Wednesday, 18 December 2013


A skeuomorph is a design feature that's no longer needed but included because previous versions of the item (often made using different materials or in a different way) had whatever it is.

For example the decks of cruise ships are no longer made from planks of wood (as it's a fire risk) but they're likely to be finished in a brown material laid in strips to resemble planks. Modern compact cameras no longer have shutters, but they often make that distinctive cur-lick when a picture is taken, as they have a device added to reproduce it. Chocolates sometimes still come individually wrapped because back in the old days people didn't always eat a whole tinful in one sitting ...

Can you think of any more examples?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013


It was my writing group's Christmas party yesterday (so I won't be writing about it in present tense). We each brought wrapped books we've read and enjoyed as presents for each other and enjoyed food practically presented on disposable plates.

All the members were present, except one (he's presently on holiday). The results of our competition were announced and the winner presented with a trophy (I was second*). We gave the judge a small present to thank him for his presentation on humour in writing, and his feedback.

*I mention that to present myself in a good light.

Wednesday, 13 November 2013


Synecdoche is a word I'd never come across until I opened the dictionary at random just now. Despite never having heard of this device previously, I have used it. I wouldn't be surprised if you have too.  A synecdoche is a figure of speech in which part of something represents the whole.

For example you might refer to a traditional Sunday lunch as 'a roast' even though the vegetables and gravy were cooked in another way. It's generally understood that 'a blonde' will have more body parts than just her hair. When we refer to writing a book we generally also mean planning, rewriting, editing, proofreading and trying to find a market, not just bashing out a first draft.

Here's a picture of a couple of birds - which, I think, is a synecdoche for a picture of a couple of birds and their shadows and a dead leaf, on some grass which has been marked to form a football pitch.

Wednesday, 30 October 2013


Thanks for pitching up to read my latest word of the week post.

Pitch can mean to slope downward, put up a tent, or the space said tent occupies. It can be to throw something, fall headlong or submit a suggestion to an editor. It's the movement of a ship in a longitudinal direction, angle of a roof or where cricket is played. Pitch is a quality of sound, the gloop you get from distilled turpentine or where a market trader displays his wares.

It can also be to express something at a particular level - I do hope I've pitched this post correctly. I also hope I've got everything right and we won't need to have a pitched battle over my definitions.

The pitch of these steps was so steep that if the ship had pitched or rolled I'd have pitched down them.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Keep going

Keep is a good word (not least because it gives me another chance to post a photo of a castle - do you know which one?)

It means to continue to have something, to save something for future use, store in a regular place (we keep The Sphere in the garage), continue in a particular position or activity (she kept her head down) or to remain in good condition (fresh bread doesn't keep very long). It can also mean to do something you promised to do (I keep my promises) to provide accommodation and food - or the money for those things (he earns his keep)

If you have a friend with enough money you could be a kept woman. You might want to keep up to date, or with the Jones'. Or perhaps you'll attend keep fit classes (which generally means get slightly less unfit rather to maintain an existing state of fitness in my experience) and of course it's the strongest part of a castle.

Not bad for just four letters, eh?

Wednesday, 9 October 2013


A secret is something that's kept, or intended to be kept, from most people. You might think the meaning of the word isn't a secret, but switching on the television or picking up a newspaper or magazine will soon show how wrong you are. Almost every day someone will be offering to share their secrets of success, beauty secrets, reveal whose secret love child they are etc etc.

Here's a top tip, if you want to keep something secret, don't give the details to the papers, or TV reporter. If you want lots of people to know, then what you're offering isn't a secret - it's a tip, piece of advice, comment, item of gossip or most frequently a blatant publicity stunt. (Maybe I should have picked cynical as this week's word?)

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


Parbuckle is ... what I get when I ask my husband for a word of the week suggestion. He reckons it's topical because it's been in the news (as a way of righting the partly submerged cruise ship Costa Concordia). A parbuckle is a rope or sling used to raise or lower casks or other cylindrical objects.

When used to right a ship, I suppose parbuckling is the opposite of careening. I used to talk about careening in my day job, but as I don't do it any more, I'll spare you the details. When not used in a nautical context careening means to swerve about.

Here's a picture of a ship which, sensibly, stayed away from the rocks and therefore remained the right way up. I careened (slowly) up a nearby mountain to take the photo.

That's two weeks this month I've done a double word of the week. I must get a grip.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013


My dictionary doesn't think fettling is a word. It's wrong.

