Archive for language

Memories of Paris


A recent post by Sydney Bristol on Shelley Munro’s blog brought back memories of Paris.


I have visited Paris several times, but this particular trip I was with my then-boyfriend. Before we left, I collected a list of things NOT to say in French:

Un petit coin is a euphemism for bathroom

Sortir is another way to describe sleeping with someone (and not just spending the night). A friend made this mistake when telling her French grandparents she was about to go out to eat.

Je suis pleine is another way to say I’m knocked up. Oh, yes, and if you’re knocked up in British-speak, you’re tired.


Paris Sunset from the Louvre window

Paris Sunset from the Louvre window (Photo credit: Dimitry B)


We visited London, then went on to Paris, where a cousin was doing research for her PhD Thesis in History at the Sorbonne.  I was using a diaphram at the time. The blasted thing sprang a hole in London, so we trotted down to a pharmacy and bought a condom (protective).
Then we went on to Paris, where I developed a nasty cold and runny nose (J’ai le nez qui coule) (ou, j’avais, because right now I’m cold-free). The expression in French is almost the same as in English — in French one has the nose that runs (flows).


Then we ran out of condoms, so I asked my cousin what the word was in French:


Me: How do you say condom in French?
K: I don’t know. I’ve never had to buy one.
Me: But aren’t you and Jean-Paul (K’s French boyfriend) …
K: Yes, but Jean-Paul buys them.
Me: Aren’t we meeting him for lunch?
K: Yes.
Me: Well, I’m going to ask him what the word is. (un protectif).

Notice how close the word is to the  British equivalent. Aren’t languages fun?







  • Bonjour Paris – Paris, France
  • Paris – Paris, France
  • With Love From Paris….The Weird and the Wonderful
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Guest Post: Alliteration in Literature


Today I’m delighted to host Jennifer (J.R.) Turner on my blog.

Award-winning author J.R. Turner lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband and three children. She began writing in high school, and after a decade working as a commercial artist, started her first novel in 1999. Aside from crafts, camping and cooking, she loves holidays. A favorite is Halloween, a combination of spooky supernatural fun and chocolate. Visit her at to learn more!
Alliteration in Literature

Writing is a journey—and often this journey takes us places we never thought we would go. I enjoyed poetry in my teens and played with the different forms and variations over the years. In fact, the very first time I wrote something I was proud of, (in 2nd grade, bless you Mrs. Sanders!) turned out to be a poem:

1-2-3 Birthday wishes go so fast
Like the breeze in the willows
Dancing among the grass

As you can see, I never forgot those three lines. Of course I used slant rhyme and my meter was way off, but this began my love affair with alliteration. The way words can come together, sounding so similar, intrigues me to no end. When I write, I often fall back on alliteration to heighten the pace or the sense of place. There’s a difference between the lines:

The farmer struggled to control the tractor and steer it away from the derelict henhouse.

The farmer fought for control of the tractor, turning to avoid destroying the derelict henhouse.

For me, the more the words slide together, the less intrusive they are. My mind can melt into the story and forget I’m reading. You’ll find tons of this in all my books and short stories, and yes, even in those few poems I still write today. Just look at the title of my new series:

Delbert Dallas and the Dragon Diaries: #1 Voyage to Viking Island (link: )

#1: Voyage to Viking Island—Release Date: March 22nd.
When the new guitar Delbert Dallas got for his birthday turns into a dragon named Barbecue Bob, the adventures are just beginning. First stop—Viking Island where Prince Rolloff is running away from his wedding—at the age of twelve. A Viking afraid of a girl? Even more shocking is Rolloff’s new best friend.

Walter Wheeler, a bully held back two grades, has discovered his own time-traveling dragon, Firebrand. When the prince offers a bag full of gold to get him off the island, Walter happily accepts, once he hears the plan is to escape on the royal longboat. Not only will he take Rolloff’s gold, he’ll take all the treasure on board.

Can Delbert convince Prince Rolloff that Walter Wheeler is no valiant Viking in shining armor? How do you explain a dragon named Bob to a Prince? What will happen when the rival dragons meet snout to snout? Find out in the first adventure of Delbert Dallas and the Dragon Diaries.

