The Lexicon: A Cornucopia Of Wonderful Words (1996) by William F. Buckley Jr.; A Review

William F. Buckley’s The Lexicon (published by Harcourt Brace & Company and described as a “pocket word guide”) is a compact reference of uncommon words, which places emphasis not simply on the rarity of the words included, but also, as one might induce from the inclusion of cornucopia in the title, the applicable breadth and variety of those words. Omitted are such narrow oddities as arachibutyrophobia (ie. the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of one’s mouth); a word which Buckley thought belonged in the “zoo section” of dictionaries. The utility of such special case, single-use words as the aforementioned, to general discourse, (then, as now) are, obviously, minimal. Thus, their omission doubtless bowdlerized the volume considerably from what it would otherwise be, should its author have saw fit to include as many arcane and ancient lexical peculiarities as could be found, without regard to utility.

The consequence of this view on the book itself is that it is rather light on inkhornisms and consists primarily of words that tend to sit at the back of the average reader’s mind, like boxes of old clothing in an ill-ventured and moth-proofed attic; such as aberrant (ie. a person whose behavior departs substantially from the standards for behavior in his group) and bellwether (ie. the guide by which one measures other data), as well as a sprinkling of latin phrases such as ab initio (ie. from the beginning) and caeteris paribus (ie. if all other relevant things remain unaltered); and more atypical offerings, such as asservation (ie. an assertion made in very positive form; a solemn assertion), buncombe (ie. talk that is empty, insincere, or merely for effect; humbug), cacoethes (ie. an uncontrollable desire), and enjambement (ie. continuation in prosody of the sense in a phrase beyond the end of a verse or couplet; the running over of a sentence from one line into another so that closely related words fall in different lines).

Every word featured is accompanied, in addition to its definition, by a example of its use in a sentence; often, a wry, scathing observation of some political situation or personality of the time or utilization of Buckley’s fictive works (all citations from his published oeuvre). It is these amusing asides (in addition to a number of cartoons by Arnold Roth) which lend the book its singularity and readability—that quality so often and ironically lacking in written works concerning language.

The Highly Selective Dictionary For The Extraordinarily Literate (1997)

“The Highly Selective Dictionary can be thought of as an antidote to the ongoing, poisonous effects wrought by the forces of linguistic darkness—aided by permissive lexicographers who blithely acquiesce to the depredations of unrestrained language butchers.”

 

—Eugene Ehrlich, Preface to The Highly Selective Dictionary For The Extraordinarily Literate.

Eugene Ehrlich’s The Highly Selective Dictionary For The Extraordinarily Literate (Harper Collins, 1997) is a treasure trove of obscure words. The 192 page book is divided into six sections, Acknowledgements, a Preface, Pronunciation Notes, a Introduction and, lastly, The Dictionary proper and features such obtuse and oft-unuttered words as blatherskite (a person given to blathering), dysphemism (a unpleasant or derogatory word or phrase substituted for a more pleasant and less offensive one) and galimatias (confused or unintelligible talk).

One of the unique strengths of the book is its omission of commonplace words whose meaning(s) are widely known (such as “door,” or, “car”). In leaving aside [near]omnipresent words, the book focuses wholly on those words a common English reader is apt not to know, which sets it apart from other reference dictionaries that include words which most, quite simply, will not ever need to look-up. It might also be remarked that the proliferation of the internet, which was not so pronounced upon the writing of the book as it is now, further mitigates the need to include commonplace words in reference dictionaries, given the readiness with which they can be accessed through the web.

However, simply because one can find obscure words online doesn’t mean that one will (in a suitable timeframe, if at all)—hence the importance of having a reference book to hand. To this end, The Highly Selective Dictionary is excellent.


You can find the book online at Thriftbooks, Amazon, or Ebay.


Cover image: Man wearing Gernsback Isolator (invented 1925) at writing desk.

Commonly Confused Words: Demur & Demure

Though demur and demure look similar and are pronounced similarly (sometimes the same),  each have a completely different meaning.

Demur (verb) means: to object, or, take exception.  | “Aren’t you going to try some fruitcake?” He demurred, recoiling from his dish with disgust, “You expect me to eat this? What are you trying to do, kill me? Why, I’ve half-a-mind it’d bite me back!”

Demure (adj.) means: reserved, modest (in a affected way), or, coy. | After the grisly duel concluded, the victor sheathed his blade and gave a demure bow to the crowd.

Fiction Circular 4/19/19

§00. Editor’s note: links affixed to author/publisher’s name will redirect to author/publisher social media, links affixed to story/article titles will redirect to the site whereupon the named piece is archived. The ‘authors’ section focuses on lone individuals who publish their own literary work, ‘organizations’ section focuses upon independent presses, lit-mags, e-zines and other literary organizations who publish fictive work of multiple authors and ‘literary ephemera’ focuses on non-prose non-fiction literature, such as certain poems, news and art theory articles, reviews, interviews and critiques. All author/publication names arranged by alphabetical order (including ‘the’).


§01. Editor’s note on criteria for inclusion: a publication is considered ‘independent’ if it is self-contained and sustaining, that is to say, if it does not rely upon the staff, organizational prowess or financial backing of large corporations, academies, governments or other large entrenched organizations. For example, Sink Hollow Litmag will not be included on the list, not due to the quality or lack thereof of their work, but rather, because they are supported by Utah State University (and thus, are not independent).


§.AUTHORS

From Shreya Vikram, Insomnia. She’s right: there is no plural form of ‘sheep’ – as with ‘moose.’ Should be remedied (‘sheeps,’ just like ‘mooses,’ sounds off – perhaps, following the convention for multiple octopuses – ‘octopi’ – one could have ‘sheepi’ and ‘moosi’).

“One sheep, two sheep, three sheep, you count, just like you’d been taught. The sentence sounds odd in your head. You wonder why, and then you realize: the word ‘sheep’ has no plural. Isn’t that strange? Like fish. But ‘fish’ does have a plural, for types of fishes.”

 

— Insomnia


§.ORGANIZATIONS

From Ellipsis Zine, A Nice Night for a Drive, by Benjamin Niespodziany. A charming tale of a 109 year old woman with a love for fast machinery.

“The next time we visit my grandmother, she’s gone and so is her car bed. Her third floor window is left wide open. The nurses on call didn’t hear a thing. We put out an alert in search of a 109-year-old woman lacking identification.”

 

— A Nice Night for a Drive


From Jellyfish Review, This Side of the Fjord, by Ashley Lopez.

