Author Archives: Louise

Flea marketing – and the ubiquitous yard sale


A post about flea markets and yard sales, first published in February 2013. Do you know what Brits call them? Continue reading

To calve: one verb, two meanings

Sometimes — and only sometimes — a YouTube video is worth a thousand words.


1. [NO OBJECT] (Of cows and certain other large animals) give birth to a calf.


2. [WITH OBJECT] (Of an iceberg or glacier) split and shed (a smaller mass of ice).
2.1 [NO OBJECT] (Of a mass of ice) split off from an iceberg or glacier.

calve (v.)
Old English cealfian, from cealf “calf”. Of icebergs, 1837. (Etymonline)

Gung ho — and other Chinese imports


“Some golfers hardly gung-ho about chance to win Olympic gold,” read a recent headline in the Chicago Tribune. It’s a common enough expression — gung ho — in both American and British English, meaning “unthinkingly enthusiastic and eager, especially about taking part in fighting or warfare” (OED). But it recently occurred to me that being a phrase of Chinese origin, gung ho is fairly unusual in its etymology: I can’t think of many other words or phrases that English has borrowed from that language. So I did some digging … Continue reading

“Goddamn grabby”?


“I just don’t think it will be grabby enough for [X magazine],” a journalist explained candidly in his response to one of my pitches yesterday. I had never heard, until then, the adjective “grabby” with that meaning — of arousing interest or attention. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard or read the word grabby in any context. I knew exactly what he meant when he consigned my pitch to the ungrabby bin, and it’s certainly not the first time one of my suggestions has been deemed ungrabby — even if they’ve never been labeled as such. But it did make me wonder about the history and pervasiveness of this curious colloquialism, which is quite grabby in its own right … Continue reading

Words for Mothers’ Day

Harold Gilman: Mother and Child, 1918 / WC

Harold Gilman: Mother and Child, 1918 / WC

“She was the stuff of which great men’s mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, feared at tea-parties, hated in shops, and loved at crises.”

— Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd

Mother o’ Mine

If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o’ mine, O mother o’ mine!

— by Rudyard Kipling


To My Mother

You too, my mother, read my rhymes
For love of unforgotten times,
And you may chance to hear once more
The little feet along the floor.

— by Robert Louis Stephenson


Cinco de Mayo — a poem



Cinco de Mayo

a battle
in some
history books

a fiesta
of music
and colors

a flag

a flirting
and a pinata

corn chips
and guacamole

a mango
with some chile
and lemon

a cry
of joy
and spring

yes, summer
vacation is just
around the corner!

by Francisco X. Alarcon
from Laughing Tomatoes and Other Spring Poems

Answers to writers quiz

   Tolstoy      trollopewc     TwainWC

In case anyone is still wondering about last week’s writers quiz, here are the answers below. Congratulations to Virginia Barder (full disclosure: she’s my sis, but I promise she didn’t get any inside info or extra clues) for being the first to solve it, and an honorary mention to Olivia, who solved the whole quiz within the space of about 10 minutes.  Continue reading

That Gerund Is Funky (TGIF) – April 29

TGIF … In language and usage news this month (and it’s been a good one), we have a Presidential hopeful having some trouble abroad —  in pronouncing the name of that place he’s never been to;  some landmark capitalization rules (or make that “DEcap” rules) at the AP; how personality is behind grammar nazis; does the name “Jim Wilson” mean anything to you (especially if you’re in the aviation world)?; find out which words were born in the same year as yours truly; the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism; some words made famous on an iconic TV show; and some dope on pugs … Continue reading

Writers trivia quiz

Alcott   F.ScottFitzgerald   Tolstoy   wilde

A writers trivia quiz for a Sunday afternoon. A couple of the questions are fairly easy; a couple not so easy. (I’ll be interested to see if anyone gets the bonus one; my daughter reckons no-one will.) Answers will be posted here next Sunday, along with the names of anyone who guesses all four (or five) correctly. If you’ve worked any of them out, please write the first letter(s) of the key word(s) summarizing the answer in the comments section below: i.e. be cryptic — no spoilers. Good luck! Continue reading

A Shakespeare sonnet


That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou seest the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long

— William Shakespeare, (26 April 1564 (baptized) – 23 April 1616)