Widgeon Woes

Our Ragtag Daily Prompt word this morning is DUDGEON. Perhaps my new header has inspired this verse?

Wigeons not Pigeons!

One day a curmudgeon went hunting for duck
he hoped he would bludgeon a widgeon, with luck.
He spotted a flock–sitting ducks on a lake
and imagined the golden roast widgeon he’d bake.
But our aimless curmudgeon just left in high dudgeon
taking with him the pigeon he’d hit by mistake.

Hope you like my bit of whimsy. Now for a historical note.
To me DUDGEON and BLUDGEON sound like Old English words, so I looked up its origin in the dictionary, along with several other -EON words — and mostly got “origins unknown.” Probably a lot of word origins have been lost in the historical hodgepodge of English.

I once thought of the original British as a mix of Anglos, Celts, Scots, Saxons, and later Normans. However, last winter I read a book, The Faded Map: Lost Kingdoms of Scotland by Alistair Moffat. I soon had my mind opened to just how many kingdoms, tribes, and languages there once were in the British Isles centuries ago. So who knows what words may have persisted even though their original users have long been forgotten.

The local tribes skirmished regularly; some royal son was in high dudgeon because of a crown that wasn’t bestowed, and had to start a war over it. The Roman army marched over the land; Irish, Jute and Viking invaders sailed up the Firth of Forth to plunder and carry away slaves – like the lad who later became St Patrick. Saxons pillaged, bludgeoned, and massacred their way across the southeast, reaching what’s now London. Locals lucky enough to escape fled across the Channel, taking their language into Brittany.

We tend to associate slavery with Africa, but the slave trade has been carried on all through history, and it’s mostly been tribal rather than racial. Legionnaires brought conquered Angles & Celts to be sold in Rome; the Vikings carried slaves to all ports along the Mediterranean. My impression now is that early Europe was a huge mishmash of genetics and linguistics.

People should read more History. Would we hear as much wailing and high dudgeon over current politics if we all realized how good we have it today?

Shires and Such

Hello again. Here I am, sitting at my desk and working on my newly updated and fully functioning PC. Tra la la! But it wasn’t cheap. Anyway, I can access both my G-mail accounts now and the hard drive has had an upgrade that speeds it up a lot. So I’ve decided to give it a real test by posting tonight, something for my readers who love words and their etymology. I’ve been learning a few new ones myself.

I’ve been working my way through this book about the old Scottish and border kingdoms, from the earliest traceable Celtic people to the invading Roman legions, marauding Britons, Saxons, Jutes, Angles. There’s a lot of military history detailing all the cross-border warfare that went on amongst the kingdoms of northern England and all these invaders. I learned that Wales isn’t at all the local name; and they don’t refer to the rest of England as such. The Welsh word for England means “the lost lands.” With good reason!

He mentions well known figures like the victorious Authur — Moffat thinks he was a general rather than a king — and Merlin. He gives highlights of better-known Northumbrian rulers like Aedan, Aethelfrith, Edwin, Owen. He also details the expansion of the Catholic church in England. Thankfully the ancients weren’t illiterate and a few of them, such as the priest Bede, did set down the facts they’d seen or heard, so that a rough picture can be drawn.

The Faded Map: Lost Kingdoms of Scotland by [Alistair Moffat]
This author has done a thorough research on his subject.

As I read, I learned the origin of the word SHERIFF. This was once two words: SHIRE REEVEthe administrator of a royal shire. According to Lexico the Old English word scirgerefa. is composed of the Old English scīr ;‘care, official charge, county’, Germanic in origin, and the OE refa. In English and Welsh counties, the SHERIFF is the chief executive officer of the Crown, having various administrative and judicial functions. Some English towns still have a SHERIFF, an honorary officer elected annually. In Scotland a SHERIFF is a judge.

Another thing I learned concerns the area where my ancestors came from: Penninghame in Gallowayshire. Ham is the old English word for home, the “ing” denoting beside. So Penninghame are the homes beside the Penn. If I knew the topography of southwest Scotland I’d know what that means. 🙂 And nearby KIRKCUDBRIGHT is named after St Cuthbert, famous missionary-monk and later leader of the early Northumbrian Church. Kirk is church, so, Saint Cuthbert’s Church. You need to hear a local pronounce the district name, Kirkcudbrightshire — I’ve been told it doesn’t sound anything like it’s spelled. 🙂

And that’s enough meandering in the murk of word origins. It’s great to be back at my old desk, though. Take care everyone.

Hollow Tales

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was the word HOLLOW

My first thought was that old novel by Washington Irving, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. I suppose in his day it was quite the horror tale; in our day zombies have replaced the Headless Horseman as a source of fear and revulsion. Or are they passé by now? Every era has its terrors.

Giving rein to my curiosity, I did a search on Amazon for HOLLOW to see what books would pop up with that as a key word. The first one I came across might well have done Washington Irving proud. Or rather, Jules Verne with his Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. This indie writer is informing his readers – and intends to use the Bible to back up his idea – that the Earth is hollow. A paperback, the book is listed at $25 US. The title gives the game away:
World Top Secret: Our Earth IS Hollow!: The Scientific, Scriptural and Historical Evidence that Our Earth Is Hollow!

I wonder where all that lava comes from? I suppose he can explain.