The knitted winter cap muffles the crack of the boy’s skull. I don’t hear the sound of bone bouncing on sodden subway floor, but I do hear his shriek a moment later. From deep within the boy’s mouth comes a call produced eons before his birth and encapsulated within his DNA. A selected method and best practice for arousing the alarm and comfort mechanisms in a caregiver. A seal pup searching for his mother.

 

— This Side of the Fjord


From Kendall Reviews, The Black Cloak Of Its Wings, by Daniel Soule, a fantastic short story concerning Nature’s omnipresent, yet hidden, savagery.

“The crow was twice the pigeon’s size. It pinned the frenzy of flapping wings with wraithish talons, while its stygian eyes blinked calmly, surveying the surroundings. Perceiving no threat, the crow set to its purpose. The pigeon flailed ineffectually against the sustained violence of penetrating slashes from the blade of the crow’s beak. On and on. Over and Over. Exposing the forbidden pink of flesh, yellow of fat, blue of veins. When the pigeon fell limp, the crow took a break from its butchery, scarlet dripping from its face. All was still. Time moved as slowly as falling drops of viscus blood until, dumbly remembering it was alive, the pigeon struggled for the last of its life. The crow tilted its head to inspect the pathetic floundering, before pistoning its beak into the living corpse over and over with calm fury, until the struggling ceased.”

 

— The Black Cloak Of Its Wings


From Surfaces, The Circumstances, by Ryan Bry, a curious, uniquely written tale of a woman reading from a man’s personal journal.

“When I call my brother I always ask him: What are you proud of?  When I call my mother I usually ask her: What are you proud of? I kept my personal journal in the teller window, decided I’d let anyone read it if they asked. Here’s the story of the only girl who did.”

 

— The Circumstances


From X-R-A-Y, Meals of our Children, by Will Gilmer. A grim and gripping (and, in my opinion, too short) portrait of drug addiction.

“Gnaw marks, like the ones on his old teething ring, appeared when the doctor gave him Tramadol after hurting his shoulder during the Homecoming game. Incisors scars ran up his arms when they moved him to Norco after X-Rays showed a labrum tear. Now I’m losing him, one mouthful at a time, as broken needle teeth pile up next to the burnt spoon on his dresser.”

 

— Meals of our Children


§.LITERARY EPHEMERA

From Quartzy, The Mueller Report Has Two Spaces After Every Sentence, by Natasha Frost, a interesting and instructive foray into the ways in which technology (particularly typewriters) have shaped, and continues to shape, typing trends across digital formats. Spacing isn’t something that often garners a great deal of attention, specifically from beginning writers, however, it should, as the specificity of one’s spacing makes a tremendous difference when it comes to the legibility (and general textual aesthetics) of the work.

“The culprit here is typewriters, which allocate the same amount of space for each letter, regardless of width. Known as monospacing, this translates to a tighter fit around thickset bruisers like m and w, and a little cloud of white space around such skinny characters as i, l, and !.”

 

— The Mueller Report Has Two Spaces After Every Sentence


Lastly, the bizarre piece from ‘critical race theorist’ Sofia Leung, titled, Whiteness as Collections, which brands libraries far too ‘white’ (because of course they are). The piece is nonsensical for one who has not accepted the theological premises of critical race theory, but hilarious in its almost cartoonish predictability; she writes, “If you don’t already know, “whiteness as property,” is a seminal Critical Race Theory (CRT) concept first introduced by Cheryl I. Harris in her 1993 Harvard Law Review article by the same name. She writes, “slavery as a system of property facilitated the merger of white identity and property” (p. 1721) and the formation of whiteness as property required the erasure of Native peoples. Basically, white people want to stay being white because of the privilege and protection whiteness affords under the law that they created. Harris also makes this really good point, “whiteness and property share a common premise — a conceptual nucleus — of a right to exclude” (1714). Bam! That really hits it on the head.” Yes, that’s quite true, the right to exclude is indeed central to property, what is the solution to this non-problem? Getting rid of the concept of property? Further, what does slavery have to do with contemporary libraries? I would venture that the answer is: nothing. However, acknowledging that a connection between libraries and slavery is either tenuous or none existent would critically undermine the author’s ability to denigrate ‘white’ literature, which she clearly has a problem with. Imagine, for a moment, that I were to write a piece where I spoke in Leung’s terms about BET (Black Entertainment Television), which, unlike literary works at libraries, is explicitly racially conscious and exclusionary. If I were to say that BET is ‘too black’ the reception would be extremely predictable. There would be a social uproar. “How dare you say that!” Etc. Now, as a matter of fact, I don’t think BET is ‘too black’ and have absolutely no problem with Television channels which cater to only one racial group, or ethnic group or religious group or philosophical group, or any group specific media whatsoever. This despite the fact that BET certainly does ‘express their right to exclude (so presumably, Leung should take issue with them and other outlets like them, though that prospect strikes me as highly unlikely).

What the author seems to be calling for, in rather explicit terms, is racial quotas for literature, which would require the creation and instantiation of a racial hierarchy wherein european descended peoples (or those who look similar to them, such as some Hebrews and Persians) are relegated to the bottom rung, not because of the content or quality of their writing, but simply because their ancestors have been collectively prosperous. Such a system need not be created, as it already exists, and stands as the philosophical bedrock of critical race theory. Vexingly, such a literary caste system, one will notice, has nothing to do with artistic merit (either collectively nor individually), how particular works impact a audience is of little to no importance to the ‘critical race theorist,’ what IS of importance is ensuring that those writer’s who fall into phenotypic categories which they (the theorists) have designated as ‘problematic’ are undercut.

Leung further notes, “If you look at any United States library’s collection, especially those in higher education institutions, most of the collections (books, journals, archival papers, other media, etc.) are written by white dudes writing about white ideas, white things-,” Han Chinese, Japanese and Iranians also write about Han, Japanese and Iranian ideas, black Americans typically write about black ideas and black things, Hispanics, likewise. Why is this a problem? The United States is not just historically, but also currently, a majority ‘white’ nation, thus, one would expect, by the numbers alone, to see more books by ‘white’ Americans than by any other minority racial classifications. Such complaints about ‘representation’ in contemporary fiction, despite the fact that books and articles by people such as Ms. Leung are in no wise suppressed (indeed, they are championed at every turn), are the generative nexus for the kind of on-the-nose fictional revision which has so thoroughly degraded popular fiction (female characters assuming distinctly male characteristics, retrofitting a character’s race/sex, despite such a change making no narrative sense, so as to ostensibly make them more palatable to various minority groups (even though it often does not), sloganeering inserts to outright political propaganda (ie. CBS’ The Good Fight’s explicit call to political violence).