Each story in the series will be released on the 22nd of each month:

#2 Civil War Skirmish
#3 Viva La Francine!

The first in a series of once-monthly releases for reluctant readers, part of the Electric Shorts program for middle-grade kids, is just the beginning of the fun I have writing with alliteration. So what do you think? Do you enjoy reading or writing with allitearation?

Thanks so much for having me here, Margaret!


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Words Matter Week 2011 challenge: day 5


Words, like moths, are captured by writers who pin them to the page in various forms. What writer’s work most deftly captivates you? Why?

O’Henry. I started reading O’Henry as a young teen. I thought I had a pretty good vocabulary, but he sent me to the dictionary every couple of sentences to look up new words. I fell in love with words, and the love affair continues to this day.

Another favorite writer I read as a teen was Damon Runyon. He wrote about New York, about Broadway, and as a native New Yorker, born and raised in Manhattan, I enjoyed reading about my city. He’s another writer who sent me to the dictionary, or to my father when the dictionary proved inadequate.

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Words matter week 2011 challenge: day 4


Thursday, March 10

Words can be mangled, misused, or misunderstood. What is your funniest example of mangling, misuse, or misunderstanding?

Due to not enough coffee, I can’t think of anything …

But, if you want to mangle, here is a neat site:

You can paste in any text and it will mangle it but still, it claims, leave it readable.

Thuardsy, Macrh 10

Wdros can be magelnd, meussid, or modroetnuissd. Waht is yuor fseiunnt explmae of mglnniag, msiuse, or mrsniantiddeunsg?

Due to not enoguh cofefe, I cna’t thnik of annyhitg …

But, if you wnat to mlgnae, hree is a naet stie:
a hef=rtth”p://>

You can ptsae in any txet and it wlil mnlgae it but slitl, it camils, levae it rleaabde.

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Words Matter Week 2011: day 3


Today’s topic: What is your favorite quote about words? Why?

Here’s one:

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

And here’s my fave:
The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. ~Mark Twain

Because it’s so, so true. The thesaurus is your friend. Visit it often.

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Words matter 2011 challenge -day 2


Words can change history. What speech or document do you believe to be most important. Why?

Note: I speak only for myself, as an American. No judgement implied on important speeches and documents of other cultures. But while I can’t say for sure that any particular speech or document had the most/greatest/whatever impact on the world, I can and do (see below) pick my own “greatest”:

My favorite document: The Bible, King James Version.
I can’t read the original, and yes, I realize that this is an interpretation as much as a translation, but I grew up with this version, and I’m moved by the poetry of the language. It’s beautiful.

Personal favorite speech:
Martin Luther King’s “I had a dream” speech, not only for the sentiment expressed, but for the power of the words themselves. Interestingly, some of my favorite parts of the speech were improvised.

Check out the Wikipedia article for more information about the speech.
I had a dream

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Words Matter 2011 challenge — day 1


Is there a word that has changed, or could change your life? What is it, and what difference would it make?

When i thought about this, somehow I focused on finding a word, or learning about a word, that changed my life. Why this and not the event behind the word: “We’ve accepted your manuscript,” “It’s a boy,” “We’e getting married,” ‘You’re laid off,” or whatever?

I’ve been fascinated with words as far back as I can remember,so it’s hard to pick just one. But I will. it’s “rambunctious,” and I pick it because of my sister and my nephew.

My sister Michele lives in Mahnattan. As my sister tells it. she, a friend of hers and their two kids , both about two, were in a car going someplace. The two adults were in the front seat, the two kids strapped into the back. Both David and the other child were making a ruckus (another good word). My sister turned and glared at them. David stopped, considered for a moment, then said, “Rambunctious.” Where a two year old learned the word I’ll never know.

Here’s another word: “Dammit.” This one is for my son Colin. It was summer, and I was pregnant with my third son. I was pregnant enough that I couldn’t see my feet. Colin was around two (great age for kids words), and I had him on my hip, carrying him up from the beach when I tripped over a root. Colin looked down, considered for a moment, then said, “Dammit.” Unfortunately, I knew exactly where a two year old had learned a word like that

So those are my words for today: Rambunctious, and Dammit.

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