I’m Amused

In the vagaries of the English language, I’m “amused”.  I’m also amused by the vagaries of the English language, but that’s not actually what I mean.

No; if “amoral” means “lacking morals”, and “atonal” means “toneless”, and “achromatic” means “without colour”, then I’m “amused”.  As in “lacking muse”.

Which is a fancy way to say I don’t know what to write about today.

So I shall resort to poking fun at the English language.  If the prefix “a-” indicates absence or lack, then why doesn’t “acute” mean “ugly”?  Why doesn’t “along” mean “short” and “alike” mean “hate”?  And if I amend an item, am I actually ripping it apart?

After coming up with a few other examples, I just couldn’t resist messing around with some flash fiction:

Flash Fiction: Afoul Play (On Words)

Setting my torch alight, I stood blinking, blinded by the sudden blackness.  When the vague outlines of the hallway emerged from the dark, I crept forward.  The groan of a loose floorboard underfoot made me flinch, my heart drumming against my ribs.

Glad to be alone, I turned to Jim.  “Man, why did we let Rick talk us into this?  And why are we still doing it when he didn’t even bother to show up?”

Jim replied with his usual unintelligible mumble before pressing his lips tightly agape, but I didn’t let it bother me.  He always spoke aloud.

Behind me, Lucy whispered, “Light the torch.  This is too creepy.  Maybe we heard Rick aright.  After all, it was two weeks ago.  Maybe he meant twelve noon, not midnight.”

“No, I’m sure he meant midnight,” I argued.  “He said we had to sneak in when it was dark, and he teased me that I’d probably arouse at eleven and sleep through the whole thing.”

A few minutes of stealthy tiptoeing later, Lucy hissed, “Oh, gross!  Do you smell that?  There’s something alive here.  It smells like it’s been rotting for weeks!”

“Probably just a dead mouse or something,” I said with more confidence than I felt.

“It can’t be.  It’s too strong.  It smells like something…”  Her voice trembled.  “Something big.”  Her nails dug into my shoulder.  “What’s that aloft?  On the floor under that big table?”

I swallowed hard and peered through the dimness.

“Light it!  Light the torch!”

Jim’s shout startled me so much I nearly dropped the torch.  It bobbled dangerously and Lucy’s shaking hands clamped over mine, pulling the torch atilt to prevent the oil from spilling out.

My lighter clicked.  Flames flared high, revealing the reason why Rick hadn’t joined us tonight.

“Rick!  Ohmigod, Rick!”

Lucy’s screams echoed in my ears as my stomach lurched.  My knees gave way and I arose to the ground, the impact jarring me asleep…

Which means awake… but “awake” actually means asleep.

Which would mean I was awake to start with…

Which means I was sleeping…

So did this really happen, or was it a dream?

Well dang, it looks as though I’ve written a blog post after all.  Maybe I wasn’t as “amused” as I thought.  But I still think English is a very funny language!

* * *

Addendum:  It seems WordPress has been having difficulties lately, and sometimes when you try to leave a comment you get a page that says “This comment could not be posted” or some other error message.  If that happens to you here, I’m sorry, and thanks for trying.  If you want to try again, here’s what has worked for me on other blogs:

  • Type your comment as usual, but before clicking Post Comment, highlight the comment and press Ctrl-C on your keyboard to copy it. 
  • Then click the Post Comment button. 
  • If a page comes up saying “This comment could not be posted”, click the Back button to return to the page
  • Then press the F5 button on your keyboard to refresh the page. 
  • Paste your comment back into the comment box by pressing Ctrl-V.
  • Click Post Comment again. 

Usually the second time’s the trick, but sometimes it wants a couple of tries.  It’s a huge pain in the butt and I hope they have it resolved soon, but in the mean time, thank you for trying.

32 thoughts on “I’m Amused

  1. A-wesome. Reminded me of Victor Borge’s inflationary language where the Lieuelevenant was one and a half ways through the door. English language is insane but is basically cobbled together from a dozen or more other languages. Like a camel is a horse designed by a committee. My brother is a word aficionado and you can find his blog here. He is NOT a regular writer. http://englishcowpath.blogspot.com/


    • I loved Victor Borge – what a funny and talented man! I just watched the “inflationary language” sketch a few weeks ago on YouTube.

      Thanks for the link – I’m off to check out your brother’s blog now!


  2. Wow, you’ve got skills in the creative writing department.
    1) You’ve set the crowd atwitter (ha ha, see what I did there?) with your creative use of “a” words.
    2) That was a cool piece of flash fiction. I want to know what happens after your protagonist wakes up… or falls asleep. Or whatever.


  3. My mother came from a large family. 6 girls and 3 boys. My mother was a nurse and all of the other 5 girls were teachers. All 5 taught school in the same town we lived in while I was in elementary grades. 2 in my school and I had both of them. It was drilled into me early on, “Never use a word you don’t know the meaning of, and never use a word you cannot spell!”
    I tried, I really did.
    There’s always at least one of us in every family that just sort of falls short. I have managed to wear out at least a couple dozen dictionaries over the years. There’s my proof that I tried and I’m sticking to it.


    • Somebody should have given me that advice as a kid! I was always reading books that were too advanced for my age, and I was always too lazy to look up a word I didn’t understand. I’d sound it out, try to puzzle out the meaning from the context, and then go on reading, secure in the knowledge that I’d learned a new word. And then I’d use it. Confidently.

      To this day, I’m still discovering words I’ve “known” all my life, and I have to constantly question “Do I really know that word, or is that one of my childhood fabrications”? Makes life interesting…


    • Bahaha!! Good one – I completely missed that a-word! And thanks to my propensity for misreading words, I just read “duodenum” in your comment instead of “ddendum”. Not quite sure what a “ddendum” would be, but I’m sure I can make something up… preferably something that doesn’t involve intestines. 😉


  4. Got to love the English language 🙂 this ranks with the question, why do we ask the pharmacist if they have something for a headache? I mean, who wants a thump with a piece of 2×4?




  5. LOL! I love it. I can see where it was tough to write. You did an excellent job. Of course, now I can’t say I’m amused…I’ll just say I was entertained by the whole post. 🙂


    • LOL! It’s funny the way it jerks you to a halt and makes your brain do a 360, isn’t it? I wrote it, and I still stop when I’m reading and think, “Wait, alight… blinded by darkness… a-light… lack of light… yeah, okay…”


    • Thanks! It was actually surprisingly hard to write a story without using any other words that started with “a”. I had to go through several times to clean out extra a-words. I still have “a”, “and”, and “argued”, but I didn’t think they were too distracting.


  6. What a lovely way to start my day! I love a challenge and will be checking up on this question about a-words. One of my favorite people passed away not long ago and he was my “go to” person for answers about the English language. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was a scholar and was always good for a pun too. It’s good to have an inquiring mind. Keep us thinking. In the meantime, I’m having to read other authors until you get your next one done! Looking forward to another great adventure. I’ve come to think of Aydan as the “female James Bond” ! She can sure take a beating and come back swinging!


    • Thanks! Yes, I cheerfully ignored the other meanings of the “a-” prefix just to play with this one. After all, if you can’t have fun misinterpreting grammar rules, when can you have fun? 😉 I’m sorry you lost your favourite Scotsman – sounds like he was a great guy.


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