Kayak or Cruise Ship? How do you want to write?

Welcome to Deep-Fried Friday — when I plunge into whatever topic seems juicy and crunchy and ready for devouring. Today’s topic is about how you want to write.

I never used to read the Acknowledgments section in a novel. Now that I have penned a couple of novels and am working on my third, I am vastly interested in knowing who the author credits with making the dream come true.

When I first imagined becoming a novelist, I pictured me and a laptop in a mountain cabin with scant contact with the masses – the Hermit Author discovering worlds of creativity and expression in her own soul.

Blah, blah, blah.

For one thing, there are no Starbucks or Schlotzsky’s near that mountain cabin, so that’s out. But more importantly, I don’t want to go it alone! Since I starting conversing in the blogosphere, chatting social media world, joining writers’ groups, and attending conferences, I’ve discovered that the understanding and encouragement of other writers is like a steady buoy in the tumultuous sea of writing and publication.

No, forget it. It’s not a buoy. We’re way more fun than that! We’re like a Carnival cruise ship with a pool, umbrella-laced frozen drinks, dancing, and hilarious stories of our lives and our writing adventures.

Yes, I am an introvert, but I like people. I like their insight. I like their expertise. I like their support. I even like their wallowing-in-the-dirt-with-a-mouthful-of-sand moments because I can be there to offer them one of those frozen concoctions: “Would a virtual margarita help?”

You can go it alone out there with a kayak and a survival kit and hope the sharks don’t get you. Or you join a group of fabulous, fun writers who will make the journey an exciting and memorable one. How about coming aboard the A Round of Words in 80 Days cruise liner?

A Round of Words in 80 Days is “the writing challenge that knows you have a life.” Rather than suggest the same goal for the person who gets to write 20 hours a week and the one who’s squeezing in one hour a day after the full-time job and juggling four kids and three dogs, you set your own goals. Your goals can be anything you like, as long as they are measurable — such as word count, pages written or edited, time spent.

You check in twice weekly for progress updates. That keeps us accountable, but even more so encouraged. Because then you and others visit one another’s progress posts, and do virtual cartwheels and pom-pom shaking.

Here are some things I love about A Round of Words in 80 Days, aka ROW80:

  • Setting my own goals. I set my own goals and adjust them within the round if necessary. This happened last round: I was diagnosed with mononucleosis, my energy level dropped to blech, and I lowered my expected word count as a result. When I felt better, I upped it again.
  • The length of each round — 80 days. I’ve seen some writing challenges that last for a month. I can’t write a book in a month, but I might be able to churn out a first draft or edit through a novel in eighty days. In fact, 80 days is a good length to accomplish quite a bit, but you still see a finish line.
  • The #ROW80 hashtag. The #ROW80 hashtag on Twitter is a great place to connect. We can post updates and chat about how it’s going, and I’ve benefitted tremendously from the word sprints there. Most days, around 1:00 CST a group of word sprinters can be found at #ROW80 or #teamsprinty. You can write or edit during the hour, but others send woots! and attagirls (or attaboys) your way at the end for your progress.
  • The organization. Okay, I admit to having some OCD traits. Not enough of them to have a clean house or anything, but enough that I want information to be organized and accessible. Kait Nolan launched A Round of Words in 80 Days, and she has done a great job of keeping the website updated, the sponsors in the loop, and the participants informed and supported. You can expect weekly posts from sponsors to give insight with your writing or goals, reminders to post updates, and an easy-to-navigate website with answers to your questions at your fingertips.
  • The people. ROW80 people rock! They are some of the most supportive, fun writer friends I have. They are also a smart bunch of writers who have more than once given me advice that was exactly what I needed. If you’re going to board a writing challenge cruise liner, you want to take the trip with interesting and exciting people. You’ll find that with the ROW80 writing challenge.

So to sum it up: Great writing challenge. Round 2 for 2012 starts April 2. Sign up HERE.

By the way, the other writer connection that has been invaluable to me is #MyWANA (stands for We Are Not Alone), which is the Love Revolution sponsored by social media Jedi Master Kristen Lamb.

I am thrilled to be a sponsor for this next Round of Words in 80 Days. I enjoyed wearing the Sponsor tag last round and can’t wait to cheer on a marvelous group of writers. The cruise ship is boarding. Let’s get this ocean par-tay going!

Are you coming aboard SS ROW80? What writing challenge do you enjoy? What groups of writers have been most helpful for you?

Swooning Just a Bit

Even though I have been known to click on Roni Loren’s Boyfriend of the Week posts, I don’t generally ogle celebrity men or think about whom I find attractive or appealing. When asked which celebs are hot, I often draw a big blank and have to think really hard to come up with some names. It may be boring, but I consider my husband hot and I don’t much think about anyone else.

But voices?

