Tag Archives: language

Marriage Is A Short Sentence

Now that I’m in the final stages of polishing Book 15, my brain has apparently decided to become creative in more questionable ways.  For instance, last week I figured out why language skills seem to diminish with age.

It’s not normal aging.  It’s not even dementia.  No, the cause is much more widespread and insidious.

It’s marriage.

I determined this through exhaustive scientific research, of course.  To be exact, it occurred to me at the dinner table.

Hubby and I were chatting about nothing in particular when I mentioned that I’d finally taken time to clean my engagement ring.  I’m an avid gardener and even though I always wear gardening gloves, fine particles of soil sift through the fabric and sully my diamond.

I attempted to communicate that idea as follows:

“I always wear gloves, but you know how fine dust always comes through the…”

I didn’t bother to complete the sentence.  Hubby was already nodding, so I knew he’d gotten it.

And that’s when it hit me:  After being together for twenty years, we don’t have to finish our sentences anymore.  We each know what the other means.  (Or we don’t; and then we accuse each other of conversations that never actually took place.  Marriage is all about give and take:  Give blame, take credit.)

But it proves my point:  We don’t lose language skills as we get older; we just expect others to decipher our meaning after only a few cryptic words.

And Hubby and I have only been married for a couple of decades.  People who have been married for fifty years probably don’t even need to use nouns.  In another few decades, this will be our dinner conversation:

“Did you…”

“Yep.”

“How about…”

“Uh-huh. But don’t forget the…”

“Got it.”

If we were married even longer, we could probably communicate with only the lift of an eyebrow and a nod.  (Or the lift of a certain finger; but that’s more of a universal gesture so I’m excluding it from my scholarly research.)

But now that I’ve identified the problem, I’m stumped for a solution.  It seems like a lot of work to change my habits just for the sake of keeping up language skills; and it’ll likely be a while before the COVID-19 isolation protocols are relaxed enough that I can visit regularly with people who require me to express complete ideas.

So I guess I’ll have to start conversing with inanimate objects that can’t possibly nod and indicate their understanding after only a few words.  As long as self-isolation doesn’t last so long that I develop an unhealthy relationship with my teapot or my dining room chair, everything should be fine.

But if they start replying…

I don’t think I’ll finish that sentence.

Book 15 update:  I’m expecting the final feedback from my beta readers this week, so stay tuned for a release date announcement in my next post!

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Language Lapses

I’m fascinated by the way English speakers from various cultures use the same words to mean completely different things, sometimes with hilarious results.  I have readers around the world so I’m generally conscious of words that are innocent in some places but rude in others, and I try to stay away from the iffy ones.

But sometimes I fail.  F’rinstance…

Hubby is an electronics genius, and he’s always repairing and/or inventing things in his mancave. Sometimes there are worrisome whiffs of electrochemical odour that make me wonder whether the air is safe to breathe.  So the other day I was talking with a doctor; a knowledgeable and pleasant man with a British accent.  And he asked whether we had any potential toxins in our house.

“Solder!” I announced.

In the momentary pause that followed, I realized I’d slipped up.  I had forgotten that in Britain, ‘solder’ is pronounced ‘sole-der’ (rhyming with ‘bolder’). In the U.S. and Canada, we pronounce it ‘sodder’. And just after the word launched from my mouth into that instant of silence, I recalled that ‘sod’, ‘sodding’, and its variations are quite rude in Britain. Similar to the F-bomb, according to the online dictionaries.

Oops.

I hurriedly added, “…from electronics repair” and the doctor replied as though nothing was amiss (and his answer was that we’re probably safe, considering the minimal amount of soldering Hubby does), but there was definitely a thread of amusement in his voice. I’m glad he decided to see the humour!

Considering that Canada actually began as a British colony, it’s surprising how many of our words have diverged in meaning.

Take ‘gas’, for example. Here, it’s fuel for our vehicles. In the U.K. it’s called ‘petrol’ — ‘gas’ is something you get after eating too many beans. I can only imagine the chuckles over there when somebody from this continent bemoans the unfortunate addiction of gas-sniffing.

