W4W: Why a lady should beware rabbits and flattery

rabbit-30534_1280

Image: Pixabay

 

I’m pretty rubbish at flattery.

I enjoy dispensing compliments, don’t get me wrong. If I see a fellow human of the female persuasion and she looks particularly glorious, I’ll tell her so – spread the love about her fetching scarf / jacket combo. I don’t do this with men, though – no man wants a forty something woman telling him she likes the snug fit of his suit. That would be creepy.

There are times I have to remind myself to say something complimentary if it’s expected of me …

For instance, when my son was a baby, several people said we should take him to a modelling agency – the kid loved the camera and he photographed well. Is he good looking? Well, I’m his mother, so couldn’t possible give you an unbiased opinion on that one.

We never did take him to an agency – we found the idea of selling our baby’s looks a little distasteful – but when other parents said something along those lines (‘Ooh, he’s going to be a heartbreaker, isn’t he?’ ‘Watch out for that one when he gets older,’ etc) I’d feel under pressure to reciprocate.

The parent would fix me with a cool eye, as if to say,

Well, come on, then. Tell me mine’s gorgeous too.

Sometimes this was easier than others. A lot of babies are okay – some are adorable. And yet others are …

Jeez! Let’s hope you have a FANTASTIC sense of humour, kid.

And I’m a rubbish liar. Faced with a tasteless frock, a laughable hairdo – or a pig ugly baby – I’ll mumble something unconvincing, give a pale attempt at a smile and run away, claiming I’ve left the gas on or have to go shave my legs before a race of small mammals mistake my body hair for a cosy thicket.

I am no

HONEYFUGGLER

According to the Dictionary of Regional American English, it means to ‘deceive by flattery’. Other variations include

honeyfackle

honeyfugle

and honeyfogle all of which are equally amazing.

The dictionary states it could be from the English

Connyfogle.

Now I knew coney was an old word for rabbit. But according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, connyfogle is a play on how similar coney sounds to an old word for female genitalia. The only meaning I can find for fogle on its own is an antiquated term for handkerchief (Fogle hunter being a pick pocket.)

But connyfogle  has nothing to do with lacy nose wipers (or for wiping any other part of the body, you’ll be relieved to learn) as it means

 “to deceive in order to win a woman’s sexual favors”.

Yeah. Never been any good at that one either.

***

With thanks to Kat, the originator of W4W

 

Why Christmas is a time for horny devils

christmas-520946_1920

Image: Pixabay

It’s that time of year again.

The Advent calendar’s out, our’s being a felt hanging with numbered pockets which I’m expected to fill with chocolate every night up until the ‘Big Day’ (because, according to my son, carrot sticks and tiny boxes of raisins are ‘not appropriate things to wake up to in December’. Fussy.)

I keep eyeing the ‘Christmas box’, that treasure trove of shimmering nonsense filled with glass teardrops and stars and snowflakes, wondering if I need to buy more fairy lights – even though we have a couple of strings of white, three multi-coloured, one green – because you can never have enough lights up, can you?

And I’ve spent this morning searching the net, ordering books I can collect from bookshops and DVDs straight from the BBC, just so that I can avoid using that global behemoth named after a big, sweaty jungle, because they don’t pay their taxes, the grabbing devils.

And all the while I’m doing this, I am NOT thinking of a monster. This monster does NOT have long, matted hair and cloven hooves and a protruding, serpentine tongue. He does NOT have long, twisted horns and thick chains binding him. He does NOT have a basket on his back and does NOT have a tall, kindly bishop in a red gown as his best mate.

 In fact, the creature I am NOT thinking of does NOT look like this – 

krampus-1054885_640

Image: Pixabay

But if I was an Austrian child, and Christmas was just round the corner, maybe that’s exactly who I would be thinking of.

Today’s Wednesday Word Tangle is

KRAMPUS

Good word, isn’t it? According to National Geographic, it comes from krampen, the German word for claw.

In several parts of Europe, dear old Krampus is a friend and opposite number to Father Christmas. Whereas in many parts of the world, if a child is on the naughty list, they’ll find a lump of coal in their stocking or nothing at all, our Germanic cousins had to up the ante.

If you’re bad in Austria and Bavaria, Krampus will come to your house, swishing his bundle of birch twigs.

He will hunt you down.

He will snatch you up.