The decision postulated by the rise of critical race ‘theory’ (it is not, however a theory, but a hypothesis) is this: either literature (and thus a literary institution or culture) can be evaluated upon its own merits, or it can be evaluated by the group affiliation (real or imagined) of its author (which mandates disregarding the actual content of the work in so far as the group affiliation is not, itself, generative to the content under scrutiny).


 

Archive Obscura: A List of Small, Independent Literary Publications

Editor’s note: this list is still being compiled and will be updated semi-regularly. Names of publications arranged in alphabetical order (with numbers preceding letters). Links will be added shortly. If you are a member of one of the organizations listed and you wish to be removed (or if you are not and wish to be added), email us at logosliterature@yandex.com, or contact our administrator.


101 Words [@101words]

Channillo [@_Channillo]

Defiant Scribe [@Defiant_Scribe]

Drunken Pen Writing [@drunkpenwriting]

Ellipsis Zine [@EllipsisZine]

Fictive Dream [@FictiveDream]

FlashBack Fiction [@FlashBackFic]

Flash Fiction Magazine [@flashficmag]‏

Forge Litmag [@forge_litmag]

gn0me [@gnOmebooks]

Gray Matter Press [@GreyMatterPress]

Hagstone Publishing [@HagstonePub]‏

Idle Ink [@_IdleInk_]

Jokes Review [@JokesReview]

Literally Stories [@LiterallyStory]

Lunarian Press [@LunarianPress]‏

Monkey Bicycle [@monkeybicycle]

Okay Donkey [@okaydonkeymag]

Reflex Press [@reflexfiction]

Sinister Grin Press [@SinisterGrinPre]

Spelk [@SpelkFiction]

Story Shack [@thestoryshack]‏

Surfaces [@SURFACEScx]

Terror House Magazine [@terrorhousemag]

The Arcanist [@The_Arcanists]

The Copybook [@CopybookThe]

The Crusader Magazine [@TheCrusaderMag]

The Dark Calls [@The_Dark_Calls]‏

The Molotov Cocktail [@MolotovLitZine]

X-R-A-Y [@xraylitmag]


More publications will be added as we find them.

Notes On Gustav Jönsson’s High Theory & Low Seriousness


Gustav Jönsson’s, High Theory and Low Seriousness (2019)a brisk and biting critique of contemporary literary theory published via Quillette  — opens with an assault upon the practice of ‘deep reading‘ (analytically interrogating a text to find overarching, underlying or purposefully or accidentally embedded meanings which may not necessarily be explicit).

Sixty years ago today, just as Henderson the Rain King was going to print, Saul Bellow penned an article for the New York Times in which he warned against the perils of deep reading. Paying too close attention to hidden meanings and obscure symbols takes all the fun from reading, he wrote. The serious reader spends an inordinate amount of energy trying to find profound representations in the most trivial of details. “A travel folder signifies Death. Coal holes represent the Underworld. Soda crackers are the Host. Three bottles of beer are—it’s obvious.” (Jönsson)

§00. Mr. Jönsson’s argument — that paying too much attention to the meaning of a text is detrimental to the experience of reading itself — whilst superficially compelling, is mistaken, as the problem in the scenario he lays out is engendered not through paying too much attention to obscure or arcane symbols, suggestions or descriptions, but rather, through possessing too little in the way of reliable heuristics for explicating them. Further, to say that plying attention “too close” to what is being said in a given text should be avoided configures a dictum that can lead to taking unseriousness very seriously (this is not, in any particular, Jönsson’s argument but it is easy to see how a rejection of literary-artistic “seriousness” can lead to superfluousness and anti-intellectualism, just as a fixation on “seriousness” can lead to a lock-jawed, grim-toned, pridefully humorless air).

Moreover, deep reading is such an imprecise game that numerous dull and contradictory interpretations arise from the same passage. “Are you a Marxist? Then Herman Melville’s Pequod in Moby Dick can be a factory, Ahab the manager, the crew the working class. Is your point of view religious? The Pequod sailed on Christmas morning, a floating cathedral headed south. Do you follow Freud or Jung? Then your interpretations may be rich and multitudinous.” One man, Bellow wrote, had volunteered an explanation of Moby Dick as Ahab’s mad quest to overcome his Oedipus complex by slaying the whale—the metaphorical mother of the story. (Jönsson)

§01. Here Jönsson makes an excellent point — namely, that everyone brings some kind of ideological framework to a text, and when the contents of the latter are made to fit into the pre-conceptualized mold of the former, the scryed work’s intended and real meaning is distorted, obscured, coopted or outright destroyed.

Instead of this tedious attitude to literature, Bellow urged that people take after E. M. Forster’s lightness of heart. Forster had once remarked that he felt worried by the prospect of visiting Harvard since he had heard that there were many deep and serious readers of his books there. The prospect of their close analysis made him uneasy. In short, for Bellow and Forster, the average academic critic tried to understand literature and thus ruined the enjoyment of it. (Jönsson)

§02. A reiteration of the problem covered in §00. — enjoyment is of key importance to any literary work, however, if it is made the only criterion, then art is rendered impossible, as all good and durable literary works incite in the reader, more than mere passing pleasure (ie. terror, dread, hopelessness, unease, ideas not considered which do not, in their re-consideration necessarily engender enjoyment); for the novel to be reduced to nothing more than a mild dopamine rush is to snatch it from its pedestal as the highest and most intricate form of art and transmogrify it into what functionally amounts to slowly consumed fast-food.

The low seriousness that Bellow lamented has only increased since his complaint. Today, literary scholarship is home to some of the most impenetrable gobbledygook ever put on paper. The main culprit is easily identifiable: literary theory. Literary theory, a school of criticism with little hold outside the universities, has captured whole colleges and threatens to extinguish students’ love of reading. Imagine the dejection a student about to begin university, eager to read the best that has ever been written, feels when they are told to examine some heavy tome of unreadable theory. It drains all the fun from reading. (Jönsson)

§03. The issue of the “gobbledygook” (to borrow Jönsson’s phrase) in the academies is one which has been vexing to the linguistically and narratively concerned since the shift in literary criticism turned to interpretation during the 20th Century. Tensions around the lack of unification in interpretation were further intensified by the lack of interdisciplinary discourse between the sciences and the humanities; a problem which can be ameliorated by simply fostering more interdisciplinary discourse (and crucially, debate, public and private).

