Vicissitudes

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Baby vicuna (related to to the llama. Might be the ancestor of the alpaca). By Thomas Quine (BabyfaceUploaded by Dolovis) via Wikimedia Commons.

It was another day–oddly, only the second one in this year’s A to Z Challenge–where I didn’t have a word pop easily into my head, so I decided to let google lead me again. And I ended up with vicissitudes. Actually vicissitudinous, but given that the definition was: “Characterized by, full of, or subject to vicissitudes,” that wasn’t entirely helpful.

Vicissitudes are ups and downs in various forms, but I like the word as it pertains to life. From our friends at Merriam-Webster:

1 a the quality or state of being changeable mutability
b natural change or mutation visible in nature or in human affairs
a a favorable or unfavorable event or situation that occurs by chance a fluctuation of state or condition 

  • the vicissitudes of daily life
b a difficulty or hardship attendant on a way of life, a career, or a course of action and usually beyond one’s control
c alternating change succession
To use it entirely incorrectly, it seems at this precise moment in time, we are all up to our necks in vicissitudes. That’s that’s not a mixed metaphor; it’s a hard-churned one.
The word itself is as undulating as a snake, especially in its plural form, all sharp, biting S sounds. It holds no clue to its meaning at a glance, yet when you say it, it practically acts it out. Vicissitudes.
A word for our current experience, personal for some, universal for all. Vicissitudes.
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Reeling

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By Rod Waddington from Kergunyah, Australia (White Rhino, Uganda) via Wikimedia Commons

R should be one of the easiest letters on this journey from A to Z. It’s got all the possibilities of a P; all the nuance of an N; all the all of an A. But I had trouble.

Too many choices. In fact, I’m reeling from them (ahh). My fingers wanted to type “realing” from them.

Realing. Another new word my friend who shall remain nameless (Breaker of Things. Wait, I don’t think I did that right), will tell me has already been somehow released into the ether even though I’m the maker-upper of everything. Realing. Verb. Present participle. The act of making something real.

Now I want to change my title. Realing feels so much more stable, more grounded, more together than reeling.

And now you see how we got here.

I’ve always been one of those people who want to know all the outcomes before I start, who wants to make the best possible choice at all possible times (see: post about OK.) And even now, when you know and I know I’m going to chatter on about some nonsense for the length of a post, I feel compelled to make it the best possible nonsense.

Hmm. Yes, you’re right, hypothetical reader. I can see how that sounds.

It is, to throw in another r-word, ridiculous.

Especially when I set out originally to write about reality, which is probably how realing came about. Oh well. Let’s get realing.

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

 

Katzenjammer

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By Harry Whittier Frees [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I was stuck for a K word today, and where in this cruel wordless world would I turn for inspiration but my buddy Google? And Google suggested, among other less intriguing words, this one: katzenjammer.

Any stabs at what it means before we get to that below?

As you might have guessed from my out-of-alphabetical-sequence photo today, I immediately, immediately thought of cats in pajamas when I saw that word. Especially since Google offered it as “katzenjammers.”

Obviously not what it means, but, I mean, how cool would it be if Germans did have a word specifically for cats in pajamas? They gave us schadenfreude, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility.

Here is the definition from Wikipedia:

Katzenjammer German pronunciation:[ˈkaʦənˌjamɐ] is a German word literally meaning “cat’s wail” (caterwaul) and hence “discordant sound”, sometimes used to indicate a general state of depression or bewilderment. It has also been used as a term for a hangover, with the sufferer’s groans of discomfort being likened to a wailing cat.

Apparently there’s also a band from Oslo, Norway named Kaztenjammers, which is kind of an odd name for people who make music, but I guess it’s always good to recognize your limitations.

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

 

The Work of Writing Six: Words

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 Hi writing friends, we need to have an uncomfortable heart-to-heart. Grab your hot mug of morning beverage, or your cool bottle of afternoon beverage or your chilled glass of evening beverage, scoot up a seat, and let’s chat.

As writers, we know words matter. I know I’m not alone in ruffling through my old, yellowed thesaurus, squinting into the distance at words that don’t feel quite right. But those words aren’t the words I mean.

