Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Agog about award noms

 I missed a week of Slang-o-rama, and I blame it on being agog re: nominations left and right. 'Tis the season when various organizations start putting forth their nominees for various awards, and I always devour those lists avidly. But before I offer the ones that have me all agog, let's take a quick Slang-o-rama look at (you guessed it!) agog...

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The Online Etymology Dictionary has this adverbial entry:

agog: "in a state of desire; in a state of imagination; heated with the notion of some enjoyment; longing" [Johnson], c. 1400, agogge, probably from Old French en gogues "in jest, good humor, joyfulness," from gogue "fun," which is of unknown origin.

Wiktionary also defines the Old French en gogues as "in a merry mood" and also points to the Italian agognare (“to desire eagerly”). Plus, it additionally defines the adjective agog to mean wide open (eyes), which is actually the definition that first popped to my mind. Merriam-Webster also has a very nice entry that dives a little deeper into the word and provides adjectival synonyms "eager," "agape," "astonished," bustling," and "replete." MW also provides different "first use" dates, with 1663 as an adverb and 1664 as an adjective. 

Now, to the lists!

Nominees for various mystery/crime fiction/nonfiction awards are starting to roll in:

  • Nominations for the Mystery Writers of America Edgar Awards are here
  • Left Coast Crime has its Lefty Award nominees here (and to add excitement to my agog, THE SECRET IN THE WALL is a nominee for the Lefty award for Best Historical Mystery!)
  • Malice Domestic has announced the nominees for the Agatha Awards here
Congratulations to ALL nominees, everywhere, and a special shout-out to good buddy Mary Anna Evans who is up for an Edgar and an Agatha for her nonfiction book The Bloomsbury Handbook to Agatha Christie, co-authored with J. C. Bernthal. 

A good place to get the latest greatest news in the mystery corner of the world is Janet Rudolph's Mystery Fanfare blog (plus Janet runs fun cartoons that make me laugh, such as this one about the difference between dogs and cats.)

Stepping out of the world of mystery, let's not forget the Oscar nominations! Along with being an avid reader, I love movies, and am glad to see some of my favorites from last year listed. If you have any favorite films you're agog over, leave a comment and let me know...

Eyes all agog (and a marvelous hat!), circa 1880
By C & R Lavis, Eastbourne - Family collection, Public Domain, Link

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Raining pitchforks

 And the deluge continues in California. A few years ago, I did a Slang-o-rama dive into the phrase raining cats and dogs (check it out here). I wracked my brain for another "holy cow, that's a lot of rain" idiom, and thought of raining pitchforks. Having pitchforks thunder down from above sounds pretty dangerous... So let's see what I can find...

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The Free Dictionary simply lists it as an "old-fashioned" phrase meaning "to rain very hard and heavy." In its entry on "raining cats and dogs," Wikipedia mentions raining pitchforks along with raining hammer handles as phrases of unknown origin that may have been used just for their "nonsensical humor value." I turned to Google Ngram to get an idea of how far back this expression might go, and saw a fair representation of appearances in books from the 19th century.

Google Ngram results for "raining pitchforks"

Digging around a little more, I found the phrase raining pitchforks in The Love Life of Brig. Gen. Henry M. Naglee, in a letter he wrote to a sweetheart during the Civil War, dated March 15, 1862. (You can view the passage here.) Curious about the book, I turned to the introduction and discovered these letters were published by the recipient, actress Mary Schell, who later sued Naglee for "breech of promise." Hmmmm. I then turned to the Wikipedia entry on Naglee and discovered that he had a strong connection to San Francisco. What serendipity! So, down the rabbit hole I go, while it continues to rain pitchforks outside...

Cozy inside, raining pitchforks outside (Photo: Ann Parker)



Wednesday, January 4, 2023

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Batten down the hatches

 Big storm a-brewing in Northern California, so I have been busy running around, trying to batten down the hatches here at home. Although I'm not entirely sure what "batten" refers to. Slang-o-rama to the rescue!

