Wednesday, 31 January 2018


You have probably noticed the similarity between the words "coddle" and "cuddle." I always assumed that they came from the same source. They didn't. Even though they look and sound so similar and have similar meanings, they actually derive from two different linguistic sources. Naturally, I'm going to tell you more about that.

Since about 1600, the word coddle has had two meanings, the first of which I did not know. It means to simmer in water. The second meaning is the familiar one, to pamper or treat like a baby or invalid. I surmise that the second meaning might derive from the idea of the gentle simmering – gentle treatment. Coddle probably comes from the Anglo-French (c. 1300) caudle, a warm drink for invalids. Its ultimate source is the Latin calidium which is related to other words today, such as the English calorie, Spanish caliente (hot) and probably French chaud (hot).

Coddle's linguistic doppelganger, cuddle, means to lie close or nestle together and has been found as far back as 1520. It's probably a variation on the obscure words cull or coll, meaning to embrace, or possibly the Middle English word couthelen, from couth, which means known and, hence, comfortable with. Cuddle may actually be related to collar, the source of which is the Latin collare.

The backwards search goes further, but we all get the idea. Coddle and cuddle are not related. Oh, well.

Sunday, 28 January 2018


Recently I've been thinking about what sparked my lifelong love of words and of creativity in general. Part of the answer is my parents. Though there was nothing idyllic about our family life, with various forms of dysfunction forming the framework of my childhood, we four kids were also fortunate to have those troubles balanced by our parents' positive qualities. Our mother was always either painting in oils, sewing, knitting, braiding rugs, writing little poems, or hosting lovely luncheons for her friends. She showed us by example how to pursue what feeds us, no matter what else is going on.

As a kid, I never thought of our father as being creative, although he beautifully restored numerous antiques that graced our home, a talent I now definitely recognize as being creative. I do remember when he encouraged me to be confident in myself and be willing to stand out from the crowd. Those are traits that are certainly needed by anyone who wishes to try new ventures or show her work in any forum.

Though I had to reach mid-life before I began to recognize the value of that foundation, it's not surprising that for as long as I can remember I have engaged in several of the same pursuits as my mother. And I have also built on the lessons taught by my father. Slowly I've learned to strengthen a courageous approach to my writing and love of fibre and to try new things, knowing I could well do a less-than-great job of it. For some reason, I usually have been willing to try and, often, not make a complete hash of it.

Add to that foundation the brilliant structure comprised of my children and the joy/challenge of parenting them. I always did, and continue to, learn so much from them about courage and adventure and imagination! As the main character in my most recent book says, "Children are the architects of joy."

One other crucial spark for my creativity is the place where I have made my home for the past 41 years – Manitoulin Island. Perhaps it's partly because my ancestors came from the Welsh island of Anglesey that I felt such an affinity for this place from the first hour of my arrival. Perhaps it's because the Great Spirit fills and is the air we breathe here and the fine friends and family I enjoy. Perhaps it's the rolling and rugged land that embraces the many bodies of water.

In countless natural ways these many sparks have fed each other, building into flames of creativity that feed me. Whether I make something for my own pleasure or someone else's, I'm grateful for the connectedness that weaves imagination, inventiveness and community together.

Friday, 26 January 2018

Writing Quotation

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world. - PhilipPullman

Wednesday, 24 January 2018


Today I am bringing to the light a couple of well matched but obscure pairs of words you might not have known existed. I certainly didn't until I stumbled upon them one dark and stormy night...well, not really, but here they are just the same:

This long-lost -- but not technically extinct -- cousin to warmth has survived since about the 1540s. And, yes, just as warmth suggests a cozy intermediate temperature, coolth suggests an equally pleasant degree of, well, coolness. Several well-known authors have used the term -- J. R. R. Tolkien and Ezra Pound, to name two.

The other obscure half of a pair is the opposite of placebo. We know that a placebo is a non-medicinal ingredient that has no physical benefit but makes someone feel better just the same, probably because that's the expected outcome. A nocebo, on the other hand, is an actual medicinal ingredient (inactive or otherwise) which makes people feel worse...because they expect to.

So, there you go. Perfect pairings are eternal, whether we still recognize them or not.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Writing Quotation

"A poem begins as a lump in the throat. A sense of wrong…,a homesickness, a lovesickness."

"Any real act of creation is first an act of destruction. Picasso said it, and it's true. We don't build on the old, we tear it down. And start fresh."

