Assay means “attempt.” When you say “I’m going to assay that climb,” you’re going to try to do it. There is, within the context of the word, a sense of insecurity. That you will try but not necessarily succeed. Subjunctive, sort of. English is not a subjunctive language. We don’t have the tenses to get it right.
Everything feels a been subjunctive these days. Getting up from a chair … can I do it without pushing is one hand? When I get up, will I fall back down? I still tend to load up my hands with whatever I think I need to take with me only to realize I have to put at least half of it down because I need one hand to push me out of the sofa. Oh those joys of aging!
It was supposed to snow today. So far, it hasn’t done anything at all, though the sky is a leaden gray that says more about rain than snow. But it’s definitely getting colder as the day goes on. Usually, days get warmer. This isn’t on of those days. So maybe we will get something, though sleet, snow, rain — or a delicious mix of all three is yet to be decided.
Regardless, in 48 hours, spring will come back. Or so the weather guys promised.
I hadn’t thought about it. To be honest, my eyes have seen it. My brain has skimmed over it. Whoosh. Away it went with no thought given to its meaning. I do know what a couple of “Latin as part of English” shortcuts supposedly mean.
“Illegitimi non carborumdum” — which I believed (and lots of other people also believe) translates to: “Don’t let the bastards grind you down,” from the mock-Latin word, illegitimatus, or bastard, and carborundum, an ancient brand of abrasive stone. But apparently, it’s not “real” Latin. Who speaks “real Latin” anyway? Whatever Latin you speak, it ain’t the real deal. Whoever speaks Latin speaks a reconstruction of it based on what we know from old writings. No native speakers hanging around in this century.
But QED? From this morning’s Boston Globe’s Theresa Hanafin, comes this bright light for the day:
“The Question of the Day from The Old Farmer’s Almanac is: What does the abbreviation “QED” stand for? It’s Latin — quod erat demonstrandum — and means “that which was to be demonstrated.” It’s often used at the end of math proofs or philosophical treatises where the writer reaches a conclusion. Sort of a “ta-da!” I always thought it stood for “Quick, eat the doughnuts,” which has been very helpful over the years.”
What does this have to do with anything?
Well, since I cannot find any conjurable magic (is that a word?), the closest I’ve got are those little Latin sayings we drop into our English language. When I was first working as a tech writer in the U.S., having been working in Israel as a tech writer for five or six years, I encountered an actual English-language editor. My editors in Israel had been a lovely French woman who had excellent English, but sometimes her editorial decisions were a bit … continental. I had a great Russian guy and some of his editorial decisions were … unique.
This was the first time I got to fight over my words in my native tongue with another New York native.
She was fixated on never using a Latin expression if there was an equivalent English word for the same thing. Should she come upon “etcetera” she would always change it to “and so on.”
“We do not speak Latin in this department,” she would announce. To this day, when I’m editing anyone else’s work — Garry or one of the other writers on our “team” and I see an etcetera looming, I can hear her voice carrying over the television or audiobook:
WE DO NOT SPEAK LATIN IN THIS DEPARTMENT.
I am forced to change it to “and so on” and occasionally, to something more obscure like “moreover.” Can’t use “ad infinitum” either … a sad waste of clever language skills.
Ad infinitum is a Latin phrase meaning “to infinity” or “forevermore”. Description: In context, it usually means “continue forever, without limit” and this can be used to describe a non-terminating process, a non-terminating repeating process, or a set of instructions to be repeated “forever,” among other uses.
It’s amazing how a single determined editor can fix something in your brain forever, even when you have long since passed a point where you need instructions.
Thus if you are doing any conjuring today, please do it without Latin. We don’t speak Latin here.
We all complain about Facebook, don’t we? And then, one day, someone says something so incredibly wonderful I feel like hugging it (hard to hug social media, but I can try) and definitely Gretchen. I review her books … but she reviewed me. Literally, bringing tears to my eyes.
Want a sip from my Double Whammy cup?
From the day I read her first book (Double Whammy), I knew Gretchen Archer had “it,” that ineffable “something” that makes a writer an author. Her first book wasn’t perfect, but it had the heart of the winner and the soul of the future. She created characters that have grown and changed and become increasingly real. There are very few authors who get characters well enough to allow them to change in a normal way, with flaws and all and moreover, to put them through all those experiences that make us human. Her characters are never repetitive, never dull. They aren’t always doing the same thing, book after book.
What a pleasure to follow an author and watch her mature. I love you too, Gretchen!
If you have a minute, please read the review of Double Dog Dare Marilyn Armstrong posted here (look down) yesterday.
