will we ever understand them?”

Up, Off, and Back Again

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning is the simple word OFF.

My first thought was of the way we English speakers use prepositions to add new meaning to verbs. So this little sort-of-tale will be my response to this prompt.

Blow up
Tell off
Tear up
Stomp off
Sober up
Cool down
Think through
Grieve for
‘Fess up
Make up
Work out
Carry on

My dear hubby told me yesterday that he’s having trouble adding an image to his post, so I’ll give it a try. (No problems here.) We’re finding that Word Press has been throwing some wrenches in our gears lately. How about you?

This photo comes from Pixabay, submitted by Steve Buissinne. The words are my adaptation of an old quote.

The Letter I: Uniquely Ours

Rye Regular

I’m not sure there’s another language where the I is pronounced like we English pronounce ours. (Though we must make allowances for the Cockney OY.) There are some dialects that pronounce AYE like our I, but I don’t know of any other language where it stands alone.

However, most of our words that start with I come from Latin, carried across the English Cannel by Roman soldiers, or coming into English via the French adaptation of a Latin word.

Even our simple word INK comes from the French encre, adapted from the Latin encaustum, meaning burned in. The Romans in turn borrowed it from the Greek word encaustos, which is where we get our word CAUSTIC

Actually, many of our IMPORTANT, INTERESTING, INFORMATIVE, and INTRIGUING words start with an I. Im- heads off a number, Imm- some more, and In- starts off a host of words.

Some of these are combos, while others maybe once were, but have become detached from their roots:
We have INERT, but no ERT; INVITE but no VITE.
INVOKE still shows its roots; the –voke comes from vocation.
INVESTIGATE comes from In + vestige, or trace. So you’re looking for traces of the facts when you investigate something.

Rye Regular

Awhile back I started reading a book about the history of Europe from the fall of the Roman Empire, through the Middle Ages, up until the Enlightenment. It was heavy slogging but one thing was clear: the history of Europe has been a long stream of invasion and bloody conquest.

Constant waves of invaders came from the east, the steppes, the Ural mountains: the Franks, the Goths, the Gauls, the Vandals, and a host of others. A lot of these had their turn sacking poor Rome, and then moved on to various other conquests, including the British Isles. Plus there was the era when a good part of Europe was overrun by Muslim armies. Land grab, power grab: this is the history of mankind.

The news this past year has been disturbing to many of us, and leads us to wonder if INSIDIOUS INVADERS are at work behind the scenes. Not wielding swords and charging forth, but playing from the shadows, slinging ink and using social media, hacking, spying. Fueling discord, attacking authority, wishing to bring down the society we have now and replace it with something “better.” But who is really behind the turmoil and mud-slinging we’re seeing today? People may not be such willing puppets if they could see who’s really pulling the strings.

I believe it would be a good thing for us all to read George Orwell’s book, Animal Farm, and refresh our minds as to the possible consequences of “throwing off the yoke of oppression and bringing in a new social order.” If we lose our guiding star in these chaotic times, some power will step in and take control – and they may not be so nice to live under, either.