Review – Spell It Out: The singular story of English spelling #Writing #Language #English

Spell it Out UK Amazon print

Spell it Out Amazon Kindle UK

5 Stars.

Spell It Out: The singular story of English Spelling – David Crystal.

Why is there an ‘h’ in ghost? William Caxton, inventor of the printing press and his Flemish employees are to blame: without a dictionary or style guide to hand in fifteenth century Bruges, the typesetters simply spelled it the way it sounded to their foreign ears, and it stuck. Seventy-five per cent of English spelling is regular but twenty-five per cent is complicated, and in Spell It Out our foremost linguistics expert David Crystal extends a helping hand to the confused and curious alike.

He unearths the stories behind the rogue words that confound us and explains why these peculiarities entered the mainstream, in an epic journey taking in sixth-century monks, French and Latin upstarts, the Industrial Revolution and the internet. By learning the history and the principles, Crystal shows how the spellings that break all the rules become easier to get right.

You can tell I’m a logophile (lover of words), as this book really appealed to me.  I love the vagaries of English, the whys and wherefores, the ‘really – that’s spelled like that?’ and the etymology of language. This book is a great resource – it covers the history of the English Language, and the ‘rules of spelling’ – many of which get defenestrated at every available opportunity. Crystal explains why.

English is a very confusing language – and I’m a native speaker! Similar sounds – such as ‘ou’ or ‘gh’ can be used in a large variety of words with different pronunciations:

(Spelling in red) coff as in cough; ow as in boughruff as in rough; thru as in through; doh as in doughnut. 

Thorough, plough, tough, borough etc.

And we have the one everyone knows – I before E except after C… unless … well Wiki has a whole page of them:

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Category:English_words_not_following_the_I_before_E_except_after_C_rule.

There are reasons – from lazy scribes to printers being things look nice, to foreign words being adulterated, to regional differences to text speak. It all makes sense (sort of).

Crystal keeps the book interesting, easy to understand and amusing. He knows his stuff, and it shows. I found it fascinating, and will definitely get the author’s other work. Mr Crystal – you have a new fan.

Recommended for logophiles, writers, and the curious.

 

 

Why “An Historian”?

I occasionally get questions and comments about the title of this blog, so I thought I should offer a brief explanation. Why is this blog titled “An Historian Goes to the Movies” and no…

Source: Why “An Historian”?

Word of the Week – Misandrist

I’ve been thinking of ways to vary the types of posts from the Library of Erana. After all variety is the spice of life, they say.

So I am starting a Word of the Week post – basically either myself or my followers can suggest a word, preferably an uncommon or unusual one, and I’ll look up meaning and origin. The Library of Erana is a hall of words – so we may as well find some:)

Today’s word: Misandrist – suggested by fantasy author Janet Morris.

NOUN: a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against men.  It’s parallel is misogyny – a word more familiar (hatred of women).

This is a word which appeared in the 19th Century in The Spectator (1871).

Translation of the French “Misandrie” to the German “Männerhaß” (Hatred of Men)[5] is recorded in 1803.[6] Misandry is formed from the Greekmisos (μῖσος, “hatred”) and anēr, andros (ἀνήρ, gen. ἀνδρός; “man”).[7] 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Misandry

Use in literature: Miss Haversham in Dickens’ Great Expectations was a caricature of a misandrist – jilted at the alter she thus hates men and uses the protagonist to exact revenge.

Arguably The Vagina Monologues is misandrist work as all the male characters are rogues, brutes and reprehensible individuals.

I’d like to say I haven’t read the latter of these but read Dickens many years ago and can’t remember much of the story.

Crossing Categories in Writing – Guest Post Jacquelynn Luben

In 2015 I am welcoming a number of guests to my blog, where they discuss all manner of topics. I am sure my regular followers have seen the Fantasy and Literary Heroes in Society posts, which will be a continuing feature but today I am pleased to welcome Jacquelynn Luben who talks about the challenges of writing in multiple genres, her work in a small publishing house, research and the challenges faced by many authors. Over to you Jacquelynn…

Crossing Categories in Writing

Jacquelynn Luben

Over the years, I’ve written both fiction and non-fiction, short and long.  That is to say, I’ve written two non-fiction books and two novels (and am in the process of writing the third) and I’ve also written many short stories and published quite a few articles.

