The Oxford English Dictionary – New Words

This week, at least two new Texting 2.0 words have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary. OMG and LOL for sure, and I’ve also heard FYI and ROFL have been added, but these may be merely nasty rumors.

“FYI” is a corporate abbreviated expression, widely used among sayers of office-speak who inhabit fabric-lined cubicles, in emails and other corporate communication software, to indicate that, really, I don’t care if you know this or not, but am passing it on, just so someone else knows it and I am not the only one who will be responsible for knowing it while not doing anything about it. I am not entirely sure if this term has actually been added to the dictionary, but have read tweets to that effect.

I follow Roger Ebert, who is wise and witty and a wonderful writer, and he said ROFL has also been added, but does anyone really use that term anymore? Isn’t that the equivalent of saying “Aw, shucks”? ROFL was definitely a 90’s term. I can’t imagine that it would have been added, no self-respecting texter would use ROFL any longer. I think we have to take that one with a grain or two.

When I see OMG, I have visions of “tweens” as they expound on any number of events, which could be (a) exciting, (b) surprising, (c) horrifying, or (d) just really dumb. I confess to using it a couple of times, but it’s actually, pretty stupid. People who don’t swear have trouble with this one, and they always have to make sure you know that they would never say what OMG stands for, so they amend it to be OMGosh, which is, well, maybe it would have been a little better not to have gone there.

Which brings me to LOL. I don’t say this, I will never say this. (I am saying it here of course, but only as a means to dis it.) It is overused and meaningless. I don’t know why, but it makes me a little nuts when I see it.

In recent years, I joined a writers’ group. As a member of this group, I was invited to join the email chain, which I thought would be filled with wonderful, thought-provoking exchanges, good ideas, and feedback, and tidbits of writerly interest. But what I found was that the email chain became more personal than helpful, and people would send an email to the chain-members asking for prayers for the family dog, who was having surgery, or the neighbor, whose mother had been taken to the hospital for observation, or the husband, who had gastric distress. Yes, alas, the email chain lost it’s reason for being, became a repository for idle gossip, and whenever someone shared a funny story, inevitably, at least one recipient would reply with the lone “LOL”.

Really? Think of all the jammed up cyberspace traffic and you’ve just added to it by sending these meaningless three characters to all the people on the email chain. And think of the frustration of people, who have to see it and hit the delete key (yet again) because some people insist on cluttering up inboxes in such a manner. The moral of this story is, they forgot why they were a group in the first place. What started out as a writers’ group ended up as a repository for trading stories about funny pet tricks. And what is the logical response to that? LOL, of course.

And really, it’s a bunch of writers. I would think they would be able to come up with something more original than that.

The Almost Perigee Moon and Inspirations for New Writings

We’ve been hearing about the perigee moon for the last week, when we weren’t hearing about what’s happening in Japan and Libya. I haven’t paid too much attention to this phenomenon in the past, but now that I’m interested in all things lunar, I am learning all I can about it.

The moon hasn’t been this close to the earth in eighteen years, and it will be eighteen more until it happens again. I caught the one-month-prior-to-perigee, last month in Clearwater, Florida. At least I think that’s how it works. Seems like it would be a gradual progression for nine years to the blue moon, or apogee, moon, and then back for the next nine, and in 2029, we’re scheduled to see the Super Moon again.

For the last several months, I’ve started to plot my next book. The first chapter is the night of the perigee moon. Actually, it’s the month before, the February Moon. I like that much better than March Moon, and I don’t want the title to be Perigee Moon since some readers might not know what that is. I like January Moon too, but think I’ll go for February. Last time I had the book, but not the title, this time I have the title, but not the book. At least, not yet.

Chapter One:

Our hero, as yet unnamed but let’s call him Luke, wakes to see it, moonlight so bright it streams into the room. Luke is interested in astrology, the stars, and the moon, and he stumbles around, finding his camera, turning on the light, to find his clothes so he can go out to take a picture of it. He is also an avid photo-taker.

He wakes his wife, and tells her to look at the moon. She mumbles at him and calls him an expletive. She has to work in the morning, she says, he should leave her alone. He goes outside and takes his pictures, but after he’s done that, he sits down on the patio and contemplates what just happened.