Then there’s the time-honoured British tradition of smoking fags:  To them, a ‘fag’ is a cigarette. Over here, it’s a derogatory word for a homosexual man. Add that to the fact that ‘smoke’ is slang for ‘kill’ in North America, and a casual social practice in the U.K. becomes a criminal act over here.

But the word that came closest to embarrassing me internationally was ‘fanny’. As you may know, the protagonist of my novels wears a waist pouch; commonly known as a ‘fanny pack’ in North America. Here, ‘fanny’ is a semi-polite word meaning ‘bum’ or ‘buttocks’.  Over the pond, ‘fanny’ is a very impolite word for female genitals. I’m SO glad I didn’t call it a ‘fanny pack’ in my novels!

And speaking of novels… Book 15’s cover and blurb are finished, woohoo!  I’m expecting feedback from one more beta reader, and then I’ll be ready to announce a release date.

Here’s the cover art, with many thanks to all my wonderful blog readers who offered feedback and advice last May.  Most people liked the original cover photos, but over half thought the colours and fonts could be more dynamic.  So here’s the new look — I hope you like it!  (You can see the rest of the updated covers on the Books page.)

Off-duty secret agent Aydan Kelly knows she shouldn’t interfere when her lover finally locates his long-lost sister, but she’s afraid Arnie’s too upset to stay on the right side of the law.

Arnie’s sister has been outed in a social media firestorm, and threats against her escalate to a violent attack.  Aydan and Arnie rush to her rescue, only to discover she’s being targeted by a powerful crime lord from her unsavory past.  As danger mounts, Aydan realizes Arnie will do anything to save his sister… including murder.

Caught between love and legality, Aydan faces an unthinkable choice:  Risk her career and freedom by turning a blind eye to Arnie’s deadly plan, or save the crime lord and condemn Arnie to prison and his sister to death.

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A Picture’s Worth A Thousand (Swear)Words

Pictograms.  Never has a supposedly simple solution gone so laughably (and swearably) wrong.

I realize that they’re supposed to provide accessibility for the 5% of people who have difficulty reading; and it’s a great idea to add them to signs.  But take away the words, and it leaves all of us bumbling around wondering, “WTF is this supposed to mean?!?”  The ancient Egyptians used nothing but pictograms, and look where they ended up.  Just sayin’.

I’m all for pictograms plus words.  But pictograms alone are like playing Pictionary with art-challenged companions; except that the stakes are your time and sanity instead of gut-busting laughter and minor humiliation when you accidentally draw a pornographic-looking diagram that was supposed to have represented ‘stretch pants’.  (Not that that’s ever happened to anybody I know, nuh-uh, nope).

For instance, after years of exposure to this cryptic symbol, I’ve finally recognized that it means power on/off:

But if I were looking at it for the first time, I’d be stumped.

What is it supposed it to represent?  An apple?  A bathroom sink as seen from above?  A nipple ring?  A cherry bomb?  A sex act?  A giant space probe slamming into the planet and annihilating all life?  Or maybe it’s a finger pressing a button.  Who the hell knows?  Should I push that button or not?

My treadmill has equally arcane symbols.  You’d think it would be hard to go wrong — the tortoise means “slow” and the hare means “fast”.

But then there’s this:

I’m okay with ‘time’ represented by the clock and ‘speed’ represented by the rabbit.  But what’s that button with the vertical lines and double back-arrows?  Maybe it resets my time and mileage.  Or maybe if I press that button, my treadmill will suddenly reverse direction and accelerate to warp-speed, catapulting me off the treadmill and through the wall.  I could press it and find out; but I don’t dare.

The little flames under the right indicator are equally worrisome.  They’re supposed to indicate “calories burned”, but they could just as easily mean “your treadmill will catch fire in three… two…”

But I’m sure my treadmill would never do that, because it loves me.  That’s what those hearts mean, right…?

What pictograms do you love to hate?

P.S.  I just found this hilarious interpretation of laundry label symbols

Book 14 update:  Chapter 36 and going strong!  Now, if only my fingers would learn to correctly type “public” instead of “pubic”…

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Leading You Down The Garden Path

It’s gardening season, woohoo!

