It’s All In How You Word It – Scattered Thoughts Sunday Ramblings

Standard

So there I was reading The Washington Post a little over a week ago (yes the paper version) where the article by Michael Dirda bemoaning the new words allowed into the Oxford Online Dictionary stopped me cold.  Most of the new words approved had their origin in the succinct and abbreviated word stylings of the text message (or msg to be correct). Most of us will recognize them as the spellings prevalent among the younger generation, meaning not mine.  I have to admit my first inclination was to agree with Mr. Dirda.  I was definitely channeling my inner Andy Rooney (I fear a google coming) when I thought of “lol”, “srsly”, “squee” or “twerk” or “vom” as the new norm when communicating with others.  Oh, to squee when first I hear the sounds of spring!  Not quite the same is it?

And twerk brings up the image of Miley Cyrus that invaded my media for an interminable amount of time.  Really?  That made me feel so old.  There’s jorts and selfie (something I have not done as yet, perhaps I should put it on my bucket list).  Space tourism, street food, and blondie, well I thought those were already present in the dictionary. There is FOMO and MOOC, but as I live in the DC Metro area, acronyms are a way of life. Think DOD, FBI, NSA, CIA, well I think you are getting the picture, right? What are two more? Plus I love SNAFU, an oldie but goodie.  Am I wrong here? And the new word omnishambles is positively brilliant.  I will have to find ways to use that one in the future.  And it’s that word’s inclusion that started to bring me out of my “snarkfest”.

You see, I love words.  I love them separately, I love them strung together in passages so lyrical that you weep or so audaciously humorous that your sides hurt for hours.  I love their beauty in poems with ring with passion or flow with a quiet serenity that leaves you gasping in awe.  I love them in songs that won’t get out of my head and in stories that keep me awake and away from my bed. So many wonderful words that it takes volumes to make note of them all.

Take a moment and think of some of your favorite words.  Serendipity or even better serendipitous is one of mine.  Just say it.  Doesn’t it sound whimsical?  There is lush, and shimmering, salubrious and evanescent. And loquacious, another beloved of mine.  How could any of those be replaced? Then there is snark, crabby, and malignant, to say nothing of drab.  Drab. Even vocalizing it is, well, drab!  And kind of sad.   And if there are so many beautiful words that sing to us, there are also those ugliest by definition and sound.  What comes to mind and mouth when saying phlegm or pus?  Or scab, discharge or moist?  Can fetid, curdle, or vomits be far behind?  Does vom even come close to replacing those?  I think not.   Even the ever present LOL falls far short of the emotional texture of “laughing uncontrollably”, “gales of laughter” or “giggling until you puke”.

But just when I am at my most irascible, three words pop into my head. “The frumious Bandersnatch”.  Ah, here is Lewis Carroll coming to save me from further  cantankerous musings.  All I have to do is recite The Jabberwocky, that amazing and magical piece of nonsense that never fails to make me grin.

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe:
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

That’s the opening stanza of The Jabberwocky.  I am sure there are those of you out there now saying “Beware the Jabberwock, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch! Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun The frumious Bandersnatch!”  It makes me want to grab up a branch and march about a tree  or through the woods, chanting as I go.  Or if Lewis Carroll isn’t your thing, perhaps it is Dr. Suess and his rhymes?  Could we have slithy toves if we don’t allow new words?  Shouldn’t a language be allowed to change with its people and times?

For me the answer is yes, as along as we don’t leave the old behind.  New words to light the way and the old ones to pave the way to our past.  Both are necessary to who we are and how we think.  I would no more give up my “vorpal blade” or “tulgey wood” than I would the new shiny omnishambles. Just a small plea.  When we are texting, slicing away letters for the sake of brevity, spare a thought or maybe two for those words we cannot live or should not live without.  For myself, the world would be a far smaller place without tatterdemalion.  I love that word.  If it is a new one for you, please go past the Wikipedia for a definition for it has its origin in the 1600’s. A most useful word to go along with dandy.

I have included several links below, including that of The Washington Post article that started it all.  I now close my first Sunday Ramblings, my coffee and paper still call.  What words can you not live without?  Scattered Words wants to know.

