Saturday, January 30, 2016


Why does winter have to be so cold?
Seriously, I have like five blankets on my bed. I will never be warm enough.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Language of Confusion: -Grate

Guess what? This is my thousandth post. Can you believe it? How appropriate that it’s an etymology post. Number 1000 should be something I can’t shut up about.

I’ve always thought the word grate was weird. It’s something used for cooking. And yet we have grateful and ingrate. What’s up with that?

Grate is both a noun (a grate at the end of a hole) and a verb (like grating cheese while cooking), and they have weirdly divergent origins. They both showed up in the late fourteenth century and both come from an Old French word, grate for the noun and grater for the verb. When grate first showed up as a noun, it actually meant a grill for cooking and then a little later the metal covering thing. It comes from the Medieval Latin grata, a lattice, which in turn comes from the classical Latin cratis, which has pretty much the same meaning. And by pretty much I mean exactly. The you’re-not-going-to-believe-it part of this is that cratis is the origin word for hurdle. Wow. Anyway, the verb kind of has a mysterious origin. Like I said, it’s grater in Old French, and that’s from kratton in Frankish and krattojan in Proto Germanic. Before that? ??? No one knows. It’s thought that it imitative in origin. In other words, people thought that scraping something off sounded like “grate”. There you have it. The two forms of grate aren’t related.

Grateful showed up in the mid sixteenth century meaning “pleasing to the mind” as well as full of gratitude. Way back then there used to be a word grate that had nothing to do with the words in the previous paragraph and instead was an adjective that meant pleasant. That word came from the classical Latin gratus, agreeable, the origin word for grace. Gratitude comes from the same family (unsurprisingly). It showed up in the mid fifteenth century meaning goodwill, coming from the Middle French gratitude and Medieval Latin gratitudem, which is from gratus, too. Ingrate comes from the same place, although it showed up much later, in the late seventeenth century. It comes from the classical Latin ingratus, thankless, and is a mix of the prefix in- (meaning not in this case) and gratus. So at least something in all this makes sense.

Words that sound like they might be related but aren’t: integrate, migrate, denigrate and conflagration.

TL;DR: If a word has grate in it, it probably isn’t related to another word with grate in it. And maybe I’ll do all those grate words next week.


Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Planet X

Or perhaps, planet IX.

I’m just totally geeking out over the fact that scientists are theorizing that there’s a ninth planet in the solar system. And no, not Pluto, or any of the other dwarf planets that can’t clear their orbits of other celestial bodies.

Apparently, some of the smaller objects out in the far reaches of the solar system are moving in such a way that it seems that there has to be something huge having an effect on them. This mystery object is thought to be about ten times the size of Earth and is so far away that it could take fifteen thousand years to complete an orbit of the sun.

However, there are still a lot of questions, like how such a large planet could have formed so far away, or was it formed closer and then somehow got moved away? Or something else?

This is so cool. I love wondering what’s going on in outer space. I think there are a lot of good story ideas that could come from the existence of another planet in the solar system. What do you think about the “new” planet? Any ideas brewing about it?

Saturday, January 23, 2016


There is a terrible snowstorm due to hit this weekend. It’s giving me terrible flashbacks to last year, when I was buried under several feet of snow.

But not this year. This year I’ll be ready.

Those are goggles. Safety first.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Language of Confusion: -Quest

Where does the word quest come from? And how is it related to question? Or is it not because honestly words are stupid sometimes.

Quest showed up in the early fourteenth century as a noun that meant an inquest or a search for something—hunting game in particular, which is why the verb quest originally meant to hunt. Quest comes from the Old French queste, search, hunt, or inquest, and before that the Medieval Latin questa, search or inquiry. Medieval Latin is of course related to classical Latin, and questa comes from quaesitus, acquisition, the past participle of quaerere, to search. That’s also the origin word for query, but I’m not doing -query words or we’ll be here all day. BTW, it’s thought that quaerere comes from the Proto Indo European kwo, which is a part of question pronouns in that language. Basically, quest has “who” as part of it.

Question is even older, showing up in the early thirteenth century as a philosophical or theological problem, then a century later morphing into what we use it as. It comes from the Anglo French question and Old French question, which means…question. And also a problem or difficulty, a legal inquest, interrogation or torture. Yeah, pretty interesting definitions there. Anyway, the French question comes from the classical Latin quaestionem, question, which is an action noun version of quaerere. At least quest and question are actually related.

