Things I Learned While Researching Other Things

I give all credit for the idea of this post to the late journalist Sydney J. Harris, who would occasionally include something he called “Things I Learned While Looking Up Other Things” in his syndicated column.

This is a post about words and phrases. These are my building blocks, so they’re something I’m always interested in.  You understand the sometimes frustrating task of trying to find the correct word or phrase.

Occasionally, I’ll read or type words that I may understand in the context in which I’m seeing or using them, but will suddenly realize that I’m not certain where the words or phrases originated.

In this amazing Computer Age, I can afford a few minutes of distraction to investigate them further.

Right off the bat — As expected, the phrase “right off the bat,” meaning “immediately; at once; without delay” is a sports metaphor that has been traced back to the late 1880s with that usage. I just made the assumption that the sport was baseball—and it probably is—but some suggest that it may have originated with cricket (as baseball did).

Nitpicker — The word nitpicker means someone who finds faults, however small or unimportant, everywhere they look. We all know someone like that. If we don’t, it’s probably us. The word itself is relatively new, from about 1950 or so. It comes from the idea of picking nits (or lice eggs) out of someone’s hair. A nitpicker is as meticulous about finding faults as a literal nitpicker should be at finding each louse egg. Yes, it’s kind of a disgusting word origin, which is why nitpicker has negative connotations.

Top-notch — We know that top-notch means “excellent” or “of the highest quality.” But, what are its origins? It seems that no one really knows. It first appeared suddenly in its current usage in the mid-19th century. It has been suggested that it originated from one of several tossing games imported from Scotland that required a player to throw a weighted object over a horizontal bar. The best score would be when the bar was in the “top notch,” naturally. This sounds reasonable, but it’s really just a guess. Other guesses have it relating to logging, with the best lumberjacks able to cut from the highest notches, or some such thing. Another had something to do with candles and courting, but that’s been mostly debunked. Bottom line: we don’t know.

Since Hector was a pup* — Meaning “for a long time.” I can’t say this is exactly a regional colloquialism, although I heard it the first (and only) time from some guy in South Carolina. He said that it was something his dad always said, and, in the context it was used, the meaning was obvious.  Best guess, according to Internet sources, is that it is referring to the Trojan War hero Hector, since the phrase originated during a time when people were more well-versed in the classics. And that was, indeed, a long time ago.

Hemming and hawing — The phrase means to hesitate to give a definite answer. It dates back to the 1400s and is echoic in nature. A more modern interpretation would be “um-ing and er-ing” probably, with “um” and “er” being common filler sounds in hesitant speech. I always assumed it had something to do with either sewing or sailing. I was mistaken.

Gamut — I used the word “gamut,” knowing that its definition meant the complete range or scope of something. My actual sentence began “our entertainment choices run the gamut from …” But, where did the word “gamut” come from? It turns out that gamut originally meant “lowest note in the medieval musical scale” and it was a contraction of Medieval Latin gamma ut, from gamma, the Greek letter indicating a note below A, plus ut (later called do (as in “do re mi”), the low note on the six-note musical scale. So the word gamut was originally all about music, but later morphed into meaning “the whole musical scale,” or, figuratively, “the entire range or scale” of anything. Its first usage in this manner can be traced to the 1620s.

Honeymoon — The word and concept of the honeymoon owes more than a little to alcohol (as do some weddings: but, I digress—). The medieval tradition of drinking honeyed wine for a full moon cycle after a wedding was supposed to ensure a fruitful union between the new bride and groom. I guess Champagne is a modern-day analogue to honey wine.

Throwback — It means a person or thing that is similar to something of an earlier type or time. It was already in use with more or less the current definition in the mid-19th century. It is a combination of the verb “throw” and the adverb “back.” I can’t find a more pithy origin story for the word, even apocryphal stories that have been debunked. I was sure it would have its origin in the sport of fishing.

Venting your spleen — This particular idiom means “to express your anger.” From medieval times until the 19th century, the spleen—an organ in the body near the stomach—was thought to be the source of the “humors” that caused the emotion of anger. This is a colorful and archaic phrase. I contracted hepatitis as a 12-year-old.  (My mother called it jaundice, because I turned a lovely yellow/orange color from all the excess bile in my system.  I couldn’t keep food or drink down for two weeks, and lost 20 pounds – not a good thing on a skinny, stick-thin kid.)  But, I digress— anyway, my spleen was swollen while I had jaundice. I don’t recall being angry, but I did throw up a lot.

