mollyringle: (Default)
We’re down to the final edits of The Goblins of Bellwater, and those proofing it have pointed out that I need to pick what the singular of “fae” is. I mostly have gone with “faery,” though slipped into “faerie” a time or two. Or hang on, should it just be “fairy”?

Well. Not a straightforward “check the dictionary, duh” kind of question, it turns out. Merriam-Webster and others simply list “faery” and “faerie” as “less common” or even “obsolete” variants of “fairy.”

The word comes from Old French “faerie” and “fae,” leading to Middle English “fairie” (oh look, another variant) which became Modern English “fairy.” So yes, in a sense, the modern version is spelled “fairy,” as the dictionary says. However. Connotations must be taken into account.

First problem I have with “fairy”: it makes people think of the Disney style of fairy. Glittery pink wings, giggling, sanitized, harmless, a cute party costume for five-year-olds. This isn’t the kind of fairy I’m writing about.
Second problem I have: “fairy” has become derogatory slang for a gay man, which is both distracting and a mean-spirited kind of attitude I want no part of.

As someone puts it on this language discussion forum, “fairy tales and the associated idea of fairies typically refer to the genre of folk stories printed by the Brothers Grimm, then sweetened and popularized for modern audiences by Disney et al. Faerie stories, on the other hand, are stories about the fae: otherworldly, unpredictable, and dangerous creatures who appear in the folk-tales and myths of England and Ireland. In origin, of course, the fairies and the fae are one and the same, but the connotations and usage of the words today are headed in opposite directions.”

I like the spelling “faerie,” even though it gets marked “archaic or poetic” by the dictionaries, and sometimes even “pseudoarchaic”—ooh, no one wants to be called that! Feeling the lexicography burn, Edmund Spenser? (With The Faerie Queene, from 1590, Spenser apparently used a deliberately archaic spelling.) But “faerie” also has the complication that it sometimes refers to fairyland, the realm of Faerie, rather than an individual being.

So: “faery,” then?
Much of my visual idea of the kind of fae I’m writing about comes from the brilliant, gorgeous artwork of Brian Froud—whose most influential volume on the subject is of course titled Faeries. In his own writing about them, he spells it “faery” for singular, so really, if Brian Froud calls them that, it’s good enough for me.

Exhibit A: page from Froud’s 
Good Faeries, Bad Faeries:

That said, Froud seems to prefer “the faeries” as the plural, whereas I’ve fallen into the habit of “the fae,” just because I like it. Plenty of others use “the fae” too, just not Froud so much.

Thus I’m going with “faery,” but in case anyone ever asks, yes, I know it’s an imperfect solution, and I know some people will call me pseudoarchaic. I’m feeling the burn. 
mollyringle: (Default)
Hi all!

So: I have a completed contemporary male/male love story (95,000 words, rom-com/coming-of-age) that has undergone some beta-reading, but what it still needs is a Britpicker. Though from the POV of an American, the story takes place partly in London and has plenty of English characters. (Yes, this is the one about Sinter, for those of you who've been around this journal a really long time.) So if anyone with London (or at least UK) linguistic instincts is willing to go through it for accuracy in terms of dialect and Brit-related details, I would be so grateful!

I will happily beta a manuscript for you in return, or read and review a published one, or Yankpick (is that the word?)--whatever it is you need lately.

Message and/or email me! (writermollyringle at gmail dot com)
mollyringle: (Gutenberg)
Language prescriptivism (or "grammar Nazism," as it's more commonly known) is one of my flash points. I do not for a moment believe that "kids these days" are ruining the language by their "lazy" texting, tweeting, and other shortcuts, and I rouse myself to the defense of both the kids and the language whenever my friends start grumbling in this fashion. But I wasn't always so enlightened.

I used to be a grammar Nazi/language bigot/whatever our term is, of the worst, snottiest kind. It was studying linguistics (ironically, some people would think, but not true linguists) that turned me around. So I bring it up to show that one can change!