"You tear down all that's familiar, comfortable," said Gamache. "It must be scary." When the old poet was quiet he asked, "Is that the lump in the throat?"
-- Louise Penny, The Long Way Home, page 153

Wednesday, 17 January 2018


Having started texting just a few years ago, I admit to two things right here and now -- one, I love texting as a practical and non-invasive form of communication, as long as I can keep the texts fairly short, and, two, my big fingers make some mildly entertaining (and also mundane) mistakes. Occasionally the errors might even be slightly embarrassing if I weren't a compulsive (though occasionally lazy) proofreader.

So, for example because my fingers can't seem to tell the difference between the u and the i on my phone's keyboard, I have often typed "thong" when I meant to type "thing." For example, I was asked once about something that had nothing to do with underwear or summer footwear, but I typed, "What sort of thong did you mean?"

My fingers frequently type tje for the, os for is, ot for to, and U for I...yiu get tje udea. :-P

My favourite texting error lately was that I typed "goliday" for "holiday" – a rather charming error, if ever there was one.

As a last little point, I am often truly impressed when my phone can discern that when I typed, "This os tje time tp see what i dobwith thing and othwt wotss." it knew I meant, "This is the time to see what I do with thing and other words." Pretty impressive, really.

Friday, 12 January 2018

Writing Quotation

Where do you begin telling someone their world is not the only one?
 - Lee Maracle

Wednesday, 10 January 2018


natatorium: One of my brothers sent around a photograph the other day...of a natatorium in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Now, to my knowledge, I'd never heard that word before. Turns out that in the early 1900s, a number of large cities were building these indoor pools for their citizens. Natatoria were whole buildings that contained not only the large pool and, often, second floor galleries, but also showers and change rooms.

Originally, at least in Milwaukee, the natatoria were built to give citizens access to bathing and showering facilities, since very few people had such luxuries in their homes. Cleanliness was clearly deemed to be of great importance and had only in recent decades been tied to diminishing disease. Unfortunately, they didn't figure out right away that starting out with dirty water or admitting people in all states of health and ill health did not contribute much to improving disease statistics.

In any event, natatoria became quite popular and eventually changed into a source of recreation than cleanliness. Though many of the original buildings gradually closed or were re-purposed, the idea of communal swimming pools has never since then left us.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018


I'm kind of done with end-of-2017 and new year things, so let's get right into it. You might know by now that I like made-up words, some of my favourites being: carbage bag, cutism, drunkle and bargage bin.

Given my history, I now introduce another word that isn't actually a word…but which I think ought to be. It's fun to say and includes intriguing possibilities. This gem is "malodiferous." First of all, this is obviously about something bad and probably smelly and is much more fun to say than the actual word, malodorous. Somehow my word took on the ending of another actual word, maliferous, which means "rare, unwholesome or bringing/producing evil." A match made in heaven, don't you agree? Possibilities abound for my hybrid.

For example, in a steamy, Merlin-ish heart-throbber romance novel, you might come upon
Lancealittle charging in to rescue Againevere from the horridly malodiferous dragon onslaught…or…rat-hordes…or…some such. Then there is the modern-day image of terrifying, malodiferous tombs beneath a once-great city, where post-apocalyptic refugees languish in a squalor to which they have had to become inured. One might even try on the idea of easy-to-imagine malodiferous, slimy swamp creatures or malodiferous corpses waging battle against humans. Oh, wait. That's been done. They're called zombies.

But do you see? Malodiferous could do so much for modern literature. Watch for it at your favourite bookstore.

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

National Science Fiction Day

Today is National Science Fiction Day because January 2 is Isaac Asimov's birthday.

I started reading science fiction in my early 20s, and I read most of the great ones that had been written up to that time. They broke barriers in my theretofore middle-class upbringing, provoking new ideas and offering satisfying possibilities for my youthful rebellions.

At the same time, an exciting, unique show came on the air. It was called StarTrek, and my friends and I were completely captivated! I even scheduled my university classes around its weekly broadcast because there was no way I was going to miss a single episode. We would all gather at my apartment, long hair and bell bottoms filling the room. I'd make a platter piled high with peanut butter and banana sandwiches...and we'd sit entranced throughout.

Throughout the years I've read other science fiction, sometimes also re-reading a few of the classics. From the perspective of a middle-aged woman now, it's been interesting to see my reactions to them, compared to my younger self's reactions. In any event, I still think that sci-fi is one of the great genres, and I'm so glad I was exposed to it at a young age.