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As you might know/have guessed, the phrase batten down the hatches, which means prepare for troublehas a nautical background. The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms notes:

This term originated in the navy, where it signified preparing for a storm by fastening down canvas over doorways and hatches (openings) with strips or wood called battens. [late 1800s]

Jeez, I sure hope I'm not going to need canvas. Or sandbags or battens. Because I don't have any! (But I do have a flashlight.)

For all those in the path of this "bomb cyclone," I hope you are off the roads and staying cozy, safe, and dry. Hats off (and rainslickers on!) to first responders/emergency services personnel, who are no doubt facing a busy night tonight...

Ship in the Stormy Sea, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1887)


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Give it a whirl

 Here comes 2023, ready or not. Either way we have no choice but to give it a whirl.

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To give something a whirl means to "make a brief or experimental try," at least according to The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. The Online Etymology Dictionary has the following to say about the noun version of the word whirl

early 15c., "flywheel of a spindle," from whirl (v.). The meaning "act of whirling" is recorded from late 15c.; figurative sense of "confused activity" is recorded from 1550s. Colloquial sense of "tentative attempt" is attested from 1884, American English. 
The origin of the phrase seems somewhat elusive. Some musings over at The Phrase Finder link it to the spinning of a roulette wheel or to a Colonial-vintage toy, the whirlygig. The Idioms Dictionary suggests it has to do with spinning about while wearing a long dress with a full skirt:
...While the phrase “giving it a whirl” can be similar to “giving it a go” or “giving it a try,” the actual origins of it are quite interesting. Indeed, the first use of “give it a whirl” was in the middle to late 19th century. During the mid-Victorian era in America, the technique involving a woman in a long gown starting to whirl her dress on the dance floor with a specific movement was quite a spectacle. The revealing of a girl’s ankles and lower legs was sure to attract more attention in the 1850s, as the culture started to become less strict as far as dancing and activities during a dance were concerned.
The phrase “give it a whirl” has evolved from the whirling of an actual dress to taking on an unfamiliar, daunting, or intimidating task.

 Whether the phrase originated from a toy, a twirling dress, a game of chance, of something else entirely, we've no choice this weekend but to step out of 2022 and give 2023 a whirl, daunting though that may be. 

Here's wishing everyone a great start to the new year!

via GIPHY

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Pull out all the stops (and, yes, music)

We are now in the thick of the winter celebratory season. Do you like to curl up and quietly meditate and hibernate at this time, or are you someone who pulls out all the stops and parties nonstop?

Speaking of pulling out the stops...

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The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer has this to say about the phrase:

pull out all the stops: Use all the resources or force at one's disposal... This term comes from organ-playing, where it means "bring into play every rank of pipes," thereby creating the fullest possible sound. It has been used figuratively since about 1860.

But why use it figuratively, when we can go with a literal musical compilation of Christmas-themed organ music? So, here you go, courtesy of Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford (England): 45 minutes of Christmas Organ Music from December 16, 2020.

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Slang-o-rama fa-la-la and more music (golden oldies)

Christmas is breathing fa-la-la down my neck and all I want to do is watch movies. (Am I the only one who longs to escape into a fictional world right now?) But first, let's check out fa-la-la...

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I wondered if fa-la-la was a bit like do-re-mi, and I guess I was in the general neighborhood with that thought. According to Newberry research fellow Katie Bank, "Non-lexical vocables—your fa-la-la’s and hey-nonny-no’s—didn’t originate as nonsense filler-syllables for brightening up a song. In Renaissance England, they were used to advance a song’s satirical critique of society or as a lyrical surrogate for something that couldn’t be expressed explicitly." You can listen to her podcast about the history and legacy of non-lexical vocables on her website here.

And when you're done with that...

... you can listen to an hour of holiday music sung by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, etc., by clicking on this link

True "golden oldies." Enjoy!



Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Slang-o-rama nostalgia (with music!)

 Ho ho ho and no no no... December is upon us and gaining speed! So today I'm offering up a Slang-o-rama  holiday entry from the past, plus another YouTube musical compilation.

In December 2020 we took a look at scurryfunge (a word which is just a relevant this year as it was waaay back when in the pre-pandemic era).

If last week's post featuring 10 Hours of Christmas Music wasn't enough for you, just click this link for "Top 100 Country Christmas Hits." 

May it put a smile on your face and music in your heart...