One to grow on — I thought an origin for this idiom would be easy to find, but it remains mostly a mystery.  When you had a birthday, it was a tradition to receive your birthday spanking by your friends or family, with the flat of the hand or with a paddle or belt. One person on-line said the birthday person would be “lightly paddled.” They didn’t live anywhere near me. Anyway, you’d get one swat for each year of your age, and then one extra swat, called the “one to grow on.” It’s like the baker’s dozen of birthday-themed beatings. I still don’t know the origins. Here’s one guess: you say something “grows on” you to mean that you become accustomed to it. Is the birthday punishment tradition meant for you to get used to pain because that’s all adulthood has to offer you in the future? That’s a little bleak, but it will serve as a placeholder until someone can offer me a better explanation.

* * * * *

Things I Learned While Researching Other Things = TILWROT
Remember that!  
As a lover of words, I know I’ll keep collecting these. Plus, I’ll keep posting them, I’m sure.

*Actually…. My Mother used to say, “Since ‘Towser’ was a pup.”  Now I’m off to research ‘Towser.’  Lord knows what I’ll find.

 

Doppelganger

Doppelganger

I recently met my blogger doppelganger.  Actually, like the movie Looper, I ran into the 20 30 40 50 years-ago version of me.  His short little post was about

Five words that describe me
Listed below are five words I feel describe me and why I picked them.

Here’s what he has to say, and what I have to say about that.

  1. Determined. No matter what task it is I set out I am determined to see it through.

I too am determined, or perhaps stubborn, or obstinate, or even possibly obdurate.  I feel if a thing is worth starting, it is worth completing.  Please disregard any previous mentions of procrastination.  It is perhaps why I have been married to the same woman for over 50 years.  I please myself by thinking that a lesser man would have beaten, strangled, or divorced her.  Of course, I don’t say that out loud.  I am no great prize.  She picked me off the “Reduced For Quick Sale” rack.  All sales final – No deposit, No return.  😯

  1. Intelligent. I am fairly smart. Mostly just wordy.

So I’ve got a 147 IQ, so what?  I wear slip-on/off boots so that I don’t have to know how to tie shoes.  Then I spend paragraphs telling you about it….verbose, loquacious, garrulous, rambling.   How alike we are!  Let’s ramble on to the next point.

  1. Introvert. I like keeping to myself for the most part.

Did anybody actually hear me say that about myself??!  No, of course not, I’m here at the computer, alone.

  1. Active. I love outdoor sports. Let’s go hiking!

Here’s where the 40/50 years ago comes in.  When I was young, I swam, and sledded, and ice-skated and roller-skated.  I biked all over our small town.  I hiked through the nearby bush-lot, and walked across lake-ice to the island.  Occasionally I would walk 5 miles home from high school, if I couldn’t get a ride hitch-hiking.  Now, my exercise program is a little less hectic, and is accomplished mostly inside our house.

  1. Nerdy/Geeky. Love nerd geek culture. Video Games, yes please! Doctor Who, check! Debate Marvel vs. DC sure let’s roll!

The nerdy/geekier the better.  I know a muon from a pion – and a prion….rare earths, noble metals, inert gases.  I still play Solitaire and Mah Jongg, on the computer (Doesn’t everyone?), and I’m thinking of purchasing a copy of Tetris.  It’s great for spatial manipulation practice.  I’m not into the MMORPG type of games. 1 – I’m a loner, and 2 – I apply Occam’s razor.  There is no need to make things unnecessarily complex.

Dr. Who??!  Yes please!  Been watching the show for almost 50 years – can hardly wait till the new lady Doctor is released in North America, in November.  DC Comics had been around before I was born, but I watched the birth of Marvel, and read them both.  I like Marvel’s flawed heroes better than DC’s brooding navel-gazers.  I’ve seen several Marvel movies, including both of the Deadpool ones.

The printed comics were fun, but the movies are just getting out of hand.  They’ve become only an excuse to make more money, like the Beach Boys.  After exhausting every surfing and hot rod theme on the West coast, they came East, to sing about a Caribbean paradise named Kokomo, which I thought was in Indiana.

If you didn’t already, you now know some things about me – including the fact that I’ll plagiarize someone else’s theme, to get one for myself.  I’m not the only one.  Rochelle’s blog-site warns you to be nice, or you could end up in her novel.  I’d like for you to end up back here again, soon.  Seeya!   😎  🌯

 

A To Z Challenge – Q

april-challenge

Be vewwy, vewwy quiet.  I’m stalking shelves.  😯

letter-q

I think, basically, that most of my life could be defined by the word Question.’ not,

Verb (used with object)
1: to ask (someone) a question; ask questions of; interrogate. 
2: to ask or inquire.

although there was a lot of that going on, too. I was a curious child, in more ways than one.

