Tag Archive for: grammar

Do You Have What It Takes to be a Cheese Whiz? Archaic Words

By Kathleen Kaska 
When I worked at Cave Art Press, a small publishing company in Anacortes, one of my tasks was to write the weekly blog posts. It had to address writing styles, grammar and punctuation rules, and the down and dirty of publishing and marketing—and it had to be funny. These blog posts eventually became a tongue-in-cheek book entitled, “Do You Have a Catharsis Handy? Five Minute-Writer Tips.” Here’s one about archaic words and my own take on them.

Thanks to Google, I stumble upon many of my Writing
Tips topics by accident. Here are some archaic (did they
ever really exist?) but entertaining words and phrases
that I discovered while I was researching other topics,
along with some neologisms of my own:

With Squirrel: If you were a woman who lived in the
Ozarks many moons ago and you found yourself “with
squirrel,” then you were expect
ing a child. (Vance
Randolph’s Down in the Holler: A Gallery of Ozark Folk
Speech, 1953).
I would call such a woman Squirrely.

Lunting: I suspect that Sherlock Holmes was into
i.e., walking while smoking a pipe. (John
Mactaggart’s Scottish Gallovidian Encyclopedia, 1824). I would call people who do this lunters.

The following are from The Word Museum: The Most
Remarkable English Words Ever Forgotten, by Jeffrey

Spermologer: It doesn’t mean what you think. A
spermologer is a columnist! Three of my favorites are
Father Ron Rolheiser; Austin native, John Kelso; and
funny-lady, Lisa Scottoline.
In my world I’d refer to them as wittyosophers.

Queerplungers: An English term for a scam in which an
individual jumped into water
, was “rescued” by
accomplices, and was subsequently taken in by rehab
houses that cared for people who tried to commit suicide.
In the benevolent society of the time, the rescuers were
rewarded with a guinea each, while the person who
“attempted suicide” was sent away with a monetary
donation to make his life less depressing.
Maybe a better word for these folks would be Scam Dunkers. 

Finally, my favorite:

Tyromancy: If you can’t find a crystal ball, use cheese!
One of my Cave Art Press colleagues thought tyromancy
sounds like
a Jurassic love story.” In fact, it is the act of
predicting birth, love, and death by reading the
appearance of a piece of cheese. It is also the act of using
cheese to answer questions: the most obvious answers to
a question are written on pieces of cheese (one answer
per piece). The pieces of cheese are fed to a rat.
Whichever piece is eaten first is the answer to the

I suspect a person who engaged in this method of
prediction and became notable would have been called a
tyromaniac. I would call him a cheez-whiz. 

This is my last post as a member of the Stiletto Gang, but I will stay in touch and follow you wonderfully, creative authors. 

Best always,


Kathleen is a Texas gal. Except for an eighteen-month hiatus
living in New York City after college, she continuously lived in the Lone Star
State for fifty years. Since then, Texas has been hit and miss—a little hit,
but a hell of a lot of miss. There was a time when she thought she would
happily die in Austin, Texas. But circumstances
and weather—especially weather—changed that. Now she spends most of the year on
Fidalgo Island in Washington State with a view of the bay and the mountains.
When she gets homesick, she and her husband plug in the iPhone to Willie—as in
Nelson. Soon they are dancing the two-step, imagining they are at our favorite
honky-tonk in Tokio, Texas, where the mayor is believed to be a dog. Who
wouldn’t miss that?

Kathleen writes mysteries. She blogs about writing,
publishing, marketing, animal rights, birding, and quirky things that come to
mind. Go to her website: Kathleen Kaska and check out her latest blog series, “Growing Up Catholic in a Small Texas Town.”

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What’s Happening to the English Language?

by Saralyn Richard

I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can
remember. My parents encouraged me to be an English teacher, instead. So, I
spent several decades reading and grading other people’s writing. I even taught
journalism and creative writing—to teenagers and later to seniors (aged 50+).
Although teaching kept me way too busy to write, it also kept me in the
universe of writers and writing. I was like a frustrated chef who had all the
best recipes and ingredients but couldn’t enter the kitchen.

years ago, I came to a crossroads in my education career. By then I’d moved
into administration and school improvement consulting, and the constant travel
had become too much. I stepped back from on-site consulting and began doing
what I’d always loved, writing. In this case, it was technical
writing—curricula, white papers, articles, proposals, and grants.

was a joy to flex my writing muscles. I had a blast selecting the best words,
sentence structures, and arguments. The rules of grammar and mechanics rolled
back into my frontal lobe as if they had never left.