100 Most Beautiful Words in the English Language

The Ugliest Words in English | ALTA Language Services

The Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

Oxford Dictionaries adds ‘twerk,’ ‘FOMO,’ ‘selfie,’ and other words that make me vom” by Michael Dirda of The Washington Post

Anthologies, Love Them or Leave Them?

Standard

I seem to be running into more and more anthologies these days.  Name a publisher and I can show you a long list of anthologies they have published in just this year alone.  I am not sure what is driving this trend.  Are authors writing more short stories? Do publishers find it easier to publish short stories in an anthology rather than  release them on their own?  Torquere Press has their Torquere Sips.  Dreamspinner Press has Nap-sized Dreams but  is now only accepting stories under 15,000 words for use in their anthologies alone.  For the most part, I look to find short stories in anthologies these days.

What is an anthology? An anthology is a collection of short stories by various authors that is usually grouped together by a common theme.  I have seen anthologies where the stories all occurred in the same city, that was the common thread.  Or different stories about a group of friends, each having their own tale in the anthology. Think Hearts From The Ashes from Samhain Press, a favorite of mine, for an anthology along these lines.  And the number of authors found in each anthology can be anywhere from three to thirty!  An anthology is quite the diverse creature.

So why all the mixed feelings with regard to anthologies?  For some readers, its because they prefer a much longer story.  They want a novel.  These are readers who revel in the long view, jump with joy over complex characterizations and equally complicated story lines.  And for the most part, those can only be found in the novel or novella form.  Think banquet versus amuse-bouche (a one bite appetizer).  Some readers get frustrated with anthologies or short stories because they feel they just get engaged with the characters and plot only to have them end abruptly.  I understand that but often feel that is due to the quality of the short story being read.  A well done short story should leave a reader satisfied in every way, an increasingly rare occasion these days (see Scattered Thoughts Looks A Short Story Writing).

I think we need to look at anthologies a bit differently than we do with novels or novellas. And perhaps with a different expectation as well.  We all have our preset notions when it comes to novels we like.  And when we finish a novel, after having invested a certain amount of time and emotion, if it does not meet those expectations, than we are disappointed and frustrated with book and author alike. But an anthology can represent, should we choose to look at it this way, a chance to look at a compilation as something quite different. And rightly so, because there is a different expectation in the amount of time invested because of the shorter length as well as large quantity of stories involved.

Perhaps an anthology becomes a daunting proposal when you think of reading multiple stories one right after the other.  I get that as some of these collections are quite huge.    I used to just plow through the collection, one right after the other, only to find the stories running together towards the middle, a method that never seemed to do the authors or their tales justice.  Now I try to read them in short bursts and that has made it easier for me when not only reading but reviewing the anthology.  These are short stories, not a run on novel and they should be read as such.  I think we forget that at times because they have been grouped together in one volume.  But that fact doesn’t change the actuality that these are short stories, separate from each other except for an artificial grouping made by a publisher.

For me, an anthology is often a smorgasbord or even a Tapas Bar. A series of small plates or appetizers, instead of a formal banquet of a novel.   There will often be something familiar,  maybe a well-known or well-loved author or two.  And there will be surprises, new writers or authors never heard of before.  Or just maybe there will be a story from an author whose literary works you don’t normally connect with for whatever reason but here you find a story from them that just blows you away, giving you a new perspective on this author you normally pass on.  All those reasons and more make the anthology a format to be looked at with anticipation and with affection.  Think your goody bag at the end of the evening on Halloween. How did you approach it? Did you dump it all out at once or pick through the candies left inside the bag?  For me, the anthology is the Halloween goody bag.  There will be some apples, or a banana, along with Twix, or Mounds Bar to go with the Reese’s Pieces and Hershey Kisses at the end of the night.  You can read it all at once or pick through it, reading it a little at a time. Like some, love some, pass on others.

I have come to love anthologies for the jewels I have found inside, authors and stories alike.  Inside anthologies I have discovered the joys of a sloth shifter (Charlie Cochrane for Lashings of Sauce) or the grief of love lost and found again (Two Tickets To Paradise). Give them a try, they will undoubtedly surprise you.  And let me know, anthologies, do you love them or leave them?

Here are some of the anthologies I have reviewed:

Animal Magnetism

Closet Capers Anthology

Lashings of Sauce

Making Contact

Private Dicks Anthology

Two Tickets To Paradise

Fever Anthology

Unconventional At Best