I *met* Marilyn and her husband Garry after Double Whammy released. Literary reviews (reviews written by people in the industry who know what they’re talking about) of your first book are terrifying/exhilarating/soul-crushing, and for me, in the mix of reviews, one stood out–Marilyn’s. They tell us, they warn us, they mean business: don’t contact reviewers. I did. Just the one. I had to. I had to thank her, because of all the reviews, Marilyn got me.
It’s not that she gave Whammy five fat stars and loved it to the point of me printing and framing the review, it was that she liked it (which, with Book One, is quite enough), allowing me a big sigh of relief. But more than liked it, Marilyn saw its possibilities–my potential. She was the one savvy reviewer who picked out the elements of Whammy that gave it the promise to go on and be a successful series. She was the one reviewer who took the time to (inadvertently, sneakily and stealthily, within the review) give me advice. Very good advice.
Marilyn Armstrong reads between the lines.
She gave me the courage to keep writing. Her honest review was perfectly in line with how I truly felt about my own book.
I’ve loved her every minute since.
Thank you so much, Marilyn. For your deep understanding of publishing, characters, plot, prose, and me. xo
How many times have I heard that line in a movie or a book. Inevitably, it’s either a man talking to a woman — dominant to less dominant — or a “queen” dowager speaking to her underlings. There’s such a quality of superiority in that expression, the ultimate “I know so you have to listen to me because I KNOW.”
With #METOO in progress — and with Our Elected Master deciding the one thing America has never needed except after winning a war — the last time was 1991 after George Bush purportedly won the Gulf War. Whether we “won” that is a moot point, but at least it was supposedly a “victory.” I know there hasn’t been one since then because I would remember it. One of the great things about this country is that we have never needed to display our military might that way.
If a gigantic asteroid were barreling toward impact with our planet, you can bet there would be at least a few members of Congress who would insist on leaving it alone, either because they would see it as a warning shot from the Almighty or because a mining company with a savvy team of lobbyists had laid claim to the big rock.
We do display our military might in other ways of course — like invasions, engulfing, stealing natural resources — not to mention sometimes killing off entire populations. Mostly, though, we’ve skipped marching our soldiers and our tanks and rockets around for entertainment. We’ve never needed to do that.
“But, ” says that man who somehow, and I swear I will never understand how, became our elected president, “I insist. I want to see all my soldiers marching in neat lines. I want to see tanks and rockets and missiles all shiny. And I’m going to have a special uniform with lots of gold braid and maybe a really fancy hat and I insist that everyone salute me. Do you think I could insist everyone call me ‘Your Majesty’?”
He looks around and does not see how everyone’s face is red and hidden in their hands. Our national shame is blustering again.
And then, there’s … “I don’t want to go to a fancy restaurant. There’s never any place to park and I have to wear heels and stockings. The waiter acts like Lord of the Manor where I don’t live,” I say.
“But I insist,” says my date. Not my guy. I already know this before the date begins. I’ve never been involved with anyone who used those words in a conversation with me. I come from a family with a big mean daddy who always insisted. He insisted when he was completely wrong and had no idea what he was talking — but just to confuse us, he also insisted when he was right. It was remarkably difficult to tell the difference.
I’m pretty sure where at least one chunk of my cynicism comes from. Erratic parents are the worst. When they are knowledgeable sometimes and completely ass-backward the rest of the time. You don’t know what to believe. If you are me, ultimately, you don’t believe anything without three kinds of proof.
The harder they insist, the more I am inclined to resist.
You can reason with me. You can prove your point with facts and if you also make me laugh, I will not only agree with you, but I will love you for it. I will listen to your point of view as long as you aren’t stuffing it up my nose, calling me names, or behaving like an asshole.
Just don’t insist.
Unless the house is burning down and you know the only way out. Then, feel free to insist.
According to WordPress, I started this blog on February 4, 2012. That’s not entirely accurate. I picked the name and signed up with WordPress on that date, but all I did was write a couple of paragraphs that basically said “I have no idea what I’m doing or why I’m doing it.” It took until the following June for me to blog more than once a month and it was August by the time I got into the swing of things, so to speak.
At least I sort of know why and what I’m doing this these days. Put most simply, I always wanted to run a newspaper and this is as close as I am going to get. I don’t even need to sell advertising to keep the paper running. Also, I think there’s a chance Serendipity can make a difference. Even if it’s a little, tiny difference … it’s something.
Besides … I’m retired. What else should I be doing with my time?
Writing is my thing. I starting writing as soon as I could form letters and clutch a pencil. I don’t seem likely to run out of words anytime soon.