If you’ve ever been to a garden centre, you’ll know why the expression “leading you down the garden path” means “deceiving you”.  I’ve been sucked in by their euphemisms more times than I can count, so today I’m going to translate some common plant-sales wording for the benefit of less jaded experienced gardeners:

“This vigorous plant will thrive anywhere”:  This innocent-looking scrap of greenery is a monster poised to attack.  As soon as you place it in the ground, it will shoot twelve-foot-long roots in all directions and new plants will spring from every inch of the roots.  If you attempt to pull it out, every tiny segment of remaining root will form a new mother plant with its own set of twelve-foot-long roots and plague of invasive children.

“This delightful woodland favourite prefers dappled shade and moist well-drained humus-rich soil”:  It’ll die no matter where you put it.

“Easy to grow”:  …If you’re a master gardener.

“Plant these seeds as soon as soil can be worked in spring”:  …But they won’t actually grow then.  This is just a clever way to make you buy a second $5.95 packet of seeds after the first batch rots in the cold soggy soil.

“These seeds require light to germinate”:  These seeds won’t germinate.  Ever.

“Attracts birds to your garden”:  Cut off its flowers the instant they fade, otherwise it’ll spew out so many seeds you’ll spend the rest of your life weeding.

“Drought-tolerant”:  …As long as your definition of ‘drought’ is “an inch of rain per week”.

“Will even grow in dry shady trouble spots”:  Yes, it will.  But it’ll send out tendrils to scout for better conditions, and when it finds them… see “This vigorous plant…” above.

“Requires support”:  It’s a pathetic weedy vine.

“Requires a sturdy trellis”:  It’ll leap out of the ground like Jack’s beanstalk and within weeks will thicken to a woody rope that scrambles up the trellis and onto the neighbouring tree, where it will subsequently crush the trellis to dust and strangle the tree.  If the trellis is attached to your house, you’d better sleep with an axe under your pillow and ten gallons of weed killer beside your bed.

“Blooms from May to September”:  Theoretically, ten minutes in July is within the range of ‘May to September’.

“Non-invasive”:  …If you live in the arctic.

“Forms a neat mounded clump”:  …In June.  By August it’s a mess of leggy stems flopped over in all directions.

“Semi-evergreen”:  Completely deciduous except for one ugly leaf that clings to the stem all winter like dirty underwear tied to a flagpole.

“Evergreen”:  Mottled olive-drab is technically a shade of green.

“Hardy once established”:  It’ll probably live, if it doesn’t die first.

“Fast-growing”:  Don’t lean over it while you’re planting unless you want to be impaled by the branches shooting skyward.  And you might as well buy a chainsaw right now, ’cause you’re gonna need it.

“Slow-growing”:  If you’re over the age of two, don’t bother planting it.  You won’t live long enough to see it reach its mature height.

“Hardy to Zone x”:  Make that “Zone x, minus 1 or 2”.

“Gardening is an inexpensive and relaxing hobby”:  I’ve got some swampland to sell you…

Chime in, gardeners!  What’s the best gardening euphemism you’ve heard?

P.S. Still no word from Amazon about why the pre-orders for Book 13 didn’t show up on Amazon Canada, UK, Australia, or any other marketplace except the U.S.  They promised to get back to me today, so… fingers crossed…

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Geek-Speak

I’ve been a geek all my life.

I’d like to clarify that I’m referring to the current definition of ‘geek’, as in “a socially awkward oddball who thinks too much”; not “a sideshow performer who bites the head off live chickens” (which was what the word meant when I was young).

I have never bitten, and with any luck will never bite, the head off a live animal of any sort.  Chocolate animals?  Oh hell yes!  Cooked animals?  Maybe… though I’d likely use a knife or cleaver or some other suitable implement instead of my teeth…

Oops.

There I go again.  Over-thinking.  Over-clarifying.

Even as a child, I couldn’t grasp why people didn’t simply say what they meant.  When the teacher asked, “Does anyone know the answer?”, I never understood why she apparently stopped being able to see my wildly-waving hand after I’d answered the first few questions correctly.