Solemn readers—especially within the academy—take the view that novels must be read in the same manner that philosophers read Principia Mathematica, namely, by “interrogating” the text’s underlying logic. Theorists see themselves as philosophers of literature. For them, the task of understanding any piece of prose or poetry means developing an array of theories, much like philosophers try to explain reality through formulised conjecture. And just as philosophers have specialised lingo to aid their job, literary theorists also require their own jargon. Hence whole dictionaries now exist to help students navigate near incomprehensible passages. Opening my Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism more or less at random, I’m met by the following sentences:

[The phenotext is constantly split up and divided, and is irreducible to the semiotic process that works through the genotext. The phenotext is a structure (which can be generated, in generative grammar’s sense); it obeys rules of communication and presupposes a subject of enunciation and an addressee. The genotext, on the other hand, is a process; it moves through zones that have relative and transistory borders and constitutes a path that is not restricted to the two poles of univocal information between two full-fledged subjects.]

This is not an unfairly selected quote. Literary theory is often written in language that is not much more transparent than this. To offer one more example; Fredric Jameson delivers this inscrutability:

[The operational validity of semiotic analysis, and in particular of the Greimassian semiotic rectangle, derives, as was suggested there, not from its adequacy to nature or being, nor even from its capacity to map all forms of thinking or language, but rather from its vocation specifically to model ideological closure and to articulate the workings of binary oppositions, here the privileged form of what we have called the antinomy.]

Hegel hardly wrote anything more muddled. Of course, there are literary theories free of pseudo-philosophical gibberish. But some of the most prominent theorists write in this cryptic style. Martha Nussbaum (herself a lucid writer) criticised the prose of a celebrated theorist by saying that her elliptical and obscure writing “creates an aura of importance” but also “bullies the reader into granting that, since one cannot figure out what is going on, there must be something significant going on, some complexity of thought, where in reality there are often familiar or even shopworn notions, addressed too simply and too casually to add any new dimension of understanding.” (Jönsson)

§04. He remarks that literary theorists see themselves as philosophers of literature; the author seems to take exception to this, which is curious as developing theories (or hypotheses) concerning a given text is not itself the nexus of misinterpretation, but rather, formulating a insufficient hypothesis/theory. The author is on firm footing when he returns to his critique of obscurantist dialogue, a view with which I concur, as the purpose of all writing is to communicate (even if only to oneself at a future point in time, qua post-it notes) and if one is to communicate it were best one did so with as much clarity as possible. I would add that one should not be too quick to recoil from arcane words, firstly because lexiconic expansion should be encouraged (and it won’t be if every word one doesn’t understand is dismissed as fluff) and secondarily because specialized language is indispensable if it compresses and clarifies rather than obscures and expands. For example, instead of saying — as was quoted above — phenotext and genotext of [x], one could simply say, the what and why of [x] text (as the words are born out of genetics, phenotypic traits like eye-color are the what whilst the genotypic traits are the why of the what [ie. the reason why one has a certain eye coloration]. Thus, in this example, though phenotext and genotext aren’t necessarily bad terms, it is simpler to just say what and why (that is to say, to assume the form: x because y). However, there are many instances where new models are created wherein it becomes useful to create new words, and many more where old models are best described by compressor-words — for example: instead of saying “adhering to a conclusion regardless of the evidence once interrogated,” one can simply say “negatively postjudicial” instead (in the same way that one says “novel” in place of “a cultural artifact of bound paper or code, inscribed with a [largely] fictional narrative, typically divided by sections, called chapters, ranging from 70,000 words to 120,000[+] words). Thus, always the question: clarification or clutter?

In a sense, unintelligible writing is an insult to its own discipline because it suggests that it is not important for the reader to understand the content. Surely an author with something insightful to say would take care to make herself comprehensible. Why convey a thought at all if it need not be understood? Only those with nothing to say can afford to revel in opacity. In short, cryptic writing may create an aura of importance but in fact it advertises its own lack of value. (Jönsson)

§05. See: §04.

Badly written scholarship is a negative in itself, but worse, it is also an opportunity cost for it crowds out the reading of good criticism. A seminar spent discussing Althusser or Derrida is one which could have focused on Samuel Johnson or James Wood. Worse still, the examination of turgid theories takes time from truly excellent works of literature. I can remember attending a seminar on Virginia Woolf’s Orlando where the tutor seemed to view the book as an excuse to discuss Judith Butler’s theory of “gender performativity.” Something has surely gone wrong when literature is used to further theories rather than the other way around. (Jönsson)

§06. The notion that something has “gone wrong” if literature is utilized to further theories (or hypotheses) rather than the other way around, is understandable (given the doubtless nauseating performance described before it), but mistaken. There is no reason that literature should not further theories (or hypotheses) anymore than there is reason for the converse to be true. Again we return to heuristics, what kind of theories are being crafted from what works, how and why? Until these questions are answered, then it is simply impossible to make such a blanket statement as “never use literature to further theories.” Case in point: after the publication of Jules Verne’s lauded science fiction work, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea (originally serialized in Magasin d’Éducation et de Récréation, 1869 to 1870), inventor Simon Lake became enamoured with underwater machinery and consequently, designed The Argonaut, the world’s first successful open-water submarine; Verne’s story Robur The Conqueror (1886) was also instrumental in inspiring the invention of the modern helicopter. A fairly ringing endorsement of the positive effects of utilizing literature for theoretical inception for practical application. Of course, the spineless, toothless, deconstructuralist, poststructural neocom, anarchist, gender theologizing so characteristic of the academies which the author decries is considerably more difficult (one is tempted to say impossible) to use for such inventive and civilizationally impactful ends.

The problem with literary theory is that it is not proper “theory.” At best, it is hypothesis without predictive value. There may be some descriptive capacity in literary “theories,” but they do not predict anything about prose or poetry. (What future literary developments can be anticipated by reference to Harold Bloom’s theory of “the anxiety of influence”?) In contradistinction to literary theories, scientific and philosophical theories are open to refutation. Science is tethered to reality and scientific conjectures can thus be refuted by empirical evidence. Literature—being fictional—cannot. This allows literary theorists to gain adherents whilst being free from worries of rebuttal. The consequence is an ever swelling canon of contradictory deepities. (Jönsson)

§07. Here Jönsson comes upon the crux of the issue — that of the fundamentally non-theoretical nature of what is called “theory” in contemporary academia (particularly in the humanities). That is to say, all contemporary critical “theories” are not really theories at all, but hypotheses. The linguistic distinction here is important, given the scientific background which informs nearly all of western discourse; anyone who is scientifically literate understands that a theory is privileged above a hypothesis because a theory can be rigorously, empirically, tested. After hypotheses make their way up to the classification of theories, they are considered true, though they are not necessarily true, but rather, have yet to be proven false (ie. evolution). The problem with contemporary literary hypothesis (as it should more properly be called) is that it is primarily concerned with textual interpretation as its standard of operation rather than attempting to hem into those facets of literature which may be objectively remarked upon, then formal-logically remarked upon, induced and deduced, rather than psychoanalytically conjectured or whimfully presumed.

