SkADaMo 28 and WIX

The first time David saw him again Mr. Peggoty offered what he could. “I’ll tell you Mas’r Davy,’ he said, – ‘wheer all I’ve been, and what-all we’ve heerd. I’ve been fur, and we’ve heerd little; but I’ll tell you!” -Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

Shortly thereafter Mr. Peggoty took up his search again. In Hindi one might say he had a hundred thousand heads – doggedly persistant!

WIX: Doldrums and SkADaMo 21

Poor Wickfield is down in the doldrums: ( in the dumps, down in the mouth – feeling sad and lacking the energy to do anything, filled with melancholy and despondency. Not that I know if Dickens used the term, but he describes Wickfield’s depression well with the following sentence: “When he came in, he stood still; and with his head bowed, as if he felt it.”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge used it in Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner. But whatever is a doldrum? To find out we must turn to the sea. According to Wikipedia:

The doldrums is a colloquial expression derived from historical maritime usage for those parts of the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean affected by the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are calm. The low pressure is caused by the heat at the equator, which makes the air rise and travel north and south high in the atmosphere, until it subsides again in the horse latitudes. Some of that air returns to the doldrums through the trade winds. This process can lead to light or variable winds and more severe weather, in the form of squalls, thunderstorms and hurricanes. The doldrums are also noted for calm periods when the winds disappear altogether, trapping sail-powered boats for periods of days or weeks.

The term appears to have arisen in the 18th century (when cross-Equator sailing voyages became more common). It is derived from dold (an archaic term meaning “stupid”) and -rum(s), a noun suffix found in such words as “tantrum”.

In the Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster, it’s a place, inhabited by the Lethargarians who do nothing all day. Maybe not quite the same place Mr. Wickfield find himself.

Another term we don’t hear much, outside of literature, is crestfallen: “Tom’s cheeks burned. He gathered himself up and sneaked off, crushed and crestfallen.” (Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876).

Please don’t let this WIX post, or the turkeys, get you down!

PS: Bea Bellingham, a fellow SkADaMoer in Australia, is featuring my work on her blog today, for Spotlight Wednesday.

WIX: Turkey Tidbits to Whet the Appetite

Where did the bird get it’s name? According to numerous sources, the wild turkeys that the colonists encountered were believed to be guinea fowl, otherwise called turkey fowl, which had been brought to England from Africa through the country of Turkey (in the Turkish language spelled Türkiye, pronounced tuhr-key-yeh).

Idioms: To go cold turkey means to quit abruptly anything one is accustomed to. To talk turkey probably first meant to speak agreeably, say nice things, but now refers to speaking frankly or getting down to business.  A turkey shoot is an opportunity to easily take advantage of a situation. The following is new to me – don’t even know if it’s still used in Britain or Australia – but it was meant to be funny: like turkeys voting for (an early) Christmas; If people are like turkeys voting for Christmas, Americans can guess, they are ready to sit back and let bad things happen to them.

Another morsel to chew on: how might America have behaved throughout history had Ben Franklin actually objected to the Bald Eagle (who has been known to steal from fellow raptors) as the national bird, and made the suggestion he mentioned in a letter to his daughter?  “For in Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America… He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on.”

A Halloweensie Contest and WIX Twist

Susanna’s Rules for the Halloweensie contest: write a 100 word Halloween story appropriate for children, using the words witchbat, and “trick-or-treat. Check out other Halloweensie Contest entries at

I’ve been going door-to-door dressed in costume with an open bag for treats most of my life – okay I have enjoyed the custom most of my life! I even got married on Halloween (Happy 21st, hon!). And I’ve only just read that this practice has a name other than ‘trick-or-treating’: guising. Ha! Learn something new every day! New words should be applied freely so as to cement them into one’s vocabulary, so I thought I’d have a little trick-twisting fun with idioms and sayings:

A half truth is a whole guise. (off a Yiddish proverb)

A truth that’s told with bad intent beats all the guise you can invent. (Sorry Bill! ~William Blake, “Auguries of Innocence,” Poems from the Pickering Manuscript)

A guise may take care of the present, but it has no future.  (Author Unknown; if you know, tell the author to drop a line!)