He will stuff you in his basket …

And he will deliver you to HELL!

Ooookay, then.

This grim edge to festive cheer should surprise no one. Germany also brought us Grimm fairy tales, which included such classics as

The Girl Without Hands

Godfather Death

And the snappily titled

Wie Kinder Schlachtens miteinander gespielt haben (in English somthing like The Children Who Played Slaughtering) in which children murder each other as part of a butchering game.*

Makes you grateful for the invention of the Playstation.

I’m guessing this demonic, pre-Christian scare-monger was invented to ensure children behaved themselves and I’d applaud that intention – if it wasn’t evident that German children are no better behaved than any other nation’s kids.

Though, if threat of a six foot Devil means I can put carrot sticks in that Advent calendar … 

***

 

*This story is no longer included in collections of Grimms’ tales – I wonder why …

With eternal gratitude to Kat, the founder of W4W

 

 

 

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Krampus

Cocaine, Chinese doctors and Quakers: What we can learn from advertising.

Mmmm. Cocoa. Image: Pixabay

Mmmm. Cocoa.
Image: Pixabay

What do you do for fun?

Slip into your smoking jacket, kick off your slingbacks, and have a Banana Daiquiri or two? Dance the night – early morning, mid-morning – away at the local discotheque, wearing your favoured pink body glitter and little else? Go for an invigorating bike ride along the canal path, picking blackberries and fishing for shopping trolleys?

Know what I did over the weekend?

I strolled through the backstreets of old London town…

Dodging the costers with their carts and steaming horse apples*, I marvelled at the shipbreaker’s yard, complete with its reclaimed figureheads, bristling with peeling masts, wheels and helms. I wandered around the East End, past the pawnbrokers, Sieberts the German bakers, the children’s homes and alms-houses. I became lost in the dingy warren of winding alleys and side streets around the Thames, and under the tunnel of rickety walkways, web like connections between the biggest warehouses in the city.

And I did it all without leaving my sofa.

I was reading Images of Lost London 1875 – 1945 by Philip Davies, photographs of a capital now lost to slum clearance, bombing and thoughtless post-war redevelopment.

The book reminded me of how much I love old photographs, especially ones from the nineteenth-century when the practice was still a novelty (you find huddles of people just standing and watching the cameraman) and exposure times were long (there’s many a ghostly image of people caught walking through the shot).

The pictures I pored over longest were those of corner and grocer shops, with windows crammed with boxes and advertising and it’s only when you see images like this you realise how long some of our familiar, store cupboard brands have been around.

So, today’s Wednesday Word Tangle is dedicated to

GOOD OLD FASHIONED (MAINLY) BRITISH BRAND NAMES.

Some are wonderfully familiar, but pretty unimaginative in conception:

Tate and Lyle, Brown and Poulson, Bird’s, Colman’s, R. White’s – all named after their inventors and company founders.

That goes for my favourite of ongoing brands, the chocolate companies Fry’s, Cadbury and Rowntrees, all originally founded by Quakers as a way to lure the working classes away from their then favourite treat – gin.

Cleaning product manufacturers showed a little more flair, with Sunlight soap, Fairy, Lifebuoy and Flash all suggesting light, bright, airy, speedy cleaning with every purchase.

The more you trawl the archives, you more you realise nineteenth and early twentieth century advertisers certainly did things differently.

There seemed to be a lot of ‘safety’ items on the market (mangles, razors) which suggests that being trapped, killed or maimed by your new buy was ever an option – unless you made the effort to buy something with the word ‘safety’ at the start.

Other products now unfamiliar to the modern consumer are medicated soaps (today most of us just requiring soaps to clean, not cure as well), ‘extract of meat and malt wine’ (I’m not sure what that was exactly, but I’m not volunteering to do a taste test), aerated flours (when I was a kid, we used the phrase ‘aerated’ to describe someone being upset – ‘when her fella dumped her she got all aerated’. I’m sure you can’t make flour cry, though).

And then, of course the classic ‘cocaine tooth drops’, with its delightful advertisement of two young children building a toy house from twigs – feverishly, one would imagine.

My favourite brand names, though, are the words the makers invented:

Bovril, the beef flavoured hot drink is derived from the Latin for ox (bos), and from the novel The Coming Race by Bulwer-Lytton, the -vril suffix being an electro-magnetic substance supporting a superior race of people.

