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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Here's What's Been Happening

I'll bet you've all been wracking your brain trying to figure out if I'd been kidnaped by aliens or where I've disappeared to, right? Not! Just got too busy with life to keep posting every week. And, I'm making no promises that I will resume that demanding chore. After all, I'm a retired gal and supposed to be doing what makes me happy, not put myself in chains trying to maintain a self-imposed schedule.
But I just had to break my silence to let everyone know what's been happening. First of all, in reference to my most recent post where I asked all to suggest a possible name for my latest WIP. Well, one day it just came to me...along with the back cover blurb...so who am I to argue with inspiration? The book has gone to press with the title....ta da...Morgana's Revenge.
In fact, as of this evening I got notification the book is in the hands of the printer and we, that is my publisher White Bird Publishing and I, are looking forward to an Oct. 1st release date. To say I'm excited would be an understatement.
But hold the applause, I have more news. Yesterday I signed a contract with Dancing Bear Publishing under the auspices of Bobbie Shafer to publish my fictionalized biography for Young Readers...Washington: Boy Surveyor.
On a personal note, I'm looking forward to visits from several family members who will be stopping in on their cross-country trips. My sister Shirley and her husband Norman are taking their first-ever camping trip away from Conn. and expect to pass through the early part of October. I have a niece who started her travels from Phoenix headed west before going all the way to the Canadian border. Shejust passed through Chicago on her way to Conn and will return home the southern route just so she can stop in to see me. Another sister and her husband who are full-time RVers and are presently volunteering at a national park in Nova Scotia, will swing by on their way back to the San Antonio area to spend the winter & holidays close to their daughter and only grandson. Busy times for this little farmhouse in the month of October.
Oh...and did I forget to mention there is a book signing in the works for October also? Just as soon as I coordinate dates I'll announce the where and when.
Until then keep writing and enjoying life.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Name That Story


When my latest work-in-progress completed the critiquing stage, I knew it was time to send it into the world. But...I really wasn't fond of the working title I'd been using. Over the year or two I've worked on this story, I called it  The Red Feather for lack of anything better.

Now, there is a red feather in the story. I use it as a means of helping undercover agents identify each other. But, it really doesn't play an important part in the story. 

So, for a few weeks now, I've been racking my brain, trying to come up with a catchy title. So I'm throwing the ball into my readers' court. 

My husband's suggests "Morgana's Choices." What do you think of Morgana's Choice? Or, perhaps, your imagination can conjure up something even more catchy? Below is the synopsis of this romantic suspense story.

UNTITLED ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
A mysterious fire kills Morgana Grant’s parents and destroys her home. Morgana’s search for answers draws her to the attention of Inspector Bouchard, head of a Special Investigative Team determined to bring down the nefarious Belvedere Coalition.

Morgana goes undercover as a tutor of the Marchand children whose step-father is suspected of being a leader of the Belvedere Coalition. Kristin, Elyse, and Emmanuel  offer Morgana challenges, but it is their uncle, Gregory Walker, who creates emotional turmoil for Morgana.

When Shawn Hennessey, another undercover agent, join the staff as chauffeur, sparks fly.
A fire in the classroom, set off by Kristen in an unsupervised science experiment, forces Morgana to overcome her terror of fire to save him. Later the boy discovers a scrapbook and shows it to Morgana. Inside is a newspaper clipping telling about the fire that killed Morgana’s parents. As she flips pages, Morgana realizes this scrapbook holds the key to the Belvedere Coalition’s downfall.

Shawn’s midnight attempt to retrieve the scrapbook results in his being shot and his cover blown. The beating that follows convinces him that Morgana’s safety is compromised. He makes a furtive attempt to convince her to run away with him. But Morgana cannot desert her charges…and there is the growing relationship with Gregory. Frightened by Shawn’s desperate appeal, Morgana confides in Gregory.

Meanwhile, a frustrated Shawn follows the Marchands to Paris where he sets up an opportunity to kill Mr. Marchand in a car bombing. Morgana is no longer in danger and Lillian Marchand, despite the deception, urges Morgana to stay on as her children’s tutor. And Gregory agrees wholeheartedly.