That’s what gets me. I get big ol’ crushes on certain male singers’ voices! Something about their tone, smoothness, roughness, or pitch can curl my toes and make me happy that God created the opposite sex. And who are these phenoms that put me in a goose-pimply, snuggle-up-with-my-honey mood?

Here are my votes, which also display my eclectic music taste:

Dean Martin. A silky voice and a casual flair marked Dean Martin’s songs. This member of the Rat Pack has even been called the King of Cool. Thankfully, Martin recorded a LOT of love songs, such as Ain’t That a Kick in the Head, Return to Me, Everybody Loves
, and That’s Amoré. (Note: In the video below, Dean tells jokes for a while and then starts singing around the 2-minute mark.)

Elvis Presley. I know I’m not alone in this one and maybe it’s predictable, but Elvis had a wonderful singing voice which he paired with oomph that made a lot of girls squeal with delight. I do not squeal, but I can’t listen to Teddy Bear, All Shook Up, or Can’t Help Falling in Love without feeling a little heady.

Robert Plant. The lead singer of Led Zeppelin had a distinctive and intense voice. I liken him to a male version of Janis Joplin, giving it everything he has in the hard songs and playing with the slow ones. It’s a toss-up for me on whether Plant sounds better with
something like Whole Lotta Love or D’yer Maker. Then again, Fool in the Rain and Black Dog can’t be beat.

David Lee Roth. Another hard rocker, the original lead singer of Van Halen has a playboy singing style (and the lifestyle to go along). His Just a Gigolo/Ain’t Got Nobody
covers demonstrates that! But he sounds best to me when he’s singing You Really Got Me,
Unchained, or Pretty Woman. The jump kick is a bonus, right?

John Mellencamp. When this country boy came on the rock scene, he sneaked in to my radio with Jack & Diane. But Cougar turned Mellencamp ended up having a cat-scratchy voice that clawed its way into hit after hit. I love the way he delivers the lyric “Some people . . . say I’m obnoxious, and lazy; I’m uneducated; my opinion means nothin’. But I know I’m a real good dancer.” Try out Crumblin’ Down or Lonely Ol’ Night.

Lenny Kravitz. I first heard Lenny Kravitz singing Let Love Rule, and I was hooked. Soulful, hard-rocking, and edgy, his voice can fill a room. Some of his songs are not my cup of tea, but I definitely like Fly Away and Are You Gonna Go My Way.

Josh Turner. This country singer has an unbelievable range, singing tenor and bass equally well. Maybe it’s the smoothness in which he sings or the way his voice sounds soooo manly when it dips down in the low register, but whatever it is, I like it. From
Firecracker to Why Don’t We Just Dance, every time I hear his voice on the radio, I
crank it up. I especially enjoy Your Man.

I should be clear: I don’t want to do anything with these guys. I’m not attracted to them physically. In fact, some of them are not attractive. I just swoon when they sing!

How about you? Do you find yourself attracted to certain voices? Who do you think is a sexy singer?

Have You Always Been a Writer?

Welcome to Deep-Fried Friday where today’s topic is about fiction and writers. I’ve read quite a few author interviews, and one of the questions often posed is along these lines: “When did you know you wanted to be a writer?” “How long have you been writing?” or “Have You Always Been a Writer?” Typically, the author answers with something like:

Everyone told me in high school that I was going to be a great writer. Each day, I would go home and write for hours, letting my fantasy world of H’jarka and the evil ministers of Dra’mn come alive on the page. I had most of my trilogy finished by the time I graduated.

Back in junior high, I wrote a quirky romance novella, printed and stapled it together, and sold it for 10 cents a copy. I sold out my first print run of 50 copies. That’s when I knew I had the writing juice.

I’ve always been writing. I penned my first short story in elementary school with a permanent marker on my cardboard Lunchables container.

As a baby, my first word was “plot” and my first sentence was “Show, don’t tell.” As soon as I could pick up a crayon, I drew stick figures with captions to tell a story in three acts.

Hyperbole, of course. Yet writers do often say something along the lines of always knowing that they wanted to be a writer or having written stories almost as long as they can recall.

Published authors who have written on the craft of writing also give the same message. Stephen King’s On Writing begins with a memoir in which he recounts writing from an early age and his repeated attempts to get words on a page and get others to read said words. Others are fond of saying that writers must write; they simply have no other choice, as writing is like breathing!

From shakespeareshoppe at http://www.zazzle.com

I disagree. I can sit here doing absolutely nothing, and my body will continue to inhale and exhale. In fact, I have to try hard to hold my breath for longer than about 10 seconds. Then that pesky automatic breathing thing kicks right in again.

Writing, however, is a decision, a voluntary action, a mental and physical activity. I have to choose to write.

I chose to start writing fiction in my late 30’s. Before that time, I had only written stories for classes. I certainly hadn’t created worlds of characters, written chapters, or asked others to read my work. I was past 40 when I wrote my first book. I’ve only been doing this — writing novels — for a few years.