Request showed up in the mid fourteenth century as a noun, not appearing as a verb until two centuries later. Most of its history is traced through Latin words, most recently from the Vulgar Latin requaesita, but before that the classical Latin requisita, requirement, requisitus, asked for, and requirere, require. It’s a mix of re-, repeatedly, and quaerere, search. So request and require have the same origin. In fact, require used to mean request before request took that meaning over. Just to remind you that words are stupid.

Inquest has an incredibly similar origin. It showed up in the late thirteenth century basically meaning what it does today although spelled either enquest or an-queste. It comes from the Old French enqueste, Vulgar Latin inquaestia, and then classical Latin inquisita, required, and inquirere, probe. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll realizes that that word is the origin of inquire and a mix of in- (into) and quaerere. I guess an inquest is searching into something, so that kind of makes sense. Isn’t it funny when that happens?

Conquest showed up in the early fourteenth century as a mix of two Old French words, conquest (acquisition) and conquest (…also acquisition; I’m beginning to see why they combined them). They’re the past participles of conquerre, which comes from the Vulgar Latin conquaerere, to search for or win. That word is a version of the classical Latin conquirere, search, a mix of the prefix com- as an intensifier and quaerere. So in order to conquer something, you have to really search for it.

There’s also bequest, but weirdly enough it’s not related to these words so it’s going to have to wait for another time.


Tuesday, January 19, 2016

From The Spamfiles

Hey, first one of the year! Awesome!

I get these a lot. Seriously, way too much. These women really don’t take the hint that I’m not interested.

Solar Steam Power: the weird invention that saved a family during a hurricane.

Boy, you think a big company like USAA would be able to afford a domain name with the correct number of A’s in it.

Messages like this are getting pretty common on Tumblr. They always have a profile of a pretty young woman and are always asking you to just do one simple thing for them. Some, like this, are more obviously fake than others.

What? Rachel Rachael is a very common German name.

Love this. Just love it. It’s like one of those puzzles where you search it for hidden images, but in this case it’s spammer red flags. Like the fact that the word “Boss” is capitalized for some reason, the mention of a lottery, which is the freebie in spam bingo, and of course the fact that the guy’s name is Harrell Chris. I just can’t even.

There really should be a spam bingo.

I know what my next project is!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Dot

Am I the only one who is driven crazy by a dead pixel on a screen?
You might be thinking that it’s saner to just replace the laptop. But have you seen how expensive a good one is?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Language of Confusion: -Plains

And now, for words with plain in them.

Just plain plain showed up in the early fourteenth century meaning flat or smooth (which explains why we call them plains), then evolving to mean evident, free from obstruction, and then simple and ordinary. It kind of makes sense because something that’s plain (flat) doesn’t have anything on it and what you see is what you get. Further back, the word plain comes from the classical Latin planus, flat. Which is the origin word for plane. So I guess if anyone ever gives you grief for accidentally switching them, remind them they were the same word until English messed them up.

Explain showed up in the early fifteenth century, but explanation actually showed up earlier in the late fourteenth century. Both derive from the classical Latin explanare, explain, which is a combination of ex-, out, and planus. So it’s to flatten out. I guess figuratively it’s to flatten out with words. Oh, and once upon a time it used to be spelled “explane” until plain screwed it up.

Complain (and complaint) showed up in the late fourteenth century, coming from the Old French complaindre, to lament, and Vulgar Latin complangere. And that -plangere does not from planus but plangere, which means lament or strike your breast, and because com- is just an intensifier here, it’s to really lament. And not related to plain or explain at all.

Hm, that was a pretty short one. I wonder if words with -plane in them are interesting at all...


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

January Goals

Ugh, January. We have to go back to work. And do stuff. And nothing fun. Ugh. All right, what was I supposed to do last month…

December Goals
1. Look at one of my old projects and revise it.
It was my one real goal for that month and I wasn’t able to do it because I spent all my free time working on other projects. Sigh…

2. Hopefully finish up with the secret project.
Uh, kind of not sure where this is going right now.

3. <sigh> Christmas…
Well, I got through this one alive and more surprisingly, so did the rest of my family. I guess that’s something.