Friday, May 17, 2013

the thrill of growing your own


Harvested my first meal of new potatoes. I uncovered one while doing some weeding. With a bit of careful probing, I discovered several more beneath the plants.

It all started with one forgotten potato that had begun to sprout. I cut it into pieces, each with several 'eyes' and planted the pieces in an empty area of the garden.  Looking forward to more yummy meals as the plants continue to produce their 'storehouses of food.'

I recently found one of my sweet potatoes has developed several sprouts. A little bit different procedure is called for with a sweet potato. I'll need to dislodge the sprouts and stand them in water until they form roots. Then I'll be able to put the started plants in the ground to continue their magic.
Sweet potatoes, however, create a vine so I'll need to provide space for them to sprawl.

Hm-m-m, is that indicative of region? Northern white/red potatoes grow into an upright plant and southern sweet potatoes need an area to spread out?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

As queer as a nine bob note

A bob is slang term for a shilling, part of British currency before decimalisation. Of course, nine bob notes never existed. As shillings came in ones, twos and tens, a nine-bob note would be a forgery, and therefore very bent indeed.

The date of the phrase's coinage isn't known, but the American version 'as queer as a nine-dollar bill' dates from at least 1965, when it was included in John Trimble's 5000 Adult Sex Words and Phrases:
Nine-dollar Bill... An Absolute Invert or Homosexual. From the inference that one is "Three times as queer as a three-dollar bill".
In the UK, until 1971, when they ceased to be legal tender, the brown ten shilling notes were a commonplace. They were popularly called a 'ten bob note' or 'half-a-nicker' (a nicker was a pound).

The British version had variants; for example, 'as queer as a nine-bob watch', which would be suspect on account of its unrealistic cheapness

Sunday, April 14, 2013

What's under your hat?

 Why should people put anything under their hats and, even if they were to, why would that be associated with secrecy? 
The most commonly repeated speculation of the origin of this expression is that English archers in medieval times used to store spare bowstrings under their hats to keep them dry.
- Firstly, keeping dry isn't keeping secret, so even if archers did store strings under their hats, and there's no evidence that they did, where is the connection to the phrase's meaning? 
- Secondly, and it would have been kinder to put this first as it entirely dismisses the archer tale, the phrase isn't known in English until the 19th century - so much for a medieval origin.
The phrase didn't derive from putting anything under one's hat at all - 'under your hat' simply meant 'in your head'.

The extended phrase 'keep it under your hat', which didn't arise until the 20th century, simply meant 'keep it in your head.' An early example is found in P. G. Wodehouse's Inimitable Jeeves, 1923:
It made such a hit with her when she found that I loved her for herself alone, despite her humble station, that she kept it under her hat. 

Friday, April 12, 2013

Getting off 'scot free'

The phrase means without incurring payment; or escaping without punishment. It has nothing at all to do with Dred Scott. Dred Scott was a black slave born in Virginia who attempted to gain his freedom  right up to the USA Supreme Court in 1857.

Given the reputation of Scotsmen as being careful with their money we might look to Scotland for the origin of 'scot free'. Wrong again.

 'Skat' is a Scandinavian word for tax or payment and the word migrated to Britain as early as the 10th century, then mutated into 'scot' as the name of a redistributive taxationThe term is a contraction of 'scot and lot'. Scot was the tax and lot, or allotment, was the share given to the poor.
Scot as a term for tax has been used since then to mean many different types of tax. Whatever the tax, the phrase 'scot free' simply refers to not paying one's taxes.
 An example of the current commonly used form, i.e. 'scot free', comes a few years later, in Robert Greene's Pandosto: or, The Historie of Dorastus and Fawnia, 1588:

An early use of the figurative version of the phrase is found John Mapley's Green Forest, 1567:
"Daniell scaped scotchfree by Gods prouidence."
"These and the like considerations something daunted Pandosto his courage, so that hee was content rather to put up a manifest injurie with peace, then hunt after revenge, dishonor and losse; determining since Egistus had escaped scot-free, that Bellaria should pay for all at an unreasonable price."
It presently has a wider use of meaning not being punished for something that you have done.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mind your Ps and Qs


It is one of those phrases that many people are sure they know the origin of. 