This leads me to question the underlying assumption that one is born to be a writer. Is it that simple? Or do we come to this point through different avenues?

The truth is that I’ve had stories swirling through my head for as long as I can remember. I told myself tales in my darkened bedroom as I fell asleep at night, imagining characters and scenes. I read books and thought long and hard about their plots, their people, and the magical minds and fingers behind the stories. I pondered how breathtaking it must be to create a work of fiction that communicates so deeply to an audience the author has never met. But I never wrote stories down. That came later, much later.

I wrote poetry, songs, school essays and research papers, deposition summaries (paralegal job), newsletter articles, web content, and more. Yet a novel was something I expected that I needed special fairy dust to create. Having not received an overt visit from Tinker Bell or “The Muse,” I didn’t know that I could be a writer.

Until one day, when I sat at my computer, looked at a blank screen, and wrote a chapter. Most of it sucked. Some of it didn’t.

Time passed.

I came back a few months later and wrote something else. It probably sucked more than the first one . . . but again, not all of it.

Then Hurricane Ike hit, causing us to retreat from our home and its crumbling roof. Faced with extensive time on my hands and no library card in the city we were visiting (and no eReader then), I wrote a new chapter with a new idea. I really liked it.

It could have ended there. Because I don’t think writing for everyone is a do-or-die kind of thing. If tomorrow, something in the universe shifted and I could not write another word, I would miss it horribly because I love writing fiction. However, I’d be a happy person. I have an amazing family, a great life, and lots of other things I can do (anyone need a lead singer for their rock band?). But I chose to write.

I set aside time every day and added to that first chapter. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, word by word, I wrote until one day I had a completed first draft. No longer was I considering being a writer or “aspiring” to write a novel, I had written one. I was a writer.

To my mind, everyone who writes chooses to do so. There are so many other things you could do. I bet some in your extended family think you should do something else. Whenever you get bit by the writing bug, it isn’t as easy as breathing. You decide each and every day that you write to do so.

Some knew that decision early on, just as some declare that they want to be schoolteachers or veterinarians or lawyers at young ages and go on to do just that. Some do not decide until later.  Some even appear to stumble around for a while and only know that it’s the perfect job when they land in the middle of the fiction meadow, lie back in the grass, and hear themselves say “aah.”

For my graduate degree, I worked a career counseling internship, and I know that some people find their niche early and others later in life. Such epiphanies can occur at age 5, age 25, or age 55.

I am a writer. I didn’t always know it, but I am. (And I think I’m a pretty good one too, or I wouldn’t keep doing it.)

Now tell me: When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? How long have you been writing? If you are recent to fiction, did you have other indications that writing, or at least storytelling, were “in your blood”?

Tutor Me on These Sites…Please

I recently posted the following tweet:

A couple of author friends chimed in that they would like to see such a post as well. But I haven’t found a good resource. Yes, I’m sure I could find a tutorial. However, I have noticed that my blogger friends often do a great job of summarizing all of the information I need in a single post (check out Techie Tuesdays with Jenny Hansen for great examples), thus saving me from a few awkward hours of clicking through things I do and don’t need.

So for an unusual Deep-Fried Friday, I am not even battering anything up. I need YOUR help to figure out what the heck I’m doing. Here are social media tools for which I have accounts but have barely scratched the surface in using them well.

LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a business-related social networking site. It is aimed at connecting people through their professions and boasts over 135 million users across 200+ countries. I know that you can build a network and then recommend people to others, but I don’t know how this best works and how to navigate the site well. I also wonder if this is a good resource for an author, or if it caters to a specific population. (Update: Just too good not to share! Jenny Hansen did posts on LinkedIn back in May & June which I didn’t know about when I drafted this post. Here’s THE LINK.)

Goodreads. Goodreads seems to me like a spider-webbed book club. Members can go on and log what they are reading, post reviews, and get recommendations from others. When I logged on, I invited everyone I knew from Twitter to be my Goodreads friends. Now I have about a gazillion friends whose status updates keep popping up. I have no idea how to organize information and use this tool best. Moreover, I would like to know about rating and reviewing books. Is this is a good idea for an upcoming author to do? Could I possibly anger the wrong person by giving some book 2 out of 5 stars when I might need their help in the publishing world later? (I know that’s a long shot, but my mind tends to imagine all of the possibilities.)

Klout. Klout is a way of measuring the impact you have on the social media world. By tracking your interactions on other sites (Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and more), your influence and ability to drive action is ranked between 1 and 100 to show how IT you are. It’s helpful to see where and how you are influencing and to think about actions you can take to increase your reach. I also know that you can give others a K+ in certain categories. But I don’t know how this overall thing works. Should I be K+ing people? Should I thank them for K+ing me? Should I tweet those notices? How often should I check my Klout score? Are there are other features I’ve missed here?

By the way, a couple of social media notes.

