Posted by: Casey Lybrand | August 25, 2010

Where does evil come from?

I am not sure about the metaphysics, [1] so let’s take a look at the origin of the word evil instead.


The Online Etymology Dictionary tells us that the word evil comes from:

[Old English] yfel (Kentish evel) “bad, vicious,” from [Proto-Germanic] *ubilaz … from [Proto-Indo-European] *upelo-, giving the word an original sense of “uppity, overreaching bounds” which slowly worsened. [2]

Oh, really! Wow.

The Online Etymology Dictionary goes on to say:

The meaning “extreme moral wickedness” was in [Old English], but did not become the main sense until [the] 18[th century]

Okay, there’s some morality caught up in that development: “overreaching bounds” leads to “extreme moral wickedness”. Evil!

Confession time!

I was already inspired to look up the word evil because of @Vordak: this week, he revealed his Secret Supervillain Lair to the world and chortled maniacally as his Tome of Evil was unleashed on an unsuspecting populace. Because he’s evil. Finding out the origin of the word makes it seem all the more appropriate to apply it to him.

Sometimes footnotes have boundary issues:

1: I do, however, know that I love a good apocalypse.

2: I wrote more about the Proto-Indo-European (PIE) language here. Remember, “*” added to a word means something like, “This is our best educated guess about a very old word for which there is no written record”. (The “*” is used for words from an unattested language, such as PIE or the Proto-Germanic language. An unattested language is a language with no direct record. Hence, scholarly analysis plus the “*”.)

Posted by: Casey Lybrand | August 23, 2010

Blogging Lite!

Time to review my blogging schedule again. Why am I thinking about this now? This week is one of the busiest in my family’s year. (There are things we need to get done before September, and it’s crunch time now.) This has me thinking about time management in general, and about how I’m going to manage online time along with editing and all the non-writing-related stuff I do (hint: it’s not all sitting by the pool), once September hits and I get down to serious editing.

Ring-tailed Lemurs (Lemur catta)

Ring-tailed Lemurs (Lemur catta) by Anguskirk, on Flickr

Here’s what I’ve come up with for a new-and-improved blogging schedule:

  1. Word of the Week: I’m keeping it! Every Wednesday, I will post a word/etymology post. Because it is awesome fun and I love doing it.

  2. Other blogging: I will aim for once a week on other topics — writing, reading, editing, and so on — but I won’t stress if I miss this second posting per week once in a while. I will also post more than this when I feel inspired to, of course.

I have to keep earning that Escaping the Web badge over and over. Don’t we all? We’ll see how this goes. If you’d like to share about blogging and/or time management, I’d love to hear it.

No footnotes this time! I’m in a linear mood this evening.

Oh, okay, one note. But you have to guess what it goes to!

?: Apropos of nothing. I just think it’s cute.

Posted by: Casey Lybrand | August 20, 2010

Last Minute Summer Reading!

Staying up way too late to cram in some summer reading because you’ve been too busy writing and reading non-fiction (for research) still counts, right? I’m invoking the Badger Scouts We-Don’t-Need-No-Stinkin’-Rules Rule on this one.

Summer Reading Merit Badge by Merit Badger

Summer Reading Merit Badge by Merit Badger

This summer I have: written by the pool, but not read there; read numerous works non-fiction, but very little fiction; written thousands of words for my WIP, but not read many novels.

This is how it tends to go for me. There are times when I write instead of read, or when I go on a non-fiction binge and leave off the fiction for a while. Partly this is because I find captivating fiction too distracting to my process when I am writing intensively. I also tend to allot my reading time for non-fiction — research — when I’m doing a lot of writing.

I miss reading fiction when I’m on a writing/non-fiction-reading kick. When I delved into a novel earlier this week, it felt like coming home after a long journey. In a way it was: I traveled deep into my own WIP this summer, and returned to reading fiction only when my intensive-writing adventure was through.

Favorite Summer Reading Books So Far: [1]

  • A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin

  • Child of Fire by Harry Connolly [2]

  • Death’s Daughter by Cassandra Jade

  • Rock Paper Tiger by Lisa Brackmann

Books in My TBR Pile That I *Will* Read Before Summer is Through: [3]

  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

  • LIAR by Justine Larbalestier

  • Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon

Book I Bought, Put in the TBR Pile, Didn’t Read Because I Was Writing Too Much, and Will NOT Manage to Read Before Summer Is Through: [4]

  • The Next Continent by Issui Ogawa, Translated by Jim Hubbert

This is the one I was most looking forward to reading after I wrapped up writing 1,000 words a day. I’ve decided to skip it while I am working on my zombies-at-spaceports short story: not because it has zombies in it (that I know of); it does, however, focus on space exploration. I need the mental space to work out my own space-exploration issues while I’m writing the zombies story. This one will hopefully be early-autumn reading.