Francis Grose, in his 1785 edition of The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, defines it like this: "To mind one's P's and Q's; to be attentive to the main chance."

Thomas  Dekker later used the term inWest-ward Hoe, a joint work with John Webster, 1607: 
"At her p. and q. neither Marchantes Daughter, Aldermans Wife, young countrey Gentlewoman, nor Courtiers Mistris, can match her". In that piece, it is less apparent that 'p. and q.' refer to a form of clothing.

'Mind your Ps and Qs' probably derives from one of these:
1. Mind your pints and quarts. This is suggested as deriving from the practice of chalking up a tally of drinks in English pubs
2. Advice to printers' apprentices to avoid confusing the backward-facing metal type lowercase Ps and Qs, 
3. Mind your pea (jacket) and queue (wig). Pea jackets were short rough woollen overcoats. Perruques were full wigs worn by fashionable gentlemen.
4. Mind your pieds (feet) and queues (wigs). This is suggested to have been an instruction given by French dancing masters to their charges. 
5. Another version of the 'advice to children' origin has it that 'Ps and Qs' derives from 'mind your pleases and thank-yous''. 

So, take your choice. 

Friday, April 5, 2013

Oh, my stars and garters

The phrase's origins are very much English although it is now very much an American expression. 

'Stars' has been a favorite in British exclamations for many centuries; for example, 'bless my stars', 'thank my lucky stars' - both 17th century coinages. The stars in question are the astrological bodies and one's stars were one's position in life, or disposition.

Moving on to 'garters.' The Noble Order of the Garter is the highest heraldic order that the British monarch can bestow.  The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that the emblem is in the form of a star.

'Stars and garters' was used as a generic name for the trappings of high office. Such as in  Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock, circa 1712:
While Peers, and Dukes, and all their sweeping train, And Garters, Stars, and Coronets appear.
 'Oh, my stars and garters', when used as a humorous exclamation, appears to be a merging of the previous 'star' exclamations and the 'stars and garters' associated with the honours given to the great and the good. The earliest example comes from The London Magazine, Volume 34, 1765, in a comic verse titled 'A Journey to Oxford':
"Supper at such an hour!
My stars and garters! who would be,
To have such guests, a landlady"

 Stars and garters are still linked with landladies, as that is the name of many public houses in the UK.

Monday, April 1, 2013

don't be fooled today


April Fools’ Day – ever wonder how this fun day came about? There are two schools of thought about its origins. Current thinking is that it began around 1582 in France with the reform of the calendar under Charles IX.

In the Middle Ages, up until the late 18th century, New Year's Day was celebrated on March 25 (Feast of the Annunciation) in most European towns. In some areas of France, New Year's was a week-long holiday ending on April 1.

When the Gregorian calendar was introduced, New Year's Day was moved from March 25 - April 1 to January 1.

Communication traveled slowly in those days and some people were only informed of the change several years later. Still others, who were more rebellious refused to acknowledge the change and continued to celebrate on the last day of the former celebration, April 1. These people were labeled "fools" by the general populace, were subject to ridicule and sent on "fool errands."

Another possibility arises with the practice begun during the reign of Constantine, when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine, amused, allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day, and the custom became an annual event.

Precursors of April Fools' Day include the Roman festival of Hilaria, held March 25, and the Medieval Feast of Fools, held December 28, still a day on which pranks are played in Spanish-speaking countries.

April Fools' Day is observed throughout the Western world. Practices include sending someone on a "fool's errand," looking for things that don't exist; playing pranks; and trying to get people to believe ridiculous things.




Friday, March 29, 2013

A miss is as good as a mile

This proverb means that if you fail at something, it doesn't matter whether you fail by a little or a lot. For example - If you come second in a race it doesn't matter whether you lose by one inch or by one mile; you still lose.  Failure is failure no matter how small the margin of failure. 

