Library love

Today we have a guest post by Angela Palm, who has written a lovely book inspired by old library check-out cards. Enjoy!

Stories and poems have long shown readers tiny slices of the lives of others, of frozen moments in time, and of worlds-away places. I remember fondly the libraries that nurtured my love of books and that provided the backdrop for the untold fantastic travels of my mind. I remember the check-out cards tucked into the slim, manila envelopes that adhered to the inside covers. I remember standing at the check-out counter, scanning the list of names of people who had read a book before me. In some cases, I was the first to check out the book, the first to sign the card. Over a year ago, when I stumbled upon small bundles of these cards available for sale on Etsy on sites such as Erin Roof’s, those memories were unearthed. I ordered a set of ten, a set of five. Another set of ten. On and on until I’d filled a shoebox with old library check-out cards.

When the cards arrived in the mail, their three-dimensional appeal further incited my interest. They felt like that past; they looked like the past; they even smelled like the past. Some who’d sold the cards were curious about my purchase—what was I going to do with them? At the time, I didn’t know. I just wanted to collect them and keep remembering. I wanted to keep discovering new pathways to imagining the past through the cards. The more I looked at the signatures, the more I wondered about the people who’d borrowed books. I studied the handwriting on the cards—some were cursive curling strokes that spread the height of two lines, others were compact and block-lettered. I imagined the personalities that went along with these styles and stories began to populate my mind. I wrote some of those stories (here’s one!) and shared the exercise with other writers. I spent a year curated those poems, essays, and stories—all sprung from these beloved cards and found the perfect publisher for the collection. The book is now available for pre-order through Wind Ridge Books, a nonprofit book publisher that forms charitable partnerships with the organization of the author’s choosing. I chose the Vermont Library Association as my charitable partner for the book, Please Do Not Remove, in hopes that it would be a small way to help keep libraries alive, physically operating in their often historic buildings, so that they may inspire others in the same way that they have inspired me. Ten percent of the book’s net proceeds will be donated to the Vermont Library Association.

Are you a writer? Would you like to give this exercise a try? You can email me at angelacathleen@gmail.com to get a picture of one of the cards from my collection. I’ll be working on subsequent volumes of this anthology in other states in 2015. Let’s stay in touch and be inspired together.

 

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A villainous etymology

villain: a character in a story, movie, etc., who does bad things
Merriam-Webster

I’ve been on a major Shakespeare kick lately. One thing I noticed in my devouring of his plays is how many times the bard used the word villain. I mean, it’s a lot. If you turned it into a drinking game, taking a sip every time he used it (which you shouldn’t do because that’s dangerous), you’d in a sad state by act II.

This got me thinking about the etymology of villain. By its spelling, I assumed it came from French (it does), but I didn’t expect it would have much of a story after that. I was wrong. The Online Etymology Dictionary gave me the details.

Villain comes from the Old French word vilain, which does not mean “a bad guy in a cape lurking in the shadows.” It originally meant, in the twelfth century, a “peasant, farmer, commoner, churl, yokel.” In other words, a villain was just a regular guy who was unfamiliar with the trappings of high society.

Before Old French, villain had roots in the Medieval Latin villanus, meaning “farmhand.” Before that was the Latin villa, meaning “country house, farm.”

So, is it really so bad to be a villain? Shakespeare still thought so:

O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables—meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.
Hamlet: Act 1, Scene 5

 

 

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Fairy tale vs. fairy-tale

 

fairy tale (noun): a story (as for children) involving fantastic forces and beings (as fairies, wizards, and goblins)

fairy-tale (adjective): characteristic of or suitable to a fairy tale, marked by seemingly unreal beauty, perfection, luck, or happiness

—Merriam-Webster

It’s finally feeling like summer. The wind is carrying lovely, flowery scents (unless you live in a city—then it’s most likely pee smell). Either way, this is the season to daydream and think of fairy tales. Now let’s make sure you are using the term correctly.

When used as a noun, fairy tale is two words without a hyphen.

Example: Mom told me a fairy tale about a princess who turned into a fairy.

However, when it is used as an adjective to describe a noun, it has a hyphen and looks like this: fairy-tale.

Example: Her fairy-tale wedding must have cost a fortune.

(Here, fairy-tale describes the noun wedding.)

