Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Low Down Dirty Vote Vol. 3: The Color of My Vote is OUT

The third volume of the Low Down Dirty Vote anthology is out, and, as one of the contributing authors I can assure you that it's a doozy, from cover to cover! Here's a quick summary pulled from the IndieBound site (where you can also buy a copy from your favorite indie bookstore):

This charity anthology includes 22 stories of crime and suspense by 22 authors: many award-winners, some publishing for the first time in a short story anthology. The publisher donates 100% of the proceeds to Democracy Docket, an organization that is successfully fighting against voter suppression in the United States.
Authors from the US, India, Germany, and the UK have crafted visions of the past, present, and future of democracy with tales that range from comic to tragic and from cozy to noir. You'll also find a few stories blended with science fiction, horror, and fantasy. Each author shares their take on the theme: the color of my vote. We know it shouldn't matter, but somehow it still does.
Cover by Devyn McConachie

Click on the links below to learn more about the anthology, its stories, and its creation:

Finally, you can view the two Crowdcast videos recorded on book-launch day, May 15, in which some of the authors talk about their stories and why they wrote them: 

These sessions were recorded and are now available for viewing.

For more information about the three anthologies and buy links, check out the Low Down Dirty Vote site.

P.S. My modest offering for this third anthology is a story titled (ahem) "Winning by a Whisker: A Paw-litical Tale." Yes, puns abound in this little narrative about dog owners and cat owners squaring off in a (purely fictional) small town over an upcoming mayoral election. 


Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Squinchy

 If something makes you feel squinchy, what does that mean? The word itself has a sort of visceral sound to me, making me think of a vague nausea, a twisting of the stomach. But oddly enough....

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... it has more to do with the face than the gut.

According to Merriam-Webster, squinch has a couple of general definitions. As a verb, squinch means to screw up the eyes or face, or squint, or to make more compact or to crouch down or draw together. As to its origin, Oxford Lexico offers that this version of squinch dates to early 19th century and might have originated as a blend of "squeeze" and "pinch."

But there's more.

Squinch can also be used as a noun. In this case, says M-W, a squinch is (and I quote) "a support (such as an arch, lintel, or corbeling) carried across the corner of a room under a superimposed mass."

 Ooookay.

After reading that, I needed to find some visual examples of architectural/engineering squinches, because I had absolutely no idea what this definition meant. Thanks to Wikimedia, I found a drawing of a squinch...

A squinch!
Pearson Scott Foresman, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

...and a lovely photo of a brick-and-tile-decorated squinch.

A decorated squinch!
Andrehmarouti, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Oxford Lexico notes that squinch as a noun is a late 15th century alteration of the obsolete word scunch, which is an abbreviation of scuncheon, which, according to Collins Dictionary is "the inner part of a door jamb or window frame." Collins goes on to add that scuncheon dates to 15th century and is from the Old French escoinson, and, oh dear, I'm stopping here, because I'm starting to feel a little squinchy.

Definitely squinchy...
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels



Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Spill the beans

 I think most folks know that to spill the beans means to "disclose a secret or reveal something prematurely." (The Free Dictionary) But do you know when (and how) the phrase originated? Well, guess what. Even the experts aren't certain.

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According to a post in The Phrase Finder, some think it has to do with a voting system used in ancient Greece:

The story goes that white beans indicated positive votes and black beans negative. Votes had to be unanimous, so if the collector "spilled the beans" before the vote was complete and a black bean was seen, the vote was halted. 

However, the post goes on to note that the idiom first popped up in the early 20th century in the United States, so its origin is probably more recent as well. According to The Phrase Finder, the phrase originally meant something akin to "spoil the beans" or "upset the applecart" and appeared in a June 1908 issue of The Stevens Point Journal (which I can't access to verify, alas) as follows: 

Tawney, when he came to congress, wasn't welcomed within the big tent. He had to wait around on the outside. Then the blacksmith [Jim Tawney] got busy. He just walked off the reservation, taking enough insurgent Republicans with him to spill the beans for the big five.

In October 1911, The Phrase Finder found the idiom used to mean "upset a previously stable situation by talking out of turn" in The Van Wert Daily Bulletin (again, I can't access the archives of this paper to verify):

Finally Secretary Fisher, of the President's cabinet, who had just returned from a trip to Alaska, was called by Governor Stubbs to the front, and proceeded, as one writer says, to "spill the beans." 

