Tag Archives: language

Orange You Glad? Autumn Colors

Green in Arizona

Since Halloween is marching its way to our doorsteps, and my books have slight “green” tint, I thought I’d share a bit of lore about “green,” and a very bad joke that mentions that other autumn color, orange.

“Knock-knock.”
“Who’s there?”
“Orange.”
“Orange Who?”
“Orange you going to download my free book on Amazon and give it a stellar review?”

Foul Wind, the second in my Havoc in Hancock humorous suspense series, is now free on Amazon Kindle from October 19th – October 23!  I changed the cover, making it a bit more menacing.

In Foul Wind, when former activist Feather finds the brutally murdered body of her sister’s lover but can’t find her sister, she rushes to discover what’s behind the foul wind from a new energy plant in North Idaho. Why rush?  Her meddling mother could become the next victim. Or Feather could become the prime suspect. 

 

Download it here.

 I promise it’s better than my joke!

Now on to the green, the word and the political movement.

The word green has its roots in the Old English grene, meaning young, immature, or raw, and possibly, from Old High German, meaning to grow. According to some of my sources, grass has the same roots. (Language-wise.)

A green as a grassy field comes from Old English, and its reference to someone of a tender age, youthful, and hence, gullible has been in use since the 15th century.

Any discussion of the green movement and where it has its roots can fast be made murky by politics. Many agree that Henry David Thoreau, who pled, in his book Maine Woods, that we preserve our virgin forests, was one of the first Americans to make an environmentalist statement. Others cite Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, a 1962 book that warned of the dangers of pesticides and environmental pollution, as the key factor launching the green movement.

The first Earth Day, a grassroots demonstration on behalf of the environment, was held April 22, 1970, the brainchild of Senator Gaylord Nelson. The 1970s saw the worldwide beginnings of green parties, formed to promote grassroots democracy, environmentalism and social justice.

The season of harvest and Halloween led me to consider something else green: the maze. Given the many corn mazes that we see at this time of year, I wondered if the word maze had any relation to maize. It doesn’t.

Maize is corn, from the Spanish, maiz.

Maze comes from Middle English and means bewildered or stunned. It is the root of the word amaze, to astonish or stun. Maze was formerly a verb meaning to confuse or bewilder, but generally today is only used as a synonym for a labyrinth, a network of interconnecting and confusing paths, a warren; a puzzle.

What’s not a puzzle is  the beauty of Arizona’s fall and my delight in knowing it won’t be followed by snow and ice.

Don’t Needle Me: The Words We Use

While traveling a while back, I saw a woman toting a sewing machine as her carry-on luggage. No one stopped her.

What is the matter with the Transportation Security Administration? Don’t they realize the dangers inherent in sewing machines? Consider the terminology.

A needle is a small, slender, pointed implement used for sewing or surgical suturing. Have you never punctured yourself while attempting to attach a button or stitch a hem? I inevitably bleed on my blouse or skirt. It’s no wonder the verb needle also means to goad or provoke. I’m often provoked when attempting to sew.

This line of thought led me to consider the analogies used in business and wonder for a moment why sewing analogies don’t show up as often as sports. I assume it is because until recently the majority of business strategists were male, and the majority of sports enthusiasts were also male. “Let’s figure out our game plan so we’ll be in the catbird seat.” I’ve wondered where the catbird seat is and where the phrase came from. It apparently was used in the south to mean an advantageous position, high up where the group of birds that includes the mockingbird choose to sit to sing their tunes. The term was popularized in a story by James Thurber, who cited its frequent use by sports commentator Red Barber.

When things are going well, the company is batting a thousand, perhaps with the assistance of a cleanup hitter.

Although these terms are easily understood by most Americans, even those who aren’t fond of sports, the full court press utilized by basketball teams and business strategists may be more obscure. Any of these could be misconstrued by those not familiar with the sport.

Some years ago, former Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice, urging patience to critics of a plan to shut down North Korea’s nuclear program, assured them we were only in the first quarter, with a lot of time left on the clock.

Rice’s language was familiar to others on the Bush White House team, but less to the Asians she was addressing. But that’s okay. Ms. Rice took one for the team and kept her eye on the ball. A good thing, else her gaffe might have become a political football for Democrats to kick around.

Let’s level the playing field and consider the other endeavors and hobbies that we employ to add spice to our words. Want to postpone making a decision? Put it on the back burner. Let your ideas simmer for a while. But don’t stew about the problem and by all means, don’t cook the books. However, if the issue rises to the top of the list, consider your opportunity to curry favor with your manager by putting some heat under it.

The phrase curry favor has nothing to do with Indian cooking. It comes from an old French morality poem about a vain donkey named Fauvel that deceived the leaders of the court and rose to power. Those who wanted to please him and gain political power stroked and curried Fauvel. A later English moralist changed the term and it evolved to currying favor.

Let’s end where we began, with sewing. Two basic stitches in knitting are the knit stitch and the purl stitch. Is it possible the word purl is related to purloin? Purloin, meaning steal or misappropriate, has its origins in Middle English, meaning to put away or set aside. I’d love to hear from knitters out there if there’s any sense in my thinking. One website referred to the purl as the opposite of a knit stitch. The purl stitch is yin, the dark, shady hillside, to the knit stitch’s yang, the bright, flat open space.

Or am I merely missing a stitch?