Fiction Circular 1/24/19

“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.” — Mark Twain

INDEPENDENT AUTHORS

First up, Peter Midnight from The Storyhive.

The wings of the angel might belong to the angel of death… — The Storyhive, Peter Midnight

From the inimitable J. Brandon Lowry, the short story, The Dredger (2018), a peculiar tale of a reckless scientist tasked with investigating a dangerous bat cave. Its a fascinating tale (especially since I can’t ever recall reading a story that made guano scary) and exceptionally well written, as ominous as it is uplifting. Considering that it is an abridged version of the story it will be interesting to read the unabridged version whenever it comes out.

“-it is within such tales that we stare death in its cold, empty eyes and rejoice that we are indeed still alive.” — J. Brandon Lowry, The Dredger

Also well worth reading, Break Up, Break Down, & Break Face by , a moving story of betrayal, loss and the value and rarity of loyalty.

“No,” she said.

It took a moment for the words to sink in. This wasn’t right. That’s not how it goes. I opened my mouth to say something. Anything. Nothing came out. I closed my mouth. Opened it. Closed it. Like a fucking Hungry Hippo. Grasping for the right words. The plastic pill to change her answer.

“Get up. You’re making a scene. And put that thing away,” the disgust on her face was plain to see. — P. Blake, Break Up…

And lastly, Between The Stars by Sable Whisper, a gripping, slow-boiling space-thriller.

The twenty-four crewmembers of Icarus-3 were all dead.

Telemetry from their personal monitors no vital signs, but the ship’s own systems had been locked, so even Control could not gain access; no remote control or data capture would be possible. Only its location was available, one of the few things almost impossible to conceal from Command.

And so, the case had fallen to me. — S. Whisper, Between The Stars

INDEPENDENT PUBLISHERS

From 101 Words, The Tome by Justin Williams. Excellent flash fiction.

“I’m in this book…?”

“Everyone is.” — J. Williams, The Tome

From X-R-A-Y, Jon Berger debuts his heady short story, Plant Replant detailing the psychosis of drug culture.

“The next morning I’m driving back to my Grandmas still high and cozy, speeding down the bumpy road in my 98’ Bonneville with too many miles on it. Gridded up farm fields on all sides. These giant white windmills were being built in the middle of the fields to collect energy. Looking like Godzilla seagulls waving around lost with nothing to break.” — J. Berger, Plant Replant

From Terror House Magazine; Punchline by Michael Carter. A delirious and beautifully written piece of flash fiction.

Perhaps an office worker could awaken from uneasy dreams to find himself transformed into an insect; perhaps a jilted girl’s unhappiness could flood the world with tears. — M. Carter, Punchline

LITERARY EPHEMERA

Wrestling reviewer and short fiction author, Baron Zach M., announces that his novel is well-underway. We’re looking forward to reading it.

The true-crime film Gosnell, which follows the trial of serial killer abortionist, Kermit Gosnell, hit #1 in New Drama on Amazon; a book of the same name is available on Amazon. Gosnell crimes received very little coverage and even after he was put away, few enough know his name or deeds which was likely a consequence of the political atmosphere which looked upon any vocal opposition to abortion as being against women (and since most of Gosnell’s “patients” were black, one was likely to be called not just a woman-hater, but a “racist” as well). It is therefore fortunate that this sordid episode has received such a thorough treatment, that it may better elucidate many of the frequent (and frequently unremarked upon) horrors of the abortion industry and those who aid and abet it.

Lastly, Mick Ryan has a fascinating article up concerning the usefulness of sci-fi to real-world military thought and practice.

Reading science fiction reinforces the enduring nature of war.  Finally, science fiction permits us to test the principles of war in force design.  Based on two millennia (or more) of human conflict, science fiction can provide another framework to assess the continuing value of these principles, and the enduring nature of war as described by Clausewitz.  — M. Ryan, Science Fiction, JPME & The Australian Defense College

END NOTES

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Navigating Between Its’, It’s & Its

Its’, It’s and Its are some of the most commonly used (and misused) three letter word-forms in English. To use them properly it should be understood that its’ is always incorrect to use, thus anytime you see you’re writing its’, substitute it for either “it’s” or “its” depending on what the sentence requires.

It’s and Its, however, are proper, provided the context it right. Before one can use them, however, one has to be clear on the simple, but counterintuitive, difference between both words, which are as follows:

It’s means “it is” and “it has.”

Its is a possessive form and denotes ownership; for example: “This place has lost its charm,” or, “Its going to be a good day.”

This can be confusing because possession is generally denoted via the form which it’s takes, that is to say, if instead of, “This place has lost its charm,” one were to write, “Kyle’s lost his charm,” an apostrophe would be used between “Kyle” and the “s” whereas with “its” no apostrophe is added. The reason for this is due to the fact that possessive pronouns are never written with an apostrophe because they already imply ownership (ie. it was his; the cake was hers; this house is ours; please keep it, its yours).

With all of this in mind, it should be easy to correct the its’-it’s-its confusion in one’s writing.

Commonly Confused Words: Cement & Concrete

Whilst cement and concrete are often used interchangeably the two words are not synonyms. Both cement and concrete each distinct materials; the common confusion likely stems from the fact that not only do the two words sound very similar, both are building materials.

Cement is a granular binding powder, made by mixing limestone, calcium, silicon, iron and aluminium which is then heated to around 2,700°F (1,482°C) to form ‘clinkers’ that are then ground and mixed with gypsum which in turn forms the gray-sandy form of cement-proper. Portland cement is the most commonly used type of construction cement as it was developed in England in the 1800s by the mason Joseph Aspdin who, by the tincture, was reminded of the quarries of the English Channel’s Isle of Portland.