This saying dates from the 18th century. The expression may or may not be American in origin, but the root source is certainly the British Isles. James Kelly included it in A Complete Collection of Scotish Proverbs, 1721:
"An inch of a miss is as good as a span - a span is the distance from the tip of the thumb to the tip of the little finger of a man's hand, usually formalised as 9 inches."
The exact phrase "a miss is as good as a mile," seem to first be found in print in the American work,The American Museum, Volume 3 , 1788. It says, "A smart repartee... will carry you through with eclat such as, 'a miss is as good as a mile.'"

 It means a miss by a small distance is just as good as a miss by a large distance. Either way, it is still a miss.

Our American version is: 'close but no cigar.'

Monday, March 25, 2013

A Woman's Place Is In the Home

This notion has been expressed in a variety of forms by numerous people over the ages, all of them men of course. The proper proverbial place for a woman is usually expressed as 'the home' but is and has been also said to be 'the family' and 'the kitchen'.


The ancient Greeks got in there first. The playright Aeschylus, in Seven Against Thebes, 467 B.C., wrote:
"Let women stay at home and hold their peace."
 Moving into sources written in English, we find Thomas Fuller’s Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs, 1732:
"A Woman is to be from her House three times: when she is Christened, Married and Buried."
 In 1832, The New Sporting Magazine, Volume 3, included the earliest example of 'a woman's place is in the home' that I can find in print:
"A woman's place is her own home, and not her husband's countinghouse."
 Times change and with them our proverbs. In November 1970, Time magazine printed a piece titled Newcomers in the House. Bella Abzug campaigned for office in the US Congress using the slogan "This woman’s place is in the House... the House of Representatives."

Friday, March 22, 2013

Raining cats and dogs

The phrase isn't related to the well-known antipathy between dogs and cats.  Nor is the phrase in any sense literal, i.e. it doesn't record an incident where cats and dogs fell from the sky.

We do know that the phrase was in use in a modified form in 1653, when Richard Brome's comedy The City Wit or The Woman Wears the Breeches referred to stormy weather with the line:

"It shall raine... Dogs and Polecats".

The much more probable source of 'raining cats and dogs' is the prosaic fact that, in the filthy streets of 17th/18th century England, heavy rain would occasionally carry along dead animals and other debris. The animals didn't fall from the sky, but the sight of dead cats and dogs floating by in storms could well have caused the coining of this colourful phrase. Jonathan Swift described such an event in his satirical poem 'A Description of a City Shower', first published in the 1710 collection of the Tatler magazine.

The first appearance of the currently used version is in Jonathan Swift’s A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversationin 1738:

"I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs".

The fact that Swift had alluded to the streets flowing with dead cats and dogs some years earlier and now used 'rain cats and dogs' explicitly is good evidence that poor sanitation was the source of the phrase as we now use it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

"warms the cockles of my heart"



What are the "cockles of your heart" and why do they need warming?

The meaning can be interpreted as the "cockles of the heart" are warmed by an emotional experience that exposes the tender and warm side of the human experience, thus opening of the "heart".

The expression turns up first in the middle of the seventeenth century, and the earliest form of the idiom was 'rejoice the cockles of one’s heart'. 

Some say cockles is a medical term. Cockles are a type of bivalve mollusc. They are frequently heart-shaped (their formal zoological genus was at one time Cardium, of the heart) with ribbed shells.The heart is composed of various parts that work in unison to pump blood throughout the body. One of the parts of the heart is called a ventricle. Anyway, the Latin tem for the heart's ventricles is "cochleae cordis". Could "cockle" be a corruption of the medieval Latin word for heart - cochleae cordis?

The cockles of your heart are its ventricles and thus by extension, the innermost depths of one’s heart or emotions. The word comes from the Latin phrase cochleae cordis, meaning ‘ventricles of the heart.’ —Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins

My thanks to http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=20208 for their forum on this topic that helped to clear up some of the confusion.

Friday, March 15, 2013

"at my wits' end"

'To be at wits' end' is, literally, to run out of ideas. To be very worried or upset because you have tried every possible way to solve a problem but cannot do it. Completely puzzled, perplexed, not knowing what to do. I've tried every possible source without success, now I'm at my wit's end.

Note that the apostrophe is placed after the s of wits (meaning abilities), not after wit (one's humor or intelligence).