Facebook users will be moved over to the new Timeline look soon. I don’t believe a specific date has been announced, although I have seen rumors of the 29th or 30th of this month. At some point, however, you will get a message at the top of your page essentially saying, Here we go! Whether you love it, hate it, or are indifferent, there’s no point fighting it. Get used to it. I’m enjoying the new look, although it is taking a little extra time to find things on the page as I adjust. USA Today had some good tips on using Timeline.

Triberr is a networking site for bloggers to increase their reach. It is invitation only. I am on Triberr and recommend it. I love the bloggers in my group and am happy to recommend others go to their sites. Also, knowing that they will be tweeting my posts keeps me on my toes to put out decent content. Jenny Hansen did a fabulous post on using Triberr. I can’t add anything to it, so go see what she said.

Now what expertise can you share about LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Klout? What other social media sites do you want more information on using? Do you have favorite ones and why?

Why January, February, March, Etc.?

We are close to embarking on a new year once again — 2012, which has received a lot of attention because of the Mayans. However, we owe much more to the Romans for our calendar. The 12-month Julian calendar was introduced around 46 B.C. For Amaze-ing Words Wednesday, we’re going to look at how we got the names of the months. Why January? February? March? And so on.

Quick note: “ary” means pertaining to and “ber” is simply a suffix.

January – From Janus, a two-headed god whom the Romans adopted perhaps from ancient Italians. Janus is the god of gates and doorways, beginnings and endings. Thus, it is appropriate for him to get the first month of the calendar; moreoever, it was his festival month during which Romans exchanged lamps to provide light for the coming year.

February – Februa, or Februata, was a Roman festival for purification. It revolved around the Italian god Februus, and the festival seemed to focus on shepherds and fertility. Without going into detail, let’s just say that it involved touching sacrificed goat parts for good luck.

March – Named after Mars, the Roman god of war. Apparently, wars took a break during the harsh winter months, but March was a good time to return to the battlefield. In addition, there was a festival for the war god during this month. Mars was especially honored because he was considered to be the father of Romulus, the founder of Rome.

April – A little confusion on this one. April may derive from the Latin “aprire,” meaning to open. Indeed, this is the time of year when buds began to open. However, another theory is that the month is named for Aphrodite, whom we know more often as Venus (at least if you listened to Bananarama like I did). The name could come from Aphrilis or from Apru (the Etruscan equivalent of Venus/Aphrodite). Anyway, Aphrodite’s the love and beauty gal, and this suggestion also makes sense because spring is known for its appeal to lovers.

May – Maia is the Roman goddess of fertility and spring. It’s easy to see how she snagged this month’s title.

JuneJuno to many of us is the main character in a great movie by the same name. However, the original Juno was queen of Roman goddesses and married to Jupiter (in Greek, Hera and Zeus). She was considered a protectorate of the Roman state.

July – Forget the gods for a couple of months; now the Roman emperors get their props. This month was named for Julius Caesar, a guy who enjoyed the limelight. This was his birth month.

(An aside: My first name is also probably from this guy. At least, Julie comes from “Julius” – a Roman family name.)

August – The first official Roman emperor, Augustus, son of Julius Caesar, honored himself by naming a month after his name as well. Augustus replaced the original month’s name of Sextilis (sixth month).

September – Septem means seven (remember septagon in geometry?), so September is simply the 7th month. Wow, that was easy. Except that it isn’t the 7th month! It’s the 9th, right? Well, originally the Roman calendar began in March, so September was the seventh month back then. I guess when January took the lead, it was too hard to change the names of these months.

October – Octo means eight (octagon and octopus!); thus, 8th month. Which you now know it originally was, way back in the 40’s B.C.

November – Novem is nine, so here we go with the 9th month, which is really the 11th.

December – Oh, you are so catching on here: You don’t even need me to tell you what “decem” means, do you? Think decathalon, decimate, decagon . . . Uh-huh, 10th month. Which is really the 12th.

When I look at the meanings of our month names, they seem to have ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with our lives today. We English speakers don’t really recognize Roman gods and goddesses and those last four months are complete misnomers. It makes me wonder if we shouldn’t revisit what we call those 12 markers of time in our year.

Surely it would be easy to make a switch. Perhaps as easy as we made the switch in the United States to metric measurements – which we were assured would happen back in the 1970s.

Never mind. I think we’re stuck with these. My only real request would be that maybe we should remove that first “r” in February, since it’s so dang hard to throw it in there. (Most people just say “Feb-ooo-ary” anyway.)

So did you know the origins of the months of the year? What do you think about our names for them? Should we let August become October to fix the mismatch?