We have an obligation as people who trade in words to choose them responsibly. What does this pithy, blanket statement mean? Let me share an example.

Right now, a New York Times opinion piece called “The Happy Hooker Conservatives” is flying of the shelves of Twitter. Effective phrase, right? You know exactly what the writer means by the headline, don’t you?

Except.

Here’s the problem. This headline normalizes and utilizes a demeaning view of women to make its point. The conservatives mentioned are morally tainted, it says. But how does it say that?

By making the assumption that a “Happy Hooker” is morally tainted. We’re not going to get into the views of sex work here, there are entire books on the subject, but isn’t there another way to get the point across without using a negative view of women as the baseline?

Our casual language is packed with words and phrases that originate in insult. Most of the time, we never stop to think about what else a word can mean or how it came to be.

As writers, it’s our job to think. And to choose better words.

For more on my thoughts about Charlottesville and rising bigotry, please read An Open Letter to My Friends of Color.

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

Peruse Montraps Publishing.

 

#AtoZChallenge: Yet

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Yellow-eyed penguin. By Michaël CATANZARITI (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I love the word “yet.” It’s merely three letters, but it can contain so much: waiting; hope; wistfulness. Excess; overindulgence; lack of control. A catch.

What it can’t contain is my second cup of coffee, which I haven’t had…yet. So give me a second and I’ll be right back.

And here I am as I plunk down yet another cup of coffee.

See what I mean?

With “yet,” it may not have happened, but it doesn’t mean it won’t. That tiny word can change a moment of finality to a moment of poor timing. It’s a miniature powerhouse, but it does carry the risk of overuse.

Still I wouldn’t give it up.

Not yet.

Have a dusty, unfinished manuscript you need to work on? Join us in May for #MAYkingItWork! Commit to a project and commiserate with us!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

 

#AtoZChallenge: Xanthous and Xyloid

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Xerus © Hans Hillewaert / , via Wikimedia Commons

For the last two years, when it came to X, I’ve cheated. I admit it. I’ve found weaselly ways to get around the most challenging letter in our alphabet.

Not this year.

I’ve picked a pair of words, neither of which I knew before I perused my handy thesaurus. Do you know them? Here, before we get to what they mean?

I think they sound like a couple of characters in a fantasy novel, Xanthous and Xyloid, an oafy pair, Xanthous huge and unwieldy, Xyloid smaller, more dexterous, but every bit as dull. Massive long arms, skin a murky green, Xanthous and Xyloid were sent by their village chief on a quest.

Mainly to get them out of the village, because the cost of fixing the stuff they wreck is really adding up.

Interestingly, spellcheck doesn’t think either one is a word, so today we are all smarter than spellcheck. Ready for definitions? Here we go. Xanthous means blonde or fair; xyloid means having the characteristics of wood. Outside of a Scrabble board, these words probably won’t get used terribly much, as it’s much easier and clearer to say “blonde,” and much more fun to describe the characteristics of wood.

Besides, I prefer my duo of trouble-prone dolts.

Have a dusty, unfinished manuscript you need to work on? Join us in May for #MAYkingItWork! Commit to a project and commiserate with us!

Check out  my full-length novels: 

Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only)   

Aunty Ida’s Holey Amazing Sleeping Preparation (Not Doctor Recommended) 

 Her Cousin Much Removed

 The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management.

And download Better Living Through GRAVY and Other Oddities, it’s free!

 Sign up for my spamless newsletter!

 

Don’t Ever Doubt the Power of Words

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As writers, words are our tools, words are our materials, words are our product. Words can feel impermanent, nebulous. But don’t be fooled, not for a moment.

Words can change the world.

Words have changed the world. Words can be strung together in ways that ring throughout time, throughout history, until the words themselves become the history. Words can breathe life into a possible future far from the present in which they were spoken.

Words can tell us of a dream.

Today we honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose beautifully shaped words changed people’s idea of what was possible. Thanks to this man and his words, my life is  a wonderfully colorful place where I can connect with other people without a thought to skin color or religion or any of the other categories that are used to divide us.

Through a speech that lives on and on, he painted a picture of this future, which formed my current reality. Now is very different from then. That is what words can do.