Your turn!

Summer reading: what have you loved, what have you not gotten to, am I the only one who strategizes reading vis-à-vis writing? (Surely not.) I’d love to hear about it.

Happy reading, everyone!

Summer time, and the footnotes are easy:

1: If I were a kid in a library summer reading program, I don’t know if this would cut it. Also, I am counting “summer” as “starting when schools tend to let out around here (or should)”, not as “beginning on the solstice”. Remember, there are no rules in Badger Scouting! (Also, also: this list is in order read; it’s not a ranked list. Go read them all!)

2: I need to read this one again, and soon! My life got ridiculously busy shortly after I wrote that review, but it’s been pointed out to me that I may have missed some things when I read it the first time (well, the first times). ;) I hate missing things! I want to re-read it before the next one comes out later this month. Seriously: I hauled it all the way to Las Vegas and back, and sat down not long enough to crack a book the whole time I was there. What did I do on the plane? Got my 1,000 words a day done. And just barely, at that.

3: This list could also be entitled “Books I Bought for Myself That Other People in the Household Have Gotten to Read, But Alas I Have Not!”

4: And you thought my footnotes were obnoxious!* Check out the
title on that list!

*: Virtual *hugs* for everyone reading this: I am so thrilled people read my (self-indulgent) footnotes! I can’t even tell you.

So that night, I did dine like 'twas 1399.

So that night, I did dine like 'twas 1399. by gak, on Flickr

The spouse was wondering about the word restaurant, and how to spell it. Specifically, the spouse was sitting in a restaurant, trying to tweet about it with a smart phone, and wondering how to spell the word. Three adults at the table, and none of us could spell restaurant without spellcheck — which none of us had available at the moment. [1]

Let’s pause to spare a thought for our poor English teachers. Ah, well, they tried.

Moving on: let’s look at the word restaurant for our Word of the Week! [2]

Understanding where a word comes from can sometimes help me remember how to spell it. The spouse feels the same way, and suggested that restaurant may be related to the word taurus. [3] I thought “to restore”.

Some of us can parallel park moving vans, some of us can guess Latin roots. It takes all kinds. [4]


The Online Etymological Dictionary says of restaurant:

… from Fr. restaurant … originally “food that restores,” … restaurer “to restore or refresh,” from O.Fr. restorer

… and then sends us off to the word restore, which comes from Latin.

restaurō – “to restore, repair”

Remember when we looked at revelation, by way of apocalypse? We saw that re– means “a turning back”. That’s what it means in restaurō as well.

What about –staurō? The root sta– sits at the heart of the Latin word restaurō. The root sta– means “to stand”. Restaurō essentially means “to stand back up”. To restore.

Latin restaurō -> Old French restorer -> French restaurer -> French, then English restaurant

When you go to a restaurant, you restore yourself with a lovely meal.

Stand back for the footnotes:

1: I got to the correct spelling first — yay! — by breaking out the predictive text feature on my (non-smart) phone. Alas, the tweet had already been tweeted with the incorrect spelling. C’est la vie.

2: You all like “Word of the Week“? I like it a bit better than “Word Wednesday”, so I’m changing the tag. Still on Wednesday!

3: At a glance, I can’t tell if there is a connection between –
staurō and taurus. I’m not really a Latin scholar. Or a Greek scholar. Let’s look at some more Latin and Greek anyway:

σταυρός (stauro) – “stake, pale” or “cross” [as in a crucifix, a device of execution]

Then there’s this:

tau – “the [Latin] name of the Greek T”

Is there a there, there, with the stake (upright, a cross), and the Latin name for the Greek T (something upright, crossed) and the word
taurus? I guess it’s not impossible, but I don’t have it fully worked out. I’m pretty sure taurus has some “to grow” or size-related background. Not that all these things are mutually exclusive. (If there’s oodles of interest, I can look into it more.)

At the very least, you can use the
taur –> restaurant mnemonic if it helps you with the spelling!

4: And some of us (who are
not me) can speak not one, but two foreign languages, neither of them Romance. So some of us (who are me) don’t really have room to talk. Hi, sweetie!

Okay, it’s Spouse of Awesomeness Story Time!

You know how sometimes Flickr pages are not in English? Because photography is an worldwide online phenomenon, yay! Well, while I was looking at photos for this post, I ran across a Flickr photo description written in one of the languages the Resident Polyglot (RP) speaks. Here’s how it went:

Me: Vondershones!

RP: *bug eyes* No wait, what?

Me: I’m reading in German: von-der-sho-nes. Here, I’ll read the whole thing, and you can tell me what it means! “Ick vees–”

RP: That’s– um. How about I just look at it instead?