Concrete – in distinction – is a mixture of cement and sand and stone into a composition called aggregate. Cement only makes up (typically) a small portion of the total aggregate. The aggregate is then mixed with water, triggering a chemical reaction that makes the cement admixture harden and set, after it sets it assumes the shape of the mold into which it was poured and generally is crafted in heavy blocks or slabs.

Hopefully this will help the aspiring writer avoid mixing up these two similar, but distinct, words.

Tomb of the Father: Chapter One (Excerpt)

Author’s note: The following text is a short chapter excerpt from my forthcoming novel, Tomb Of The Father. More chapter excerpts will be released in the coming weeks.


The sky was dark as the carapace of the beetles which scurried hither and thither beneath the flinty, scattered boughs of the gnarled and dying trees as the man moved over the khaki hillocks of the endless moor; the traveling lamp unshuttered the world in its eastward descent unto oblivion as if following the lonely soul in argent passage from one plane unto the next. Wind-chaffed and weary, that solitary figure trudged over a low slope and descended liken to the effulgent sphere above him as a scattering of sheep ran zig-zag about him, fleeing off down the incline to congregate about the fires of some aged vaquero. The cowherd bivouacked in a stony vale, buttressed all about by a high semi-circle of tors that girded he and his odd-baying wards from the buffets of the world. To the left of a firepit which had been hastily constructed and ringed about with the scarce, ashen sediment of the moor stood a diminutive palfrey, outfitted with naught but a loosely strapped saddle-cloth and whisp’d reigns of hair, amber’d by the bony light of the moon.

The stranger looked on a while and then adjusted his leather belt and heavy pack, from his shoulder, o’er thrown, and looked to the storm-wall building up in the far-flung distance and then back again and made haste to the camp seeking harbourage from the ravishment encroaching.

Small, flickering tongues of flame hacked away the shade from the rocky outcropping and illuminated the faces of the beasts and men alike and for a brief spheres-turning all was silent save for the crackling stutter of burning wood and the muted shuffling of graze-beasts upon the heath.

The vaquero looked the stranger up and down and then bade him to the warmth of his shelter, the invitation, readily accepted.

“What queer business brings thee to this forsaken vale?”

The stranger set himself down beside the fire and warmed his aching bones and then turned to his benefactor with a countenance both dire and faraway, as if he were intensely enveloped in the contemplation of something from a time long past or yet still to come.

“No business. Chance. I long for the barton of Haberale, but upon my way my horse was tokened by ague. So, with a heavy heart, I put sword to spine and ended the sorry beast’s suffering and continued on my way afoot; this barren waste, the last obstacle o’er which I must leap to reach my kinsmen’s warm embrace; they unprimed of my arrival. Ah, to hear the Torian rebeck cry once more, for that there is no maze so vast as to keep me.”

The cowherd nodded as if sense had been made of the thing and some semblance of trust both established and reciprocated.

“Thou mayst call me, Ealdwine.”

As the stranger took the old man’s hand and shook it firmly he spake with something liken to shame frittering about his dulcet tones.

“Well met. I am Gunvald Wegferend.”

“Curious name that, it sounds not of this thede, nor any other.”

“That alone is a story in the retelling.”

“The isolation of the moor doth unfix thy tongue from its rightful wagging – fret not, I shan’t pry. A man’s business is his own.”

“I mind not, old man, but would thank thee for the comfort of thy wild-twinkling foyer, the effulgence of the firmament, for all its dazzling brightness, did little to gird me from frost’s fell grasp. Hark! Hear thee that sound?”

The old man half turned upon the old log on which he sat, cocking an ear in the direction of the wide, outer dark. Then he shook his hoary head and returned his attention to the wayfarer.

“Nay. I hear nothing.”

Ealdwine leaned closer to the stranger, his grizzled visage demon-like in the interplay of dark and flame.

“There are always noises upon the heath. Skittering in the swarthy tendrils of the night. Sounding with great regularity and not all tricks of a frightened mind at that. There are skinks, efts, wild dogs and shrews and grouse and geese, adders and crickets aplenty. Oftimes the big-horned rams from the far mountains loose themselves from that stony prison and, wayward, wander in quizzical vexation about this lonely place. Wild hearts beating with the echoing confusion the land sings aplenty. Upon such happenings, I see them stray into the marsh which stretches like a great and black-blooded gash across the earth at the far southern end of the moor, like a wound from some giant’s own brand. If so they stray, they will invariably fall prey to the silent monster with maw eternal-arced and hunger endless, and strain against the bog-hold, crying out, a bleating, strangely human, into the fire-pitted welkin where nary an ear but mine can hear their sorry plight. At the last, their rangy heads and heaving flanks vanish beneath the sinkhole and with that disappearance, so to do their cries subside and all is at once silent and severe.”

Gunvald, sensing the old herder sought his fear, crossed his thick and iron banded arms about his cuirassed chest with a lusterless clinking and raised a brow in good-humored challenge.

“Canst thou not aid the poorly beasts?”

“Fools errand that twould be, none but a scion of God could navigate that blasted place with sureness of foot. The first false step means death, to man or beast. There is naught living that can escape that fetid pit when once it has thee in its soggy grip.”

“Tis a fine thing then that I am no horny ram.”

“Ye should make not light of such turnings, for there is an ordering beyond our ken and a truth beyond it. Those what scoff at the plight of that whom The Creator hath deigned to snatch away laugh also at Him, for is not such cessation but part and parcel of his plan? What greater sacrilege could there be but to scoff at the very pathing of the world. Take heed, traveler, thou scoffeth at thy own peril, for thee scoffeth at the very face of God.”

Gunvald furrowed his brows and then adjusted his belted scabbard such to bend better towards the heat and, there a moment, refreshed himself and then straightened and addressed the old man directly.

“Thy words well become a man of thy occupation. Tis rightful that men of the earth should, with their deeds as with their tongue, extol it.”

“Aye. But thou sayst naught pertaining to the truth of it.”

“Tis not for men of my station to interpret such eldritch things. I’ve not the brain for it and, lacking the intelligence, lack also the words. My voice is in my sword, for redder conversations than this.”

“A soldier then?”

“Aye. Hark. Again, I hear it.”

Before the old man could speak three vast shadows subsumed the rocky outcropping and footed there, three men, feral eyed and brigandined. There was between them, several swords and daggers, all of which reflected like ghostly fires neath the cool sheen of the shrouded, waning moon.

The cowherd and his compatriot rousted with suddenness, Gunvald’s hand flying instinctively to the leather-bound pommel of his gilded blade, gifted him by his father, late. He drew the blade in the same instant and stepped forth with a fencer’s feline grace, eyes steady as his poise, emotions cold as the brand which glinted orange with the low-crackling flame.