Why is the sky blue? How high is up?  How long is a piece of string?  How far can you run into the forest?  Only half way! After that, you are running out.

I don’t know what made me an unbeliever. I was raising and selling cynicism at a profit, when I was as young as 5 and 6-years-old.  For me, ‘Question’ was always more,

3: to make a question of; doubt:
He questioned her sincerity.

4: to challenge or dispute:
She questioned the judge’s authority in the case.

5: a point at issue
a difficulty or uncertainty 

I ‘questioned’ almost every assertion – parents, preachers, politicians, teachers – usually silently, internally at least, until they’d been verified, but….doubt, doubt, doubt. See above: I am uncertain.  I have difficulty blindly accepting the point at issue. 

“You can’t possibly expect me to believe that without proof! I can’t possibly believe that you believe it.

Once, in the arrogance of my youth, (You know, just after I turned 40, had my mid-life crisis, and bought my first motorcycle) I even thought that I was qualified to teach a course at one of the local Universities on ‘How To Think: 101.’  All I had to do, was train these fresh-faced, gullible impressionable young minds to “Question Everything.”  “Here’s your diploma. Thanx for the tuition.”

As I grew older and grumpier wiser, it wasn’t long before I finally realized that most of the flock of sheeple, refuse to question anything.  They want their lives easy and uncomplicated.  They want to be told what to do, how and when.  They want to be told what to believe, and they don’t want to go to the trouble of thinking about it themselves.  They don’t even want to question the obvious contradictions.

It is the failure of individuals and whole populations to question, which has brought the world the likes of Hitler, Stalin, Hirohito, Pol Pot, Mugabe, Khadafy, Hussein and bin Laden.  Now, the only question that the public seems to have is, “How could such a thing have happened?”

My question is, how many more letters are there, and when will this all end?

There are 9 more letters in the alphabet and, if I schedule my posts correctly, the last will be published near the end of April, 2017, just in time to start a new series. Stop back in a couple of weeks to see if I write about Rock And Roll, or Retirement.

😆

I Am A Challenge

challenge

Always searching for inspiration, and any lame excuse theme for a post, I downloaded the above ’31 Day Blog Challenge.’  I quickly saw that I could never do them all, in a month.  Having blogged for 5 years, and pumped dribbled out over 660 posts, it was evident that I’d already (over)done several items, and others simply don’t apply.  Here’s the 31-day series in a fast-forward, 1-post version.

Self-portrait, and 5 random facts about yourself
Check my gravatar, my ‘About’ page, or any/all posts in my ‘Awards Earned’ category.  I’ve revealed more than the girls at the nudie bar.

Favorite quotes
I have hundreds of interesting, impressive and inspirational quotes rattling around in my empty head, and run into more online often.  Only if I’m very lucky do I remember an appropriate one when I need it.

einstein

What makes you happy?
LIFE makes me happy – playing children, a sunset or rainbow, a well-turned phrase.  I am easily pleased.  However, I am also easily displeased.  That’s when I am happy to have this blog-site to bitch about, and hold certain facts and actions up, for ridicule and opprobrium.

Best childhood memory
ALL of them!  I was fortunate to live a long-ago, safe, innocent, happy childhood.  One of my blog-award posts mentions not being much impressed when jobs, taxes and family responsibilities came along.

Favorite movies you never get tired of watching
I knew people who watched ‘Titanic’ 8 and 9 times.  The boat sinks.  Everybody dies.  A movie is a visual story. Once you’ve been told the story, it doesn’t change.  Even epic movies like James Bond, or Star Trek, I can only watch twice, or perhaps three times, before my OCD yells, “Tell me a different story.”

Your last act of random kindness
What?  Today?  They are constant and ongoing.  Small things.  Everything from smiling and saying Please and Thank You (Which, sadly, is becoming viewed as an act of kindness, rather than mere good manners) to taking shopping carts out of parking spaces and arranging them neatly in the cart corral.  It assuages my OCD and sense of order, and prevents others from getting dinged cars.

What’s your dream job?
I’m retarded retired, and living the dream.  I’d like to dream with a little more money, but….

Biggest pet peeve
We all rant about dopey drivers and dealing with bureaucracy but, since such a large part of my life centers around reading and writing, my peeve is about poor English usage – especially by paid writers and authors. Teachers used to go to Teachers College to learn how to teach children.  Now they go to Universities to obtain two useless degrees, and neither they nor their students can read or write.

What’s on your bucket list?
I don’t have a pot to piss in, so there’s no money in my bucket to do anything.