Fit to be guised.

Early to bed, early to guise

Guise to the challenge!

One guise fits all.


That’s about the guise of it!

Also have to mention a Halloween PB – too delightful to pass up!

Author: Harriet Ziefert
Illustrator: Simms Tabak
Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2007
Age level: 2 and up
Opening: If one little witch meets one little witch, that makes…two little witches going trick or treating.
Why I like it: As you can see on the cover, one little witch is a bit suspicious of the other little witch as they meet their dressed-up friends. A little spooky and a lot of fun, with delightful illustrations from the late Simms Taback, who created over 35 picture books, winning the Caldecott Medal for Joseph Had A Little Overcoat and a Caldecott Honor for There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. Do try an all time favorite of mine Kibitzers and Fools: tales my zayda told me.

Happy Halloween!

WIX: Bats in the Belfry

Halloween approaches, slowly creeping, ever slowly…

GOTCHA! Actually, the supermarket got you first!

This time of year brings out the crazies, and I look forward to getting older for just that reason – madness that can be dismissed with age! “She’s got bats in the belfry!” they’ll cry out as I skip by in my rain boots and bathing suit! In Germany one could say “Sie hat nicht alle Tassen im Schrank.” She doesn’t have all her cups in the cupboard. In England or Australia you might hear “off her chump“. I get the meaning, but on its own ‘chump’ means an ‘idiot’ or ‘fool’. So, to follow my sidetracked mind, I swooped around the internet and found and extracted this from The Word Detective:

The initial meaning of “chump” when it first appeared in print in 1680 was “a lump of wood chopped or sawed off a bigger piece,” i.e., an end-piece or trimming. The source of “chump” is, alas, uncertain, but one possible source is an Old Norse word “kumba,” meaning “block of wood,” perhaps influenced in English by the form of such words as “lump” and “stump.” In the 19th century, “chump” was used to mean the blunt end of anything (“As if they had been unskilfully cut off the chump-end of something,” Great Expectations, Dickens, 1861), as well as being slang for the human head.

Hope that doesn’t set me up for the follow-up cry at my passing: “Off with ‘er ‘ead!



WIX: Bring to the Table

Food for thought: Recently a friend mentioned that her Alma Mater had once renamed a celebratory picnic because of the word’s origin. The reason? It’s alleged ties to the slave trade. I was dumbfounded! Never had I heard this before! I asked if she had checked it’s etymology and she hadn’t – she believed that if an institution of higher learning were to go that far it must be true. I have been astonished by the truth behind word origins before, but this one ate at me. So I dug in!

Wikipedia does not mention such a connotation at all, but traces the word back to the 1692 edition of Tony Willis, Origines de la Langue Française. Marking the first appearance of the word in print, it mentions pique-nique as a term “used to describe a group of people dining in a restaurant who brought their own wine. The concept of a picnic long retained the connotation of a meal to which everyone contributed something.”

So what frightened university officials? A claim had spread on the internet that picnic was a shortening of ‘pick a nigger’ and referred to an outdoor gathering where families enjoyed boxed lunches while a randomly chosen black man was hanged.

A research fellow in African-American Studies at the Smithsonian, Dr. Alonzo Smith, has debunked this in detail, including the following comments:

To attempt to tie lynchings to family outings, where food was served, is to misunderstand the real nature of these events. Rather, they were outbreaks of mass white hysteria, and attempts by groups of Whites to terrorize and brutalize the entire Black communities where they occurred. Often, they were motivated by alleged acts of violence by Blacks against Whites, alleged disrespect and other breaches of Southern racial “etiquette,” and on many occasions, victims were chosen at random. Although women and children were frequently present, it is more accurate to view these events as collective psychotic behavior, rather than family outings.