Posted by: Casey Lybrand | August 16, 2010

Across the Finish Line: 1,000 Words a Day for a Month

I accomplished two big writing goals this month: I finished the first draft of my MS, and I wrote 1,000 words a day for a month. [1] These goals go together!

Finish Line

Finish Line by jayneandd, on Flickr

When Layla Messner threw her 1,000 Words a Day for a Month Challenge out there last month, I thought it would be just the thing to motivate me to finish up my first draft. I crafted my own goals for the challenge, and included working on my outline as needed: on days when I wrote 1,000 words for something other than the novel [2], I also spent an hour working on whatever plot problem was holding me up.

I found that these goals not only helped me with the plot issues I was having, they also motivated my to get the writing done in the MS if at all possible. Less work for the day that way!

I finished my first draft before the challenge was through, but I also blew past the ending before realizing it. A few missing scenes later, 1,000+ words at a time, and I had a completed first draft.

A lot of encouragement to keep going with the 1,000 words a day – from Layla and other folks participating in the challenge, from people here on the blog, and from other folks who noticed what we were up to with #1kWds [3] on Twitter and cheered us on – came along with getting out there in public with a writing goal. [4]

I am less surprised (because I already knew people could be awesome) and more humbled (because people can be awesome) at all of the wonderful support I’ve gotten for 1,000 words a day and finishing my first draft. You are all amazing! Thank you.

What I’ve taken away from this experience is that persistence works and community is there if you are open to it.

How did you make it across the finish line for your first draft? What other big writing or writing-related goals have you accomplished that you are really proud of?

Cross the line into the footnotes:

1: And boy am I glad I’m done and taking a writing break right now. These Prop 8/Marriage Equality set-backs get to me like nothing else does. I struggled to write each day news came out from the court — good news, but always with a stay. I’m not shocked by the Ninth Circuit’s stay on Walker’s decision overturning Prop 8 (which means the marriage ban is still in place for now), but I am so disappointed that my heart is physically hurting from the sadness.

2: Have I, perhaps, mentioned that I am working on a zombies-at-spaceports short story? ‘Cause as it turns out, I am. FYI.

3: Layla came up with a new tag for editing: #EditGoal.

4: My hardest day of the month was last Wednesday. I was nearing the end of the 1,000 words a day month, and a number of little life things came up unexpectedly all at once. I didn’t finish my daily writing until after 11:00 PM; I got the Word Wednesday post for that day (which isn’t included in the creative writing word count) up just before midnight: still technically Wednesday!

You all know that Em is awesome because she is the Merit Badger, and Merit Badgers = Awesome! And you can tell that she is supportive from all the digital merit badges she generously distributes! She has also helped me to be brave, and that is awesome, too. Let me tell you a story about a super villain, a shark, a badger, and me.

It’s Not the Failwhale You Have to Watch Out For

Once upon a time on Twitter, there was an aspiring author. Well, upon lots of times on Twitter there were aspiring authors, but this time it was me. I had gotten myself on to Twitter, and I was trying to figure out how it worked. How to be a writer on Twitter.

Twitter is different from other online adventures I’ve had. It’s more immediate and real-time, and it’s almost eerily easy to talk to people on Twitter: just @ mention them, and there you are. But just because it is easy to do something technologically, doesn’t mean it’s easy emotionally to do it. After all, there are rules to these things! Social rules! And I didn’t know any of them.

Fortunately, I did know a certain badger. Though for just a moment there I wasn’t so sure about the “fortunately” part.

Into the Water

One day, not too long after my first tweet, I was talking with @meritblog on the Twitter. The topic of agents on Twitter somehow came up. (Em. How did that happen?)

I told Em that there was a certain sharky agent whose name I was far too shy to even type into the Twitter. Not @ mention! Just type it at all.

If Em laughed at me, she didn’t do it on Twitter. She did, however, go get Vordak. On Twitter.

I don’t really remember the particulars about the conversation that ensued. It’s somewhere deep in the Twitter stream at this point. But here is the general concept of playing with @Vordak on Twitter:

Vordak is a super villain! Oh no! And he has a mind control ray! And minions! And bears ridiculous head gear! Oh my!

Pretty schoolyard, and lots of fun. A super villain on Twitter. Who knew?

Turns out, Vordak is not the only super villain on Twitter. Not only is @Janet_Reid a killer shark with superpowers, she also faces off with Vordak from time to time. Jumping in with Vodak is an excellent way to end up in shark-infested waters. [1] Isn’t that right, Em?

It was the scariest Twitter conversation I have ever had. It may be the scariest I will ever have. Can’t really imagine what would jolt me more than all of a sudden talking with Janet Reid when I hadn’t meant to at all and I didn’t even know how to Twitter! Oh my!