Sources: Encyclopedia Mythica, Crowl.org, UNRV History, Bill Thayer, Roman Myth Index

A Few of My Favorite Things: Holiday Edition

One more holiday-themed post before we get back to the regular programming. Here on Deep-Fried Friday, I like making lists. Top 10 Lists. So “raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens,” yada-yada-yada . . . a few of my favorite things around the holidays:

10. Nutcrackers. I don’t even own a nutcracker, although I wish someone would get me one already. But I love seeing all of the variations of the wooden nutcrackers around the holidays. (This does not mean that I like that ballet, however. I never really understood that story.)

pic from http://www.nutcrackermania.com

 9. Wassail. I love this hot spice-laden beverage that warms your whole body throughout. I have never made the mulled punch myself, although I think I should give Christine Ashworth’s mulled wine a try too.

pic from http://www.tasteofhome.com

8. Christmas Lights Reflected in Water. I enjoy Christmas lights around town and in my neighborhood. But growing up in Corpus Christi, Texas, I loved when people strung lights on their boats at the T-heads (harbor).

I also delighted in seeing the lights on the San Antonio Riverwalk – which are always lit in a celebration the day after Thanksgiving.

There is something not only about the bright lights, but the way they reflect upon the water that moves me. Now I may to take a trip to Kemah or Galveston to check out the lights there.

7. Hallelujah Chorus. I was in my high school choir, and we had a tradition of singing The Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah at the end of every Christmas concert. Alumni were invited to come up and join in, if you could still reach all of those notes somehow. I find the lyrics and music uplifting. If the song ever comes on, I sing with it at the top of my lungs. Watch out, people!

Here’s an interesting version:

6. Holiday Parties. I know that some of them are obligatory. But they can also be quite fun! I’ve attended some great get-togethers over the years – from office parties to Christmas progressive dinners to my personal favorite, a New Year’s Eve fondue party. There is a festive spirit at such gatherings, with Christmas carols in the background, decorations all around, yummy food, and a chance to connect socially.

5. My kids’ excitement. Yes, this ranks somewhere in the middle. On one hand, it’s so much more fun to have Santa Claus and Christmas with a wide-eyed 6 – or even 14 – year old in your house! However, children are by nature impatient little creatures. They count down the Advent calendar like it’s a NASA liftoff. And to them, I suppose it does feel a bit explosive when the day finally arrives. Still, seeing the holiday season through children’s eyes gives it a sense of wonder that I hadn’t felt since . . . well, since I was a child.

Not my kid, but ain't she cute?

4. Christmas Carols. Beyond Hallelujah Chorus, there is a slew of great music out there for the holidays. Personally, I like the more traditional stuff best: Bing Crosby crooning White Christmas, Johnny Mercer and Margaret Whiting singing Baby, It’s Cold Outside, and literally anything by Dean Martin. But there is also room in my playlist for such great songs like The Carpenters’ Merry Christmas, Darling, Harry Connick Jr.’s What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve, Bruce Springsteen’s Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, Cynthia Basinet’s Santa Baby, and the recent She & Him version of The Christmas Waltz. My favorite Christmas carol, however, is O Holy Night, and I love the rendition by Martina McBride. Here’s an acapella version from McBride on Opry Live. Wow.

3. Hubby Off Work. My husband usually gets several days off work at the end of the year. It’s a nice change to have him around, and we get quality time with our kids and with each other. I’d post a picture of the hunky hubs here, but I’m saving it for Roni Loren’s Boyfriend of the Week someday. 😉

2. A Charlie Brown Christmas. Although I liken myself to the Grinch at times during the holiday season, every December I aspire to be more like Linus in understanding the true meaning of Christmas. I love the whole show written by the brilliant Charles M. Schulz, but this monologue is the best part:

1. Friends and Family. I am blessed to have wonderful people in my life, and that number has grown in this year of blogging, tweeting, and meeting fellow authors. I have also reconnected with high school and college friends in the last few years. My circle is growing, and it includes some amazing people.

There are some who dread this time of year because it reminds them of their loneliness. I hope that we can reach out to our loved ones and to others and treasure them more than the gifts we receive this season.

Your turn: What are a few of your favorite things over the holidays?

The Names of Santa Claus

Since we’re coming up on Christmas really, really fast (*panicking* I don’t have all of my shopping done), I thought I’d give y’all one more Amaze-ing Words Wednesday post on Christmas words in the English language. This time, let’s take a look at what we call that jolly old elf who visits children on Christmas Eve, leaving goodies in their stockings and presents under the tree.

Santa Claus and other representations of him have formulated over time. Nicholas, the Bishop of Smyrna (in modern-day Turkey) in the 4th century A.D., is where the legend begins. Bishop Nicholas had a kind heart toward the poor and sometimes threw gifts through their windows for the children. After his death, the Catholic Church recognized him as a patron saint of children. And now for the names . . .

A Family Friend & Terrific Santa Claus

Santa Claus. Santa Claus came from the Dutch version of Saint Nicholas, which is “Sinter Klaas.” In the 17th century, Dutch settlers to America brought the legend of Sinter Klaas with them. In 1773, a media source referred to him as “St A Claus.” Then in 1821, William Gilley printed a poem with “Santeclaus.” Over time, the name became Americanized as Santa Claus.

