Thursday, May 31, 2012

Well, They’re Words Now

There are words out there that are actually brand names but have become so associated with the product that they’ve become indistinguishable. Heck, there are products that if you call them what they are, no one knows what you’re talking about! Take, for instance…

What We Call It: Thermos
What It Actually Is: Vacuum Flask
Wow, really? Yep, Thermos is a brand name. The proper name is a vacuum flask or, in honor of the inventor, James Dewar, the Dewar flask. In 1904, the Thermos GmbH company formed, naming their vacuum flask from the Greek word Therme, meaning heat. The Thermos was so innovative and popular that the name became the flask.

What We Call It: Q-Tip
What It Actually Is: Cotton Swab
That thing you aren’t supposed to put in your ear is a cotton swab (makes sense). They were invented in the 1920s by Leo Gerstenzang. Despite the whole “never use them on babies” thing now, their original intention was to be used on infants, hence the name he gave them: Baby Gays. Yeah, just let that one sink in for a minute. Anyway, not long after the name was changed to Q-tips Baby Gays, the Q meaning quality and tips for the cotton end. Finally, the Baby Gays was dropped completely. Being the first widely sold cotton swab, the Q-tip name stuck for the every type.

What We Call It: Frisbee
What It Actually Is: Flying Disk
There’s no such thing as “Ultimate Flying Disk” or “Flying Disk Golf”—for a reason. The name Frisbee is synonymous with the flat piece of plastic you toss around. The Frisbee was invented by Walter Fredrick Morrisonand dubbed “Flyin Saucer” (yes, that g is supposed to be missing) and “Pluto Platter” before being picked up by toy company Wham-O and named after a bakery called the Frisbee Pie Company” (that’s a real English name, by the way). Why? Because their pie platters could also be tossed around like Frisbees. Morrison himself never cared for the name, but apparently he was the only one.

What We Call It: Bubble Wrap
What It Actually Is: Inflated Cushioning
Yes, it’s true. That might not be bubble wrap cradling your precious cargo because Bubble Wrap is a specific brand, made by Sealed Air []. It was in vented in 1957 by Alfred Fielding and Marc Chavannes, who were actually trying to invent plastic wallpaper. That didn’t work, but it was good enough packing material for Fielding to found a company to produce it. Why has the name taken off so much? Maybe because it’s actual bubbles you use to wrap things in.

What We Call It: Crockpot
What It Actually Is: Slow Cooker
Well, that’s exactly what it says on the tin. It cooks things slowly…genius! Although the crockpot has come out relatively recently, in 1971, its name has already become the accepted word for “an electric cooker”.

Interesting, no? Or is it interesting…no? Do you know of any Brand Name names?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


My internet is being soooo annoying. It completely cut out last weekend and then yesterday I fixed it, but I don't know how so if it happens again, I'm going to be stuck trying things until it works again. So if I disappear again, that's why.

Honestly, it's disconcerting to be away from the internet when you're so used to going on every day. No emails, no webcomics, no news, no Twitter! What will I do when there's no one forced to listen to my every petty complaint because they Follow me? I think up all these things to say and there's no one to enjoy my wit. I could call people up on the phone but I can never say the things I think, only type them. My speaker isn't well-connected to my thinker. It must have the same modem as my internet provider.

And while writing can be done as long as I have a keyboard and a computer, there's no easy way to do research. How am I supposed to know the effects of explosive decompression on the human body without Google, huh?

In summary, without the internet I goes the crazy. I hope to see all of you later. If I don't, well...I'm sure you'll read about what I did before they lock me up and throw away the key.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Random Thoughts