In terms of success, one of my non-fiction books was commissioned and published by a mainstream publisher, while the other was self-published, and of course, my articles were published in print magazines.

My novels, on the other hand, are published by a small publishing house, in which I am a director, with two others – so quite a small concern – which makes it more difficult to achieve the same sort of success as with a mainstream publisher.  However, on-line sales through Amazon have provided me with a very satisfactory income during the last three years, and this specifically applies to my fiction work.

I have never been a professional writer, and have never had to rely on writing for an income.  So from this point of view, I am happy with the way my writing has progressed.  It means I write what I feel like writing and when I feel like it, and am not normally boxed into a corner where I have to produce something to a deadline.

In the past, my non-fiction writing has been praised for its clarity, and perhaps I should have concentrated on that.  However, the truth of the matter is that I do not really like researching a subject.  My first non-fiction book (The Fruit of the Tree) was written from the heart, as it dealt with the death of my baby daughter through cot death.  Having written articles on the subject, I wanted to put the event into context, and so described a period of five years of my married life, including the births of my other children.  No research was needed.  At the time when I wrote it, it was all there in my memory.

I have spoken to writers who say that they love the research more than the writing.  This does not apply to me.  The writing is the part which is enjoyable;  I like using words – as any writer should – and I like editing what I have written, moving words, sentences and paragraphs around.  (Computers have made that aspect of writing so much easier.)  My articles therefore, have, on the whole, been based on my personal experience, the most recent having been published in a ‘nostalgia’ magazine, and have therefore not required much in the way of research.

It was as a result of writing my first book – which in the end, I published myself – that I was commissioned to write a self-help book on the subject of cot death, and for this I had to use my head and try to be somewhat more objective about the subject.  I did, of course, have to research the topic, and I interviewed a number of people, taking notes and using, at that time, a tape recorder, before going to the computer to transcribe the interviews.  I tried to make them wide ranging, including as my interviewees, bereaved parents, doctors and a midwife, a funeral director, and representatives of the charity which gave support to bereaved parents.  The parents, too, were diverse and included, for example, those who had had more children and those who chose not to, and religious and non-religious people.

My motivation for writing fiction is really quite different, the common factors being my enjoyment of writing, and my interest in the structure of any piece of work.  I am a sucker for stories.  If I turn on the radio or TV, half way through a play, I will probably get hooked and want to know what happened.  So constructing a story and living in the world of that story is a different kind of escapism.  Fiction comes in for criticism from my engineer husband, because it’s ‘not true’, but I believe that there is sometimes more truth in fiction than in factual stuff.  In my opinion, whenever fiction writers describe events, they are remembering something that occurred in their own lives, or that they have heard about.  The truth is in the emotion that was experienced, even if the fictional characters do not exist.  So a piece of fiction is a tapestry of true or half remembered events or events that could happen.  Even in fantasy and science fiction, (which I generally don’t write) good writers usually represent their characters with normal human emotions.

I think that writers have to recognise today that it is very difficult to make a living from writing unless you produce a best-seller.  But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t opportunities to get work read and even paid for, particularly in the field of ebooks.  My novel, Tainted Tree, is the piece of work that has provided me with an income recently and is the most read of my current work.  Initially on the Amazon discussion pages, I promoted it a great deal, though this can bring Amazon’s wrath upon your head, so after a reprimand,  I made sure that I was more cautious in this respect.

I made sure that I made good use of the categories on the book’s Kindle page, and was fortunate in that another writer who had created a ‘Listomania’ of genealogical novels, added it to his list.  If you are the writer of ‘literary fiction’, your book may not be too specific, but as I don’t come into that category, and prefer plot based books, it is probably easier to categorise them.  Having said that, I don’t believe that any book fits into one category.  Tainted Tree is a genealogical romance with a bit of mystery and history in the package.  My current novel in progress is a crime thriller, which also has a romantic thread.

My books have in common one thing.  I have read and reread them over and over again and made changes to numerous drafts.  Even if I break the rules, I regard grammar and spelling as of great importance, and, with the help of my fellow directors at our shared publishing house and other writers at my writing circle, I try, to the best of my ability, to sift out all errors.  I also try my hardest to make sure that loose ends are tied up and that there are no errors of continuity.  I am not a professional writer, but I try to be professional.

