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Reads, Eats & Sleeps

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I’ve finally gotten around to reading my favorite blogs again (I took a no-blogs, no-Sudoku, no- crossword-or-logic-puzzles vow for the last several months of writing THE MEDICI QUEEN), and Notes from the Copy Editor mentioned the following upcoming title:

LITERALLY, THE BEST LANGUAGE BOOK EVER: ANNOYING WORDS AND ABUSED PHRASES YOU SHOULD NEVER USE AGAIN by Paul Yeager

Well. I suppose I’ll have to preorder it, as it’s due out the first week in May. It follows in the trail blazed by Lynne Truss’ magnificent Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Whereas Truss’ book focuses on punctuation, this one is for aficionados and protectors of the proper use of specific words.
If you – as I do – find joy in passionate discussions of the semi-colon or connotations, this one might be for you.

Holy Adverb, Batman!

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I've been thoroughly enjoying Dan's posts over at ourboldhero.com -- specifically, the copy-editing page. I got a chuckle out of the Batman/Robin exchange.

Robin: "You can't get away from Batman that easy!" Batman: "Easily." Robin: "Easily." Batman: "Good grammar is essential, Robin." Robin: "Thank you." Batman: "You're welcome."

Batman: "Cattail Lane and Nine Lives Alley. The Grimalkin Novelty Company is on that corner."
Robin: "Grimalkin? What kind of a name is that?"
Batman: "An obscure but nevertheless acceptable synonym for cat, Robin."

Dan's site led me to the delightful Futility Closet, described as an "idler's miscellany of compendious amusements." Indeed it is. Scroll down to read the "Rimshot" post -- a terrible pun. As a child of an inveterate terrible punster -- who back in 1976, got my first (and last) short story published in ISAAC ASIMOV'S SCIENCE FICTION MAGAZINE as a result of winning a terrible pun contest -- I much appreciated it.

At least, not until I write a novel set after the year 1694, when "snicker" was first recorded, perhaps coming from the Dutch snikken, "to gasp, sob."

No one sniggered (a variant) until 1706.

Word origin is one of the thousand little thorns that prick the writer of historical novels. I instinctively avoid words that feel too modern -- for example, none of my characters can be mesmerized, since the word comes from Franz Anton Mesmer, who developed the theory of animal magnetism and hypnosis at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

That's why the the Online Etymology Dictionary is one of my closest friends. If you have an interest in word midwifery, check it out.

Witty essay by seventeen-year-old writer! Such tender years, yet such control of prose, such a brilliant concept: sound of us applauding.

Gerunds okay, apparently. And, thank God, articles. No need for sounding like Yakov Smirnoff on a bad day.

But then, the appearance of doubt: Seventeen-year-old genius -- or Hollywood hack, perhaps dialogue-writer for Yoda?

Possible. Even so, our approval of concept. Consideration: production of entire verbless chapter possible?

If so, maybe not much of an audience. Opinions?