Quiz
Check your understanding with this quiz. Fill in either fairy tale or fairy-tale in the blanks. The answers are below.

1) Every day as he sat in his cubicle, Ralph dreamed of a new life, a _______ life.

2) The _______ involved goblins and mean elves, so Susie thought it was scary.

3) Al had a new car, a new wife, a mansion, and a raise. Could this mean his _______ was coming true?

4. The cake had chocolate chips, frosting, strawberries, and fudge. It was basically a _______ dessert.

 

 

Answers:
1) fairy-tale (adjective describing life); 2) fairy tale (noun); 3) fairy tale (noun); 4) fairy-tale (adjective describing dessert)

 

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Death and Taxes

 

Today is tax day. And like many cash-strapped red, white, and blue-blooded ’Mericans, I filed for an extension. For a lot of us across the globe (exempting those rich @#$!s with offshore tax shelters), there’s much truth to the famous saying: Nothing is certain except death and taxes.

That phrase is most commonly attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who wrote to French scientist Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789: “Our new Constitution is now established. Everything seems to promise it will be durable; but, in this world, nothing is certain except death and taxes.” (Franklin wrote this in French, and English translations vary.)

However, Franklin wasn’t the first to bemoan this reality. In 1716, Christopher Bullock wrote in his play, Cobbler of Preston, “Tis impossible to be sure of anything but death and taxes!”

In 1724, playwright Edward Ward wrote in The Dancing Devils, “Death and taxes, they are certain.”

And, Daniel Defoe wrote in his 1726 book, The Political History of the Devil, “Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed.”

Well, maybe there is one more thing certain in life other than death and taxes: politicians taking credit for other people’s ideas.

Happy tax day everyone!

 

 

 

 

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Words and phrases Shakespeare invented

William Shakespeare wasn’t just one of the greatest and most influential playwrights in history, he was also a mega wordsmith. Some estimates say the bard coined 1,700 words, many of which we use daily—like eyeball. Seriously. Eyeball.

Here’s a sample of words Shakespeare invented:

  • addiction (Othello)
  • bedazzled (The Taming of the Shrew)
  • belongings (Measure for Measure)
  • bloodstained (Titus Andronicus)
  • cold-blooded (King John)
  • eventful (As You Like It)
  • eyeball (The Tempest)
  • fashionable (Troilus and Cressida)
  • jaded (King Henry VI)
  • laughable (The Merchant of Venice)
  • manager (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • mimic (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • moonbeam (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • new-fangled (Love’s Labour’s Lost)
  • obscene (Love’s Labour’s Lost)
  • puking (As You Like It)
  • scuffle (Antony and Cleopatra)
  • swagger (Henry V)
  • uncomfortable (Romeo and Juliet)
  • zany (Love’s Labour’s Lost)

Shakespeare also coined many popular phrases. Here is a sample:

  • all’s well that ends well (All’s Well that Ends Well)
  • bated breath (The Merchant of Venice)
  • be all and the end all (Macbeth)
  • brave new world (The Tempest)
  • break the ice (The Taming of the Shrew)
  • fancy-free (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)
  • flaming youth (Hamlet)
  • for goodness’ sake (Henry VIII)
  • foregone conclusion (Othello)
  • full circle (King Lear)
  • good riddance (Troilus and Cressida)
  • jealousy is the green-eyed monster (Othello)
  • it was Greek to me (Julius Caesar)
  • heart of gold (Henry V)
  • in a pickle (The Tempest)
  • in my heart of hearts (Hamlet)
  • in my mind’s eye (Hamlet)
  • kill with kindness (The Taming of the Shrew)
  • laughing stock (The Merry Wives of Windsor)
  • neither a borrower nor a lender be (Hamlet)
  • neither rhyme nor reason (As You Like It)
  • parting is such sweet sorrow (Romeo and Juliet)
  • pomp and circumstance (Othello)
  • salad days (Antony and Cleopatra)
  • sea change (The Tempest)
  • something wicked this way comes (Macbeth)
  • to thine own self be true (Hamlet)
  • too much of a good thing (As You Like It)
  • wear my heart upon my sleeve (Othello)

Now goeth forward, dear readers, and speaketh awesome words. And if you can’t think of the right one, do like Shakespeare did and just make one up.

 

 

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