St. Nicholas. St. Nicholas, or simply St. Nick, also derives from the legend. However, we can thank author Washington Irving for making St. Nicholas a popular name. In his book A History of New York (1809), he described a saint who arrived on the Eve of St. Nicholas – albeit on horseback, not a sleigh. Then Clement Moore wrote his famous poem in 1823 titled A Visit from Saint Nicholas, which we know better by its opening line: “Twas the Night Before Christmas.” St. Nick made his appearance there, and the name was cemented into our culture.

Kris Kringle. Kris (or Kriss) Kringle is an Anglicized version of the German word “Christkindl” or Christ child. Choosing the baby Jesus instead as the symbol of Christmas, Christian Reformer Martin Luther promulgated the idea that the Christ Child brings the presents to children. Instead, the legend grew to suggest that the sprite Christ child accompanied St. Nicholas, and then the two names simply became interchangeable. In The Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Santa Claus give his name to be Kris Kringle, and in the animated Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970) the baby Kris is adopted and raised by the Kringle toymaker family. He later becomes Santa Claus (and the pretty town teacher his Mrs. Claus).

from Texas Renaissance Festival

Father Christmas. Father Christmas was originally part of an English midwinter festival and was also called Old Man Winter or Father Winter. He was dressed in green – a portent of the coming spring – and went from house to house feasting with families. In 1843 Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol and based the Ghost of Christmas Present on Father Christmas. (Remember him, with the long flowing green robe and the verdant wreath on his head?) By the late Victorian era, Father Christmas was dressed in red, like his Santa Claus counterpart. Of course, the two legends simply merged, and now Father Christmas = Santa Claus.

Of course, Santa Claus has names in other languages – the aforementioned Sinter Klaas in Dutch, Dun Che Lao Ren in Chinese, Pere Noel in French, Babbo Natale in Italy, Papai Noel in Brazil. There are interesting traditions in other places that go along with their version of Santa Claus as well.

(Sources: EverythingESL.net, Christmas Around the World, Santa’s Warehouse)

What name for Santa Claus appeals to you most? What other names have you heard for the yuletide gift-bringer?

Translating Christmas Carols

As part of my personal effort to get into the holiday spirit (see my Are You a Christmas Person? quiz), I thought I’d take a couple of classic Christmas carols and translate them for Amaze-ing Words Wednesday. After all, when’s the last time “Ron yon virgin, mother and child” slipped out as a part of regular speech? And yet, there it is, in the classic Silent Night lyrics.

Plenty of our holiday songs came from many years ago when language was more stilted or included words we no longer use in the same way (“Don we now our gay apparel”? – Deck the Halls)

So, without further ado, here is my first choice of a classic carol that could use a newly worded version:

Angels We Have Heard on High

Original Lyrics

My 2011 Translation

Angels we have heard on high We hear angels in the sky
Sweetly singing o’er the plain They sound good up there over the field
And the mountains in reply It sounds like someone’s answering in the mountains
Echoing their glorious strain It’s an echo of the song they’re singing
Gloria, in excelsis deo Glory be! Highest glory to God
Gloria, in excelsis deo Glory be! Highest glory to God

For my second choice, let’s take a look at God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen (a song I never understood as a child):

Original Lyrics

My 2011 Translation

God rest ye merry, gentlemen May God keep you happy, guys
Let nothing you dismay Don’t let anything get you down
Remember Christ our Savior Remember that Christ who saves us
Was born on Christmas day Was born on Christmas day
To save us all from Satan’s power He came to save us from the devil and his power
When we were gone astray When we were really far from God
Oh tidings of comfort and joy It’s news to comfort you and make you joyful
Comfort and joy Comfort and joy
Oh tidings of comfort and joy Yep, news to comfort you and make you joyful

What other Christmas carols or holiday songs do we sing during this season with antiquated language? What specific lyrics come to mind that don’t make much sense with the English we speak today? How would you translate an old carol?

And to end this post about Christmas carols with a little treat, here’s a fun song a terrific friend shared with me – Straight No Chaser’s Christmas Can-Can:

Are You a Christmas Person?

It’s been a while since I gave a quiz. With the holiday season underway, today’s Deep-Fried Friday asks “Are you a Christmas person?”

While I enjoy certain aspects of Christmas – like caroling and A Charlie Brown Christmas – I approach other parts of the yuletide with this expression:

In my opinion, there are a lot of to-do’s, traffic, travel, and testiness involved with the holidays. However, I want to get into the spirit, so here’s a 10-question, multiple-choice quiz to decide how you measure up on the Xmas spirit-o-meter.

