Belated WIX: It’s Raining Female Trolls

In English it could either be raining cats and dogs, a turtle floater or a frog strangling gully washer! But in Europe it seems the most common to remark on the heavy rain as from buckets, basins, tubs and jugs, though the Czechs get a bit pushy with a wheelbarrow. The  Dutch and Swedes speak of rods and pipe stems. Much like the French, Germans and Turks with ropes, cords and strings, and the Greeks with chair legs.

The Afrikaans may have personalized the Welsh (old ladies and sticks) with Ou vrouens met knopkieries reen: it’s raining old women with knobkerries (clubs).

But I really enjoy the Swiss German: Es schiffet wiä d’Sau! because of the historical reference for schiffet: In olden times, noble women didn’t wear undergarments (gasp!), and when they needed to urinate, servants gave them a container shaped like a little ship (Schiff is German for ship). So the English translation becomes ‘pee like a sow’.

More humorous examples:

Catalan: Està plovent a bots i barrals / it’s raining boats and casks (barrels)

Danish: Det regner skomagerdrenge / it’s raining shoemakers’ apprentices

Irish (Gaelic): Tá sé ag caitheamh sceana gréasaí / it’s throwing cobblers knives

Norwegian: Det regner trollkjerringer / it’s raining female trolls

Estonian: Sajab nagu oavarrest / it’s raining like from a beanstalk

In any case, I just wish it would!

More at Omniglot: http://www.omniglot.com/language/idioms/rain.php

WIX: Rating of Olympic Proportions

So thrilled the wonderful volunteers at Rate Your Story, a free service, liked the badge I created for the Writing Wednesday Series.

Any writer can submit their work to be to be read by a published author volunteering to rate your story on a scale of 1-10. Only Rate Your Story’s interpretation differs from the familiar scoring method we all know from watching the Olympics: 10 is the lowest score. And when I say we, I mean the whole wide world – or almost. This makes the method universally acknowledged, which I find fascinating! Surely, you say, there is still someone out there who has never seen the Olympics live or broadcasted. Okay, but don’t exceptions prove the rule?

Baaaeeehhh! That’s the buzzer going off identifying the misuse of this English idiom, which, according to Wikipedia was taken from the medieval Latin legal principle exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis, or “the exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted”. Still confused? Well I used it in a ‘loose rhetorical sense’, pointing out the rarity of someone not having experienced the Olympics in some way, not that there is any established rule.

Quite a few Europeans agree that a truth is truer if it is sometimes false, all claiming that exceptions confirm the rule. German: Ausnahmen bestätigen die Regel; Dutch: Uitzonderingen bevestigen de regel; French: L’exception confirme la règle; Czech: Výjimka potvrzuje pravidlo.

Seems there are truths universally overlooked too!

WIX: Footloose and Fancy Free

Way back in the 16th century “fancy” meant love. In the 17th century “footloose” meant you were free to go anywhere.

On the fourth of July in the United States we celebrate Independence Day and our freedom. So today I ask, how footloose are we when our government can and does restrict the freedom to go anywhere. Especially Cuba.

Ordinary citizens cannot just hop on a plane headed directly to Cuba. Actually it is not technically illegal, but unless you are a journalist, a student obtaining credits or are a Cuban-American visiting relatives you are prohibited from spending money there.

You may have heard that President Obama made a few changes in policy earlier this year and now the Treasury Department can again grant “people-to-people” licenses, which President George W. Bush had stopped issuing in 2003. Now in order to go you have to sign up with a licensed operator who has to apply for and be issued said license. Ah, but the Treasury Department has guidelines: the tours must “have a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities that will result in meaningful interaction between the travelers and individuals in Cuba.” You can’t bring back any famed cigars or rum for Uncle Bill either.

So, if your feet are restless to experience the forbidden fruits of a 50 year embargo, learn the steps of the traditional Cuban Habanera: the pace is slow and the movements are delicate.