With joy in my heart, I have corralled others into my scheme. It has made this site infinitely better. We all have something worthwhile to say, but each of us says it in our own voice. Garry couldn’t escape my clutches and was doomed from the start. Rich was a great writer who deserved a bigger audience. Ellin thought it sounded interesting and she had stories to tell. After which I pointed out to Tom that he would feel much better about life if he would write too. So he did.
Wasn’t I lucky? All these smart, funny people contributing, so instead of this site beginning to fade from time and tedium, it feels like we’re just getting started.
I never imagined that Serendipity would become an enterprise, but I’m delighted that it has. If I had not been able to come up with such fantastic support, you’d be bored to death with me by now. Or maybe I’d be bored to death with me. Maybe both.
So in the course of 6 years, we’ve got almost 644,00 views and together we’ve written more than 7,000 posts. I have no idea how many photographs we’ve got. I’m afraid to find out.
14,800 followers, but I only hear from a couple of dozen of you. Will the rest of you please wave your hands in the air?
Thanks. I needed that.
It’s such a strange time in which we are living. I started writing the year Obama was running for the second time. I though that was a rough, tough political time. Little did I know what was lurking in our future.
The craziness of what’s going on in the world has changed the way we all write. I know there are a lot of people who feel they can’t must never write about politics. The thing is, I don’t feel you can not write about politics any more than you can avoid mentioning ecology and climate change, economy and education. All the life and death issues facing us … how can we pretend they don’t exist?
This is the stuff of our daily lives . We don’t have to write about it all the time and we don’t need to be deadly serious, either … but I don’t think we can simply act like it’s not there. Or maybe I just think we shouldn’t do that.
Regardless, I’m a writer and what I see as reality tends to intrude on my head space.
In the end, for me, reality simply is. What goes on — everywhere — is my virtual house. I can’t ignore it. I don’t want to beat it to death or make it the only thing I talk about … but I won’t pretend it’s not there — nor will I run from possible controversy. I think it’s too important to ignore, more so because it is so troubling.
Maybe that’s my self-appointed job — to look at the world and talk about it. If we can all do it with humor and commonsense, even better.
Six years. 7,030 posts. 643,800 views and a million miles to go …
Technical writing was new. In 1981, it didn’t have a name. I was a pioneer. I didn’t chop down forests or slaughter aboriginal inhabitants, but I went where no one had gone before. Breaking new ground was exciting and risky.
The president of the group was named Micah. He was the “money guy.” Micah knew less about computers than me, but wielded serious clout. His money was paying our salaries, rent, and keeping the lights on. The definition of clout.
As the day approached when the team from IBM was due, it was time for me to present the materials I had created with Ruth, a graphic artist who had been my art director at the failed newspaper I’d managed the previous year. (This was well before computers could generate graphics properly.) Ruth was amazing with an airbrush. I’ve never seen better work.
The presentation materials were as perfect as Ruth and I could make them. I had labored over that text and she had done a brilliant job creating graphics that illustrated the product, its unique capabilities and benefits. And so it came time for the pre-IBM all-hands-on-deck meeting.
Micah didn’t like me. His dislike wasn’t based on anything I did or even my disputable personality. He didn’t like women in the workplace. I was undeniably female. As was Ruth. Strike one, strike two. At the meeting, he looked at our materials and announced “We need better material. I’ve heard there’s a real hot-shot in Jerusalem. I’ve seen his work. It’s fantastic. We should hire him.” And he stared at me and sneered.
Onto the table he tossed booklets as well as other promotional and presentation materials for a product being developed in Haifa at the Technion. I looked at the stuff.
“That’s my work, ” I said.
“No it isn’t,” he said firmly. “I’ve heard it was created by the best technical writer in the country.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “Me.”
He was not done with humiliating himself. He insisted a phone be brought to the table and he called his friend Moshe in Jerusalem.
I’d worked for Moshe. I had quit because though I liked the man, he couldn’t keep his hands to himself. I had a bad-tempered, jealous husband — something I didn’t feel obliged to reveal.
Moshe gave Micah the name of The Hot Shot. It was me.
“Oh,” said Micah.
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t have to. The deadpan faces around the table were perfect examples of people trying desperately to not laugh. Micah wasn’t a guy you laughed at, not if you wanted to keep your job.
It was a moment of triumph so sweet — so rare — nothing else in my working life came close. I won one for The Team, for professional women everywhere. It felt good. It still feels good. We sold DB-1 to IBM — and for those of you who know the history of databases and how they have come to rule the world, the rest is history.
Today, considering the mass of protests by women against the men with many arms who think having a penis makes them extra special — Hah!