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!



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:

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: 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…