Wednesday, December 2, 2020

You Talking to Me? by Guest Author Camille Minichino


Please welcome today's guest, author and good buddy Camille Minichino, she of many authorial pen names, including her latest, Elizabeth Logan. Her (that is, Elizabeth's) newest book is FISHING FOR TROUBLE in her Alaskan Diner Series. For more about Camille and her work, check out her website at http://www.minichino.com/.

----------------------------------------

One great thing about Ann Parker's Silver Rush blog is that even a part of speech is acceptable for a topic. Guests like me don't have to come up with a thesis sentence or ten pages on Compare and Contrast, as if we were back in English 101.

We don't even have to stick to mysteries, which gives me permission to talk about a work of nonfiction: "The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words say About Us," by J. Pennebaker, a social psychologist and language expert.

 Doesn't that sound worthy of a blog hosted by an author who slings words around magically, transporting us flawlessly to another century?

I was especially interested in Pennebaker's chapter on how men and women "speak" in books and movies. Which writers have both men and women sounding like men? (Shakespeare and Quentin Tarantino, it turns out.) Both men and women sounding like women? (Gertrude Stein and Woody Allen.) Men sounding like men and women sounding like women? (Sam Shepard and Thornton Wilder.)

Now I need to know where my books fit. Do my female characters use more personal pronouns, as suggested by Pennebaker's research? Do my male characters shy away from social words, in favor of action words?

My research for dialogue doesn't involve computers as Pennebaker's, but I do try to pay careful attention to the patterns of men and women of all ages and walks of life—the ones who populate my life, anyway. I query a friend's 35-year-old son ("Do you call everyone 'Dude' even when I'm not around?"); my 50- to 60-year-old friends ("How much Net Lingo do you use in everyday life?"); and my 9-year-old grandniece ("What do you say when you think something is pretty? ugly? tastes bad?")

I'm luckier than Ann Parker, of course, since she can't eavesdrop or quiz folks like Inez Stannert and her crew. But maybe she's the lucky one—the language of 1880 is not going to change. It is what it was, to twist a popular phrase, whereas my techie buddies might come up with a new word or phrase before I finish my query.

Consider Net Lingo, characterized by abbreviations and acronyms, such as LOL and BTW and IDK; letter/number homophones—gr8 and b4; nonstandard spelling, like luv and cuz. I fully expect one of my younger relatives to LOL when I use ROTFL past its prime.

Wonder if the use of the subject pronoun will go the way of romance languages, thus disrupting Pennebaker's thesis. I often sign off an email, "Hope all is well." In Italian, "I hope" is simply "Spero." No one uses the "io" for "I."

Like most readers and writers, I enjoy the endless discussions of words, their origins, their evolution, and their telltale patterns.

I wonder if writers of an earlier day fooled anyone by using initials only, or pen names of the opposite gender? Or were readers counting the number of personal pronouns in George Eliot and saying, "Aha! Too many I's and we's. I'll bet this is really a woman."

Camille's second Alaskan Diner mystery FISHING FOR TROUBLE is now available!
Read more about it and find "buy" links here.



Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Merrythought

 I was searching for something appropriate for (U.S.) Thanksgiving Day, when loyal Slang-o-rama reader Liz V pointed me toward a great blog post 11 charming old slang words you can use this Thanksgiving. So, in the spirit of the holiday, I am bringing merrythought to the table for your etymological consumption.

>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>

Acccording to the post, merrythought, meaning wishbone, dates waaay back to 16th century England and eventually made its way to the U.S. (New England and Virginia). The term eventually died out late 19th century, replaced by the current wishbone. The post noted a this from 1708: “the Original of the Name was doubtless from the Pleasant Fancies, that commonly arise upon the Breaking of that Bone.”

World Wide Words agrees, with an aside about wishbone:

The name of wishbone comes, of course, from the folk custom in which two people hold its ends and pull, the one left with the longer piece making a wish. Merrythought refers to an older version of the custom, in which it is assumed that the one left with the longer piece will get to marry first. So the bone-pulling ceremony resulted in what were euphemistically called "merry thoughts" among those taking part.