When the other girls assured me, “Of course we’re still friends!” and then never spoke to me again, I just… didn’t get it.  There’s something to be said for being completely oblivious to social cues.  I thought I had lots of friends, and it was sheer coincidence that I never got invited to anything.

The rest of the world doesn’t understand that geeks take words at face value.  A classic geek joke goes like this:  A software engineer was found dead of starvation in his shower.  Preliminary investigation suggests that he was following the instructions on the shampoo bottle:  “Lather, rinse, repeat.”

This joke is funny and sad on two levels:  1) You have to be a bit of geek to get it; and 2) If you are a bit of a geek, there’s probably some small part of you that’s thinking, “You know, that makes perfect sense…”

Another diabolical geek trap is the phrase casually bandied about by normal human beings:  “Suggestions are welcome”.

Hint for the geeks in the audience:  No.  No, they’re not.  One suggestion is welcome.  Maybe two, tops.  If it’s your personal responsibility to resolve the issues, you might be allowed three suggestions.  Presenting twenty pages of closely-spaced bullet points will only end in annoyance for you when you realize that your listeners’ eyes glazed over after the first two points and their minds are now fully occupied by desperate escape plans.

Another hint for geeks:  If your listener is gripping a letter opener with whitening knuckles, it’s time for you to leave.  Lingering to make sure they grasped the subtle nuances of item 20.1.5.3(b) will only result in bloodshed; and that gets awkward for everybody.  For one thing, stab wounds hurt.  For another, if your listener decides to commit hara-kiri instead of attacking you, it’s very difficult to explain to the police.  (Don’t ask how I know these things.)

Anyway, after 50-odd… okay; very odd years, I honestly thought I had this stuff all figured out.  (Note:  All geeks think this.  They’re always wrong.)

But then I went for physiotherapy a few years ago.  The physiotherapist said, “Keep your legs straight and touch your toes.”  So I did.  It hurt like a bitch.  But she hadn’t said, “… and tell me if it hurts”, so I didn’t mention it.  I threw away a lot of money on physiotherapy before I grasped that little detail.

But I’ve got it all figured out now.  Really, I do…

* * *

P.S. Book 13, “Once Burned, Twice Spy” is now available for pre-order at all retailers (click here for links)… except, for some unknown reason, the Amazon international sites.  Amazon.com is up, but none of the other countries are showing the listing.  Grrr!  I’ve submitted a trouble ticket to Amazon and hope to have the problem resolved shortly.  To everyone who received the pre-order announcement and can’t buy from the Amazon of their choice:  I’m sorry about this.  I’ll send an updated announcement as soon as the pre-orders are up in all countries.

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Use Your Words, Diane…

I have a dysfunctional relationship with words.  I’m infatuated… or maybe even obsessed.  I love words without reason or reservation.  I’m delighted to spend all day with them:  hour after hour of reading or writing; placing and replacing and tweaking them until they’re arranged in a way that delights my soul.

And in return, they fail me.  Over and over.

The little bastards got me again this week.  I’ve joined an art group to force myself to make time for activities other than reading or writing; so every Friday afternoon I take my watercolour paints down to the group studio for yet another three hours of humiliation.

I don’t know why I’m so determined to paint in watercolour.  I suck at it.  In oils and acrylics I’m actually capable of producing something that resembles art, but my watercolours always resemble shit.  Maybe I just have psychological issues that impel me to seek out destructive relationships.

Fortunately, I paint with a wonderful group.  Everyone is supportive, tactful, and happy to help a poor beginner any way they can; lending materials and advice and encouragement in equal measure.  And they all have a great sense of humour.

Lately I’ve been experimenting with frisket – a substance that goes onto the paper as a liquid but dries to a rubbery waterproof coating.  It’s used to mask out sections of a painting before applying colour, so that when it’s removed the background colour is revealed.  But it turns my brush into a rubbery pellet no matter how assiduously I rinse, so Hubby bought me a set of silicone brush-like tools instead.

The new tools work wonderfully.  So, pleased to be able to offer something to the rest of the group instead of always being on the receiving end of their generosity, I showed off my new acquisitions last Friday.