Okay, January…

January Goals
1. Finish up the project I’ve been working on. Yeah, I know I’m vague. I don’t know why. I just don’t like getting into specifics before something is complete.

2. Actually do some non-work writing this month! Please!

3. Do A-to-Z Challenge posts! If I want to be able to do it this year, then it’s especially important that I get them done ahead of time.

So, that’s the plan for January. I think I can do it. What are you up to this month? How’s the new year treating you so far?

Saturday, January 9, 2016


More conversations between me and my mother.

She was absolutely incensed by these “boot sweaters”. Which I guess go over boots? I don’t know. It does seem like a weird idea.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Language of Confusion: Ward

Yay! It’s the first etymology of the new year! How is that not something to celebrate? Today’s word is ward.

Ward—just plain ward, not as a beginning or an ending to something—comes from the Old English weard (noun) and weardian (verb), the former being a watchman and the latter being to keep watch. So basically, the same word. They come from the Proto Germanic wardaz/wardon, again, the noun and verb forms of guard. Both are descended from the Proto Indo European war-o-, which comes from wer-, to watch out for. Words like warden and even wardrobe come from ward. Seriously, wardrobe is from the Old French warderobe, the idea being that it was a place to guard your clothes.

The suffix -ward is not related to the word ward because why would it be? It comes from the Old English -weard—which is actually different from the other weard because it’s a suffix that means towards. That weard comes from the Proto Germanic warth and Proto Indo European wert, turn or wind, and related to the word wer-, turn/bend and origin of versus verse.

So that’s why ward and -ward are so different, but that’s far from the end of things. There are a lot of words with -ward as a suffix. Toward for example is to + -ward. Similarly, forward and backward are just fore (in front of) and back (I’m assuming you know what back means) in the direction of. Although originally backward was “abakward”, making it to-back-in the direction of.

Next, let’s look at award and reward, which seem a bit weirder when mixed with -ward. Award showed up in the late fourteenth century meaning “a decision after consideration”. It comes from the Anglo French award/awarder and Old French esguarder/esguarder. Yes, that’s a g in there, although it really is from the -ward suffix. The es- is from ex-, out, and with warder, which in French was watch like non-prefix ward, making the word literally “watch out”. Which makes sense considering that awards are given out after “careful consideration”. Reward is somewhat similar in its history. It showed up in the early fourteenth century, meaning to bestow or to give as compensation. It comes from the Old North French rewarder, regard or reward. The re- prefix is just supposed to be an intensifier here, so with warder it’s like to really watch. It somehow switched to reward (or regard) in Old North French. No idea why. How weird.

Next, words that seem even less related to -ward. Awkward showed up in the mid fourteenth century actually meaning “in the wrong direction”. The modern definition came later, although there’s no reason why. Maybe because when you’re awkward you’re not really going in the right direction? I don’t know. But awk literally meant turned in the wrong direction, so that at least makes sense. Next, steward. It comes from the Old English stiward/stigweard, meaning housekeeper…or house guardian. Stig means a sty, a hall, or a building, and ward meant guard here. So…house guard.

TL;DR: Ward and -ward aren’t related. The first means guard/watch, the second means direction.

Tony Jebson’s page on the Origins of Old English

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Resolutions 2016

How is it 2016 already? Didn’t 2015 begin just a few months ago? It feels like it should be May. Dear god. Is this what it’s like to get old? Because I’m not ready!!!

1. Hopefully carve out time to write a new book!

2. Keep updating the blog three times a week. I know this seems like an easy one since I’ve been doing that for years, but sometimes it seems like I’m out of time. So no matter what, keep blogging!

3. Try to finish the horror story I started writing last year. Hopefully I can find the time!

4. Maybe start a progress bar for my goals so I can see how far I’m getting.

5. Do the A-to-Z Challenge again! Which means I better get started on those posts.

6. Win a hundred million dollars in the lottery so I can just write for the rest of my life. This one might be tough.

7. Read more. Just ‘cause why not?

So, what are you shooting for this year? Any big plans for 2016? Any plans at all?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

New Year 2016

Remember all the raspberry rum floating up there in space? I posted about it on the first day of the year—whoops! I mean last year! Ugh, it’s 2016 already?

Now I’m starting to think that it’s not nearly enough alcohol.