Wishing you and yours a safe and peace-filled Thanksgiving, whether you have a merrythought to pull or not!

Thankful for family, friends, turkey, and pumpkin pie!
Image by J Lloa from Pixabay



 

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Hey, Rube!

 Now don't get all huffy on me here. Hey, Rube! is not a slam on anyone. It is actually a call for help.

I'm not kidding.

>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
And neither is Wikipedia.

>
>
>
>

According to that august depository of information, Hey, Rube! is....

... a slang phrase most commonly used in the United States by circus and traveling carnival workers ("carnies"), with origins in the middle 19th century. It is a rallying call, or a cry for help, used by carnies in a fight with outsiders. It is also sometimes used to refer to such a fight: "The clown got a black eye in a Hey, Rube." 
In the early days of circuses in America (c. 1800–1860), it was very common for carnies to get into fights with the locals as they travelled from town to town. Circuses were rowdy, loud, and often lewd affairs, where country people could gather, blow off steam, and voice political views. Mark Twain's classic description of a circus and other shows in his 1884 novel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn provides illustration. It was a rare show that did not include at least some violence, and this often involved the members of the circus. When a carnie was attacked or in trouble, he would yell "Hey, Rube!" and all carnies in earshot would rush to his aid.

According to Wikipedia, the phrase originated in 1848 in New Orleans when a member of a circus troupe was attacked and yelled for his friend Reuben to come give him a hand. Apparently the phrase is still in use in modern theaters when performers want to alert security.

My hard copy of Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang by J.E. Lighter agrees, noting that Hey Rube! used to summon help, and also is used to indicate a brawl, "especially between circusmen and townsmen." The term has broadened to also mean an uproar or argument, in general.

And to think, it all started at the circus.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons




Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Cockamamie


I was looking for a silly word for this week because it's all been tooooo serious for tooooo long out in the real world, so cockamamie it is!

In my mind, I hear my mother saying this word with great scorn in her voice. So, now I'm wondering: How far back does it date? 

Let's check it out!

>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
The definition of cockamamie is "mixed-up, ridiculous, implausible," according to The Online Etymological Dictionary. This source goes on to say:

American English slang word attested by 1946, popularized c. 1960, but said to be New York City children's slang from mid-1920s; perhaps an alteration of decalcomania (see decal). There is a 1945 recorded use of the word apparently meaning a kind of temporary tattoo used by children.

Wow, that's a strange connection! And, given that my mother was born in the 1920s, it makes sense it would pop up in her vocabulary. 

World Wide Words agrees (with some reservation) with OED, providing a connection to Brooklyn:

The link between decalcomania and cockamamie isn’t proved, but the evidence suggests strongly that children in New York City in the 1930s (or perhaps a decade earlier) converted the one into the other. There was a fashion for self-decoration at that period, using coloured transfers given away with candy and chewing gum. Shelly Winters wrote of cockamamie in The New York Times in 1956 that “This word, translated from the Brooklynese, is the authorized pronunciation of decalcomania. Anyone there who calls a cockamamie a decalcomania is stared at.

(Quick question to myself: Have I used cockamamie in my fiction? Quick check-and-answer: No! ... Good thing, because my series takes place from 1879 to the 1880s. I see that decalcomania, on the other hand, was part of the U.S. lexicon by 1865. Hmmmm.)


Cockamamie may be relatively new, but decalcomania goes waaay back!
By H. Wilson - appeared in Trow's New York City Directory, 1870
Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69889168

ADDENDUM:
And thanks to Liz, I can offer you "Cockamamie Business" by George Harrison for your listening pleasure!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Loose cannon

 

Having just wrapped up the 8th book in the Silver Rush series and rushed it off to the editor, I'm still awash (so to speak) in nautical slang, all while watching the election returns. I was looking for an idiom that might bridge the two worlds, and fell upon the phrase loose cannon.