We were standing around talking about the tools, and I explained that I’d been looking for a way to mask fine lines.  But when I turned back to demonstrate, the fine-line tool wasn’t on my table.  I glanced around the group of women chatting beside me and spotted one of them holding the tool I had in mind.

I didn’t want to interrupt their conversation, so I held out my hand.

She didn’t seem to get my meaning, so I wiggled my fingers.  A faint wrinkle appeared between her brows.  I wiggled my fingers some more, miming holding a brush between them.

She drew back a step, beginning to look concerned.

At that point all conversations ceased while everybody took in the sight of me apparently making pinching motions in the general direction of another woman’s boob.

When I finally managed to sputter, “My brush…” and point at her hand, a roar of laughter nearly raised the roof.

“Use your words, Diane,” another woman prompted, still giggling.  “You’re a writer.  You can do this.  Use your words.”

Well, I would have… but as usual, the little buggers skipped out on me when I needed them the most.

I wonder if there’s such a thing as lexical relationship counselling…?

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The Bee’s Knees

The other day I was working on Book 13 when I wrote “I made a beeline for the door”.  Then I stopped and stared into space as my brain took an unexpected detour.

Why does ‘make a beeline’ mean ‘to go quickly and directly to a destination’?  Have you seen how bees fly?  They look like little fuzzy drunks staggering home after a night on the town.

If I had actually ‘made a beeline’, I’d have wandered aimlessly around the room, made several erratic circles under a table and around a couple of chairs, gotten into a stranger’s face for no apparent reason, caromed off the window sixteen times before figuring out that I couldn’t exit through it, and at last arrived at the doorway; where I’d need three tries to make it through an opening several hundred times larger than myself.

Whoever invented all these sayings about bees had obviously never watched bees for long.  Take ‘busy as a bee’, for example.  Sometimes they’re busy, like these guys working away at my sunflowers:

Busy bees

But one summer morning I went out to water my garden, and eight of them were curled up together snoozing in a squash blossom.  They weren’t any too eager to get up and start working – after the first spray of cold water they struggled groggily out of the blossom, stumbling over each other like a bunch of hungover teenagers after an all-night party and buzzing complaints as they hauled themselves into the sky.  Then they staggered as far as the next flower before plopping down to sleep the day away.  So much for ‘busy’.

Lazy bees

And let’s consider the time-honoured tradition of ‘talking to your children about the birds and the bees’.  Say what?

Neither birds nor bees have sex like humans.  Most birds only have one multi-purpose opening for sending or receiving semen as well as for taking a dump and laying eggs.  And most species aren’t too fussy about fidelity.

And bees?  Yikes!  Male bees follow a queen and take turns mating with her in flight.  When the deed is done the male bee’s penis gets ripped off, disemboweling and killing him in the process.  Unfazed, the next male in line pulls the leftover penis out of the queen’s body and re-enacts the whole grisly scenario.  Then the next male takes over, and the next.

So if we actually discussed ‘the birds and the bees’ with our kids, we’d be talking about promiscuous sex and snuff orgies.  Try explaining that at the next parent-teacher meeting.

‘The bee’s knees’ is another expression that makes me wonder.  Over the years it’s been used to indicate ‘something nonexistent’, ‘something very small’, and ‘something excellent’.  Apparently we aren’t too sure about the bee’s knees, either.

So if I should ever mention that I intend to make a beeline for bed to get as busy as a bee, it could mean staggering dozily away to sleep for hours; or zipping straight to bed for something a little more… *ahem* …interesting.  (Or downright disturbing.)

But what the heck; having a bit of mystery in one’s life is the bee’s knees, don’t you think?

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Having Words With Myself

Every now and then the playback needle in my brain skips a groove and ends up on a different track altogether.  (And if you don’t understand that reference, you’re probably too young to be reading my blog.)

When the needle skips, it’s as though I’m a foreigner looking at our language for the first time.  Words I’ve used for decades suddenly look weird and unfamiliar, and I feel compelled to discover their origin.  And if I stare at a word too long, no matter how familiar it is I’ll begin to question whether I’ve spelled it correctly – it looks wrong no matter how I rearrange the letters.