Rate the last movie you watched
I recently saw Star Trek Beyond.  It was forced, fun and fast.  Written by Simon Pegg, the actor who plays Scotty, it contained a number of ‘McGuffins’, unnecessary/invalid plot devices to get the viewer to go along with the tale.  After (finally) suspending disbelief, it was a rollicking action movie.

The last book you read
See ‘kindness’ above.  What, today??  I’m currently reading E.E. (Doc) Smith’s ‘Spacehounds of IPC’, Tom Clancy (actually written by Mark Greany), ‘Command Authority’, and Robert Asprin/Linda Evans, ‘Tales of the Time Scouts.’

What is your favorite recipe?
We eat so many kinds of real good food….anything Tex-Mex.  I never got any when I was young.  They had barely invented pizza.  Nothing fancy, just filling.  Perhaps Potato pancakes.  Yum!

Create a photo gallery of your best pics
Old shaky-finger Phil??  I don’t take artistic shots.  Almost everything I’ve photographed, has already been included in my posts.

What’s on your favorite playlist?
I’m too damned old for ‘playlists’!  I occasionally go to YouTube when I recall a 60s or 70s song I can’t listen to on my cassette player any more.  For an upcoming drive to Detroit, the wife asked about a playlist for the trip.  Among others, I suggested Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, and The Chain, Valdy, doing Play Me A Rock And Roll Song, as well as The Moody Blues’, I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock And Roll Band).

Tips on travelling to a destination
Our journeys are restricted to car trips, so I have few tips.  Plan ahead, service and gas the car, make reservations!

What are your 10 must-haves for a vacation?
If you have 10 things, or more, that you must have, that’s not a vacation.  That’s a temporary move!  Take along twice as much money, half as many clothes, an open mind, a spirit of inquiry and adventure, and the determination to see things, learn things, and have fun, no matter what happens. ….and that reservation!

As usual, I’m too wordy. Please return soon for Act 2 of this one-act play.  😳

April A to Zed Challenge – C? Si, si!

April Challenge

Dashing through the dictionary, I see that we’ve reached the letter C.  Wanna make something of it?

Letter C

Courage; the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery. From Old French – coeur = ‘heart’

***

“Go ahead.  Don’t be such a wuss.”
“I don’t know.  We never had anything like this in our house when I was a kid.”
“Don’t be afraid of it.  It won’t hurt you.”
“Does it glow in the dark?”
“Don’t be silly.  Make it your new friend.  Get a little closer.”
“It looks like something skimmed off the top of a sewage pond.”
“I will give you a swat with this wooden spoon.  Show a little courage.  Take a spoonful or two of my homemade Cream of Broccoli soup.  I boiled chicken carcasses to make my own rich broth, and added pureed broccoli, a cup of Half and Half creamer, a pat of butter and two cups of grated goats-milk Kashkaval cheese.  It’s good, and good for you.”
“Give it to Mikey!  He’ll eat anything.”
Try or die!”
“Mmmm!….   Hey, he likes it.  He really likes it!  Why haven’t we had this before??”
mumble, grumble $%&<* men! &#@)% husbands!!?”  (Translation available upon request)

 

Half A Millennium

Caveman

No! That title doesn’t refer to my age. That whiny rant will be coming up later this month. Stay tuned for your chance to legally stick it to the old Archon.

This is my 500th post. Yay! 😛 Believe me; no-one is more disappointed surprised than me. Stuff just keeps leaking out of my head and falling on the keyboard – and people read it, and like it, and comment about it. BrainRants is right. This is very inexpensive therapy.

I’ve dumped out memories of my childhood, some cooking posts, stories of trips and suggestions for places for my readers to try. I’ve railed about politicians, religion, and just assholes who should get along with the rest of humanity better.

I’ve given a glimpse (well, more like a full-length motion picture) into the slightly off-kilter life of the crazed Archon, and his slightly off-kilter family – a little weird, but basically harmless, often with photographic evidence.

I slowly plod along, from post to post, dropping the occasional clot of keystrokes, and enjoying the warm glow of those who visit and read. I’ve appreciated finding those out there who are just as ‘non-standard’ as I am, possibly more so, and sometimes in surprising ways and directions.

I have a love/hate relationship with the status quo. I like stability, but feel that everyone should have the right to be as individualistic as they want – as long as they don’t frighten the horses or small children. I hope I’ve shown some who are hemmed in by family, employment or religion, that being a bit different is okay, and not evil.

This has been a most enjoyable voyage of discovery, and I hope I’ve given, nearly as well as I’ve received. I’m still not sure about even getting to post number 600, and One Thousand, the full millennium, seems a looonng way away.