So, ancient Greece or early 20th-century US of A? You choose! The Online Etymological Dictionary also places first use of this phrase in the 20th century, giving a 1910 date for use in the sense of "spoil the situation" and 1919 for meaning "reveal a secret." 

 And for those of you who are thinking, "Isn't there a game involving spilling beans and such?" Yes indeed. Don't Spill the Beans was a board game in the 1960s, with newer versions since then. Here's a link to a Board Game Archaeology video on YouTube showing the 1967 game and how it's played.

"Come come, dearie... Spill the beans, dish the dirt."
"This is the 19th century and I have no idea what you're talking about."
 "



Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Flype

 I was paging through The Little Book of Lost Words by Joe Gillard when I bumped into flype and wondered, "What is THAT?"

The answer lies below (keep scrolling)...

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According to Gillard, flype (pronounced flahyp) is a 17th-century verb of Scottish origin that means "to roll up your socks before putting them on. To fold socks inside out in pairs. To fold something back."

How lovely! As a connoisseur of socks (the more colorful the better) I am pleased that there is a word so specific to sock-care.

Ah, but a quick look around the internet reveals more... SO much more... for flype.

Wikipedia notes that, in the mathematical theory of knots (!! I had no idea there was such a field), a flype is "a kind of manipulation of knot and link diagrams used in the Tait flyping conjecture." 

Whaaaat?

Okay, I can't just stop there.

Clicking the link on the Tait flyping conjecture (whoever writes these Wikipedia entries has my everlasting admiration) leads to the following: 

The Tait conjectures are three conjectures made by 19th-century mathematician Peter Guthrie Tait in his study of knots. The Tait conjectures involve concepts in knot theory such as alternating knots, chirality, and writhe. All of the Tait conjectures have been solved, the most recent being the Flyping conjecture.

Alternating knots! Chirality! Writhe! I am dazzled anew!

But I mustn't get sidetracked from the Flyping conjecture, which is explained in a subsection of the main article. However, it all gets pretty mathematical at that point, so I'll simply borrow the diagram that shows flyping as applied to a knot

A flype consists of turning a tangle, T, by 180 degrees.
By Jkasd - Own work, Public Domain
https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3872115

The "See Also" section of this Wikipedia entry on provides links to prime knot and tangle, and at this point, I am thinking about knots and tangles and shoelaces and wondering if I am digressing into the realm of messy shoelaces vs neatly folded socks...

I'm gonna flype these babies after I wash them.



Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: All in

 I'm baaaack from the Malice Domestic mystery convention and, whew, I have to say I am all in, as in "tired, exhausted" (Merriam-Webster, Entry 2 of 2, Definition 1). All in also means "fully committed or involved in something," which I get. But how/when did it come to mean just. plain. beat...?

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I'm not the only one wondering, and The Grammarist addresses this very question, saying:

According to [Eric] Partridge’s Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, the term “all in” is a colloquial expression that originated on the floors of stock exchanges in the mid-19th century. If the market was “all in,” it was down or depressed; if it was “all out,” it was rising or inflated. By extension, the term “all in” was borrowed in the early 20th century to mean “exhausted” or “used up” in reference to people or animals who were verging on collapse.

Okay, that origin story makes sense to me. However, The Grammarist then says (essentially) "not so fast": 

... The Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang has a somewhat different explanation: “all in” originated at the card table. If you were “all in,” you were broke (that is, out of money), because you had already put all of your money in the pot. So you couldn’t play anymore.

The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer says this expression for exhaustion appeared in the last half of the 19th century, with the gambling reference first recorded in  1907.

The New Yorker did a deep dive into all in and its relation to politics in the 2015 article Going All In on "All In," noting:

In American usage, the phrase “all in” began as a colloquial expression meaning to be in a bad spot—exhausted, worn out, and spent. In the game of poker, it refers to the moment when a player—whether out of bravado, recklessness, or desperation—bets all of his or her chips on a single hand... Whereas “all in” once referred to a scenario in which someone either wins a hand or loses everything in a flash, now it means that a person is simply generally enthusiastic or fully committed. It’s everywhere these days—business jargon, marketing catch phrases, sports mantras, and the idioms of religion and self-help. The all-in moment in poker is a thrilling win-or-lose-everything crisis of dramatic clarity: you’ve wagered all you’ve got, giving your fate over to the cards, and you can’t go back out again. Going all in is often a spectacularly bad idea. But in life, it seems, it is all good—the only way to live boldly is to be all in on many different things at once. ... 