He compares his life with his wife (for now let’s call her Kate), which started when they were children, to a football game.

The home team never quite lives up to the expectations set for it each year, but still the fans are hopeful, so hopeful. This could be the game. This could be it. It’s a home game, and the weather sucks and the home team is used to that, and none of the players have been hurt so far this year, and the QB is in great shape, completely recovered from the shoulder injury he suffered last season. It’s a very important game. Win it, and the home team still has a shot at getting into the playoffs. Lose and it’s a no go.

At halftime, the home team is down by two touchdowns and hope is waning a little, but there’s still plenty of time. It’s only half time after all, and maybe the coach will pull off a miracle in the locker room, and the team will come back rejuvenated, competent and confident. Evidently, the opposing team coach did the same thing because no points are scored until about a minute before the third quarter ends, and the home team makes a field goal. Hope returns. Now they are only eleven points down. Two scores could win it, or a field goal and a score with a two-point conversion could tie it up, and after that it’s a new game. Overtime. Yes, there’s still time. The fans are on the edges of their seats.

The fourth quarter is agonizing, offense sucks, defense is good, lots of football players ending up in big piles. At the two-minute mark, our team is still eleven points behind, but there’s still time. A miracle could happen. One of those games maybe, that’s talked about for years after. Fourth down, got to go for it, the QB falls back and it look like it’s sack time, and he wings it. It’s a high flyer, a regular Hail Mary, the crowd holds its collective breath, and moves as one as each pair of eyes follows the ball.

It’s intercepted.

And at that point, everyone in the stadium knows what the outcome will be. Hope is gone. There’s no way for a recovery after this. It won’t happen. It’s not possible. The fans start to leave, so they can get out quickly, to avoid the parking lot snarl, get to the bars and restaurants sooner.

Luke thinks about his relationship with Kate, and the February Moon was the interception. All the past hurts he’s built up, and stored away, weren’t enough to do it, but the February Moon was the tipping point. It pushes him over the edge. There’s no hope left.

He remembers the time they hosted a Fourth of July party, and he’d come into the kitchen where Kate and other women were gathered, and when she saw him she said to her friends, “Don’t you think my husband is cute, in a duh kind of way?” The women laughed, and Luke stared at his wife, hoping to convey to her that he was mad, hurt, upset. She laughed at him. He figures that was about halftime.

He thinks about a glass with water dripping into it, drop by drop. There’s plenty of room, plenty of room, and finally the water reaches the top and the drops keep coming, and it seems as if the liquid bubbles up over the rim of the glass while it hugs the sides, hanging on, straining, until the last drop falls, the one that causes the contents to spill over. The February Moon.

When You Don’t Feel Creative and Get Distracted, or What Happened to the Weekend?

This post will be of the “and a little more” variety.

Today, I do not feel particularly creative. I feel like the weekend is nearly over, and I haven’t accomplished too much. It was one of those weekends when I started one thing, got distracted and ended up in a completely different place than I’d hoped to be. This is also the first time I have procrastinated until mid-afternoon of my post day, before writing the blog I promised would be posted weekly.

Yesterday I bought a software package, Quicken. I brought it home, installed it, and began to use it, then wondered why I’d bothered. I don’t think it’s going to do anything for me that Excel can’t. I love Excel. I feel so computer-y and high tech when I get a formula to work right. So I entered a lot of data, then realized, it’s all right there in my online banking so why do I need this? Maybe I will discover its usefulness at a later date. I won’t give up on it.

Today I read a tweet about those Westboro Baptist folks that no one can figure out, and ended up googling them. I was going to post something on Facebook about the jerks, but every bad thing I could possibly have said about them has already been said. Suffice to say, I am dazed and confused when it comes to those people and their grandiose delusions. I decided not to post anything.

Do you see where I am going with this? No, you can’t. The post is indicative of my weekend.

As everyone, I am horrified by the situation in Japan. How much more can one country take? Now volcanoes are erupting and it is “unclear whether the volcanoes are linked to the earthquake”. We go about our business, to the grocery store, or to the mall, or out to lunch, while the people of Japan are dealing with a crisis so massive it is not comprehendable. Their country might never be the same. When I see the pictures, I wonder, where do they start, to clean it up? Cars not inside garages, but on top of them, mangled vehicles, destroyed towns, homes swept away, missing relatives, food and water shortages. Fear of a nuclear meltdown.