---Ah, May. The month where I can’t use “may” in a sentence without Word trying to autocorrect it to the date.
---It also does this other times when I’m trying to write “novel” and “decent”. There are other words besides months!
---Sesquipedalian means given to the overuse of long words. Such as sesquipedalian.
---Why are all the shows I like canceled but frigging Law & Order: SVU is returned for a fourteenth season? How bad has that show gotten? Original CSI is more entertaining. And realistic.
---Seriously. NBC should change their slogan to “Where originality goes to die. And is then investigated by Ice-T.”
---They attached a laser beam to a shark’s head! That’s it, animal uprising, world over, everyone go home because you can’t stay here.
---There’s actually a thread on Reddit that says “What Secret Could Ruin Your Life if It Came Out?” All I could think was…I don’t have a secret like that. Just the regular, OMG-I-embarrassed-myself-again kind.
---A twenty-three year old was locked up in a cell for four days with no food and water because the police forgot to release him. He’s now suing the DEA for twenty million and while I’m usually not a fan of lawsuits, yeah, I think it’s justified.
---Man, I had a great random thought to go here but somewhere between hitting enter and the three dashes I use to start these, I forgot what it was.
---I’m sorry, but I have to say it: Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have got to stop making movies together.
---“Futility, or the Wreck of the Titan” is a book by Morgan Robertson about a luxury liner called Titan that sunk after hitting an iceberg four hundred miles off the coast of Newfoundland. It had three thousand on board, too few lifeboats and was eight hundred feet long. Sound like a novelization of the Titanic? Well, this book was written in 1898.
---You know how some other languages have a casual you and a formal you? So does English. The casual is you and the formal is thou.
---Is the best way to demolish a house by driving a tank through it? Possibly, possibly not. But it is definitely the most awesome way.
---Octopus arms can react and process information on their own. Even after being detached from the main body of the octopus. Have fun swimming!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Language of Confusion: Probably Not

It’s been too long since I’ve done a word etymology. Okay, too long for me. But whatever.

Anyway, this week’s word is probable which, for the record, is not related to problem, the word that first led me here. Probable showed up in the late fourteenth century from the Old French probable and further back from the classical Latin probabilis—meaning provable. This isn’t that surprising since there are a lot of words out there where v turns into b or vice versa.

Yes, probabilis is related to our provable and prove. Prove is older than probable, having shown up in the late twelfth century as prouwe (less confusing when you learn about the connection between u, v and w). It comes from the Old French prover and classical Latin probare, which also happens to be the precursor to probabilis.

And the story doesn’t end there. Probare means to test or to prove worthy and comes from the also classical Latin probus, which means worthy, upright, virtuous. That word can be traced back to the Proto Indo European pro-bhwo—being in front. Pro- means in front of and and bhwo is from bhu-, to be (before you ask, yes, that’s its origin).

TL;DR: Probable and prove are related because b can be v and v can be w and the only thing more confusing that word origins is letter origins.

Ceisiwr Serith for information on Proto Indo European. 
Orbis Latinus for information on Old French.
Dr. Rebecca R. Harrison’s page on classical Latin at Truman State University.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lessons I Learned From…


The great thing about the internet is that if something’s in the public domain, it’s at your fingertips for free. Also things that aren’t in the public domain, but you’re not supposed to do that.

Anyway, sometimes it’s fun to read old books. You know, the classics that helped shape pretty much every writer since then. A few weeks ago I figured I’d finally read THE INVISIBLE MAN the kids these days have been talking so much about. And while reading it, I had a few thoughts about how writing styles have changed since the book was written. So fair warning, spoilers ahead. I mean, this is just a one hundred and fifteen year old book we’re talking about…

One interesting thing is that the hero of the story, and by that I mean the one who stops the Invisible Man, isn’t introduced until the third act of the book. Partly this is because the protagonist is Griffin, the Invisible Man, and it’s his story we’re following. But there isn’t even a hint about Kemp until the actual scene where he’s introduced as an old acquaintance of Griffin.

I couldn’t believe Wells got away with that. Honestly, it felt forced with a smattering of deux ex machina thrown in to taste. However, each part of the book is mostly structured as coming from a POV opposingGriffin’s. The first is the Halls, his landlords at the inn who find him more than a little off. Then Thomas Marvel, who Griffin comes across after fleeing apprehension and becomes an unwitting ally. Then we get Kemp, who ends up saving the day.

So not only do we get an anti-hero protagonist, he remains mostly out of our, um, sight. We don’t get to hear his thoughts except during a several chapter long monologue (another thing no one could get away with today), we don’t get to understand his feelings, background and motivations. He is an Unknown and ultimately Unknowable.

On one hand, this is appropriate. On the other, it’s hard to connect to. Of course, this would have been far more acceptable in the nineteenth century, where such distance from characters is common (for example, in another Wells book, WAR OF THE WORLDS, the narrator isn’t even named).

Interesting how characterization has changed. Also the understanding that invisible eyeballs would be blind since they need light to reflect off them to see.

Have you read any of Wells’s books? What do you think about nineteenth century literature in general? And on another note, do you agree that characters have become much more important in order to tell a story?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Code of Codes

While trying to stop exploring TV Tropes (seriously, that site is addictive; click that link at your own peril) I was surprised to learn about an enforced morality system on films called the Hays Code. Okay, maybe not that surprised.

