Of Spider Webs & Goose Down

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is GOSSAMER.

If you’ve taken the time to check out this word over at Merriam-Webster, you’ll find that it has an interesting etymology. Gossamer comes from “goose summer,” a time that would roughly correspond to our Indian Summer. And not because they were flying south, but because they’re at their plumpest for the roasting pan.

Gossomer was also the Middle English word used to describe filmy cobwebs floating through the air in calm clear weather, apparently because somebody thought the webs looked like the down of a goose. If you see them in the early morning on the grass, wet with dew, you could almost think of down.

Today we use it as a rather poetic synonym for thin, light, flimsy, filmy. As in:
The weary travelers sighed for some break in the heat, but the gossamer wisps above offered no relief.

Cowcatcher Persona

The Word of the Day over at Merriam-Webster is an old-fashioned one I haven’t heard for years. A COWCATCHER is an inclined frame on the front of a railroad locomotive for throwing obstacles off the track. Since cows no longer wander about freely, I suppose locomotive makers no longer see the need of adding one.

Just for fun I decided to re-purpose this word for our day and created this verse:

Your words hurt,
I try to explain.
I feel the sting;
see the pain in their faces.
But his cowcatcher persona
tosses my words to the winds
and plows on.

A Must-Read For Writers

One of the items in my In-Box this morning was an article by Sandra Gerth called The 50 Most Common Spelling & Grammar Mistakes. READ IT HERE

I read through her list, nodding all the way, and learning a few things as well. For example, I learned that T-shirt should always be written with a capital T. And alright is NOT a word.

If you want to improve your writing, do take a few minutes to read her article. She’s an editor and she lists many of the annoying grammar/spelling mistakes that have annoyed me when I read a book, or someone’s blog post. Enough of these blips will get your manuscript rejected at the Acquisitions desk.

Big one: it’s versus its. Maybe I am pedantic (our prompt word yesterday) but seeing the wrong one makes me want to shriek! The bird did not spread it’s wings. It’s is NEVER possessive. It’s is ALWAYS the contraction for the words IT IS. The bird spread its wings. End of rant. 😉

Years ago my penpal from Hungary touched on something everyone who learns English as a second language must twig onto:
She wrote, “We have to show American movies here.” But she didn’t mean “We have to show American movies here.” In fact, theaters over there were free to show whatever they wished. And if you’re free to do it or not, as you wish, then you don’t have to.
She really meant: We have American movies to show(see). Or, in their country they can go to a theater and watch American movies. I explained to her that ‘have to” means “must.”

To save us all from total confusion on this point, when English speakers mean “YOU MUST” the ‘v’ changes to an ‘f’. At least here in North America, the two words are run together and pronounced like “haff to.” Some authors, using colloquial dialogue, will even write it that way:
“She’s gotta go see him again.”
“Sue, you hafta go see him again. You hafta tell him how you feel.”
John snorted in disgust. “No, Sue does not have to.
Saying it carefully, with emphasis on the “not have to” expresses disagreement.

One blip Ms Gerth didn’t cover was WREAK and WRECK. I hear these words interchanged and see them wrongly written so often. Wreak means to bring about or cause. The storm wreaked havoc. Wrecked means damage or destroy. The car was wrecked in the accident. The storm didn’t damage the havoc. So close, but not quite the same.

A dictionary is a writer’s best friend — and it should be a speaker’s best friend, too. One day a friend pronounced the word “chasm” like “kasm” and I corrected her. “It’s said CH-asm.” And she corrected me. Her dictionary says it’s K-asm, like K-ristmas. So I looked it up — and she’s right. That’s the first pronunciation given.
Note to self (blush): ALWAYS CHECK.

Now I shall end my spiel and let you read the article for yourself. Here’s the link again: 50 Common Mistakes

Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning: PRONOUNCED
Word of the Day prompt: CHALLENGE
Jibber Jabber with Sue prompt: FREE

Whelm &Overwhelm

Today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt is OVERWHELMED

Of course my first question was: If a person can be OVERwhelmed, can they be just plain WHELMED? And Merriam-Webster says, yes they can.

The meaning is much the same:
to turn something –such as a dish or vessel– upside down usually to cover something : to cover or engulf completely with usually disastrous effect
L
ike smothering a candle flame with a snuffer.
To be whelmed means to be covered with something, or to be overcome with a thought, feeling, or other. As in OVERWHELMED by grief.
I was amazed to discover that the verb WHELVE means about the same:
to turn (as a dish or vessel) upside down usually to cover something. You can WHELVE your food dish with a cover to keep the food clean.

And now for an inspiring thought:

Desmond Tutu.quote
          Image by Connie Horne  —  Pixabay

 

265 Years of Clarity

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today is ANNIVERSARY
The Word of the Day prompt is GENEROUS

To come up with a response for this morning’s prompt, ANNIVERSARY, I decided to check out what important events have happened on this day in history. And VOILA! Today is the 265th anniversary of Dr Samuel Johnson’s English Language Dictionary.

There were other smaller dictionaries around, mainly dealing with difficult and obscure and foreign words, so Dr Johnson was commissioned to compile the first comprehensive dictionary of the English language. It took him seven long years to gather and define every word in the language, with all its many angles — and the final book cost more to print than he was paid to write it!

Things haven’t changed much, have they, Writers? No “paid by the hour” in this job. 😉

Dr. Johnson illustrated many definitions with about 114,000 quotes from literature of his day, quoting from the Bible and writers like Shakespeare. He added a generous touch of humor to his definitions, too. For example, his definition of LEXICOGRAPHER:
A writer of dictionaries; a harmless drudge that busies himself in tracing the original and detailing the signification of words
And PATRON:
One who countenances, supports, or protects. Commonly a wretch who supports with insolence, and is paid with flattery. (Can you guess he didn’t have the best relationship with his own patron, the 4th Earl of Chesterfield?)

balloons-1018299_640It’s amazing how one man, single-handedly, has contributed so much to the English world of his day, and the benefits have rippled down through history. So, word lovers around the world, let’s party! Have you hugged a WORD today?

The helpful site, ON THIS DAY also informed me that:
Leonardo da Vinci was born today. (1452)
US President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. (1865)
The Titanic sank. (1912)