Posts Tagged ‘words’

Yes, folks, in the ceaseless quest for verbal serendipity, entertainment and enlightenment I have read through an entire dictionary [well, I must have because this is pretty well on the last page, innit?] to bring you a word that, when you get its meaning, you will wonder how you ever managed without. That sentence may be ungrammatical, but you get my drift?
Zugzwang is a German word, a chess term, but I see no reason why it should be confined to chess. Let it break free into the universe!
Imagine you have been invited to someone’s house for tea. You don’t find them congenial; your heart sinks, but you tell yourself, as we do, that it might be good to go because…. because they sound so genuinely pleased to have you in their tea-drinking clutches; you hope it might strategically be useful – maybe they could babysit, or lend you a decent book to read, or give you a salary boost…. but alas, none of these things happen. You sit glumly, trying not to sneak looks at your watch [am I the only person that still wears a watch especially so I can do this without fiddling with my phone?] wondering how soon and how gracefully you could extricate yourself from this person’s life…
Finally, you do it. You wave goodbye. You hope your paths need never cross socially again. But aarrgggh, a few days later, doesn’t the person phone you and say how lovely it was to meet up, and how great it would be if you were in today, as they will be dropping by around teatime? and a grey cloud comes over your consciousness as you realise there is no alternative for you. You must invite them – they could be your boss or an in-law, anyway, you cannot, much as you’d like to, delete them from your own, all too horribly real, network of acquaintances.
Furthermore, you know that this is just the beginning of a series of unprofitable encounters from which you can never hope to derive pleasure, gain or profit.
That, my friend, is your zugzwang.
Your obligation to make a move that will bring you no advantage at all, yet which you cannot avoid.

I can’t promise that this is one of a series of fab new words, because that’s not how I operate. Next time I am leafing through a dictionary in search of entertainment, I’ll have a look at the letter A. That is as much as I can offer. I have spent my life avoiding zugzwangs.


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the big full stop

I haven’t been here for a while, and the reason is that I was lost for words.

Something has happened in my life that has taken all my wit to process, and words have for once been unable to help me. 

Out of the blue, with pretty well no noticeable symptoms, I have grown an astrocytoma inside my spinal cord. It has now been investigated. Shaped like a star burst, with long tentacles, it has woven itself so completely into the tissue that it cannot be removed. . 

No one can tell me how long my life expectancy is, though this is a slow growing tumour that remains inside the spinal cord.. My oncologist and my neurosurgeon have both suggested I have years, not months, of life.

As this blog is about words, I want to let my readers know how passionately glad I am that my status as a writer is healthy. One book I feel proud of has been published, and will always be there to be read by family and friends. I hope to have at least one more published book to my name, and if this recent event does not spur me on to great efforts, then I am not the woman I thought I was!

Writing, and the prospect of creating more ideas and stories, is consoling, inspiring and joyful.

I want to put that energy and love into my life too.

So please, wish me luck.

And never feel sorry for me. I always wanted my life to be interesting! 


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I’ve always wanted to make up a word that would enter the language. Inspired by the  – possibly mythical – invention of the word ‘quiz’ :

In 18th century Dublin, a theatre owner named James Daly made a bet that he could invent a new word that would be on everyone’s lips within twenty-four hours. He  hired some  – evidently literate – vagrants and urchins to write the word “quiz”, on walls everywhere around the city. Within a day, the word was common currency and had acquired a meaning

A simple and brilliant idea that caught my imagination at the age of fourteen. A year later, my best friend Jude and myself were amusing ourselves writing made-up words on the blackboard at school. She was the one who coined the word ‘fzoob’ which I then used as the surname of my heroine in the first novel I ever completed, ‘Susie and the Nasty Fourth Form.’ Alas, it was never published so ‘fzoob’ remained uncelebrated…

Fast forward to 1995 and I am the script editor on an Irish TV programme for pre-schoolers. We have to find a name for our new creatures –  body puppets with big eyes, floppy ears and lots of fur. By happy chance. I’d just been listening to Nico Brown playing an Irish tune called ‘She beag, she mor’ [Little Fairy and Big Fairy] and so the name MORBEGS  was born.

For a few years the word was indeed on everyone’s lips, and everyone knew what a Morbeg was.  Until the programme was dropped from the schedules in the great financial crash of 2007.

I guess that was my ambition realised. For now.

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