Whereas “all in” once referred to a scenario in which someone either wins a hand or loses everything in a flash, now it means that a person is simply generally enthusiastic or fully committed. It’s everywhere these days—business jargon, marketing catch phrases, sports mantras, and the idioms of religion and self-help.

The all-in moment in poker is a thrilling win-or-lose-everything crisis of dramatic clarity: you’ve wagered all you’ve got, giving your fate over to the cards, and you can’t go back out again. Going all in is often a spectacularly bad idea. But in life, it seems, it is all good—the only way to live boldly is to be all in on many different things at once.

And with that... I'm definitely all in

Naptime!
Repose by John White Alexander, 1895


Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Let the chips fall where they may

Let the chips fall where they may sounds like a phrase that's a kissing cousin to when the chips are down, but not so!

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Merriam-Webster  defines let the chips fall where they may as "to allow events to happen without trying to change them —usually used to suggest that one is willing to accept a result, whatever it may be."

The Grammarist provides some background and dates it to the late 1800s:

The unspoken sentiment in let the chips fall where they may is that one has done everything possible and is at peace with the consequences, or one has acted in good conscience and in line with one’s morals and is at peace with the consequences. Let the chips fall where they may is an American idiom that came into use in the late 1800s and refers to wood chips scattering as one chops wood. The image is of one concentrating on the work at hand, not on the inconsequential chips of wood.

I thought it might have to do with playing cards, or gambling (different sort of chips), and over at The Phrase Finder, someone else thought the same thing in this short exchange. But it looks like it all comes back to hacking away at wood with an axe. One commenter noted:

...You can see where the idea came from in a 14th-century proverb: "Hew not too high lest the chips fall in thine eye." Today's advice is to pay attention to the hewing (the task at hand) and not worry about what happens to the chips. Roscoe Conkling, a political boss and U.S. Senator from New York, said in a speech in 1880, "He [President Grant] will hew to the line of right, let the chips fall where they may."

How nice that there's a quote from 1880 using the phrase! 

And a big THANK YOU to reader/commenter Liz V., who just pointed me to the awesome country song "Let the Chips Fall" performed by Charley Pride. Click below, listen, and sing along, if you wish...





Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Wednesday's Random Slang-o-rama: Hat trick

When I hear the phrase hat trick I think of the "Rocky and Bullwinkle" cartoon series and what happens when Bullwinkle tries the old magic "pull a rabbit out of my hat" trick. Summary: He attempts many times, without success. (See video below for that particular bit from the early 1960s series.)

So, what about hat trick? Old? New(ish)?

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According to Mental Floss and a few other places, hat trick is closely tied to the sport of cricket, from 1858, where it was used when a team won three consecutive wickets. From there, the term meandered over to other sports, particularly ice hockey, to mean scoring three goals in one game. 

Well, shoot, what about the "pull a rabbit from a hat" hat trick? When did that definition come into being? The Online Etymology Dictionary has a pretty thorough entry, part of which I will cheerfully copy/paste here:

hat trick: ...the term probably has been influenced by the image of a conjurer pulling objects from his hat (an act attested by 1876). The term was used earlier for a different sort of magic trick:

Place a glass of liquor on the table, put a hat over it, and say, "I will engage to drink every drop of that liquor, and yet I'll not touch the hat." You then get under the table; and after giving three knocks, you make a noise with your mouth, as if you were swallowing the liquor. Then, getting from under the table, say "Now, gentlemen, be pleased to look." Some one, eager to see if you have drunk the liquor, will raise the hat; when you instantly take the glass and swallow the contents, saying, "Gentlemen I have fulfilled my promise: you are all witnesses that I did not touch the hat." ["Wit and Wisdom," London, 1860]

So this drinking hat trick dates to 1860, eh? I'll have to find somewhere I can use this in a book!