The phrase comes from the Bible, Psalms 107:27 (King James Version): "They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits' end." The original Hebrew of the Bible says, "חָ֝כְמָתָ֗ם תִּתְבַּלָּֽע׃ " which is transliterated as "chachematam titballa." This is translated as "their wits' end."

The phrase has also been used when a diagnosis for an illness cannot seem to be found for a person.'

It's most frequent use seems to be by parents.  Mothers and fathers have said "I am at my wits' end" when it comes to thinking of things to keep children busy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

What will it take?

'Arm' and 'leg' are used as examples of items that no one would consider selling other than at an enormous price. 

The tale is often repeated that portrait painters used to charge more for larger paintings and that a head and shoulders painting was the cheapest option, followed in price by one which included arms and finally the top of the range 'legs and all' portrait. Actually, that's not a fact. There's no evidence to suggest painters charged by limb count.

The phrase, 'An arm and a leg,' is much more recent then that. The earliest citation found is from The Long Beach Independent, December 1949:
Food Editor Beulah Karney has more than 10 ideas for the homemaker who wants to say "Merry Christmas" and not have it cost her an arm and a leg.
A more likely explanation is that the expression derived from two earlier phrases: 'I would give my right arm for...' and '[Even] if it takes a leg', which were both coined in the 19th century. The earliest example found of the former in print is from an 1849 edition of Sharpe's London Journal:
He felt as if he could gladly give his right arm to be cut off if it would make him, at once, old enough to go and earn money instead of Lizzy.
Others have suggested it derives naturally from a 19th century expression "if it takes a leg" and the other earlier expression "I'd give my right arm."


Following is a humorous source of this phrase which I can't authenticate:

Adam told god he was lonely, so god said I will create a perfect companion for you who will always look after you, do all the house work, cook all the food, carry your children, look after you when you are sick, love and cherish you always. When you have an argument your companion will always be the first to say sorry because you were right. 
That sounds to good to be true said Adam, how much will this cost me god. 
And god said an arm and a leg. 
so Adam said what can I get for a rib? 
And the rest is History. 

Friday, March 8, 2013

Am I Boring You?



Flibbertigibbet. This musical-sounding word, doesn’t come into use very often. I like the sound of it; it means a chattering or flighty, light-headed person.

A medieval morality play written around 1425, The Castle of Perseverance, records the first instance various forms of the word was used including, flepergebet, flypyrgebet, and flepyrgebet, which were to crystalize later as flibbertigibbet.

In 1603, Samuel Harsnett, used Fliberdigibbet (with a "d") in his hilarious polemic A Declaration of Egregious Popish Impostures to denote not a gossiping fishwife, but a demon.

Shakespeare's King Lear (IV, (1605)) also uses the word.  He is one of the five fiends Edgar claimed possessed him.

A local legend states that Flibbertigibbet was apprentice to Wayland the Smith, and greatly exasperated his master. Eventually Wayland threw Flibbertigibbet down the hill and into a valley, where he transformed into a stone. 

Another historical connection, and likely origin of the word, comes from "fly by the gibbet." A gibbet refers to a platform or cage used to execute criminals. The remains over time would be picked apart by small creatures and birds and thus 'fly away'.

"Fly by the Gibbet" may also have been used as a sailing expression to refer to hoisting the gibbet sail. This is a large sail that can be used when sailing with the direction of the wind to capture as much wind as possible.

In the musical The Sound of Music, the nuns sing "How do you solve a problem like Maria? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? How do you find a word that means Maria? A flibbertigibbet. A will-o'-the-wisp. A clown."

So there you have it—an unusual-sounding word that could have several origins.



Monday, March 4, 2013

come a cropper


Originally, this term was used to discuss a physical fall, specifically from a horse, and over time it was expanded to refer to metaphorical falls.

The phrase is first cited in Robert S. Surtees’ Ask Mamma, 1858: [He] “rode at an impracticable fence, and got a cropper for his pains.”