Click to view One Dance, One Song – La Habanera a film by Pascal Magnin, embraces my intentions in spite of it being filmed in Buenos Aires and interpreting Bizet’s aria from the opera Carmen.

Happy Fourth! And know your freedoms!

Related and interesting articles:

New Ways to Vist Cuba – Legally by Michelle Higgins

How Free Are We? By Tishani Doshi

How Free Are We?? by Toritto


WIX: Three is a magic number

Yes, it is. It’s a magic number. Even the Germans think so: Aller guten Dinge sind drei. All good things come in threes.

The Schoolhouse Rock writer Bob Dorough knew it. Students know it, and if you think in green tones you know the three R’s, different but useful too.

Novelists and lyricists use the ‘rule of three’: Dickens had three spirits visit Scrooge, and some of you may recall Tony letting Dawn know how often to knock on the ceiling. Fairy tales are loaded with threes: the bears, their chairs, the pigs, their digs, the goats, their horns. Ha! Gotcha! But admit it, you were ready to go along with three because it feels right. Fairies, genies, and leprechauns offer as many wishes – if you catch them first.

Julie Hedlund, fearless leader of the 12x12in’12 Challenge, is now offering a three-pack of picture book manuscript critiques: better to woo an agent with.

If, like me, you find yourself revising a manuscript (more than three times!) remember three can be funnier, more satisfying, and heck, even advertisers know it’s more effective! So quit procrastinating, unplug the internet and get your rear in gear.

On the count of three…

WIX: Aporia

Aporia, a Greek adjective pronounced a-po-ree-a, is used to describe a feeling you get when you are at loss in a situation.

Again, I found this one in Christopher J. Moore’s fascinating book In Other Words: A Language Lover’s Guide to the Most Intriguing Words Around the World. These days, I figure, the citizens are tired of it. I feel for them, I really do, and hope they do well to help boost morale. But who shall I root for on Friday when Greece heads into the quarter finals against none other than their EU-opposers – Germany. Yes, I am talking about Eurocup 2012, again! I tend to want the better team to win, but in this case I am unentschieden, (undecided – a tie in sports) which just might be what I could feel good about!

There is no equivalent for the word compromise, reaching an agreement with some give and take, in Arabic, but they do have  taarradhin [tah-rah-deen], used to imply a win-win situation where no one has has to lose face.

I would be happy with a state of harmony…a union!

WIX, IF and Day Two

The IF (Illustration Friday) word this week is : hurry, but I find myself making haste…slowly. It being Wednesday I thought I’d see how to catch up with something other than get a move on, hurry up…shake a leg!

Mach’ hin, komm schon…beeile Dich! Make finished, come already…hurry yourself! Dépêche toi, vite, vite…allez! Hurry yourself, quick, quick…go! Jahela! in Zulu, Opskud! in Afrikaans, or  in Dutch schiet op…haast je! , shoot up… make haste!

Nice, but no spark yet. So what about shake a leg? Did that sweep in off the dance floor where we hear it now? I found something a bit more macabre:

During the American Civil War after a battle to sort the dead from the wounded a soldier learned to move or wave one of his arms or legs by himself to indicate to the stretcher-bearer that he was alive. After a time, the stretcher-bearers would first yell to the piles of bodies “shake a leg or arm” as they approached. After a time, the shortened “shake a leg” began to be used in any situation where one wanted to rouse someone to action. click here for more

Of course the Brits are having none of that: it was the order given to sailors to put a foot from their hammocks and get up. Check out more nautical terms and sayings from a document to be found at goatlocker.org Under Navy Jobs, Navy Terms.

I can’t decide what to believe, but I haven’t got all day! Which brings me to Day Two of the 15 Habits of Great Writers Challenge because great writers believe in themselves. Jeff Goins insists you need to believe deeply that you are a writer, so we (all 958 participants) are challenged today to marinate in the thought – then we get to wake up two hours earlier tomorrow morning and grill our tasty morsels with uninterrupted writing! Well, no one else in the house will be up with me at 5, but the dog may have to be let out…in a hurry!

Belated WIX: Prendere in Giro

It’s Thursday, late again. Scusi.