It seems to me that natural disasters are coming with more regularity. Haiti and Chile and Japan. Earthquakes, tsunamis. I am embarrassed to admit how old I was before I knew what a tsunami was (so I won’t say), but now they seem to be happening with increased regularity. Again, I got distracted, and wondered what the Rapture Index was right now, how it had reacted to the earthquake. For those of you who have read Second Stories, you know I am interested in the mindset that believes in the Rapture, and the index that goes along with it. Disappointed. The rapture index hasn’t been updated since March 7. Maybe it’s only updated weekly. Can that be? That doesn’t seem too timely, what if the Rapture occurs mid-week? Not helpful to those who watch the index regularly. BTW, the index has been “Fasten Your Seatbelts” for a really long time so the green banana market sucks.

The weekend nears its end, and we even lost an hour. I do so wish they wouldn’t do that, muck about with the time, even though we will enjoy the extra daylight. We should all be grateful that we have a weekend, imperfect though it may be, that we have our homes, and our lives, intact. I think of the people in Japan. They likely aren’t distracted. They have one goal. To survive.

Cliches – Four Rules About Them

A cliché is like a bad apple.

How can an author tell if his work is cliché-ridden, with the obvious phrases and also the lesser known culprits? There are a number of websites that list them, I liked this one.

In the following paragraph, I have included several of the more blatant offenders, and some others maybe a bit more obscure, but just as annoying.

For all intents and purposes, clichés should be avoided at all cost. Your readers weren’t born yesterday and by and large, most readers know the score, and clichés won’t pass the sniff test. It’s the same old, same old. Been there, done that. You’ll bore them to tears. If you must use a cliché, take the plunge and mix it up. Twists and turns on clichés can be your ticket to success. Let this be your wakeup call. Overuse of clichés is a very real concern. You don’t want readers thinking it’s the same old story, a broken record. Instead, think outside the box. Time and time again, art imitates life. What’s not to like, about understated elegance? To my way of thinking, it’s a perfect storm. Your readers will get your drift, but your writing will be fresh as a daisy. It’s easier said than done, I know, but hang in there!

Wow. That was painful. I count 28.

For all intents and purposes, at all cost, born yesterday, by and large, know the score, pass the sniff test, same old same old, been there done that, bore them to tears, take the plunge, mix it up, twists and turns, ticket to success, wakeup call, a very real concern, same old story, broken record, think outside the box, time and time again, art imitates life, what’s not to like, understated elegance, to my way of thinking, a perfect storm, get your drift, fresh as a daisy, easier said than done, hang in there.

Did I miss any?

There is software available which allows you to insert your book text and it will count the number of clichés and overused phrases it finds. This paragraph would have probably exceeded its capacity, an “out of bounds index” or “too many inputs” or “an unknown error has occurred”. I especially like that last one.

Rule for cliché use (according to me):

1. If you must use a cliché, change it around, make it a little different. Recently I used the phrase “that shoe is on the wrong foot”. I hoped the reader would realize that the cliché I was imitating was “if the shoe were on the other foot”, which means if the situation were reversed. In this context, during an argument between a wife and her husband, she means to say, “You’ve got it wrong. The situation is reversed.”

2. Recognize that it is a cliché and make a reference to it. In one case, when a person of dubious authority refers to a bunch of other people as “losers”, one of the other people says, “Isn’t that the pot and the kettle thing? Being called a loser by her?” The speaker knows it is a cliché and refers to that, thus implying that he is above saying something trite.

3. Sometimes it seems good to use clichés in dialogue. People use them, it’s the way we normally speak. In a moment of anger, when a woman is being accused of not being committed enough (and this is after forty bad years), she says, “When does it become okay to throw in the towel? On my death bed?” I think it is appropriate to use this here. She was angry, it expresses what she felt at the moment. If I had avoided it, I’m not sure it would have been as effective.

4. If there is any doubt whether to use a cliché or not, don’t.

I’d like to leave you with this thought:

With clichés, when push comes to shove, you’re caught between a rock and a hard place, because at the end of the day you are never quite sure whether to go with the flow or take the ball and run with it.

Sorry.