Tag Archives: words

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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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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Canadian, Eh?

Yesterday was Canada Day, so just for fun I’m going to ‘speak Canadian’:

Canada Day is one of our favourite times to celebrate!  We had a nice hot day yesterday, so we could finally take off our tuques1 and kick back in the shade with some Freezies2, which was a nice change after the long winter.

Contrary to popular belief we don’t actually live in igloos year-round, but if the hydro3 goes off in the winter we’re hooped4.  All we can do then is huddle in our houses and hope for a chinook5.  So we love summer!

And Canada Day is a great excuse to break out the hooch6 of your choice, whether it’s a mickey7 of screech8 , a forty-pounder9 of ta-kill-ya10, or a two-four11 of beer.  But we don’t want to look like a bunch of hosers12 lying around in our gitch13 collecting pogey14 and building our Molson muscles15, so most of us settle for a poverty pack16 when we’re celebrating.  And that saves us a hangover as well as some loonies17 and toonies18, so it’s a win-win.

No celebration is complete without food, and the unhealthier it is, the better it tastes!  Whether it’s burgers or Eggs Benny, your Canada Day fare can always be improved by adding peameal bacon19.  And if you’re really looking for a way to harden your arteries, nothing fills the bill like poutine20Donairs21 are a good choice if you’d like to spice things up a bit, but dieters could eat fiddleheads22 instead if the season is right.

Let’s not forget dessert!  Canada Day is a great time to break out the gooey and delicious Nanaimo bars23.  And speaking of sweet treats, be careful if you get a loaded beavertail24 – it’s hard to eat them tidily, and if the toppings fall off onto your Arborite25, it’s into the garburator26 with them… and that’s just sad.

There are always lots of Canada Day celebrations to attend, but our favourite is the fireworks.  We don’t go very often because we don’t like fighting the crowds, but we felt like keeners27 this year so we decided to go.  We thought we might be able to deke28 into a parkade29 and walk to where we could see them, but that didn’t work out.  When we discovered we’d have to go to a golf course and fight the crowds after all, we bailed at the last minute and went to bed instead.

Guess we’re just getting old, eh30?

 

  1. Tuque – a knitted cap (called a watch cap in other places).
  2. Freezie – a brightly coloured frozen treat in a clear plastic sleeve.
  3. Hydro – everybody else calls this ‘electricity’ or ‘power’.
  4. Hooped – screwed.
  5. Chinook – a warm dry wind.
  6. Hooch (also hootch) – booze.
  7. Mickey – a 375 ml bottle of liquor, often conveniently curved to fit in a pocket.
  8. Screech – Traditionally, cheap, high-alcohol booze from Newfoundland, often moonshine.  Now also a brand name for rum.
  9. Forty-pounder – a 40 ounce bottle of liquor
  10. Ta-kill-ya – tequila
  11. Two-four – a 24-pack of beer.
  12. Hoser – a drunken oaf, but the term isn’t too derogatory – it’s kind of like calling somebody a goofball.
  13. Gitch (also gotch or gonch) – underwear of any kind, men’s or women’s. (Where I grew up, gitch was women’s underwear and gotch or gonch was men’s).
  14. Pogey – unemployment benefits.
  15. Molson muscle – beer belly.
  16. Poverty pack – a six-pack of beer.
  17. Loonie – a one-dollar coin.
  18. Toonie – a two-dollar coin.
  19. Peameal bacon (Also back bacon or Canadian bacon) – cured boneless pork loin, originally rolled in ground yellow peas, but now rolled in cornmeal, though the name ‘peameal’ has stuck.
  20. Poutine – french fries sprinkled with curds of new cheese and covered with hot gravy-like sauce.
  21. Donair – spiced meat wrapped in a pita with lettuce, tomato, onion, and sauce (I like sweet sauce best, yum!).
  22. Fiddleheads – baby ferns.
  23. Nanaimo bar – a chocolatey dessert square with vanilla filling (traditional), but there are lots of other flavoured variations.
  24. Beavertails – a deep-fried pastry topped with various forms of yumminess.
  25. Arborite – a brand name for plastic laminate. The name is often used instead of the words ‘plastic laminate’, like ‘Formica’.
  26. Garburator – a garbage-disposal unit that fits in the sink drain and grinds food finely enough to be washed down the drain.
  27. Keener – someone who is overly eager. Can also be a derogatory term meaning ‘suck-up’, depending on the usage.
  28. Deke – dodge or make a sharp turn. Also ‘deke out’ – to fake or feint successfully: “I deked him out”.
  29. Parkade – parking garage.
  30. Eh – the quintessential Canadian interjection. Turns a statement into a rhetorical question that assumes the other person agrees.

How many of these Canadianisms did you recognize?  What oddball words do you use in your neck of the woods?

* * *

Woohoo!  I’ve finished the final edits for Book 8:  Spy Now, Pay Later, and it’s off to final proofreading!  I’ll let you know as soon as there’s a release date on the horizon, but for now I’ll just say “Coming VERY SOON”. 😀

 

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Possum Panini

The other day in our staff meeting, we started talking about roadkill.  Don’t ask why.  Let’s just say that our staff meetings are rarely predictable.  The conversation devolved, not only to roadkill, but to the eating thereof. 

And Sharon blurted out “Possum panini!”

And I said, “You know, that just sounds naughty.  It’s like you’re using a euphemism for an itty-bitty possum  p…”

Subsequent embellishments on this theme left us holding our sides and weeping tears of laughter/agony.  It took awhile before we actually got back to business.

Afterwards, I started thinking about the oddities of the English language.  Some words just sound… rude.  Even if they’re not.  Lists of these have already been compiled, by people far more eloquent and twisted than I.  Just Google “words that sound dirty but aren’t”.  Hell, there’s even a Facebook group.

It’s easy to see why most of those words made the lists.  They’re pretty close to other words that generally don’t get used in polite company.  But certain “innocent” words bother me, too.  Here are a few:

Flaccid – Maybe because the “fla-” phonetic is an onomatopoeia for the sound of a limp dead fish being slapped against a hard surface?  I dunno.  The word just grosses me out.

Flabby – Probably because it’s flaccid’s cousin, but jigglier.  You know what I mean.  We’re talkin’ Jello smacked against a hard surface.  Same sound effect, different visual.

Puce – Maybe because it looks/sounds too much like “puke”?  Because it means “flea” in French?  Because it’s part of the word “prepuce”?  Because it’s necessary to wrinkle your nose when you pronounce it?  “Peeuuwss…”  So many possibilities, but it offends me on some deep level.  It seems to me that the colour it describes should be revolting snot-green, not dark brownish-purple.

Juggernaut – I haven’t a clue why, but this word just annoys me.

Scenario – Seems filled with self- importance.  It reminds me of the clichéd B-movie villain twirling his moustache and chortling.  Mustachio?  Scenario?  Maybe there’s some association there.

Indeed – I know the reason for my antipathy towards “indeed”.  A certain writer for a certain magazine uses it so frequently that I’ve developed a permanent allergy.  I’ve wanted to write a letter to the editor for about three years now, but I can’t figure out a way to do it without sounding like a wack job.  So I included it here instead.  Somehow it’s more acceptable to look like a wack job on my own blog.

Despite my hang-ups, I still use these words when necessary.  When it’s the right word, ya gotta use it.  Well, except “juggernaut”.  I draw the line at that.

What about you?  What words drive you crazy for no particular reason?  Or am I the only one with this problem?

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