1. When it comes to holiday specials on television, I:

a. Curse at the TV when my regular programming gets preempted and send hate mail to the networks. The silly Christmas saps should be the ones to hunt down their shows, not me.

b. Turn on the TV, discover a special, and happily settle in to watch. Who doesn’t like Santa Claus is Coming to Town?

c. Track when the best specials will air and post a schedule on the refrigerator. I can’t stand the thought of missing Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer or The Year Without Santa Claus!

d. Own an extensive Christmas library of classics and watch one each day in anticipation of the big day. Heck, I know every word of Frosty the Snowman and You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.

2. For holiday decorating, our family:

a. Puts up a tabletop tree and a few stockings. That’s quite enough, thank you. My house isn’t a store display window.

b. Erects a nice Christmas tree with ornaments and a few household decorations about two weeks before. Then we can count down those 12 days of Christmas as presents start to pile under and around the tree.

c. Had a couple of trees, household decor, and outside lights up the day after Thanksgiving. I love this time of the year, and having a festive house is one way to amp up the holiday spirit and have a welcoming environment for our annual Christmas party.

d. Decorate several trees around the house, each with its own theme, and receive complaints from the neighbors about our extensive light show. But the families who come by in cars and slow down to look seem to like it a lot!

3. When it comes to cooking, my idea of holiday baking is:

a. Picking up rumballs at the local bakery for the office party. Those babies are good any time of year.

b. Baking and decorating Christmas cookies with my kids in the shapes of trees, wreaths, and Santa Claus. They especially enjoy sprinkles.

c. Hosting a party or two with fresh-baked goodies and handing out homemade bread and candy as gifts to family and friends.

d. Turning my kitchen into a Paula Deen playground for a couple of weeks beforehand. This is the best time to make breads, pies, fruitcake, and cookies. I have several holiday cookbooks that I put to good use during the Christmas season.

4. My favorite holiday movie is:

a. Die Hard – Terrorists interrupting a Christmas Eve party and Bruce Willis getting revenge? What could possibly compete?

b. A Christmas Story – Getting the toy you want for Christmas? Who can’t relate to this classic theme and its humor?

c. It’s a Wonderful Life – I love that part when Bedford Falls gathers at the house and Clarence gets his wings.

d. Miracle on 34th Street – Santa Claus is REAL. And if you don’t believe, you don’t receive.

5. Some people like to dress Christmas-y this time of year, and I:

a. Mock their dorky Christmas sweaters and Santa Claus hats, in person, on Facebook, and on Twitter. What are those fools thinking?

b. Have one nice Christmas sweater that I bring out to wear to the office or church party.

c. Own Christmas shirts, some holiday jewelry, and a set of red-and-green plaid pajamas to help me get into the seasonal swing.

d. Wear something festive every day in December, put Rudolph antlers on the dog, and have everyone pose in their brand-new Christmas pajamas for our annual family Christmas photo.

6. Santa Claus is:

a. The delusional character we invented to scare kids into behaving the rest of the year.

b. A jolly fictional character represented by seasonal workers in the mall who welcome little children onto their laps to rattle off their wish lists.

c. A fairytale figure who inspires us to be more generous toward others, especially toward little children.

d. The man who lives at the North Pole, has a workshop of elves, and visits every single child on Christmas night with his magical sleigh and flying reindeer.

7. On Black Friday, you could find me:

a. Snoozing in until 12:00 noon, then holing up at my house with a remote control and football on television. Let the idiots shop ’til they drop while I drink beer, eat leftover turkey, and yell at stupid referees.

b. Checking the flyers and websites for good deals, then concluding I don’t have the appropriate body armor for the trip. Maybe one day I’ll brace myself and venture out on that crazy shopping day.

c. Out for a couple of hours with friends or family to catch a few deals. I bought the latest electronic for 60% off (which the rest of you will only get for 50% off later).

d. Camped outside the store since midnight the night before, filing my fingernails into claw shape, and drawing a diagram strategy for me and my team to rush in and grab the best deals first.

8. When I see mistletoe, I:

a. Yank it down. I’m allergic, and what do a bunch of leaves have to do with whether I get lucky anyway.

b. Smile at the sweet notion that someone might get kissed underneath. For myself, it’s never worked any wonders, though.

c. Find my honey and plant a big smooch on  him. Why not use mistletoe as an excuse to get some lip-locking?

d. Drag everyone in my family underneath and give them a big kiss. Then hang some at my workplace to kiss that handsome coworker three cubicles down from me and the delicious Corrigan water guy. That’s what mistletoe is for, baby!

9. My favorite Christmas carol is:

a. Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer. That song cracks me up.

b. Santa Claus is Coming to Town. That’s what this season is about.

c. O Holy Night. It’s a classic.

d. A toss-up between The Twelve Days of Christmas and Handel’s Messiah. The first helps me count down those precious days until Christmas arrives, while the second must be heard in its entirety to revel in the Christmas spirit.

10. My feelings about this quiz can be summed up as:

a. Can I have my 10 minutes back? This was a total waste of my time.

b. Cute, but I could have used the time for online holiday shopping.

c. Fun to take this quiz and start thinking about the Christmas spirit.

d. Are you kidding? I love EVERYTHING Christmas – even quizzes!