That happened to me earlier this week, and I’m hoping it’s only because the last couple of weeks have been immensely stressful:  It’s the usual craziness of releasing a book plus a spate of family illnesses and deaths, all in addition to the never-ending gong show that is our house construction.

At least, I’m hoping it’s only the stress that’s making my brain twist.  But even if my word-weirdness is the harbinger of some dire malady, at least I’m getting a chuckle out of the symptoms.

For instance:

The phrase “He’s holding his own” is meant to indicate that someone is holding up under pressure and not requiring the help of others.  But whenever I hear that expression my mind immediately demands, “Holding his own what?”  Which is quickly followed by, “I hope he washes his hands afterward.”

In the same vein, ‘He knows how to handle himself’ is also supposed to be an admiring comment, but you can probably guess where my brain goes with that.  (I wrote ‘he knows how to handle himself’ in Kiss And Say Good Spy; and I admit I was grinning when I did it.)  Whenever I hear or read that phrase I wonder whether it’s being used as a compliment or a filthy innuendo.

…And don’t even get me started about the word ‘innuendo’.  To me it sounds like The Godfather describing a kinky sex act:  “In-u-end-o!”

‘Feckless’ makes me giggle, too.  The online dictionary tells me it’s derived from the Scottish word ‘feck’, which means ‘effect’; therefore ‘feckless’ means ‘useless, incompetent, ineffective’.  I always think of ‘feck’ as an Irish expletive, so in my mind ‘feckless’ should mean ‘not giving a feck’.  E.g. “I’ve been doing this stupid job for so long I’m feckless about it.”  Or “If he fell off the face of the earth, I’d be feckless”.

‘Gormless’ is an intrinsically funny word.  Unlike the others, it doesn’t remind me of any other word (except maybe ‘worm’) but even if I’d never heard it before, I think I’d still identify it as an insult.  Like ‘flaccid’, ‘gormless’ is a word whose sound suits its meaning perfectly.

And speaking of the way words sound, I have to smother a smile when anybody says ‘Doing his/her duty’, too.  Unless the speaker enunciates very clearly, I hear ‘doing his/her doody’… which is another thing entirely.  (Please pass the toilet paper.)

What word or phrase never fails to make you snicker?

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Corrupting The Dragon

*F-BOMB ALERT*  This post contains a non-comprehensive list of swearwords and assorted vulgarities

When my nieces and nephews were young, I expended quite a bit of effort censoring my language while they were present.  When they finally became adults, I breathed a giant sigh of relief and promptly shocked the shit out of them when I reverted to my normal vocabulary.

I didn’t really mean to let it out all at once; it was just that I was so glad to finally be past the point where I could be accused of corrupting innocents.  I knew they’d heard it all before in school long before they ever heard those words pass my lips, but I didn’t want to be accused of being a bad example.

(Though, come to think of it, I’m still a bad example.  But at least as adults they can choose whether it’s more appropriate to follow my bad example or just pretend they don’t know me.)

Anyhow, my point is:  I thought my days as a corrupting influence were over.

I was wrong.  Last week I corrupted a dragon.

Not a mythical beast (which would have been oh-so-cool), but a software dragon.  Dragon Naturally Speaking, to be exact.  It’s supposed to transcribe spoken words into typed text and I’m always looking for ways to streamline my work, so several weeks before Christmas I bit the bullet and laid my money down.  Then I got so busy I didn’t have time to set it up.

But I finally had time to tackle it last week.  After a rocky start in which it pretended to recognize my microphone but in fact ignored it (causing me to exercise my considerable vocabulary once again), I got everything installed and ready to go.

Dragon learns your vocal quirks and vocabulary as it goes along.  One of the ways it does this is by reading through documents you’ve written and learning all the words that aren’t currently in its database.

You see where this is going, don’t you?

Yep, Dragon wanted to learn from me.  And hoo-boy, did it!  I was afraid its little software synapses were going to melt.