I take great pleasure in words and their connotations, as well as a good potluck. What do you bring to the table?

IF: Mirror and WIX: See Eye to Eye

Similarities and differences: In German we could be of one opinion: einer Meinung sein, or we agree: uebereinstimmen. But I’d like to dissect that one, break it into parts: over-one-voice, but that’s not what we would equate with a voice-over. In France one might try to see things with the same eye: voir les choses du même oeil; which reminds me, to keep an open mind I ought to ‘walk in another man’s shoes’, once in a while!

Pop over to Illustration Friday for other ‘Mirror’ interpretations

WIX: Election Fever

Keeping today’s post patriotic, I took the opportunity to bring to mind  words you could refer to for creative commenting on tonight’s debate:

Hot air, empty talk, baloney?

Balderdash, bunk, bull?

Drivel, poppycock, twaddle?

Rubbish, debris, refuse?

Horsefeathers, hokum, hooey?

Or just plain hogwash?

Don’t slip on the soap, boys!

WIX: Water Under the Bridge

Recently the sister of a German friend was visiting from the Old Country (I love saying that!). We were all speaking German, two of us throwing in bits of English. For those who speak more than one language, and have lived in another country, you get accustomed to this ‘misch-masch’, as well as throwing in idioms from the other language, as happened last Friday. “What is water under the bridge?” the sister asked. At this point I remembered how absurd some common idioms sound to the foreign ear. “Well, just that which has passed is in the past. No need to fret over it if you can’t change it.”

As I ready myself for my first writer/illustrator conference (just 2 more days!), I consider the fact that I am no tadpole. Yet earnestly I prepare to greet the tumultuous PB industry head on. I know the traditional industry is is an odd position of uncertainty , and that chances of success can be likened to water cupped in a hand. The time of youthful vigor cannot be reclaimed, and I may be diving in a bit late, but I have lived in the water and learned. The more I write the more I am aware of my storehouse of experience and ideas, and the more I create the more confident I feel about my style. And the wiser I become the more I am unafraid, the more I realize there is to know, and the more I welcome what I can learn.

How old am I? Old enough to stop fretting!
And by the way, the Germans would say, it’s just “Schnee von gestern”, snow from yesterday.

WIX: That smarts!

I dedicate this post to Beth Stilborn, writer of picture books, middle-grade and adult fiction, and ‘engine’ for the online Children’s Book Hub. She recently posted a photo that made me say “ouch” out loud (hope it feels a little better now). Searching for an equivalent I found the exclamation uttered with sudden pain (or the thought of it) is almost universal, and no matter where, or with whom you may find yourself there is probably no mistaking what is felt!

Hungarian: aú

French: aïe

German: aua

Catalan, Estonian, Finnish, Galician, Portuguese: ai

Spanish: !ay, or uy!

Albanien: uf

Japanese: あっ! (A), or あう (Au)

Arabic:  أخ (aakh)

Swedish: Aj

Croatian: jao, avaj

Dutch, Norwegian, Romanian: au

Philipino: aray (ah-wry)

Maltese: aħħ, or ajma (ay-ma)

Iranian: ai, ooi, au, akh, oof

Thai:  โอ้ย “oy”

Polish: auć (sounds like ouch’! ) or ała

Indonesian: aduh

Italian: ahi

Chinese: 哎哟 aiyo, or 哎呀 aiya

Hebrew: !איי(aay)

I wouldn’t know how to pronounce this, or even if it is quite correct, but this is what I found for Tamil, spoken in southern India and north-eastern Sri Lanka:

திடீர் என உண்டாகும் வலியை உணர்த்தும் சொல்

I wonder if this sounds as long as it looks!

Beth is also promoting International Dot Day: Every year on September 15, innovative educators around the world celebrate International Dot Day by making time to encourage their students’ creativity. – click for more info