And guess what? It was fine. Tweeting @ Janet Reid was fine. [2] We had fun taunting Vordak, he had fun menacing us. It was all very juvenile and fantastic. And I survived.

Em was there the whole time: warning me about the mind control ray, cluing me in about how to play the game [3], insisting that I engage with Janet Reid. She helped me to be brave.

Being brave meant that when I entered a contest at Janet Reid’s blog, and messed up my user name spectacularly, I was able to ask on Twitter if I could try again. (Her answer: Sure.) I also felt brave enough to @ mention @Janet_Reid when I tweeted recently about why I tweet. [4] I was brave enough to do these things because Em pushed me into the water with the Shark. Badgers, I tell you.

Calm Seas Ahead

Now, this isn’t to say I feel the need to be chatty with agents all the time. Reading agent blogs compelled me on to the internet, but now that I’m here, my goals for blogging and tweeting have morphed a bit. I get so much out of connecting with writers who are at similar places in their journeys to mine. That’s what I want for now. At some point, though (when the MS is much closer to polished and ready), I will want to talk with agents on Twitter, and at conferences, and so on.

Is that still a scary prospect for me? Yeah. A little. Of course it is: this is my career we’re talking about. But is it terrifying? No, not at all. Just normal jitters. I survived jumping in with the Shark and with Vordak on Twitter, you see. After that, otherwise frightening things just don’t have the same bite.

Thank you, Em.

Also, thank you, Em, for this:

OMG! My excitement started with this in the mail box:

Badger Sticker by Merit Badger

Badger Sticker by Merit Badger

Then there were squeaky noises! (Okay, they were from me. I squeaked.)

I knew Em sent a package. There was a reason that “check the mail” was my afternoon writing break all week. And yesterday, there it was! My prize!

I’m pretty sure this is a prize for realizing that I’m goofing off on the internet, then doing it anyway. To read the fabulous haiku I wrote at the start of all this, you must go over to the Merit Badger blog posthaste! It’s there, in the comments of the post about the Getting the Hell off the Internet and Getting Some Writing Done for a Change Escaping the Web Badge.

Keep in mind that I am resolute in my belief that Twitter is a season word.

Badger Scout Sash and Badges by Merit Badger

Badger Scout Sash and Badges by Merit Badger

When Em told me I won the How to Get Sucked into Silly Things on the Internet Even Though You Know Better Contest, she asked for my three favorite badges, earned yet or not. I told her Worldbuilding, Feline “Assistance”, and BICHOK.

I also mentioned that it was a toss-up for me between the Research Badge and the BICHOK Badge, but that I felt worldbuilding implied research, and I really wanted that BICHOK badge!

When I pulled a tiny sash of real Badger Scout merit badges out of the package, I blinked at it for a moment. Partly it was because I could not believe the sheer awesomeness of holding actual Badger Scout merit badges in my hand (because they belong on the internet). But it was also because there were four badges! Four badges!

I didn’t know exactly what Em was going to send, but I guessed it was some kind of art object involving the badges. Three badges. And there were four! The Research Badge was a special bonus badge in congratulations for finishing my first draft. So much yay!

Thank you, Em. I love them all.

The photo shows the order in which Em put them on the sash. I love it because it tells a story of my writing, bottom to top, in abbreviated form.

How to Write:

  1. Research
  2. Worldbuild
  3. Grab cat
  4. Write!

Okay, okay, so there’s outlining and character creation and so on somewhere along the line, too. But I’m not sure any of that is as important as step 3. And I’m certain that step 4 is the most important of all. Sitting down to write — even if you don’t want to — is key: Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard, BICHOK!

Here are some photos of the badges up close (they are tiny pin-back buttons, and shiny in more sense than one):

BICHOK Badger Scout Badge by Merit Badger

BICHOK Badger Scout Badge by Merit Badger

Feline "Assistance" Badger Scout Badge by Merit Badger

Feline "Assistance" Badger Scout Badge by Merit Badger

Worldbuilding Badger Scout Badge by Merit Badger

Worldbuilding Badger Scout Badge by Merit Badger

Research Badger Scout Badge by Merit Badger

Research Badger Scout Badge by Merit Badger

And here I have placed the sash on my computer, where it most likely belongs (though that does make it challenging to keep writing. Hmmm.):

Crashy with Badger Scout Badges by Merit Badger

Crashy with Badger Scout Badges by Merit Badger

Again, thank you so much, Em! These Badger Scout merit badges mean so much to me! I love them!

Dip a toe into the footnotes:

1: Especially if Vordak is gleefully pushing you in that direction. Which he was. I’m on to you, Vordak!

