Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Well, carry me out with the tongs! Slang-o-rama and an Award nomination

I received a pleasant surprise early this week: The seventh Silver Rush mystery Mortal Music is a finalist for the Left Coast Crime's 2021 Lefty Award for Best Historical Mystery Novel!

I'm pleased, thrilled, honored, and yes, a mite astonished! I'm also tickled pink that I get to rub elbows (virtually only!) with the other Lefty Historical finalists—all wonderful people and writers:

You can view a list of all the Lefty Award finalists for all the categories here. Awards will be presented on April 10.

And yes, this is a combo Slang-o-rama post because Carry me out with the tongs! is...

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... an exclamation of surprise dating from 1927, according to Words and Phrases from the Past. Since it appears in The Facts on File Dictionary of American Regionalisms (Facts on File Library of American Literature) by Robert Hendrickson, I think we can safely assume it is a regional expression. More than that, I cannot say... 


Do salad tongs count?

 


Wednesday, January 6, 2021

News Flash: Silver Rush book #8 has a title!

 Taking a break from Slang-o-rama to announce some bookish news: the eighth book in my Silver Rush historical mystery series has a title!

THE SECRET IN THE WALL

Photo by Ann Parker
Location: Bodie, California

It's early 1882 in San Francisco, and Inez Stannert has forged a partnership to purchase an abandoned house that needs work, but has "good bones." Renovations begin, and, uh-oh, what do they find lurking in the darkness and the shadows, behind the weathered planks? I'm not telling, because...

... it's a secret. 😉

Look for THE SECRET IN THE WALL to come your way in February 2022, courtesy of the good folks at Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of Sourcebooks

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Nanty narking

So how many of you will be celebrating the end of this (pretty awful) year with nanty narking?

Hmmm. I'm not seeing a lot of hands going up. Perhaps I should define my terms.

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According to Passing English of the Victorian era: a dictionary of heterodox English, slang and phrase by James Redding Ware (1909), nanty narking is a bit of slang dating from 1800 meaning "Great fun." Although the entry references Life in London: Or, The Day and Night Scenes of Jerry Hawthorn, Esq., and His Elegant Friend Corinthian Tom, Accompanied by Bob Logic, the Oxonian, in Their Rambles and Sprees Through the Metropolis by Pierce Egan (1821), I am unable to find nanty narking within its (digital) pages.

My hardcopy of Green's Dictionary of Slang provides the same brief definition and reference, so I'm going to just give it up at this point. My nanty narking on Dec. 31 will probably consist of watching a movie and then heading to bed early with hopes of a better tomorrow. How about you??

Back when, they were serious about their nanty narking.
(From Egan's Life in London)



Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Crawmassing

So, after you scurryfunge about (see last week's Slang-o-rama entry) and the wintry celebrations have come and gone, it may be time to engage in a little crawmassing. Which is ye olde English word meaning...

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(at least according to the BBC, which should know these kinds of things)...

[T]o go around begging gifts at Christmas. It also means to gather up, or go through the remnants of a festive feast.

Crawmassing also appears in an article in The Independent, "11 Christmas words the English language has forgotten," with a little bit about its (possible) origin:

Gathering up or going through the remnants of a Christmas meal is called crawmassing. It’s probably based on comassing, an earlier word referring to someone who begs from their friends or neighbours rather than strangers.

It would be nice to know when crawmassing came into being, but the road to knowledge about this word is more like an overgrown deer path in the woods, and I couldn't find much more.

Oh well. I have presents to wrap and consumables to fix for Friday, and crawmassing to look forward to on Saturday. I'd best get busy!

Now this has excellent crawmassing potential.
Image by vivienviv0 from Pixabay

Wishing happy and healthy holidays to you and yours this season!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay



Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Scurryfunge

 

Scurryfunge is a perfect slang-o-rama word for the winter holidays... although maybe not for this year. Read on and you'll see why...

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According to the site For Reading Addicts, this marvelous word means to rush around the house, cleaning up, before company arrives.

With many of us hunkering down in pandemic mode, there's probably not going to be much scurryfunging around, unless we feel compelled to straighten up for those in our "bubble" (or for those areas that appear in our Zoom screens).

Wordfoolery suggests the following etymology:

Scurry is a well-known verb to indicate rushing, particularly of the mouse variety. Funge is a bit trickier to track down but the best guesses relate to changing something, in this case from being messy to being superficially tidy and ordered.

It might be... Middle English? Old English? Favorite Forgotten Words pulls up a date of 1882. I can't find it at all on Google Ngram. StackExchange has an interesting conversation about the word here

Hmmm. 

Well, while scurryfunging around, I like to listen to music for the season. Right now, I'm partial to the carol "The Holly and the Ivy." (Holly and ivy being associated with winter celebrations long before Christmas, according to this post on The Conversation.) So, here's a little musical interlude to hum along to as you scurryfunge.


Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Calling dibs!

 How many of you remember calling dibs in your youth? In our family of four kids and two adults, "I call dibs!" was a common refrain when it came to, oh, who got the first bowl of popcorn on Friday night (anyone else remember Jiffy Pop?) or who opened the first present on Christmas day. (In our family, we took turns opening presents vs the "everyone simultaneously rip and tear" process employed by others.)

So what are dibs? Where did the word come from, and how long has calling dibs been around?

I call dibs on finding out!

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According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, dibs, in the sense of taking a claim, has only been around for a century plus a bit:

dibs: children's word to express a claim on something, 1915, originally U.S., apparently from earlier senses "a portion or share" and "money" (early 19c. colloquial), probably a contraction of dibstone "a knuckle-bone or jack in a children's game" (1690s), in which the first element is of unknown origin. The game consisted of tossing up small pebbles or the knuckle-bones of a sheep and catching them alternately with the palm and the back of the hand.

Knuckle-bones of a sheep? Ick! But probably folks in 1690s viewed such things differently. Merriam-Webster also has a post on the history of dibs. This post notes that dibs is an obsolete verb, which means (or meant) "to dab" or "to pat." M-W also traces the word to the game of dibstones, but the route from that to the current definition of "to claim something" is unclear:

...It's likely that the game allowed a player to gain privileges over their opponents if the dibs went a certain way. Another theory is that dibs was influenced by dubs, a shortened form of double that is used in the game of marbles as an exclamation to declare one's right to two marbles knocked outside the ring of play. If dibs came to be used in a similar way, it is possible that its meaning broadened over time to convey the more general sense of "rights" or "claim" that it possesses today.

M-W also explores the 19th-century U.S. slang usage of dibs to mean "small amounts of money," hypothesizing:

The path from the "dibstones" dibs to this "money" sense is unmarked—but, undeniably, any game of chance does entice betting. It does seem plausible that the "money" sense influenced the word's application to a "portion" or "share," as recorded in an 1859 dictionary of American thieves' cant entitled Vocabulum, or, The rogue's lexicon and compiled by George W. Matsell.

I checked the Vocabulum, and although I found dibs listed and defined as "money," I didn't find any elucidation of the word's origin.

I finally turned to World Wide Words, which said (in part): 

I’ve read half a dozen explanations of where this one came from, and in every one there’s a howling great gap where we might expect historical continuity.

Oh well. If WWW shrugs, I guess I will too!

Dibs? Who knows?
Image by Robin Higgins from Pixabay 



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/.

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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.