In summary, the code was a moral standard that films were encouraged to follow. And by encouraged, I mean told to or else they wouldn’t get the almighty Hays seal of approval and be blacklisted from movie theatres all over the country. You know. Kind of like the MPAA does today.

Too. Many. Eff Words!

Anyway, in a great bit of 1930s logic, it was believed the best alternative to government censorship was censorship by the film makers themselves. Granted, movies were still stumbling through pre-adolescence, but the fact that the United States Supreme Court ruled that movies were non-protected speechis shocking. But back then, movies were considered to be pure entertainment for profit, and entertainment was not considered worthy of free speech.

Kind of horrifying, isn’t it? Look at these rules which American studios willingly enforced:

General Principles

1. No picture shall be produced that will lower the moral standards of those who see it. Hence the sympathy of the audience should never be thrown to the side of crime, wrongdoing, evil or sin.

2. Correct standards of life, subject only to the requirements of drama and entertainment, shall be presented.

3. Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation.

Ouch. And these don’t get into details, where nothing “suggestive” of sex could be shown, you couldn’t even say S.O.B. and white slavery was never permitted on screen. I don’t know why they qualified that but yes I do because they also said no sex relationships between black people and white people. Yeah. Racism. Also, no evil clergy, no indecent dancing, no childbirth, and nothing remotely positive about something illegal.

Can you imagine trying to write a good movie following these laws? I’m not saying that everything has to be grim and glum, especially for grim and glum’s sake, but sometimes that’s what life is. Yet these rules were upheld for over two decades, until the Supreme Court finally updated their decision in 1952. Although the Code stayed in affect for another sixteen years, American studios finally started breaking the rules, no doubt because European studios didn’t have to follow the rules and were kicking their butts with realistic, relatable films.

I for one am glad it’s gone.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

More Words that Are Easy to Confuse

Supposedly and supposeably.
            Only the former is a word. The latter sounds like it could be, which is probably why people mess it up. But it’s not and any time you use it a puppy dies.

Duel and dual.
            This is another case of meaning something completely different but being similar in spelling. And identical in pronunciation. The former is walk-ten-paces-turn-and-fire, the latter is related to two/double.

Then and than.
            I know it’s “and then” when I’m continuing a topic, and “larger/smaller than” when comparing something. But still I catch myself writing “and than” and “smaller then”. Darn homophones. No wonder people have such a hard time picking up English.

            I haaaate these words. Pique I’m good with, mostly because I hardly ever find need to use it—irritation and annoyance work better in YA—but every time I have to write about a character peering at something or the top of a mountain, I have to think about it. This isn’t even an exaggerating. Every dang time. Remember: ee for looking, ea for an apex.

            Not only are these words spelled similarly, their meanings are similar, too. Both are related to the word influence, with affect meaning to act on and effect meaning something that was acted on. Affecting something means you have an effect on it. Thoroughly confused yet? Yeah, me too. The only real tip I have for this one is that ninety five percent of the time you don’t use effect as a verb and when you do, it always has an object with it (as in, “it effected change throughout the system”). Need an independent verb? You probably want affect. A noun? Since affect doesn’t come in noun form, go with effect.

Any tips for keeping track of words? Have any suggestions for confusing words?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Action Girl

My current WIP is, for once, not Post-Apocalyptic. It’s just regular Apocalyptic. The main character is a seventeen year old named Cassidy and she’s only about seventy five percent sure she’ll live to see eighteen.

As I’ve been writing her story, one thing has become increasingly obvious about her: she’s not soft, not particularly nice at times and most of all, not girly. On a scale from Bella to Katniss, she’s definitely on the Katniss side of things, perhaps even more so. She doesn’t have a cute younger sister to take care of, either.

It makes me a little nervous. What if readers don’t connect with her? I totally think she’s awesome (well, for the most part; she has her problems, believe me) but I’m not buying the book. People might not like someone who stifles their emotions and can be cold and calculating. She may not be boring, but who wants to read about someone they don’t care about?

Still, I’m not going to drastically alter her personality since without it, pretty much nothing would happen. Cassidy is the driving force behind most of what happens because she is driven, fierce and she won’t sit around waiting for problems to solve themselves. I’d hate to lose any part of her.

 So what are your thoughts on the matter? Do you have any characters you’re worried people won’t empathize with?