I know grammar Nazism is based in a worry that people are losing the ability to use language in all its possible ways, or that the language is about to die of multiple stab wounds or something, but that just never, ever happens to languages. They don't die from being well used and experimented with. They only die from being *not* used. An adverb suffix or lack thereof, or "who" vs. "whom," is a tiny matter. And as for spelling, that isn't even really language; it's writing, which is a pale reflection of speech, which IS language.

As linguist Steven Pinker puts it, "In the heyday of telegraphy, when people paid by the word, they left out the prepositions and articles. It didn’t mean that the English language lost its prepositions and articles; it just meant that people used them in some media and not in others. And likewise, the prevalence of texting and tweeting does not mean that people magically lose the ability to communicate in every other conceivable way."

So don't worry about English, folks. She's survived lots worse.
mollyringle: (Hermione)
Upon noting with friends how both botany and Harry-Potter-verse utilize a fair amount of faux Latin, I thought it might be fun to make up a quiz similar to that "IKEA product or Lord of the Rings character?" one that was going around a while back. We can call this one...

Houseplant or Hogwarts spell?

Let's go! What are the following--plants or spells? Get out your wands and try casting them:

1. Alohomora!
2. Ficus Elastica!
3. Gloriosa Superba!
4. Protego Horribilis!
5. Wingardium Leviosa!
6. Hedera Helix!
7. Salvio Hexia!
8. Furnunculus!
9. Dieffenbachia!
10. Dracaena Marginata!

Answers below the cut )
mollyringle: (Haeckel anemones - by neitherday)
In Finding Nemo, why do the sharks have an Australian accent, but none of the other sea creatures do?

And why can most of the fish understand human speech--some of them can even read--but they can't understand whale speech?

Yes. Sorry. I keep overthinking Pixar's plots and poking my finger into the holes. I ought to stop.
mollyringle: (Gutenberg)
Around this time of year, we see a lot of "X days 'til Christmas" signs, which drives me crazy. I've brought it up before, and I know as a linguist I'm not supposed to have language-usage pet peeves at all, but we all have them anyway and I can't resist saying it one more time:

It's not 'TIL. It's TILL.


I've fought nearly every editor I've ever had on this. I know, I know, the spelling of words changes with the times, and maybe my side will lose this battle. But I must try, for I dislike introducing punctuation into words when it isn't necessary. And don't give me that argument about how "till" also means (verb) "plow the land" or (noun) "cash register," because those are never going to be confused with a preposition in daily usage.

In the meantime...

If TILL was good enough for C.S. Lewis, it's good enough for you.

Oh yes, I'm ornery today. Look out. (But, all the same, happy holidays!)
mollyringle: (tea setting)
Some linguist I am. I have *no* idea what this says. Anyone help?

It's on a pretty mug I was just given. Here, for your trouble, enjoy the other side, with the lovely painting:

Thank you!
mollyringle: (Scotland - hills and thistles)
I am seeking a beta-reader of sorts for a novel set in Edinburgh, and due to be published as an ebook within a couple of months (hurray!). What I need is someone who knows Scottish speech habits and Edinburgh very well, so you can catch any errors I've made on those counts.

You wouldn't have to worry about plot, character development, formatting, or grammar, except within Scottish characters' dialogue, perhaps. You'd merely read through and see if any Scotland-related mistakes jump out at you. Also, I would want this read-through done by the end of July, ideally. Short notice, I know--apologies.

In return I'd send you paperbacks of both my existing published novels--The Ghost Downstairs and Summer Term (though that one doesn't come out till Aug. 27, so you'd have to wait a bit)--and the ebook of this one, What Scotland Taught Me, once it's all polished up pretty. I'll happily send the paperback of this one too if it ever goes into a print edition.

The novel is about 100,000 words long (eek!), genre is teen lit crossing over into women's fiction, and mood is realistic and somewhat romantic-comedic. Feel free to advertise among your Scottish friends. I may take on more than one such reader to cover my bases, if I get more than one taker.