“Who goes?”

“Put that away afore ye hurt yeself,” a pudgy member of that ratty trio mouthed with a wide, sinister grin.

Another, the shortest and ugliest member of that threesome, a hunchback, swiped the air with his weapon, a cudgel as loathsome and twisted as the visage of its wielder, which caused the sheep to bah-bah and retreat civilly to the very edges of the high, stone cliffs.

“Looks as if we’ve a froggy one! Let us see how ‘e jumps without his legs!”

“Silent and still, the both of you,” Thundered the tallest member of that sordid corp, a man some thirty years of age or more, angular of face and form, he wielding a grain scythe in his leather-strapped hands and it full with the luster of the moon-geist.

Gunvald knew not the providence of such beings but their intent was plainly writ; the Narrow War had birthed many such creatures, the ungainly trio being but lesser manifestations of the insurrection’s twisted deviance. Their movements furtive. Eyes more beast than man.

“Excuse my companions, tisn’t oft we chance upon such ill-girded company.”

Gunvald smiled fractionally.

“So you think.”

“So I know.”

“Try me then, brigand, and may Marta bless the better man.”

Malefactorous, the night-stalker advanced hesitantly across the muddy ground, well-slicked with welkin-mourn, farm scythe held awkwardly before him, as if it were some mighty polearm. All the while the thief drew forth Gunvald moved nary an inch, his eyes and bones and blade fractions of a singular whole, still as the stone surrounding. At the last, as the dread-scythe arced through the air with a furious humming, the soldier tore himself from his rooted shade and feinted the blow with the mid-side of his great-brand and delivered a sunderous riposte that severed the brigand’s arm from its socket.

A faint mist of red fluttered through the air like tiny moths from some otherworld of dreams and landed upon the ground as the gory limb flopped down beside them like a huge and malformed fish. A startling howl tore from the rouges’ throat, as if it were his soul that had been rent from his body, the sound rebounding throughout the high, towering outcroppings and fading up into the night as if suffering were, like smoke, drawn unto the dark.

The flock bah’d nervously and stomped their hooves as their Shepard stared on, wide-eyed but resolved.

Gunvald turned to the remaining cretins who paused a moment, looking to the triumphal warrior, clad in moon-glint mail, then to the leaking appendage that still clutched the scythe and then to the man to which the arm formerly belonged, some seven feet away, flat on his back, writhing like a punctured horseshoe crab, his agony so great that nothing now but muted moans escaped his wide-spaced maw, lips flexing like roiling bait-worms fresh off some fisherman’s line.

With a startled cry the felonious duo turned tail and fled off into the night, their lanky shadows odd-angling under the skies auspicious glow, shortly thereafter wholly swallowed up into the hazy outer null. Gunvald made to swiftly follow but was held aback by the vaqueros cry, “No! They fly to the marshlands. Heed my words: Let them fly, no man can traverse that curse’d terrain under the pall of night!”

Gunvald nodded and watched them fade off into the wide sea of black and then exhaled heavily, as the old man looked mournfully towards the dying thief.

Then all was sheep-call and bird-caw and fire-hiss and the hideous bleating of a lost and dying soul.

At length, Gunvald turned to his fallen foe who instantly began, once more, to shriek unto the vaulted sphere of night. His eyes bugging into enormous disks, strange-lit by the dancing flames of the softly crackling fire. Just as swiftly, the man’s howling was silenced by the point of Gunvald’s blade piecing his armor and heart, there pinning him to the ground like some great and misshapen insect. His eyes rolled up in his head and a final gasp of breath escaped his mouth, as an arcane epithet, issuing high up into the moist and roiling air. Then nothing but the clacking of hooves and the whistling of clay-scented wind, ranging out over the great and scoured ambit of the rain-washed plane.

At length, Gunvald put his boot to the silent brigand’s chest and pulled free his bloody brand and bent to the dead man and from his head cut a thick and charcoal lock of hair. He moved from the site of execution to the firepit and knelt before the red, closing his eyes and uttering a strange mantra unto the dancing embers, as if they’d ears to hear it.

“What has gone, is what is come. And from my hands, I give to yours. That which is rightfully owed. This life to your light, now and forever, unending. Give us both your pardon. Let him keep his rest. May thy light engulf the world and guide us to thy breast.”

When the soldier had finished his prayer and tossed the lock of hair into the fire, he watched it burn with keen intensity, as if revelations would speak in shocking tongues from beneath those puffs of thin, gray smoke. When they did not, he rose from the ground and set himself down upon one of the flat stones which the vaquero had hauled to the pit to keep himself well clear of the ground as he warmed his old bones. The vaquero looked to the knight a moment, then the fire, then the knight and spoke, his voice uneven with fright.

“Such recklessness displays no leadership yet their accountrements announce the converse. Its like as not their master were not among them.”

Gunvald nodded vaguely and gestured towards the old man for something to drink for which he was rewarded with a flask of sour, salty rice-wine. The soldier grimaced but downed it all the same, feeling a hot sensation in the pit of his stomach. It could use some spice, he thought idly. He leaned over the flames, cradling the flask between his heavy-gloved hands and addressed the cattle-herder with deadpan seriousness.

“I agree with thy summation. Likely to me it seems that those that fled were but part of some larger band. Raiders. From the hill-lands. Long have they warred with Tor. The nature of the conflict lost to the annals of history and the sands of time. As rooted in religion as in the blood. T’would be unwise of thee to tarry.”

“Aye, they were at that. Though lonesome it may appear to thee, across the bogland there is greener grass than this. It is there I’d graze my woolly friends were there space to do it. Alas, the land is owned and off I’d be run in not half a minute. Avaricious land owners to the south and bloody thirsty raiders to the north, such is my plight, traveler, so much as it might behoove me to fly, I’ve nowhere to go.”

The vaquero fell silent a good long while, his eyes cast to the flames, as Gunvald took the information in solemnly and stroked his burgeoning beard as if in meditation. When at last the old man raised his face from the fire there was great sadness in his eyes.

“Ye didn’t have to kill him.”

Gunvald paused a moment and then met his elder’s gaze with dark amusement shinning in his own.

“So even thee questions the order of the world. Thee, thyself said it twas paramount to a mocking query of God. Is this thy project, vaquero?”

The old man, shocked by his own unrealized hypocrisy, fell silent and did not respond. The soldier continued on, heedless.