2: It’s okay to admit, down here in the footnotes, that Janet Reid is actually very nice? She is. Here’s an example of her niceness: The Query Shark. (No, really. I mean it. Think about it.) I was just feeling shy and out of my element, that’s all.

3: I didn’t realize about the book at first (Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World by Vordak T. Incomprehensible. It’s MG humor. I’ve pre-ordered. Can’t wait!). Before I googled, I’d seen Vordak around the Twitter, but I didn’t know what was up with him. I thought he might be a comedian making a name for himself. I didn’t know how rough he would play. Now I know that not only is he a super villain, he’s also an author.

4: Wanna read about it in more than 140 characters? Right here.

Posted by: Casey Lybrand | August 11, 2010

To R or not to R, that is the question.

Agatha82 of Here Be Dragons asked a question about spelling which relates to rhotic and non-rhotic pronunciation. I’m going to answer that for Word Wednesday this week. [1]

92/366 asses!

92/366 asses! by coldpants, on Flickr

Note: All photographs in this post are captioned with the original titles given by photographers on Flickr.

Also note: In this post, I am only going to consider the British Received Pronunciation and the General American accents. (This is a blog post, not thesis paper, right? If anyone wants to explore other accents and/or languages in the comments, that is always welcome!) For the record, I am an American with a not-reliably General American accent.

It’s all rhotic to me.

Alannah said:

I think I have a word for you! How about Arse (or the American version: Ass) I wonder why it’s spelled so different between us…

This is a question which really comes down to how we pronounce, or don’t pronounce, our Rs, and also how we spell our words. First the rhotic/non-rhotic issue: I looked high and low for a good, simple definition of rhotic and non-rhotic to share. And you know what, you guys? Let’s just look at Wikipedia. Because it’s easy. [2]

Rhotic and non-rhotic accents:

A rhotic … speaker pronounces the letter R in hard; a non-rhotic speaker does not pronounce it in hard. That is, rhotic speakers pronounce /r/ in all positions, while non-rhotic speakers pronounce /r/ only if it is followed by a vowel sound in the same phrase or prosodic unit…

artistic-ish a*se 2

artistic-ish a*se 2 by Loving Earth, on Flickr

British English is non-rhotic. American English is rhotic. Because the R in arse is not followed by a vowel, British English speakers pronounce it like “ah-s” (sorry for slaughtering your pronunciation in type on my blog, nice British people! Here’s a more formal pronunciation for you: [ɑ:s]). American English speakers say ass something like “aa-s” (Americans who don’t like my phonetic description are welcomed to kiss my ass entitled to their own opinions just like anyone else. Oh, here’s a pronunciation for you, too: [æs]).

These pronunciations are not really that far apart, and don’t account for the R in arse. Part of the issue is that British has not always been a non-rhotic language:

all English accents were rhotic up until the early MnE period and non-rhoticity was a relatively late development. (Remember, spelling reflects pronunciation in the early MnE period.)

My Ass Is Trying To Escape!

My Ass Is Trying To Escape! by Rude Cactus, on Flickr

Aha! That last bit up there is important: “spelling reflects pronunciation in the early MnE period”. Modern Englisn (MnE) used to have arse pronounced, well, “arse” (sorry, my American is showing, try this instead: “are-s”). It was after the non-rhoticization of English in the Modern English period (for MnE, think: roughly Shakespeare onward), that the pronunciation of arse shifted. And sounded much more like the word ass, which to the British was, and is, a beast of burden, and not a derrière.

The spelling of arse was formalized in British English with the older, rhotic spelling. In the US, our spelling shook out a little differently. The spelling of ass reflects our pronunciation, which is based on the later, non-rhotic British pronunciation.

Someday I will do a fun post on conventional spelling and dictionaries (which were just coming onto the scene around the time all this MnE and arse/ass business was going on), but for now the take home point is this: arse/ass are essentially the same word with different spellings. Ass-the-donkey is an entirely different word, which sounds rather similar (or identical) to arse/ass.

What about those other asses?

As ass means donkey in British English, I wondered what I would find when I looked up the word ass in the OED (this is the Oxford English Dictionary, remember). Here is the helpful definition for the non-donkey usage of ass:

vulgar and dial[lectical]. sp[elling]. and pronunc[iation]. of ARSE.

Oooh, vulgar! [3] Yes, OED, that’s how we dialectically pronounce the word in the common vernacular on this side of the pond. Well spotted!

do these jeans make my ass look big?

do these jeans make my ass look big? by Crystl, on Flickr

Here’s an important question for all of you: Is that donkey/ass joke up there hilarious? [4]

If it’s good enough for Shakespeare…

Donkey Asses

Donkey Asses by joncockley, on Flickr

And here’s another: Just how punny is Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? [5] This is an ass/arse-related question!