To apply, either comment here or email me directly-- writerofirony at earthlink dot net. I think I have enough takers for now. Thank you so much!
mollyringle: (Uncle Sam WWII - by pear_icons)
Steve explains to me that some exciting moment has happened in college football. A quarterback has gotten injured early in the game, and an 18-year-old freshman gets to fill in, and is doing a brilliant job. Very thrilling.

Me: Oh. Sort of like in theater, when the lead can't go on, and the understudy gets to fill in, and ends up dazzling the audience.

Steve: (disdainful pause) You just used a theater metaphor to describe sports. You're supposed to use sports metaphors to describe everything else in the world.

(I doubt I have a "sports" tag. Right, I do not.)
mollyringle: (bat)
Uh-oh, people. It's almost 2010 and we still seemingly haven't decided, as a global whole, what to call this current decade. It was the "eighties," then the "nineties," then the...what? Oh-ohs? Zeros? Aughties? Naughties?

This page discusses the main possibilities. But we will probably have to wait several years for a definitive answer, just by seeing which usage shakes out as the prevailing one.
mollyringle: (Scotland - castle)
...MS Word's spell-check "errors" include the following:

offed (oneself)
creeped (out)
winky (emoticon)
blissed (out)

LJ doesn't like most of those either, incidentally. But it allows some of them to pass without the red underlining, so it's apparently a step hipper than MS Word.
mollyringle: (Dirk - crayons)
How much do you remember about learning how to read?

My mom asked me that recently, and for me the answer is "Nothing, really." I was quite young; two or three, maybe. Now my son appears to be following in my footsteps.

At age two and a half, he's already stopping to point to letters and numbers on signs or cars or anywhere they appear, and reading them aloud. So far it's mostly just the individual characters ("F! O! R! D!"), but in at least two cases he's remembered what the whole word is. (Those two cases, in typical negative two-year-old fashion: "No" and "Stop". Well, they're both on signs on lot.) We iz proud parentz!

In not exactly related news...

Analyzing my webpage hit statistics shows clearly that the old parodies are really what people still come to read, both the Lord of the Rings film ones and the two Harry Potter book ones. This indicates to me that the smart thing to do, self-advertising-wise, is parody the first five HP books too. So, eventually I'll get started on that. Anyone have an extra copy of Sorcerer's Stone they want to send me? I borrowed the first three books when I read them.

Maybe I'll even get the first one done before the next film comes out. Which, at this rate, gives me plenty of time.
mollyringle: (Doctor Who 10 - TARDIS)
1) Finished watching Doctor Who, season 3. spoilers )

2) I would be remiss as a linguist if I didn't link to this story: students in Baltimore (and elsewhere) are using "yo" as a gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun. Examples include "Yo threw a thumbtack at me" and "Yo looks like a freak." In short, these kids have managed to do what no well-meaning politically correct language fashioners have been able to do in centuries. Not sure it will catch on everywhere, but it shows there is hope for that cumbersome he/she/one/they business in the third person singular. I think it's great. Oh, come on, it's fun! No, the language is not collapsing. Languages never collapse. Stop being so stuffy.

3) Farewell, Heath Ledger. I am saddened, as I was only just beginning to appreciate you. Also, I have a two-year-old child myself and it breaks my heart to think of your girl growing up without her daddy. So this better not have been intentional or I'll be really angry with you.

4) I'm off to get braces. I'd be apprehensive about the pain, except that the spacers they put between my molars have already inflicted pain upon all four quadrants my jaw for the past week, rendering the eating of crunchy things impossible. So I feel prepared. And you may call me Titani-M* for the next nine or ten months, or however long it takes my little crossbite to straighten out.

*The brackets and wires are a titanium blend nowadays. Stronger, smoother, smaller, faster, sexier, etc.
mollyringle: (Parrish stars)
If you've not seen it yet, FreeRice is a cool site where you can quiz yourself on vocab, and for every word you get right, the UN donates 10 grains of rice to Hungry People somewhere or other. It also automatically adjusts its difficulty level based on the words you get right, so it should get more challenging as you go.