Its analysis of my latest book took quite a bit of time.  Then it spat out a list of ‘new words’ that looked like a tutorial for a preacher’s son off the leash for the first time:

dragon vocabulary

dragon vocabulary2

I didn’t know whether to laugh or be ashamed of myself.  (I laughed, of course.  Uproariously.)  And I foresee even more laughter in the future, when the software mistakes innocent words for their less polite counterparts.  Let’s just say that I won’t be using it anytime soon for writing business emails (unless I scrupulously edit it first).

To tell the truth, I’m little bit pleased that the next time Dragon messes up and makes me emit a burst of profanity, it’ll actually understand what I’m trying to say.

But I haven’t activated its ‘talk back’ feature yet.  Somehow that just seems like asking for trouble…

Anybody else ever used a speech-to-text program?  Any tips for getting the Dragon to sit up and pay attention?

* * *

How are we doing over at the VBBC?  Click here to have your say!

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Putting The ‘Real’ In Real Estate

One of my hobbies is shopping for land. It’s a bit of a pipe dream since it’s so expensive around Calgary, but I keep looking just in case there’s a bargain out there. Hey, if it made sense, it wouldn’t be a hobby, right?

Over the years I’ve gradually learned the language of real estate listings, so I’ve decided to share some of my hard-earned knowledge. Here are translations for some common phrases:

“Pristine recreational quarter”: It’s swamp.

“Beautiful creekside property”: It’s swamp.

“Perfect for hunters and sportsmen”: It’s swamp, with scrubby black spruce and gnarly undergrowth.

“Enjoy the beauty of nature and watch the wildlife from your window”: It’s mostly swamp. And if you try to grow a garden on the part that’s not swamp, a herd of ravenous deer will devour it.

“All the space you need”: It’s bald-ass prairie.

“Stunning views”: It’s bald-ass prairie.

“Perfect for your horses”: It’s bald-ass prairie.

“Seasonal creek”: It’s bald-ass prairie, but there’s a low spot where the runoff collects in the spring.

“Over 500 trees planted around the building site”: It’s bald-ass prairie, and the ‘trees’ are six-inch twigs. They might be taller than you by the time you die, but only if you have really severe osteoporosis and you shrink to under five feet.

“Spectacular mountain view”: You can see the very tips of the mountains if you stand on a ladder in the far northwest corner of the property next to the neighbour’s barn.

“Oil lease revenue”: There’s a sour-gas well smack in the middle of the only habitable part of the land. The rest is swamp.

“Ideal location to build the walkout of your dreams”: It’s a 45-degree grade with a ten-foot strip of level land at the top.

“Owner is motivated to sell”: There’s a feedlot and slaughterhouse on the next quarter and the stench of concentrated cow shit and rotting innards will slag your sinuses from two miles away.

“Wonderfully secluded property”: There’s no road access. To get to the property you have to build half a mile of road, or else dodge an evil-tempered bull while you four-wheel through the neighbour’s pasture.

“A half-mile of beautiful river frontage”: It’s a flood plain.

“It’s been handed down from generation to generation but now the owners must regretfully pass it on to someone who’ll enjoy it as much as they did”: A giant sawmill has been built on the property to the south and a bunch of nutjobs have established a ‘sporting society’ on the property to the north. The owners are fleeing like rats deserting a sinking ship.

“There’s a sign on the property”: No, there isn’t.

“No, really, there’s a sign on the property”: Okay, there is; but it’s invisible unless you approach from the correct direction and glance over at exactly the right moment.  You will only discover this after driving a systematic grid pattern for at least an hour.

“Fenced and cross-fenced”: …sometime in the 1930s. Now it’s a gap-toothed line of drunken-looking fenceposts with a couple of strands of rusty barbed wire concealed in the grass, just waiting to wrap around your ankle and trip you face-first into the nearest cow patty.

…But I have to admit that after hundreds of disappointments, I’ve developed my own double-speak. It’s only one phrase, but I use it over and over:

“It’s not quite what we’re looking for.”

I’m sure you can guess the translation. (Hint:  If your guess includes an f-bomb or two, you’re probably pretty close.)

* * *

P.S. Book 10 is sailing along!  It’ll definitely be released early, probably in late summer.  Woohoo!

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