SCORING: Count up your a’s, b’s, c’s, and d’s. Which letter got the most answers?

from A Christmas Carol (2009)

Mostly a’sSCROOGE. On Christmas Eve, be prepared to be visited by three scary ghosts who need to jolt you into a little show of humanity and Christmas spirit. Drop the “Bah hum bug” attitude and find your inner elf.

from Yes, Virginia (2009)

Mostly b’sVIRGINIA. You have some doubts about this season, but you know deep down that “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Still, you might want to take a Christmas lights tour or visit a Nativity scene to get yourself more excited about the holidays.

from How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Mostly c’sMAX. You understand that Christmas isn’t perfect, but you are determined to get into the spirit and have a great season no matter what. Put on that smile and pull the sleigh. It will all work out in the end!

From http://www.dragoart.com

Mostly d’sELF. You belong at the North Pole year-round just getting ready for Christmas – the best day of the year. Santa Claus is accepting applications for toybuilders, and I will happily write you a recommendation letter.

Best wishes as you try to rev up for the holidays in whatever way you celebrate! So let me know, are you a Christmas person? Are you a Hanukkah person? Or perhaps something else?

Merci Beaucoup: Borrowing from the French

One of the great things about English is that we have no compunction about borrowing from anyone else. Our language is a hodge-podge of words from various regions. For today’s Amaze-ing Words Wednesday, I’d like to thank the French for their contribution to the English language by highlighting some words we stole borrowed from them.

Biscuit – Originally taken from the French word “bescuit” meaning twice-baked. I guess a biscuit is twice-baked, somehow. But it isn’t, is it?

Butcher – Taken from the French word “bouchier” which literally means “slaughterer of goats.” The term is also applied to executioners and murderers – whether their victims are goat-like or not.

Cliché – Clicher is presumably the sound of a mold striking molten metal – part of the printing process. A cliché is thus the French word for stereotype, derived from printing jargon. That’s appropriate since writers are perhaps the ones most likely to use clichés.

Curfew – From the French word “coeverfu,” meaning “cover fire.” In medieval times, there was a practice of ringing a bell to signal the time to extinguish hearth fires and prepare for sleep. The signal was in hopes of preventing unintentional conflagrations. Now, it’s primarily a warning to teens to put out the smooching fire and head home.

Garage – Derived from the French verb “garer,” meaning to shelter. Garages were thus automobile stables, or shelters. Nowadays, however, many of us are simply sheltering the excess stuff that won’t fit in our house but we can’t seem to get rid of.

Parliament – From the French word “parlement.” The verb “parler” means to talk in French. (Remember “Parlais vous Francais?”) To this day, parliaments do a whole lot of talking. What else they do is a subject of debate.

Rapport – “Rapporter” in French meant to bring back (Re – back/again, porter – bring). By 1894, this somehow began to apply to a harmonious relationship. Maybe people had good relationships with their porters. I would definitely want to keep things harmonious with the guy who watches over my stuff.

Regret – From “Regreter,” meaning to weep or wail after. “Greter” is likely from the Frankish term for weeping or groaning. I know that every time I eat a calorie-heavy French meal, I experience a bit of regret there.

Résumé – “Resumer” is to sum up. A résumé is an effort to sum up your entire work history on about one page and still get an employer to think you can do it all. Good luck with that.

Sauté – Sauté in French literally means jumped or bounced. Apparently, that refers to how you toss that garlic around in the pan and let in bounce in the oil. I am not a cook, but I have mastered this cooking activity.

Tennis – “Tenetz” was called out by the server to the receiver, and it means “hold, receive, take!” Interestingly, “requette” means palm of the hand, which was the original way of hitting a tennis ball, and it eventually became racquet, that thing you hold in your hand instead. (Personal note: I got to watch Roger Federer play in a tournament in Houston some time ago. Great sport!)

Umpire – “Nonper” is broken down as not (“non”) + equal (“per”). A non-equal here was a third person brought in to arbitrate between two. In French, it became “noumper.” Then the “n” got dropped somewhere along the way. Yada, yada, yada…umpire. Personally, I would have guessed the word umpire meant something like “cockeyed” or “stubborn,” at least when my son is batting.

Unique – From the French “unique.” Actually in Latin, “unicus” means single, or solitary, one. Despite its common use as meaning special or remarkable, “unique” actually means one of a kind.

Le Freak – Okay, this isn’t a French or an English word exactly, but anyone growing up in my era knows what this is. Thank you, Chic, for this French-y tidbit. Here’s the music video (and it’s from a French TV show):

What other French words do you know of that we have happily added to our English dictionary? Do you like that English borrows from other languages?

Sources: WISC-Online; Etymologically Speaking; ManyThings.org; Online Etymology Dictionary