This may be the first time my lexical abilities have ever directly put food in anyone's mouth--and is likely to be the only time. Fun to play, though.
mollyringle: (Buffy & Spike)
(Included below are sort of general spoilers for the whole Buffy series, just so you know.)

The linguist in me wants to dwell for a moment on why Angel lost his Irish accent over time, while Spike never lost his English one.

First, let's get the obvious answer out of the way: David Boreanaz's Irish accent is reeeally shaky, whereas James Marsters' accent kicks ass. But let's pretend that's not the actual reason...

When adults lose their native accents and acquire another, it's often a semi-conscious effort, based in the desire to blend into a new group and leave behind their old one. Angel, upon regaining his soul, clearly wants to escape his past as Angelus, in which he still used his native Irish brogue. He moved to America decades before the show's beginning (if I understand correctly), so blending in as an American would have been the obvious choice. In contrast, Spike seems to have roamed the world more freely before showing up in Sunnydale, and anyway doesn't care about blending in; in fact, to judge from his fashion sense, he wants to stand out. He proudly uses Brit slang even among the American kids who aren't as likely to understand it.

I think the explanation lies mostly in their personality differences rather than amount of time spent in America. Namely, Angel is drastically different from Angelus, while souled Spike (or chipped Spike) is really not that different from evil Spike.

And that's something I wished Buffy (the character) had acknowledged a little more. I mean, jeez, Angelus has pretty much zilch going for him in the "good" column, but Spike all along, despite the tough talk and exterior, is the true softie, the "fool for love." Even in his first episode, he's partially defined by his tenderness toward Dru ("You two reek of humanity," a Big Baddie tells them disparagingly later on), and is troubled and seemingly conflicted by his discovery that Buffy is "a Slayer with friends and family." Angelus's reaction to Buffy's friends and family? More like, "Whee! More people to psychologically torture and kill!" Buffy would have done well to remember that it was Spike, still unchipped, who helped her save the world against Angelus.

So, really, it's no wonder Angel wants to distance himself from his other persona: that guy is a scary dude. But the distance between bad Spike and good Spike is short enough that ol' William can stretch across it and still be, more or less, himself. In all his cheekiness. Thus, while Spike turns more and more to the good side, he doesn't start sounding any less English.

But note: when Angel reverts to Angelus in the present day, he doesn't revert to Irish. Why not? Guess we're back to "Angel spent a lot of time in America" and "Boreanaz really didn't want to do the accent."

Enough about linguistics. The real question is: why, in God's name, did Angel's hair have to be so bad in the 1800s? William the Bloody gets a cute floppy wavy 'do, and Angelus gets Frankenstein Hair? Could nothing have been done about that, I ask you?
mollyringle: (parfumerie)
If I ever get a novel published, and it gets turned into a movie, I hope Sofia Coppola is on the short list of directors. I just watched Marie Antoinette and loved it. I gather it really didn't work for some people, putting '80s music to the glitz of the Versailles court, but to me it was something new, thank God, and anyway I loved the music, so I couldn't complain. The Cure's "Plainsong," finally in a film! And how can I not love a director who intentionally had a rakish character costumed to look like Adam Ant? (He did, too. Yum yum.) Also, refreshingly, no beheadings. It's enough to know they're on the horizon, really. No need to splash blood all over the gorgeous costumes. I say "refreshingly" because I also lately watched and enjoyed Elizabeth I, which again I was destined to love because of my softness for both Jeremy Irons and Hugh Dancy. But jeez, beheadings and drawn-and-quarterings much?

Anyway, well done, young Coppola. She seems to have taken the writing advice "Write the book you want to read," translated here to "the movie you want to see."

Speaking of writing--I'm going to veer off and rant a little about character naming conventions. My feminist streak may emerge. You may want to look away.

I read some writing advice somewhere (I wish I remembered where) that suggested giving your characters names that were easy to say, with no more than two or three total syllables for the men and four or five for the women. Neato, we get more syllables! Uh...why? Wait a sec, are multiple syllables "girly"? "Dirk Pitt" is an awfully manly and curt name, after all, while "Scarlett O'Hara" takes its pretty time to roll off the tongue. Hmmm.