In a lengthy, rambling blurb, with terms a physicist would understand – and hotly dispute, I’m sure! – the writer suggests, “Perhaps the stories of explorers going into the interior of the Earth, the Sun and other planets and finding human populations living there are based on a truth that God creates planets to be inhabited, not so much on their exteriors, but on their interiors. The Lost Ten Tribes are rumored to have found an entrance into the hollow of the Earth in the North and explorers who have been there through the North Polar Opening report that the people there have built a fantastic civilization with flying saucer technology, long lives, perfect health and an economy of abundance.”

If this were true, the folks inside can’t be human beings. We here on the surface may dream of a Utopia, but we sure haven’t been able to build a world like this!

For example, another book listed is A LONG WALK TO WATER by Linda Sue Park. This is apparently a short but poignant adventure based on the real-life experiences of one of the Lost Boys in the Sudan and his sister, caught up in, and divided by, the Sudanese conflict. “A powerful tale of perseverance and hope,” one reviewer writes.
The writer “interweaves the stories of two Sudanese children who overcome mortal dangers to improve their lives and the lives of others.” The #1 Bestseller in the category of Children’s Historical Fiction on Military & Wars, it’s been highly rated by its readers. I’m not sure how this story connects with the word HOLLOW, but doesn’t it sound intriguing?

Thinking again of the prompt word, I’ll close with this oft-quoted Irish blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the hollow of His hand.

Book: The Girl With the Silver Star

The Girl with the Silver Star
by Rachel Zolotov

This book was just launched Nov 17th and I got to review an advanced reader copy (ARC). I found this story intriguing, at times suspenseful, at times heartbreaking! It’s basically the memoir of Raisa, a Russian Jewish mother, and her two daughters, going through the terrors and heartbreak of World War II. I enjoyed the various joyful “before the war” scenes and customs sandwiched between her day-to-day events as a refugee.

The story starts as Abraham and Raisa and their two daughters survive the initial bombing of Minsk. They attempt to escape by train from the approaching German army – along with thousands of others. As they wait hopefully for space on the next train, the Red Army shows up and conscripts Abraham. His presence in the story after this is mainly through letters he wrote to his family while serving in the army. But his love for “his girls” casts a warm glow through the whole story.

Raisa and her daughters were able to join her parents and sisters in another city and the group made their way, along other refugees, to a safer place. The book tells of the treacherous journey they undertook, crammed like sardines in freight cars, with trains being bombed and heartless thieves, as they passed through cities overflowing with refugees, finally finding a temporary home at Kokand, in Uzbekistan.

As I began to read, I soon realized that this story isn’t being related in contemporary English. Rather, in the writer’s choice of words and syntax, I “heard” the Eastern European accent Raisa would have used to tell her story. It took me a bit to set aside my editor’s pen, but then just I enjoyed listening to her “voice” as she shared her life in day-by-day scenes and memories of a better day – always holding on to the hope that there will be better days again.

Five silver stars. 🙂

“IF” We Were Conquered

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was WHAT IF
Sue’s Jibber Jabber prompt word is WIN
The Word of the Day challenge is THEME
Fandango’s writing challenge for today is APROPOS, a word which means “something both relevant and opportune” or “in an opportune time”

Putting these together, I have come up with…

“IF” Day in Winnipeg

As World War Two is raging across Europe, town counselors in the city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, asked the question, “WHAT IF the enemy conquers Europe, and proceeds to conquer Canada?”

Deciding to do something dramatic to demonstrate this APROPOS question, the city arranged for a takeover, calling it “IF Day.” This THEME had a two-fold purpose: it would give the citizens a small but realistic picture of what European cities were enduring — and what we’d be in for if the Axis powers would WIN the war — and it would prompt the sale of more war bonds.

Importing German army uniforms from Hollywood, and hiring actors for key roles, the city staged a takeover On Feb 19, 1942. The morning started with a mock battle involving more than 3,500 Canadian troops and reservists who battled it out realistically with weapons, tanks, smoke and gunshots. (This was, in fact, the largest military mobilization ever yet seen in the province.)

Citizens heard gunfire in the city’s outskirts; artillery smoke drifted over; routed Canadian forces fled through the downtown. Then came lines of “enemy” troops and armored personnel carriers, conducting their victory parade down Portage Avenue, which was renamed Adolfhitlerstrasse. Nazi soldiers marched into City hall; the Mayor and City counselors were arrested and led away to “an unknown fate.” The Nazi flag was hoisted over the city center.

A mock newspaper was printed up, the first section announcing the “victory” at Winnipeg and filled with Nazi propaganda. Among other proclamations, the Boy Scout troops were ordered to disband. The city’s Jews had to wear Star of David armbands. The latter part of the paper, however, contained serious accounts written by a number of the city’s immigrants, detailing what the Nazis had already done to their homelands.

As the day went on, citizens were harassed. One on-site reporter’s papers were seized and torn up; a city bus was stopped and all passengers had to provide ID. According to news accounts, this wasn’t polite questioning, either; they were “rough” searches. At once point Nazi officers stomped into a restaurant to arrogantly harass the staff and force out existing diners. According to an account written by Tristan Hopper, “This wasn’t just a few swastika flags carried through the town; civilians were quite literally being harassed and verbally abused by fake Nazis.”

“If Day” was a great demonstration and a huge success in rallying the citizens against Nazism. The sale of war bonds at that time raised $65 million. Still, “If Day” had to present a sanitized version of what Nazis actually did to captured cities. The year 1942 went down as the deadliest year of the Holocaust, as Nazi death squads used mass shootings and burnings to obliterate whole communities in Ukraine, Poland and other captured territory in Eastern Europe.