Bisto, gravy browning, so named because it ‘Browns, Seasons and Thickens in One.’ (No, it doesn’t quite work for me, either.)

Marmite, love or hate the yeast spread, it’s named after a style of earthenware pot the product was originally sold in, a picture of which still appears on the jar.

Typhoo tea (originally Typhoo Tipps) is based on the corruption of a Chinese word for doctor, the brew supposedly being good for indigestion.

Hovis. In 1890 S. Fitton & Sons Ltd ran a national competition to find a name for their new flour blend which was rich in wheat germ. The wonderfully named Herbert Grime won, abbreviating the Latin term hominis vis (‘the strength of man’) to Hovis.

So, what have we learned? If you want a brand to last over one hundred years, either name the company after yourself or invent something snappy.

Oh, then wait a few decades and sell it to foreign investors.


*A charming euphemism for dung, my dear.

Thanks as always to Kat for the first W4W

Wednesday Word Tangle : How prevaricating helps me to write.

And the winner of the Odd Town Name Competition 2015 goes to ... Image: Pixabay

And the winner of the Odd Town Name Competition 2015 goes to …
Image: Pixabay

Always put off until a week next Tuesday what you could’ve got done and dusted today.

This has been the motto of my life. To say I have a cautious personality is an understatement.

I’ve been working in floristry for nearly 23 years and have been thinking of a career change for at least 17. Yes, I KNOW it’s a lovely job.

If I had a puppy for every time a customer (usually female) has said to me

It must be sooooo lovely to work with flowers all day

I’d have bred my own bloodline by now, have developed a new breed – I quite fancy a Doberman/ Chihuahua cross, a Doby-hua-hua – and be living in a rambling kennels, just me, the dogs and a selection of firearms named after characters from Frasier – my favourite being Daphne the blunderbuss.

How could I deny it’s a nice job? That would be like saying chocolate isn’t good for the soul and Pringles are easy to stop eating once you’re started. (Seriously, what do they put in those things? Do they test savoury snacks for their crack content? They should.)

But … The job isn’t for me anymore. I’ve gone as far as I can go in it. I need a new challenge.

So, do I rush to hand in my notice? Do I apply for other jobs, push my career envelope? No. I don’t.

You see, I’ve made myself a rut. It’s taken me decades to develop, smoothing the edges, carving the hole until it precisely fits me. And I tell you something – it’s damn comfortable. It may be restrictive, blinkered, a self-made trap, but it’s safe and it’s mine.

I’m terrible about doing anything outside my comfort zone. I’m not talking about white water rafting or sky diving – you’d have to pump me full of sedatives first and even then, I’m pretty sure my subconscious would know what was happening and I’d fight, claw and bite my way to freedom, even when asleep. If people can kill in their sleep, I’m sure I can stop myself from dropping out of a plane at 14,000 feet.

To be fair to myself, I’m not a total loser. I dedicated six years of my life to gaining a degree and I’d gone off education at the age of fourteen when I discovered lager and that boys did things with girls other than using them for penalty shooting practice. And writing can take you out of your comfort zone, as I found when I did a public reading for my writing group.

But maybe this is why the life of a writer suits me. Sitting at a laptop writing all day, thinking up characters and plots is well within my comfort zone – it’s just a case of getting the ideas out of my head, of putting onscreen what had for years, stayed in the soft fleshy folds of various cortices.

As a person who naturally puts stuff off, who shies away from the new, the daring, the other, the Wednesday Word Tangle word of the day is

PREVARICATE.*

I’d like to nominate this word and the actions that accompany it to my own personal Room 101, where it will be shredded, stamped, crushed, pulverised, and finally swept into a fiery pit, consumed by the flames of self-confidence, destroyed forever, never to raise its wishy-washy, namby-pamby, life restricting head again.

Well, maybe.

Definitely tomorrow.


Is there anything you’ve put off that you wish you’d done years ago? Or do you rush into situations when you wish you were more cautious? 

* Interestingly, the word comes from a Latin root meaning ‘straddle’. Not sure if that’s relevant, but it is interesting.

Thanks to Kittykat-bitsandbobs, the founder of W4W

wednesday word tangle: Love lies Bleeding

butterfly-664050_1280 (1)

‘Are you the medick?’

‘Well, I’m a doctor, if that’s what you mean.’

‘I rang the surgery twenty minutes ago. Didn’t they tell you, my love lies bleeding?’