Different scholars have different opinions about the exact comedic implications of the character named Nick Bottom who transforms into a donkey-headed beast in this play. The word donkey isn’t that old: the OED puts the first written usage at 1785. People may have started to use the word donkey instead of ass so as not to sound as though they were saying arse. It’s not impossible that there was a bit of a pun going on in Midsummers.

Here’s what the Online Etymological Dictionary has to say:

Indirect evidence of the change from arse to ass can be traced to 1785 (in euphemistic avoidance of ass “donkey” by polite speakers) and perhaps to Shakespeare, if Nick Bottom transformed into a donkey in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (1594) is the word-play some think it is.

What an ass

What an ass by magnusfranklin, on Flickr

Bottom and Titania

Bottom and Titania by tiny_packages, on Flickr

Super-simplified summary of the evolution of arse and ass:

  1. Once upon a time in British English, the words arse (bum) and ass (donkey) sounded different and meant different things. Neither word was considered indelicate.

  2. The usage of the word arse shifted from technical to déclassé.

  3. In Modern English, the British word arse still means a bottom, but now sounds like a beast of burden. (Hardy-har, Shakespeare!)

  4. At some point in all of this, the British hauled their arses over to the Americas.

  5. In the US, the spelling of the word ass was formalized in a way which makes it a homonym with the synonym for donkey; in British, the spelling of arse was formalized with the older (no longer pronounced) R in the spelling.

  6. Asses in the US, arses in the UK. And that’s the end of it.

More resources for your arse/ass needs

I love the internet! Here, from my fun travels around the web (keeping in mind that the Google already thinks there is something wrong with me), are a couple of fun links to the ass/arse spelling and pronunciation issue:

  • The Language Log has a post about the author Chris Ayres and his fun adventures with the pronunciation of his name in the US: Putting on Ayres.

    As a testament to how thoroughly rhotic my pronunciation is, let me tell you that I had to read the post twice, then read Ayres’s helpful contribution in the comments (he didn’t write the original post himself) before I actually got it! This post delves into the NYT and their no-no words, so it’s good fun.

  • Separated by a common language has a great post on this topic. It starts with a question received by the blogger:

    wondering why the British “put an /r/ in ass”, when, of course, the real question is why Americans have taken the /r/ OUT of arse

    And goes from there. An excellent examination of the issue.

I learned many things about asses and arses at those posts and the others I’ve linked. I hope I have also brought you to a greater understanding of this etymological issue. Thank you, Alannah, for this truly delightful topic! :)

Shall I call them endnotes, just this once?:

1: This post was intended for last week. I was still finishing up the post when the Prop 8 trial decision came out last Wednesday. That took my mood from silly to serious in no time flat, so I decided to shelve this topic and post on the word equality instead. I figured arses would still be interesting this week, and I really needed to work though some more topical issues right then.

2: And because most of my linguistics books were sadly lost long ago. And I couldn’t find a good .edu source with a simple definition. And Wikipedia (at the moment) isn’t wrong on this, okay? Okay.

3: OED again:

vulgar, a

2. In common or general use; common, customary, or ordinary, as a matter of use or practice.

Arse is, by the by, “Obs. in polite use.” I’ll keep that in mind.

4: The answer is: Yes. Yes it is.

5: Found this lesson plan from PBS: The “Punny” Language of Shakespeare. Now, the lesson plan warns teachers:

You will have to set perimeters as to language (even though Shakespeare could be rather “bawdy” and vulgar), the students should not write vulgarities, especially in their own up-to-date version.

Right! Because that will be easy to do when interpreting Shakespeare’s puns into modern slang! Best of luck, middle school English teachers. You know I love you!

I will wrap up my month of writing 1,000 words a day in Layla Messner’s writing challenge at the end of this week. I am also looking toward editing the first draft of my MS. Editing a work of this length and editing with an eye to publication — both of these are new prospects for me. I’ve been trying to figure out how to proceed.

Wheel Maze SquaredCircle

Wheel Maze SquaredCircle by Peter E. Lee, on Flickr

I love reading blogs written by writers at various stages of the writing, editing, and getting published process, especially Here Be Dragons, Bowl of Oranges, Layla Messner, Cassandra Jade, and Tales of the Pack. Reading these blogs helps me wrap my mind around how to move forward now that it is time to edit. I get a lot out of reading about other writers’ processes: it’s motivating, inspiring, and often instructional. We also help each other by linking to even more information about writing.

Recently, Allison Moon at Tales of the Pack posted a very interesting piece about editing in which she linked to this guest post by Alex Sokoloff at The Blood-Red Pencil: Top Ten Things I Know About Editing. Check out this item from the list:

5. Whatever your genre is, do a dedicated pass focusing on that crucial genre element.

What an excellent idea! Thank you again for linking to this, Allison! The Top Ten list contains some things I’ve heard before (read the entire MS aloud), but also many things I would not have thought of, like item 5 up there. (Though doesn’t it seem obvious now?)