We all like to make fun, tease or pull someone’s leg. And I am a well known sucker. Yep, I fall for everything!

Hold on though, the Italians like to spin or take around. Or even give you a drink: cercare di darla a bere. Either way you may have difficulty walking a straight line afterwards!

German’s will take your arm: auf den Arm nehmen; a well-mannered jest!

The French come closer to taking you for a ride: faire marche, though you’ll have to walk! (Or hitch a ride with the Swedes: driva med nån). They might put more effort in it and play a trick on you:  jouer un tour à vous which directly translated is play a turn. That could make you dizzy too!

Finally, if you’re goofing with friends in Argentina you might want to keep your hat on: Tomarle el pelo a alguien so the don’t drink your hair!

WIX: The Dream of Cats Is All About Mice

cats, dogs, Arabic, idioms, Julie Rowan-ZochI thought the English translation might snag more interest over the original Arabic: hilm il-‘utaat kullu firaan.

In the pre-modern Middle East region cats maintained a high standing, higher than dogs anyway. At times dogs were hung or buried with the corpses of rebels and dissidents as an expression of contempt. No sharing living spaces with the religiously observant either. Bad dog! This prejudice has survived and owning one is still frowned upon.

Back to cats, though not yet to those dreaming of mice: in 13th century Cairo Mamluk sultan al-Zahir Baybars kept a garden for pampering purring pets. Even into the 1830’s the British orientalist E.W. Lane observed  that people still brought baskets of tasty treats for the cats in the garden of the High Court, fulfilling  obligations of the sultan’s endowment for his feline friends.

Muslim scholars wrote odes in honor of the protectors of their precious books from critters…such as mice. There are thousands of mystical Sufi stories including cats. They were famous in Islamic art; Muslim calligraphers used brushes made of the fur of long-haired cats – some bred just for this purpose.

Cats! Cats! Cats! But what does the idiom mean, you say, as I lead you astray? Exactly what I’ve been telling you: to have a one track mind!

WIX: Better Late Than Never

Okay. It’s Thursday, but…better late than never!

Looks like just about everyone has the same thing to say, but look at the fun patterns when placed together !

Icelandic: betra seint en aldrei

Norwegian: bedre sent enn aldri

Swedish: bättre sent än aldrig

Danish: bedre sent end aldrig

German: Besser spaet als nie.

Dutch: beter laat dan nooit

Afrikaans: Beter laat as nooit

French: Mieux vaut tard que jamais.

Italian: Meglio tardi che mai

Spanish: mejor tarde que nunca

Portuguese: antes tarde do que nunca

Croatian: bolje kasno nego nikad

Latvian: labāk vēlu nekā nekad

Czech: lepší pozdě než nikdy

Polish: lepiej późno niż wcale

Estonian: parem hilja kui mitte kunagi

Finnish: parempi myöhään kuin ei milloinkaan

W.I.X. : It’s All Greek to Me

I recently used this phrase in a picture book draft on Day 5 of NaPiBoWriWee. The number five inspired my foray into non-fiction:  a picture book exploring the Pentagon, (from the Greek pentagōnon). The word is a metonym, used like Washington is when the U.S. government is implied, or Hollywood for the film industry (also used to diss cookie-cutter happy endings).

Back to the Greek (which metonym stems from): a somewhat Ionic (or Corinthian) reply when something incomprehensible had been uttered instead of the more Doric “Huh?” or “Wha?” So who said it first? I’ll put my money on a Latin-speaking Roman on his high horse saying, “Graecum est; non legitur” (“it is Greek, [therefore] it cannot be read”).

On my first search attempt I found this GREAT site: Omniglot: the online encyclopedia of writing systems and languages. Where you can find translations from Arabic to Yiddish. It seems most cultures hear some other language when spoken as gibberish, but I need to award a gold-star-sticker to the silliest sounding translation from the Cebuano-speaking people of the Philippines, referring to Chinese: Ching chong ching chang ching! (Got that one from Wikipedia!)