Nun

I am a creature of habit, even though I’m not a nun. (Mental image of the Pope having a stroke, and nine Cardinals having simultaneous heart attacks) I’m gonna keep doing this until I can’t, and I thank all of you who have made it fun, and a real learning experience.   😆

500 Posts

Flash Fiction #34

Desolation

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE GRASS IS GREENER

As Bob stood waiting for his fiancée and her parents to arrive for dinner, he thought of his old friend Paul. He missed his childhood buddy, but he was glad he hadn’t gone with him to Chicago.

Ugh, Chi-town, cold, windy and bleak.  Route 66, indeed.  New York City was the center of the universe.  He’d done well enough in advertising to afford this fine apartment in a prestigious building on Central Park.  Too bad he couldn’t get one with a view of the Park.

He had added mums to his end of ‘the courtyard’, but somebody kept stealing them.

 

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple website and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.

 

Flash Fiction Inflation

VISTA EVENESCENT

 

tree2bcrook

 

 

 

 

 

It’s tough being nine years old, and alone.  He had climbed part-way up this big old oak tree back in the spring, but it had taken a boost from his friend Gordon, to get him up to the first forking of the trunk, where he could get handholds.  Now, Gordon was away on holidays, which was one of the reasons he was wandering his neighborhood alone.

He took a run at the tree, planted his right foot on the knee of a protruding root, lunged upward, and caught the fallen branch, stuck in the crotch.  Swiftly he climbed, and soon the tree had lifted him into its topmost branches.  Unusual in a town full of maples, this oak was the tallest tree, and sat at the top of the highest hill.  The view from up here was magnificent.

He was as high as the top of the nearby water tower, the entire town spread out below him.  Right beneath him was the park, with its empty ball diamond.  Down the hill was the arena.  He could see tiny cars, and miniature people walking.  Below him were three church roofs and bell towers.  Beyond was the main street, with its businesses.  It led right down to the lake and the beach.  The crystal blue water and the bright white sand both sparkled in the sun.

Lighthouse Lighthouse II

 

 

 

 

 

Off to the south, the sandy island sat half a mile offshore, with its stone lighthouse.  He seemed level with the top of its 100 foot tower.  A bit to the north, he could see the river mouth, with the commercial fishing boats chugging into and out of the harbor.

Boat

A block down the street, where the highway crossed the main street, stood the century-old red-brick town hall, with its four-sided clock tower.  Just this side, was the library, where he usually checked out a couple of books each week.  A block to the right was the elementary school where he would happily return to his education in a couple of weeks.

Townhall School

 

 

 

What he could see, was his entire, nine-year-old’s universe.  What he could not see, from his eagle’s perch, with his youngster’s eagle eyes, was the oncoming juggernaut of maturity, physical aging, responsibility, and social change.

All too soon, he would not have the time or the freedom, the strength or the agility, the acceptance or the inclination, to randomly wander his tiny town, talking to bullfrogs or climbing trees just for the fun of it.

Soon, like a Monarch butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, he would leave his protective, supportive home to seek training and experience, employment and income, marriage and family.  What was now his entire universe, would become first, merely the center of his greatly expanded universe, and finally, just a reflection in the time-fogged rear-view mirror of fond memory.

Instead of remaining a carefree child, he would become one of millions of parents.  While he would not do so, most of the others would allow, even urge, their millions of children to embrace myriad electronic distractions and babysitters, till they could not think or act for themselves, instead of encouraging them to read and learn.

In the name of protecting the children, the parents would cocoon them, and change them into hydroponic couch potatoes, denying them the chance to run and play, to enjoy the sun and fresh air, to commune with nature and build strong, healthy bodies and minds.  And so would begin the slow, perhaps inevitable, slide into oblivion, of the great, free society.

 

This is the expanded version of a thought which recently triggered a 100 word story on the Flash Fiction stage, along with some observations, feelings, and pretty pictures.  Much of this has previously appeared here, but I like the redecorating job.  How about you?

 

Flash Fiction #10

 

VISTA

tree2bcrook

 

It’s tough, being only nine years old.  He finally reached the broken branch, lodged in the crotch.

Quickly climbing, he made it to the topmost branches of the tallest tree in town, situated atop the highest hill.  From here, he could see his entire little town.  He could see the tiny cars, and the miniature people walking.

He could see the lake, and the lighthouse on the dock.  He could see the town hall clock, which said 11:55 AM.  Turning in the other direction, he could see his mother at his front door.  Better get down, it’s time for lunch.

 

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple site.  Use her Wednesday picture as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.