I’m a ways away from needing to do a genre pass-through. I worked a bit just on the order of the scenes and chapters right after I finished the first draft, but I know that when I go back to the MS, there will be a big, messy, structurally-unsound pile of first draftiness waiting for me. Luckily, the Top Ten article addresses structural issues as well. [1] I’m going to take a break to get some distance from the MS, then get down to it.

Writing and Editing Goals: August into September


  • Finish up the 1,000 words a day for a month challenge. Concludes August 13.

  • Take the rest of August off from writing. [2]


  • Writing: 300 words or more each day, five days out of the week. Why? One thousand is a stretch for me to write each and every day. It has been a beautiful experience (it’s something I’ve done before, as well), but it is not something I want to try to do while also editing my first draft. I do, however, feel it is important to keep up daily writing. Three hundred words is very doable — a nice, easy goal that will not wear me out to the point that I can’t also face editing. If one month of 300 words a day/5-days-a-week goes well, I’ll see about increasing the daily word count goal. Often if I can make it to 300, I can keep going to 500 or even 1,000 pretty easily; this goal is about giving myself permission to stop at 300 so I can save my writing energy for revising. If my revising work for the day includes entirely re-writing a scene, I will most definitely apply that re-writing toward my daily word count.

  • Editing: One hour or more each day, five days out of the week. If this doesn’t seem like enough work on the MS, I’ll see about increasing this goal as well. Let’s start out slow, and see where it goes.

Did you notice? I’m taking weekends off in September. Perhaps not strictly on the weekend (if Saturday happens to be really good for writing when, say, Thursday isn’t, that’s fine, too). I need breaks in order to keep going, and I miss reading. I have read almost no fiction this past month, and that needs to change. Five days instead of seven will help me achieve a better balance.

How about you? What online resources have you found especially helpful moving into the first-draft-editing stage?

Notes of a footish variety:

1: I need to say a bit more about the awesomeness of the Top Ten Things I Know About Editing article: I was reading along, and I got to item 10. It’s about structure and story elements. This bit of text sat right at the bottom of my screen when I read it:

I’ve compiled a checklist of story elements that I use both when I’m brainstorming a story on index cards, and again when I’m starting to revise. I find it invaluable to go through my first draft and make sure I’m hitting all of these points.

And I thought, oh how nice. She has her very own film-inspired story elements checklist in her files. I should try creating one of those.

I scrolled down, expecting to see the timestamp and comments at the end of the post. That is not what I saw. Guess what was there instead? STORY ELEMENTS CHECKLIST! Page after page of it!

I possibly made some squeaky noises, and I definitely marveled at the wonders of the internet and the generosity of the article’s author in sharing this knowledge. So much awesome.

2: Yes, taking this much of a break from writing is a goal. I’m going to try to keep the writing really minimal. We’ll see how it goes. Super-secret footnotes-only tidbit: I re-wrote a scene from the MS this weekend. I know, I know! Distance.

The End (or is it?): Finished First Draft Badge

It’s the end… for now. I finished writing the first draft! I have a long road ahead before I reach “The End” for good, but I am thrilled to be at this point. And to have a shiny merit badge to commemorate it!

Finished First Draft Badge by Merit Badger

Finished First Draft Badge by Merit Badger

I’ve given myself until the end of the weekend to poke and prod at the order of the scenes and chapters, then I’ll let the MS sit at least until the end of the 1000 Words a Day Challenge in mid-August. I’m going to try to make myself wait until the beginning of September to really start editing. We’ll see how that goes. I’m pretty excited to work on it, but I understand the importance of distance.

More Badges!

Writing by Hand

This one has me still a bit stunned. Writing by Hand is one badge I had no intention of ever claiming. A few days out of town without my computer (and a bit of writing by the pool as well), and I figure I’ve earned it.

Writing by Hand Badge by Merit Badger

Writing by Hand Badge by Merit Badger

Now, you’d think this would mean I’ve also earned the Typing Badge, but sadly that is not the case. Turns out, I’m terrible about typing in the words I write by hand. I’ve entered the handwritten MS scenes, but that is pretty much it.

Which means that Vegas story? Alas, still mostly ink on paper. I’ll get to it, but typing is meh. (This is part of why I don’t write by hand when I can help it.)

So, Writing by Hand Badge: yes! Typing Badge: no.

Badges from the Phylum Arthropoda
Escaping the Web Badge

I love the internet. Love. And I love Twitter and blogging as well. I think I do okay, though, with keeping it in balance.

