Writers and reading

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This post is about, and for writers, for reporters and editors, for book authors and editors, magazine editors, feature writers, layout artists, copy editors and anyone who either fancies themselves one of these, or has the curious desire to become one (curious because, at least for freelancers, it often involves spending more money on books than you get in income…). If you aren’t in that company, you should probably read something else, maybe just watch TV, because it’s going to be boring and a little … click below for more ↓

Fowler for the 21st Century

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On the desk of every writer, every reporter, every editor, every PR director and every communications officer is a small library of reference books. A good dictionary (Oxford, American Heritage, Merriam Webster, Random House but gods forbid, never a generic Webster’s). A thesaurus (likely Roget’s). A style guide (CP for Canadians, or AP for Americans… Canadians likely have both).  A dictionary of quotations (because the print version is reliable as a source, and the Internet isn’t). And a usage guide. That’s de rigeur for these … click below for more ↓

Where Have The Real Heroes Gone?

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Heroes, it sometimes seems, have been relegated to legend and myth. There are none left, none of the sort I used to associate with the name. Not in the media, anyway. The word has been so abused in the media over the last century, tossed about in such a cavalier manner that it has lost its former credit; it has become debased language, its pith cored for showy effect, like glitter, like so many over-used superlatives have been. Its strength drained away. Calling someone a hero … click below for more ↓

The Venereal Game

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The Venereal Game is the provocative subtitle of James Lipton’s 1968 classic, An Exaltation of Larks (reprinted in 1977, and later expanded in the 1993 “ultimate” edition). Venereal, in this sense, comes from venery which in turn comes from the Latin venari, to hunt or pursue, rather from the sexual connotation.* The collective nouns in much of Lipton’s book come mainly from hunting terms (terms of venery), many originating in the 1486 Book of St Albans and similar contemporary works that Lipton documents. Since that publication, creating collective nouns has … click below for more ↓

Prenzie Scamels

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Four hundred years after he wrote them, we still use in everyday speech the many words and phrases Shakespeare coined. He gave us so many, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to list them all here. But two words he wrote have stopped us dead: prenzie and scamels. What do they mean? Were they more of his 1,700-plus famous neologisms like accommodation, castigate, frugal, inauspicious, premeditated and sanctimonious?* If so, no one today knows for sure what prenzie and scamels refer to. Or were they transcription … click below for more ↓

On the hustings

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I’ve been going door-to-door for the past few weeks in my campaign for re-election. Stumping on the hustings, as it’s called in Canada. Or at least that’s how I’ve always heard it used. Hustings is an odd, old word, an anachronism that survives, seemingly, only in the world of politics. It comes from the days when England was a series of small kingdoms suffering frequent invasions by the Danes and Vikings. A few of the old Germanic and Norse words have managed to survive in … click below for more ↓

Ruthful, funct and doleless

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Why can’t someone be clueful, only clueless? Hapful, not simply hapless? Aweless instead of just awful? Ruthful not merely ruthless? Doleless, not just doleful? Gormful, not just gormless? We can be thoughtful or thoughtless, careful or careless, mindful and mindless. Why not ruthful and gormful? Why not the qualities of ruthiness, gormliness and doleliness? Can we be kempt or just unkempt? Couth or just uncouth? Gruntled or just disgruntled? Shevelled or just dishevelled?* Maculate or just immaculate? Domitable, or just indomitable? Ruly or just unruly? Can … click below for more ↓

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