For the actual derivation we need to consider the nether quarters of a horse - the croup or crupper. In the 18th century, anyone who took a headlong fall from a horse was said to have fallen 'neck and crop'; for example, this extract from the English poet Edward Nairne's Poems, 1791:

A man on horseback, drunk with gin and flip,
Bawling out - Yoix - and cracking of his whip,
The startish beast took fright, and flop
The mad-brain'd rider tumbled, neck and crop!

 'Neck and crop' and 'head over heels' probably both derive from the 16th century term 'neck and heels', which had the same meaning. 'Come a cropper' is just a colloquial way of describing a 'neck and crop' fall. By 1859, the phrase has come to refer to any failure rather than just the specific failure to stay on a horse.

The tall tale about the origins of “come a cropper” involves Thomas Henry Cropper, a man who developed a version of the platen printing press in the mid-1800s. The story goes that over time, all platen presses were referred to as “croppers,” and that someone could “come a cropper” by getting his or her fingers stuck in the workings of the press. While trapping body parts in a press is a very real danger of printing, especially with older presses, this charming story is patently false.




Friday, March 1, 2013

'down to brass tacks'

“Down to brass tacks”:  to get to the heart of the matter – focus on the essentials -  talk about the basic facts of a particular situation.

The phrase was coined in or about the 1860s. The idea of “down to brass tacks” meant “down to the very bottom” was originally based on the tacks in shoe/boot heels/soles.

The first appearance in print found in the January 1863 issue of a Texas newspaper, The Tri-Weekly Telegraph:
          "When you come down to 'brass tacks' - if we may be allowed the expression - everybody is 
          governed by selfishness."

Later it came to relate to the brass-headed tacks used in furniture upholstery.  But only the decorative heads of these tacks are made of brass. In order to re-upholster a chair, the upholsterer would need first to remove all the tacks and fabric coverings, thus getting down to the basic frame of the chair. This hardly seems to match the meaning as the brass tacks would be the first thing to be removed rather than the last.

A second explanation involves the practice of cloth being measured between brass tacks which were set into a shop's counter for accurate measurement. Such simple measuring devices were in use in the late 19th century - shopkeepers used brass tacks to measure the length of a piece of cloth.  Brass tacks along his work table helped him measure the exact amount.

The expression is also often said to be an example of Cockney rhyming slang, meaning 'facts'. In the strange world of Cockney argot, 'tacks' does indeed rhyme with 'facts' (facks), but that's as far as it goes.

Another idea is that during the time of the Civil war, the Adjutant General of the states were required to issue an annual report.  The book included a complete inventory of what is stored in the Arsenal ranging from brass canons, tar buckets, sabers, bridles, muskets.  The very “Last” item on this list is “Brass Tacks”. Brass tacks were put on the soles of soldiers shoes to extend the life of the leather soles. - Pennsylvania Adjutant Generals Report - 1863

The 'fabric measuring' derivation is the strongest candidate.  'Getting down to brass tax,' as it is sometimes referred to appears to be just a misspelling.

Monday, February 25, 2013

"climb on the bandwagon"


 "Climb on the bandwagon" - to join a growing movement in support of someone or something, often in an opportunist way, when that movement is seen to have become successful.

The word bandwagon was coined in the USA in the mid 19th century, simply as the name for the wagon that carried a circus band. The bandwagon was a horse-drawn wagon large enough to hold a band of musicians. 
Circus workers were skilled at attracting the public with the razzmatazz of a parade through town, complete with highly decorated bandwagons.

 In the late 19th century, politicians picked up on this form of attracting a crowd and began using bandwagons when campaigning for office. Political candidates used to ride the bandwagon through town, and those wishing to publicly show their support would climb on the bandwagon.

Although the practice is of some age, the saying itself is first recorded about the Presidential campaign of William Jennings Bryan early in the 20th century. Climbing (or jumping) on the bandwagon was akin to providing your support for this popular candidate

I guess you could say the modern equivalent is the sleek recreational vehicles present-day politicians use to travel about the country electioneering.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Sent to Coventry

To send someone to Coventry is a British idiom meaning to ostracise someone, usually by not talking to them. To have been sent to Coventry is regarded as to be absent.

It is believed that the city of Coventry in the United Kingdom had one of the strictest monasteries, where monks that misbehaved were sent and given the punishment of a vow of silence. therefore being "sent to Coventry" means not being spoken to or communicated with.