Want to guess the etymology of that one?

>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>

From the Online Etymological Dictionary:

[I]n the figurative sense "wildly irresponsible person, potent person or thing freed from usual restraint," by 1896; in the literal sense an object of dread on old warships; the figurative use probably arose from a celebrated scene in a popular late novel by Victor Hugo: 
"You can reason with a bull dog, astonish a bull, fascinate a boa, frighten a tiger, soften a lion; no resource with such a monster as a loose cannon. You cannot kill it, it is dead; and at the same time it lives. It lives with a sinister life which comes from the infinite. It is moved by the ship, which is moved by the sea, which is moved by the wind. This exterminator is a plaything." [Victor Hugo, "Ninety Three," 1874]

Slinging Mud: Rude Nicknames, Scurrilous Slogans, and Insulting Slang from Two Centuries of American Policies by Rosemarie Ostler, credits Theodore Roosevelt with making this phrase popular around 1901. At a dinner one evening at his brother-in-law's house, while speculating on life after his term was up, Roosevelt apparently remarked, "I don't want to be the old cannon loose on the deck in the storm." Ostler also references Victor Hugo's novel Ninety-Three, so I think we'll let the laurels rest with Hugo...

Cannons: dangerous enough when fixed in place, but even worse when loose!
"Three ships offshore firing cannons." Gouache copy of 17th Century Netherlandish painting. http://www.abbottandholder-thelist.co.uk/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=91348813

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

A Tasty Treat for Halloween, courtesy of Camille Minichino

 With Halloween around the corner, my dear friend and fellow author, Camille Minichino, offered to share a special "finger cookie" recipe. Perfect for a little ghoulish delight!


Finger Cookie Recipe, by Camille Minichino

I cheated (which I usually do at cooking) and started with a roll of cookie dough that's in the refrigerator section of the supermarket. I chose peanut butter because it’s smooth.

Step 1. Instead of cutting the dough as directed, lop off pieces and shape into a long skinny "fingers." The first time I tried this I made the shape too wide and got very, very fat fingers. [You'd think I'd know about thermal expansion.] A roll about the diameter of a pencil works well.

Step 2. Place the fingers on an ungreased cookie sheet. Stick a slivered almond slice into one end of the finger—lo, a fingernail!

Step 3. Squeeze red frosting (another cheat, using a readymade tube) on the opposite end from the nail. If you lay the fingers out facing the same way, you can just run a line of frosting down the sheet, capturing all the fingers with one swoop.

Step 4. Bake according to package directions and SERVE.

Dare I say... Finger-lickin' good??

Wishing you and yours a safe and sane Halloween!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Revisiting "Ghouls and Vampires (not what you might think!)"

 Throughout October I'm pulling up some previous slang-o-rama posts appropriate for the month. Enjoy!

In the mid-1800s, ghouls and vampires were not the neighborhood kids in costume, demanding treats, nor were they beings from beyond, come to haunt the living.

Noooooooooo. Not even close.

Instead, the 1859 Vocabulum; or The Rogue's Lexicon by George W. Matsell provides these equally scary (but very different) definitions...
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
GHOULS. Fellows who watch assignation-houses, and follow females that come out of them to their homes and then threaten to expose them to their husbands, relatives, or friends, if they refuse to give them not only money, but also the use of their bodies. 
VAMPIRE. A man who lives by extorting money from men and women whom they have seen coming out of or going into houses of assignation. 

Boo! ... Can you say "entrapment?"
(Caricature of notorious New Orleans prostitute Emma Johnson, from "The Mascot", 21 May 1892. Johnson is depicted in a window with a fan, with tentacles reaching out to the sidewalk entrapping passers by, including men, an old man, an adolsecent boy, and a young woman. By Staff of "The Mascot", New Orleans [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)


So, back then, if a ghoul or vampire were to come knocking at your door, demanding that you (shall we say) "pay up," I'm afraid a chocolate bar or Jolly Roger would not suffice...