“Of course it is, what else could it be. It is the project of any and all sane and questioning men. It was this very project that led me to reject such notions, for such a presence, that which is eternal, all powerful and everywhere at all times and places, is said to lack in nothing – a fatal error, for such a being lacks in but one fundamental quality: Limitation. As such, there is none to bear witness to He, none to say that He is this and they are that. A being beyond witnessing is thus a being beyond our ken. Tis Sagian religion and sits ill at ease with my Torian blood.”

“Yet thou cleaveth to Marta.”

“The Sagians say that their deity is ineffable, He cannot ever be known. Marta guides us in all things, if we are of right worth and if we ask. Or so my mother told me.”

“And what of thy father?”

“I never knew him.”

With that, silence fell once more over the stony outcropping as a chill wind swept in from the northern mountains, bringing in its wake a dreadful downpour that washed the blood from the body of the arm-less brigand and carried it out and down the trough of the encampment to puddle in the sodden moor. In that fetid broth’s reflection were the wings of a dozen crows who cawed madly and scrapped the sky with their metallic talons and torn off in wide-wheeling circulations through the closing storm-wall as thunder and lightening fell upon the plain and redressed the world in the garments of the mad.

Their cries like lamentations.

For the dead.

The dying.

And all those still to die


 

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Fiction Writer’s Compendium: Arcane English Idioms

A idiom is a collection of words that means something other than it would seem, or rather, a group of words whose meaning is different to the individual meanings entailed by the words themselves. Popular American idioms include:

  • A dime a dozen (something cheap or commonplace)
  • Beat around the bush (to prevaricate, generally due discomfort engendered by the topic being obviated)
  • Bite the bullet (to finish something unpleasant swiftly, because it is going to happen anyways)
  • Hit the sack (go to sleep)
  • Time is money (work fast/er)
  • Under the weather (to be mildly ill)

The phrases presented above, however, are only those which are quite popular; below we will turn our attention to English idioms which are considerably more uncommon, which shall serve to both increase the depth and breadth of one’s fiction-writing resources and increase the understandability of older texts whose authors had occasion to utilize time or region specific idioms.

  1. Acid Test: the most crucial and decisive test of worth or importance. This curious idiom came from the old use of nitric acid on gold to determine its authenticity.
  2. Albatross around your neck: a burden that can not be easily dispensed. This idiom comes from Samuel T. Coleridge’s The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner wherein one of the character’s, a sailor, shoots a helpful albatross (sea bird), bringing bad luck upon his crew, who then hang the corpse of the dead animal about his neck as punishment.
  3. As the crow flies: in a straight line, without consideration of roads. The expression is used to describe the distance between two points via the utilization of a hypothetical crow, which, obviously, doesn’t need to take roads into consideration.
  4. Bats in the belfry: insane, but in a harmless way. Synonymous with “has a screw loose,” and, “off one’s rocker.” A belfry is a church tower, which, in the idiom, is meant to represent the head, the bats occupying the tower, might cause disturbance but are not of any real harm (generally speaking) and thus represent crazed, but ineffectual thought.
  5. Behind the eight ball: in a difficult or trying position. This idiom is derived from the popular game of billiards, more commonly referred to as pool. In billiards, if one sinks the eight ball before any of the other balls on the table, the player who did so automatically loses. The expression “behind the eight ball” refers to the difficulty engendered by trying to shot a ball out from behind an eight ball without hitting the latter object in such a way as to cause it to be pocketed.
  6. Bum Steer: to give bad advice or direction.
  7. Casting (throwing) pearls before swine: to offer something to one who cannot appreciate it. This expression is taken directly from the biblical story of the sermon on the mount, wherein, it is said: Do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot.”
  8. Cock-and-bull: something too ridiculous to be believed. Taken from an English fable wherein a cock (rooster) and a bull have a extraordinary conversation.
  9. Cut the mustard: to meet a certain set of standards. Used exclusively to refer to people.
  10. Dark horse: a unknown or little known competitor in some event who is expected to win by some person or group with special knowledge. As one might induce, the phrase stems from horse-racing. It is often deployed in political settings.
  11. Donkey’s ears: a very long time.
  12. Down in the mouth: unhappy. Derived from frowning (ie. the mouth turns down at the sides).
  13. Dutch treat: a outing where everyone pays for themselves, individually. Synonymous with “Go dutch” or “going dutch.”
  14. Eternal triangle: refers to two men who both love the same woman OR two women who both fall in love with the same man. The triangle has formed the centerpiece of many romantic pieces of literature across numerous cultures through time (hence “eternal”).
  15. Footloose and fancy-free: carefree due immense personal liberty. A close inspection of the phrase will yield its meaning to the discerning. Unlike with many other idioms, footloose and fancy-free is literal (ie. one’s foot is loose and one’s fancy – whim – is free).
  16. Mountain out of a molehill: to make a big deal out of something that is, in actuality, rather trivial, all things considered. The molehill in the phrase refers to the small clumps of dirt created by moles when they burrow. Thus, the phrase means one is acting as if the dirt clumps of a mole is bigger than a mountain, which is, of course, false.
  17. Pound of flesh: the excruciating payment of a debt. Derived from Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, wherein, Antonio borrows a sum from the Jewish moneylender, Shylock; when the debt is unable to be paid, Shylock demands a literal pound of Antonio’s flesh.
  18. Stuffed shirt: a pompous and wearisome man.
  19. Talk turkey: to get down to business; to be shrewd and eschew small-talk in business dealings.

Let us know in the comments if you’ve any interesting and unusual idioms that you think should be included.

Hath: Meaning & Usage

Hath (hæθ), sometimes heth, is a interesting word whom most avid fiction readers or students of history have chanced across. Hath comes from the Old English hæfþ (has) which comes from the Proto-Germanic habaiþi (has). In its common, Middle English and latter usage, hath is a third person, singular present tense of have (i.e. haveth) that can be used in relation to a man (he), woman (she) or thing (it), thus, it is a synonym of has (hast may also be utilized as a substitute). Example:

“He hath no knowledge of the broil.” (“He has no knowledge of the fight”)

According to the very excellent Collins English Dictionary, hath was in common and quite popular usage from 1708 to around 1888, where use of the word began to markedly fall off.

However, before one goes about hath-ing your haves, it bares mentioning that, to the Irish, hath has a secondary use and meaning as a mirthful exclamation. Thus, in some Irish literature (most of it archaic) hath! does not have the English meaning of have/has but rather, means instead, “ha!” or “huh!”


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