Another possible origin of this phrase could quite probably based on events in Coventry in the English Civil War in the 1640s. In the 17th century, when this phrase is supposed to have originated, Coventry was a small town. 

The story - and it is no more than that - is that Cromwell sent a group of Royalist soldiers to be imprisoned in Coventry, around 1648. The locals, who were parliamentary supporters, shunned them and refused to consort with them.

The first known citation of the allusory meaning is from the Club Book of the Tarporley Hunt, 1765: "Mr. John Barry having sent the Fox Hounds to a different place to what was ordered ... was sent to Coventry, but return'd upon giving six bottles of Claret to the Hunt."

In 1811, Grose's The Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue understood the term to mean: “The person sent to Coventry is considered as absent; no one must speak to or answer any question he asks, except relative to duty, under penalty of being also sent to the same place.”

A well-known example of someone being sent to Coventry is Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), after his falling out with the Liddell family.

This phrase was common in industrial disputes in Britain in the mid-twentieth century. in the 1960 film The Angry Silence, Richard Attenborough's character Tom Curtis gets "sent to Coventry" by fellow workers for refusing to go out on an unofficial strike.

Monday, February 18, 2013

"sold down the river"

A phrase meaning to be betrayed by another. The figurative use of the phrase, meaning simply to deceive or cheat, began in the early 20th century; for example, this piece from P. G. Wodehouse's Small Bachelor, 1927:

"When Sigsbee Waddington married for the second time, he to all intents and purposes sold himself down the river."

This phrase originated in the Mississippi region of the USA during slave trading days. Slaves who caused trouble were sold from the northern slave states into the much harsher conditions on plantations in the lower Mississippi.

The earliest reference I can find to the phrase in print is in The Ohio Repository, May 1837:
"One man, in Franklin County has lately realized thirty thousand dollars, in a speculation on slaves, which ho bought in Virginia, and s old down the river."

A courtroom citation comes from a 1910 edition of the Southern Reporter: “Latham was guilty and, should he be a juror, he would send him down the river.”
Why down rather than up? To go down the river, for a slave, is to watch one’s destiny take the darkest imaginable turn.

After the Civil War, these slave-trade expressions adopted other meanings—to be cheated, betrayed, ruined, or delivered into some kind of servitude.
In reference to prison, someone can be sent either “up the river” or “down the river.” 

Apparently the route to prison is a two-way stream. The “up” version, the Oxford English Dictionary says, originally referred “to Sing Sing prison, situated up the Hudson River from the city of New York.” But later the phrase was used more generally to mean any prison.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Can we bury the hatchet?


Ever wonder how the phrase “bury the hatchet” come into use? It's actually an American saying. One source referred to it as:” an Indianism (a phrase borrowed from Native American speech).” How’s that for coining a new word? Hatchets were buried by the chiefs of Native American tribes when they came to a peace agreement. 

Folklore tells us that the term comes from an Iroquois ceremony in which war axes or other weapons were literally buried in the ground as a symbol of newly made peace. To celebrate the new peace, the Iroquois buried their weapons under the roots of a white pine. An underground river then miraculously washed the weapons away so the tribes could never use them against each other again. 

Tradition has it that the practice of confining weapons in the earth originated during the formation of the Iroquois Confederacy, which happened at an indeterminate time before the arrival of Europeans in the Americas. The Iroquois leaders, Deganawidah and Hiawatha, convinced the peoples of the Five Nations - the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca – to put aside their differences and celebrate their cultural and linguistic ties by forming a coalition. 

The first mention of the practice in English is of an actual hatchet-burying ceremony. A translation of Thwaites' monumental work Jesuit Relations, 1644, suggests the practice: "Proclaim that they wish to unite all the nations of the earth and to hurl the hatchet so far into the depths of the earth that it shall never again be seen in the future."

Samuel Sewall wrote in 1680, "I writt to you in one [letter] of the Mischief the Mohawks did; which occasioned Major Pynchon's goeing to Albany, where meeting with the Sachem the[y] came to an agreement and buried two Axes in the Ground; one for English another for themselves; which ceremony to them is more significant & binding than all Articles of Peace[,] the hatchet being a principal weapon with them."