Also, have you noticed that in certain types of novels--usually adventure novels, like Dan Brown's or Michael Crichton's among others--the men are always referred to by their last names, and the women by their first names? Why in the world is this the established style? When we have Dr. Jad Forke (you know, the ex-Navy SEAL who now teaches antiquities) and Dr. Tiffani Engelbright (you know, the 23-year-old nuclear physicist), why do we get usage like "Forke tossed the AK-47 to Tiffani"? (You know, I'm never gonna write adventure novels unless as farce or parody.)

Darn...I wish I had thought of these issues for my Linguistics thesis. Oh well. Someone else can take it and run with it.
mollyringle: (Froud - bad faeries)
Check out the bottom half of this picture. I'm pretty sure, almost certain in fact, that that's not a California leaf-nosed bat.

That's from a free children's publication that shows up in our mail for some reason. Hope the kids reading it are smart enough to catch that little error.

Anyway, we are back from a week in California (didn't see any bats nor bears, though we did see a coyote, a raccoon, several deer, lots of birds, and many farm animals), and our misgivings about taking little Z on the plane were unfounded. He was a prince. He was pretty much a prince the entire trip, actually. Flirted and babbled and waved at people, let his grandparents walk him around, played very nicely with another couple babies his age. Whew. I'd love to take credit, but personality may just be inborn. ;)

His name, by the way, if you ask him, is "Doo-dah." Linguistically speaking, I think he may actually be trying to say "Zach." The Z sound, being a fricative, is trickier for young tongues than the D sound (a stop; stops like M, B, D, G come early and easier). So in trying to pronounce a Z he may kind of stutter a D instead--same place of articulation for both; the alveolar ridge behind the front teeth--and then proceed with the "a". Getting to the "K" sound at the end would be too complicated for now; he'll add that when he can handle more sounds in one syllable.

So, Dooda it is. This is how nicknames get started...
mollyringle: (Default)
I tend to think myself immune to the need for spell-check, but I do occasionally run it anyway. Tonight I found that in my most recent novel-in-progress, I misspelled the following words:


My one consolation is that Microsoft Word didn't know how to spell them either--that is, it had no suggestions on correcting them; it just "knew" they were wrong. I had to Google them to find the right spellings.
mollyringle: (Gutenberg)
In an interesting twist on the usual ubiquitous acronym, my father-in-law found this one:

MOL is a Japanese shipping corporation and their letters stand for "Mitsui O.S.K. Lines," the "OSK" standing in turn for "Osaka Shosen Kaisha." So what we have is an acronym within an acronym. I find this intriguing.

Can you think of any others?

May have to cross-post to [ profile] grammargasm.
mollyringle: (Lost-being funny-by mediocrechick)
Today I got a rejection with the bit of feedback: "Sexual relations in a YA [young adult] novel? Seems too mature for 13-year-old readers."

The characters are 18 or 19, and college freshmen. I once showed the story to a romance editor, and she liked the story but thought they were so awfully *young* that it would have to be marketed as YA. Now it's too mature for YA? What genre should I claim it is, anyway?

Or did I just happen to get a reviewer who has an unrealistic sense of what teenagers think about? :)

Probably wasn't a good match anyway--they claimed I'd made "grammatical errors" for instances such as:

"Was that your flight?" she sniffled.

...on the grounds that "You can't sniffle dialogue." Sheesh; no creative leeway allowed?

Complain, complain. Have a nice weekend, everyone!

(x-posted to [ profile] novelwriters)

Edit: The "sniffle" bit is wobbly, I admit. But okay, here's another "error" they claim I made: they circled the word "grey" and wrote "avoid variant spelling." Yeah, I know we spell it "gray" in the U.S., but the narrator is British! He would write "grey"! I also wrote "colour," "centre," and "realise"; are you going to circle all those too? "Error," my great-aunt's tea cozy. I screwed with that spelling quite deliberately, thank you.


mollyringle: (Default)

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