Gary spends quite a bit of time fettling. Our friends Geoff and Edna, who often indulge in a spot of fettling, tell me it's the present participle of the verb fettle. All three of them use it to describe sorting out, tidying up and tiddlying off.

Fettle is in my dictionary. It means condition or trim - as in 'he felt in fine fettle'. It can also be what you do to tidy metal castings or pieces of pottery before firing them.

Fettler is also in my dictionary. A fettler is a person who fettles. You'd think that'd make them really spruce wouldn't you? Apparently it's most commonly used for railway workers.

I can't say for certain this pot was ever fettled, but my Black Pearl chili growing in it is in fine fettle, don't you think?

Quite a bit of fettling of my stories is needed before I'm ready to submit them to magazines or enter them in competitions. I think it's worth the effort.

Friday, 13 September 2013


I know it's not Wednesday, but today seemed the perfect opportunity to introduce the word Paraskevidekatriaphobia to those who don't already know it. As it's not Wednesday I'm not giving you the definition - but I think you can work it out.

So, how's everyone feeling today? Happy and full of enthusiasm or staying safely under the duvet, well away from mirrors, black cats and ladders?

Wednesday, 11 September 2013


A valetudinarian is a person who pays excessive attention to preserving their health. Did you know that? Do you know such a person?

Maybe anything that we can do to stay healthy is simply common sense. I think it is, but then I consider eating and drinking things I enjoy and lounging on the sofa reading to be healthy activities.

Here's The Sphere getting into shape. He's doing really well, he used to look like a beach ball ...

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


A hound is a type of dog used for hunting or tracking, a person in keen pursuit of something (eg newshound) or a despicable person (you ain't nothing but a hound dog). It can also mean to urge on or nag and to pursue relentlessly. (Sometimes I feel I'm hounding editors with my submissions.)

The dog in the picture isn't a hound, I know but Hev Ock is cute isn't she? She sits on my desk underneath the monitor between a glass goat and a musket ball.

I need a dog, well at least three actually, in the novel I'm working on - Poppyfield Farm. I can't decide on the breed. I want one that seems friendly rather than intimidating and isn't too big. For various reasons it can't be a border collie, Jack Russell or English setter. Any suggestions?

I've sniffed out this competition - don't send them a shaggy dog story!

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Spruce is a coniferous tree of the genus Picea, the wood from such a tree and a type of beer flavoured with its needles and twigs. I knew that. It's not the stuff in retsina, that comes from pine trees, but there is a tree known as a spruce pine.

Spruce can also mean neat or smart in appearance. I knew that too. Don't think I've ever heard a person actually use the word spruce on it's own in that way, but 'getting spruced up' is a fairly common expression round these here parts.

I think the spruce looking trees in the photo are yews. It wouldn't be a good plan to drink anything made with those.

Apparently spruce is also slang for lying, malingering, evading a duty or to practise deception. I'd be sprucing if I said I knew that before I looked it up.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013


Well, what I thought discrete meant was tactful, unobtrusive, not making a big hoo-ha. And that's exactly what Suzy was when she pointed out I was wrong. Discreet is the word I wanted (so I had the right letters, just not in the right order)

Discrete is a real word, but it means individually distinct or separate. Discrete and discreet are discreetly different words! Did you know that? 

The picture is of the buttonhole my uncle wore at my wedding (I asked everyone to wear something purple) Pretty discrete, I reckon.

Want to tell me about a time you've been indiscreet?

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


I expect you know what a swan is and can probably see where the term swan necked comes from. The birds' graceful progress across the water would account for the phrase swanning about too (I swan about a fair bit, though not usually in a graceful manner. That's what I was doing when I spotted this family.)

A swan song is a person's last work or act before death or retirement. I'm not sure why a large white water bird of the genus Cygnus should be associated with that, or with a form of diving, but it is. 

Did you know that swan can also refer to a poet? And can you guess who has been referred to as the swan of Avon?

Wednesday, 24 July 2013


Frangible means brittle or liable to break. To me it sounds like one of those flaky pastry things which shatter as you bite into them, but not until after they've squidged a dollop of cream down whatever you were wearing.

It could also apply to the poor plants on my allotment as I think ours is the only town in the country not to have had rain over the last few days. 

Or even to that little burst of confidence that allows us to submit our work and which cracks at the mere thought of a 'thanks but no thanks' by return of post. Still if you want to be published you have to risk that. 

Stained glass is frangible. This example is hundreds of years old. It's lasted because it's surrounded and supported by the stone walls of Dover castle. Maybe there's a lesson there?