The phrase was used in 1759 by the Shawnee orator Missiweakiwa when it became obvious that the French war effort during the Seven Years’ War (French and Indian War) was collapsing. The Shawnees had sided with the French against the English, but now the Shawnee would "bury the bloody Hatchet" with the English.

Exactly 50 years after the Battle of Little Bighorn, White Bull, a Sioux Indian Chief, and General Edward Godfrey buried the hatchet in the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Garryowen, Montana.

If the phrase is of Indian origin, why "hatchet" and not "tomahawk"? It wasn't always. In 1705 Beverly wrote of "very ceremonious ways to concluding of Peace, such as burying a Tomahawk." But eventually "hatchet" buried "tomahawk";   not inappropriate, since tomahawk is an Algonquian word, not Iroquoian.

Before the end of the eighteenth century, the phrase was extended to include peace between countries, specifically between the U.S. and U.K. In the early nineteenth century, the phrase was extended further to refer to personal or professional relations between individuals, the sense in which it is most widely used today. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Strike While The Iron Is Hot

To strike a hot piece of metal, especially iron, with a mallet or other tool before it cools, while it is still hot enough to be shaped.

Here is another well know saying that is probably baffling to the younger minds. If you’re thinking about an iron used to press clothes, you have the wrong idea. It requires that you have a familiarity to a way of life before the automobile.

This saying comes from the blacksmithing practice of heating up metal and then striking it when it is malleable to shape it. When the blacksmith works with iron, first he heats the iron until it is red hot and soft. Then he immediately hits the iron with his hammer to change its shape. If he waits, the iron becomes cold and hard again, and he cannot shape it.

A person will say it to encourage someone to act decisively and take their opportunities when they arise. The phrase is from circa 1566 in The excellent comedie of two the moste faithfullest freendes, Damon and Pithias written by Richard Edwards. He wrote, "I haue plied the Haruest, and stroke when the Yron was hotte."

Similar proverbs are “Make hay while the sun shines” and “Take time by the forelock.”

One reference I found gave me the following poem as the origin of the saying…but with no accreditation to its creator:
Who enters here intent to dwell
Must guard his kids and good wife well
For the smith must strike while the iron is hot
And knows which is and which is not

One caveat when doing research on the internet. Not everything you find is reliable information. Consider this site:
It listed links to ten other sites, each with different sources of origin of the phrase “strike when the iron is hot.” Which just goes to show—be careful when using a website’s information.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Well...I'm flabbergasted!



Have you ever found yourself flabbergasted? Isn’t that a fabulous word? It’s a very old word first mentioned in a magazine article as a new piece of fashionable slang. Being a writer, I’m interested in words.

Flabbergast is a verb and it means to be overcome with surprise and bewilderment; to be astounded. It turned up in print in 1772, in an article on new words in the Annual Register. (Bet you didn’t know that magazines have been around that long either.)

In 1823, flabbergast was noted as a Sussex word, perhaps from some dialect. Some would suggest that the word is an arbitrary invention suggested by flabby (adj.) or flap (n.) and aghast (adj.). The source of the word’s first part is obscure. It might be linked to flabby, suggesting that somebody is so astonished that they shake like a jelly.

Words sometimes change their meaning over the years. Take the word pitcher. As my husband pointed out to me earlier today, the word pitcher is used in two totally different ways. (He's fascinated by words also.)

Its older usage is as a container with a spout used for storing and pouring contents which are liquid in form. Generally a pitcher also has a handle, which makes pouring easier. Then in 1722, it came into use as a noun to describe "one who pitches," originally of one tossing hay into a wagon, etc. The word became associated with the game of baseball as early as 1845.

Of course, we’ve all heard the proverb "Little pitchers have big ears" The phrase depicts a child as the pitcher with ears hearing what people around them say or do, which is stored inside. The adults are also cautioned that the children might not be as naïve as they perceive them to be.

If you've found my little meandering on words amusung or helpful, I hope you'll leave a comment. Is there any particular words you'd be interested in knowing more about?