                                            Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com

I was ready to try my hand at fiction, and I took great delight in practicing
other tools of the trade, such as imagery, figures of speech, and dialogue.
Grateful for a traditional education in grammar and composition, which even
included diagramming sentences, I forged ahead with fulfilling my dream

I didn’t realize is how much the English language had relaxed while I was busy doing
classroom duty. When had the Oxford comma controversy reared its ugly head?
When had use of “their” as a singular possessive pronoun come into acceptable
use? How had adverbs, those lovely -ly descriptors, become persona non grata?
I began seeing non-words like “supposably” and “irregardless” cropping up in articles
that had supposedly been edited and vetted for publication. And when did
“blonde” become an adjective?

my first publisher was as picky as I was, and the few times we clashed over how
to punctuate something, we let the Chicago Manual of Style serve as
referee, and most of the time, Chicago sided with me. I did go to the mat a few
times over such things as where the apostrophe should go in a possessive of a
proper name ending in “s.”

                                            Photo courtesy of Unsplash.com

            If I
sound like a hundred-year-old spinster schoolteacher, let me assure you that is
not the case. I can waltz and fox trot, but I can also hit the whoah. I’m sure
everyone reading this post has certain pet peeves regarding the English
language. What are yours?


Saralyn Richard is the author of A MURDER OF
PRINCIPAL, the Detective Parrott mystery series, and the children’s book,
NAUGHTY NANA. Follow her on social media and on her website



How do you write a mystery?

by Bethany Maines
As I approach the end of my third Carrie Mae Mystery
manuscript (60,000 words and climbing!), I find myself more impressed now by a
basic Nancy Drew, than I was when I was ten. 
My characters are better than when I started writing.  My plotting is infinitely stronger. My grasp
of grammar, may actually have gotten worse, but I do use less adverbs (and I
actually know what they are), but it’s this business of “mystery” that still
perplexes me.  Clues? There should be
some.  But how many? How obvious should
be?  Is that too obvious? Too subtle? How
many suspects are required? Is there a manual somewhere? I could really use a
Partially, I’ve been avoiding this trouble by not
writing standard mysteries.  I call them
women’s action adventure because I think more mysteries could use a good car
chase.  If you’ve seen Bullitt then you
know that’s a movie that is holding onto its classic status simply on the
strength of its car chase.  (It’s
certainly not the strength of the jazz flute scene.)  But in April my first regular mystery, A
Yearly Murder (working title), will be released and I find myself nervous that
all the mystery aficionados will judge me. 
What if I didn’t put in enough clues?  What if the bad guy is too obvious?  What if I didn’t kill of Reginald creatively
enough?  Serial killers and mystery
writers – the only people who worry about being judged by their dead bodies.
And I would worry about the psychological implications of that if I weren’t too
busy worrying about whether or not I got my forensic research right. 

I hope that you’ll check out A Yearly Murder in April,
and let me know if I got the clue quotient right!

Bethany Maines is the
author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and 
Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae youtube
video or catch up with her on 
Twitter and Facebook.

The Case for It’s

By Bethany Maines

Recently, I was ranting on Facebook about my hatred for the periods in a.m. and p.m as well as the comma between city and state in addresses (see what you miss by not being my Facebook friend?) and one of my friends posted a link to Weird Al Yankovic’s new song “Word Crimes.”  As a long time Weird Al enthusiast and a Facebook friend to several editors and writers I had already seen the video (click here if you haven’t).  The video parodies “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke’s insanely catchy hit from 2013.  If you haven’t heard that one, then you probably weren’t living in America all of last year, but here you go – Blurred Lines.  (Warning: may not be suitable for work and my cause you to get in arguments with your feminist friends over whether or not the song is “rape-y”.  Double Warning: If you use the word rape-y at me, I will smite you.)  But back to the story, as I watched the Weird Al version again (because why wouldn’t you?) I was caught by the line “You do not use “it’s” in this case!”

But why don’t we?  Yes, yes, the current rules state that “it’s” is a contraction.  “It” is not possessive; “it” cannot own anything.  But I say, “Listen up English – if you’re not going to provide me with a gender neutral pronoun, why can’t I use the defacto pronoun already in use in conversation – it?”  Clearly, the language is lacking such a word. English should stop being stuffy and allow this clearly needed possessive to enter the dictionary.  I’d willingly delete “tweep” from the Oxford-English Dictionary if I could have “it’s.”  Who’s with me?

Bethany Maines is the author of the Carrie Mae Mystery series and Tales from the City of Destiny. You can also view the Carrie Mae video or catch up with her on Twitter and Facebook.