I’ve cut down on my blogging. (For the most part — I made an extra post this week because I was feeling ranty, but isn’t that what a blog is for?)

I’m getting done the things I need to in writing and in other aspects of my life. All told, I’m comfortable with my internet/non-internet balance.

I mentioned at the Merit Badger blog that I get way more from being online — support, conversations about writing I wouldn’t have otherwise, learning from other writers — than what it takes from me. Which is mainly time. I have no abundance of time (who does?), but so far so good with the internet.

I am claiming Escaping the Web Badge, and committing to keep paying attention to how I use the internet. How’s that sound?

Escaping the Web Badge by Merit Badger

Escaping the Web Badge by Merit Badger

(Should probably disclaim, here, as well: I could not contain myself when it came to writing a quick haiku about the time-sucking nature of the internet when Em posted this badge. Yes, I saw the trap. Yes, I walked right in. But dammit, extraneous haiku is part of how the internet feeds my soul! Still taking the badge!)

Fly on the Wall Badge

Getting off the web not only allows more time for writing, it can also lead to opportunities to eavesdrop skulk about observe the world in real life. That’s a big part of what writers do when we’re not writing, and that’s what the Fly On the Wall Badge is for, right? Right.

Fly on the Wall Badge by Merit Badger

Fly on the Wall Badge by Merit Badger

So that’s what I’ve been up to. How’s everyone else doing? If you tell me, I can’t say I won’t ever write about it. But I’ll try not to. Or at least I’ll try to try.

Posted by: Casey Lybrand | August 5, 2010

What is this “Constitution” of which you speak?

Read this in a newspaper article quoted over at the Prop 8 Trial Tracker: [1]

U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker ruled the law violates federal equal protections and due process laws. [2]

No. No, no, no. And also no.

Now, I am not a lawyer, but c’mon. This is pretty basic stuff.

Walker didn’t base his decision on “federal equal protections and due process laws”. He decided based on the Constitution of the United States of America. Specifically, the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

The newspaper article does go on to mention the US Constitution. Eventually. But for an above-the-fold summary of the case, I want to see a Constitutional right called a Constitutional right. It’s not that hard.

There is a difference between the US Constitution and a federal law. As in the one outweighs the other. As in, the Constitution outweighs federal law, and state law as well. Whether a federal law outweighs a state law is a more complex issue, but when it comes to fundamental rights, the US Constitution trumps them both. [3]

I don’t know if it’s a matter of lazy or ignorant or what, but a newspaper reporting on “federal equal protections and due process laws” instead of the Constitutional right to equal protections and due process – that’s just not helping.

Get it right, Fourth Estate. [4] Otherwise, you are part of the problem.


While I was double-checking (you know, fact-checking) before hitting “Publish” on this post, I refreshed the newspaper article and found that it had been updated substantially.

The article now 1) mentions the Fourteenth Amendment (which it didn’t until the update); 2) locates due process and equal protection within the Fourteenth Amendment; and 3) does not contain the quote above, but says this instead:

Sure to be at the center of the debate is whether California’s Proposition 8 violates the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protections for all and declares that government won’t take away “life, liberty or property” without due process.

U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said on several occasions in his ruling that he believes gay marriage bans clearly deprive people of those rights.

Good! This is good. (If a little more he-said/she-said than the original. But that’s a whole other rant.)

I’m still posting my original rant, now with this addendum. Why? Because this sort of thing happens all the time. Because I expect (for some values of “expect”) journalists reporting on Constitutional issues to be able to get Constitutional issues right the first time. Because the faulty information was up there for hours, and I’m really not pleased about that. The rant is still valid in general, but kudos to the Bee for bringing the Constitutional issues into the article where they belong. Eventually.

Even my footnotes are ranty:

1: The Prop 8 Trial Tracker is awesome, and my rant is a bit off-topic, so I’m blogging here instead of commenting over there. My marriage equality comment would be this: “Woohoo! Go equality!”

The issue in my rant, while a bit sideways to the marriage equality issue, is an important one. The Constitution — what it is, and what it isn’t — is important. Words matter. The Constitution matters.

2: The original article is here. Emphasis added to the quote to highlight the issue I’m addressing.

3: Why is this important? It’s important because the Constitution is not merely a set of laws and regulations. It is the foundational document of our nation. It is our agreement as a society about what rights we the people have and about which powers we grant to the government. It tells the courts which of our laws are okay, and which are not. As in, “Is this law Constitutional? I know… Let’s look at the Constitution!” Novel concept, I know.

4: Hey, news media – a “trivia” question for you: The US Constitution mentions only a few professions; what is first profession mentioned in the Bill of Rights? Bonus points for also having a clue as to why that would be.

Helpful links for anyone who wants to play along:

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