‘I came as fast as I could. The traffic’s a nightmare. A lorry shed its load of farm birds- spurge, all over the road. No chance I could speedwell with fat hens and goosefoot everywhere. Puddles of… well, more than one chickweed today, I can tell you. Maybe the crash made them nervous…’

‘Doctor, please, her bleeding heart…’

‘Yes, of course. Lead the way. What’s the patient’s name?’

‘Cicely. Sweet Cicely, I call her. And my name’s William- Sweet William, see? We make a good pair. Just mind that floorboard…’

‘Good, god.’

Wormwood, I think. I need to get a man in.’

‘Bloody woodruff. I could’ve broken my ankle.’

‘Maybe I should have a bugle, or a Canterbury bell to warn people?’

‘I think a sign would be more practical. Interesting décor. Is that a Spanish dagger up on the wall?’

‘That’s right. And that’s a twayblade next to it.’

‘And a throwing Star of Bethlehem. Are they legal?’

‘Not technically, but I know a man…’

‘Right, well. Up here is it?’

‘Yes, through that door, she’s on her ladies bedstraw.’

‘I’d say a mattress was more hygienic, but each to their own. Hello, Cicely. My name’s Dr Robert, Herb Robert . You can call me Herb if you like.’

‘No, that’s not her. That’s Bearded Iris, out neighbour. She was just visiting. Nice to see you, Iris. Close the door on your way out, love.’

Sorrel, my mistake. Now, Cicely, if I can just examine you. I’m afraid you’ll have to remove your monkshood. Oh, and your ladies mantle.’

‘She’d rather not. She’s shy.’

‘Well, I don’t know how I can… Look, I’m sorry, but what is that smell?’

‘Oh, dear. maybe she knapweed. She’s probably dreaming of the wild leeks we had in our camping days, all those torch lit trips to the loo block…’

‘No, she’s knotweed. It doesn’t matter. But I could do with more light… Could you roll up the nightshade, let the sun in?’

‘Err, yeah. Okay.’

‘Now, let’s see. Well, she doesn’t seem to be bleeding. So what’s the problem?’

‘Well, over the last few weeks she’s had mugwort, moonwort, motherwort, navelwort, nipplewort… You name a wart, she’s had it.’

‘She’ll probably selfheal. They’re no reason for a home visit. If I could just see her face, check her eyebright , if she’s feverfew…’

‘No need for that, Dr Robert.’

‘What? What’s that you’re holding.’

‘It’s a shot gun- lock, stock, and barrel.’

‘I don’t understand…’

‘Why don’t you take a closer look. You see, my Sweet Cicely wasn’t always this way. She didn’t always hide in the dark, growing madder by the day with the pain of her condition, avoiding her Venus’ looking glass because she can’t bear to see her beauty ravaged by disease. Long ago she was struck down by an ailment, let’s say it was scabious, or bladderwort. You might have know her as Sweet Alison back then…’

‘Oh, God.’

‘Well, she went to see her GP, a young man, always in a rush, a gallant soldier, ambitious enough to climb the Jacobs ladder of medicine to his own private practice. The doctor barely examined her, sent her away, telling her to give it thyme. He didn’t even notice the ladies tresses falling out of her skullcap, the lungwort growing inside her…’

‘I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.’

‘Stop weeping! Your angel’s tears won’t help you now.’

‘I have money…’

‘What good are pennyroyals to my girl? I’ll teasel you no longer. The arrowhead‘s beneath your pillow, Cicely. Tare him.’

‘Oh, God…’

Forget me not.’


So, today’s word is a group of words, a history, a lineage of words- common names for wild flowers.

I’ve always loved them. Some names come from Biblical stories or ancient myths, the words often very old- ‘wort’, for example, is not a lump on the skin at all, but is from the Old English ‘wyrt’ which meant herb or plant.

They sound weird, gross, violent or beautiful- and they’re all brilliant.

Here’s the site I found them on, if you fancy a bit of botanical archaeology of your own. British Wild Flowers

All hail Kitty for starting Word for Wednesday.

Wednesday word Tangle

punchinello-352052_1280

I often think of resurrecting things.