Editor Interview Number Ten – Mia Darien

Hi, welcome to the Library of Erana and thank you for talking to us today.

Please introduce yourself. I’m Mia Darien. I’m a self-published author, as well as an editor, cover artist and book formatter. I also work for a book blog tour company. Outside of the literary world, I’m a New England Yankee living in Alabama, a wife and a mother, a geek, and general lunatic.

How did you get into this line of work? As I got into the publishing world, I became interested in helping other authors. I’ve experience in areas that helped me edit, so I edited. Eventually, I realized that I couldn’t give away all this time for free, and it became a profession.

Are there genres you refuse, if so why is that? Do you have any you love? I don’t accept or refuse based on genre, but non-fiction is rare. I always love fantasy, though.

Are you also a writer?  If so do you self-edit or do you use the services of another editor? I’m also a writer. Presently, I self-edit, but I apply the same standards, which means I go over every book twice.

What are your opinions of self-edited work by authors? Honestly, if you can avoid it, you should. I don’t have a lot of choice presently, but most authors don’t have the editorial background to be able to edit their own work. So I would always recommend finding an editor if you can.

Have you ever refused a manuscript? No. The closest was one book where I did my first “pass” on it (I always do two), but there were elements that disturbed me and I cut my fee in half and didn’t do the second pass. That’s very rare, however. In fact, it’s only happened once.

Have you ever had an author refuse your suggestions/changes? If so how did you deal with it? Typically, I return the edited manuscript and then let them do as they will. I’m sure that most authors don’t take all my changes. I’m fine with that. My edits are suggestions, not laws. The author is the end word on any story.

Editors often receive a bad press in the writing community, what are your thoughts on this? Honestly, I can’t say I’ve heard much press about editors one way or the other. Every group gets bad press at some time or another. Just have to keep working and keep doing the best job you can.

Please could you tell us about the process involved with editing for, say, a 100k word Manuscript. I don’t do full content editing, but I do offer notes about any large problems I see or inconsistencies. Otherwise, I edit. Every book is read over twice to make sure I catch as much as possible. I don’t always catch everything, but I get most of it. (No one can catch 100%, really.)

What is the difference between proof-reading and editing? To me, proof-reading is the very basics: punctuation, grammar, and spelling. Editing, which is what I do, will fix awkward passages and word choices, make sure that the reading flow of the story is the best it can be.

Do you have part of the process you really enjoy? Is there a part you don’t? It’s very tedious work, if I’m being honest. But I love to work with other authors, be able to delve into their worlds for a while and help make them shine.

Outside of your work as an editor do you read for pleasure? What genre do you enjoy the most? Oh, of course. I love all kinds of genres, but epic fantasy always has a strong place in my heart.

If so do you find yourself editing the work as you go or are you able to “switch off?” There is no switching off once you’ve done it for long enough. I can step away from a given project for a time, but the brain is always in Edit Mode. I find myself editing everything. Family’s facebook posts, closed captioning, traditionally published novels, my own text messages…

What advice would you give to someone starting out as an editor? Be thorough, be cautious, and be kind. You’re handling someone’s hard work, so even if there are lots of problems, don’t be nasty. Be thorough and cautious. Educate yourself about the process.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to self-edit? Educate yourself. Try to put time between the writing and the editing. If you edit immediately, you’ll be too familiar with the words and won’t catch things. Go slow.

 …otherwise, don’t do it unless you have to.

Tell us a silly fact about yourself. I still like “Sailor Moon” and even made up my own Sailor Scout for Halloween once when I was a teenager.

 

Please add any links to your blog/website etc.

http://www.miadarien.com

Well I just had to look it up…

I was discussing with my partner the origins of the some common terms, as these things often do the conversation degenerated and the origin of the term “hanky panky was mentioned.   So of course I had to look it up 🙂

“Trickery – double dealing. Also, more recently, sexual shenanigans.”

Apparently the actual origin of the term is unknown – possibly deriving from “hocus -pocus” or “hoky-poky.”

The more recent usage was used by George Bernard Shaw in 1939.

http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/hanky-panky.html

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hanky-panky

http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/hanky-panky