I’m not talking in the Doctor Frankenstein sense. I haven’t crowbarred a laboratory into my attic space, all impressive rubbery cables, glass tubes filled with bubbling coloured liquids and fizzing electrical contacts squeezed in between the cold water tank and the papery miracle of construction that is a deserted wasps’ nest (When I say ‘deserted’ I mean ‘intentionally evicted’ because they were committing acts of atrocity on the buttocks of the men who were trying to fix the roof- apologies my stripy, winged friends).

And when I say resurrect, I’m not talking fashion. I DO NOT wish to bring back paisley flares, glittery platform heels or the kind of cheese-cloth blouse my mum used to make for me when I was a kid in the seventies.

On a side note… What a tragedy it is I can’t share with you all the yellowed photo of my brother and me on our way to a friend’s birthday party around 1974… Sir is sporting a dazzling baby pink, wing-collared shirt, brown flared slacks and a brown and pink floral tie. While Little Miss is wearing a matching pink satin ‘A’ line dress, which with her ‘Rubenesque’ figure, makes her look like Humpty Dumpty let loose in the dressing up box . To complete the ensemble, these two doyens of the fashion scene have identical flowing locks which curl up at the ends so sharply, one could use them as  ski-jumps…

Having experienced these atrocities first-hand, I cannot see them as ‘kitsch’, ‘retro’ or any other groovy descriptive. They can only bring horrific flashbacks, although nothing as bad as the ra-ra skirt, the pirate shirt or pedal-pushers all of which spelt the death of my dreams of being coolly on-trend and gorgeous.

But I digress.

What I want to resurrect are words. You know, those weird, wonderful, awkward words that are slipping out of use, kicked into touch by such newbies as respawn, permadeath and mahoosive.

So, in honour of that weirdest of all national days, that celebration of daftness, the wonder of silliness that is April Fool’s Day, I wish to nominate for resurrection…

LIGHTMINDED

Now, if you look it up today, a dictionary will tell you it means someone who doesn’t take life too seriously. But whilst researching for the Elizabethan section of my YA fantasy novel, I discovered the Tudors used it to describe someone who ‘wasn’t all there’, a bit feeble mentally. In short- and to be very un-PC- an idiot.

I imagine someone happily skipping down the street, trailing a string and bobbing along on that string, bouncing high above one shoulder, is their brain, light as a cloud, buoyant as a cork on a pond.

So, there’s my nomination- LIGHTMINDED. If you’ve got any sense, you’ve gotta love it.

Wednesday Word Tangle

dictionary-390055_1280

Ever been stumped for the right word?

I don’t mean those days when your brain’s as thick as cold porridge, when you need three espressos and a Red Bull chaser just to get a few jaded synapses to sparkle into life. When you just know there’s a word out there that’s precisely right, that just fits what you want to say. It’s on the tip of your brain but every time you scrabble for it, it darts out of reach, a thought-beetle scurrying into the dark when you lift the rotting log of your memory.

No. I don’t mean that. I don’t mean that at all. Anyway, for me that’s an everyday occurrence. It’s a fact of life that keeps good company with walking into rooms and forgetting what I went in for, trying to remember that actor’s name- you know the one- he was in that thing with wotsit out of that other show and absent-mindedly putting the milk in the cupboard instead of the fridge. I have reached THAT age.

No, what I mean is those occasions when our brilliant, complex, varied language, used by literary geniuses over the centuries to describe shared emotions and experience, the wonderful, horrible feelings and thoughts that make up a human mind, that inform human existence, that describe what it is to live on this blue-green bauble rolling on the black velvet groundsheet of space-time- when all of that just isn’t enough.

You know what I mean. No matter how many billions of people have lived before, are living now, will ever live, sometimes it seems that what you feel is different- that what you’ve experienced is unique in some way. That existing wordage just isn’t enough.

What I mean is YOU JUST WANNA MAKE STUFF UP. You wanna snatch syllables from the air- ones that are nearly right, almost there- and squish them together, mash them so they fuse together like some hybrid mythical creature- a bit griffin, a bit sphinx- kind of weird and totally amazing.

And here’s where my word of the day comes in.

GINORMOUS.

Isn’t it great? It’s the kind of word that eight year-old boys love to use to describe conkers or slugs or farts.

Enormous just isn’t big enough. What about gigantic? Yeah… good, but it needs to be bigger, like all the huge things you’ve ever seen or thought of rolled into one.

GINORMOUS. 

For days when BIG just won’t hack it.

A nod to Kittykat– the originator of W4W