Thursday, November 26, 2009

Word of the Week: Grouse

I wanted to do a little tribute to my favourite piece of childhood Australian slang, the adjective grouse. So I turned to my ACOD, wondering if it rated a mention. And yes - there it was, albeit not til the third entry for the word:

grouse (3) n. (frequently with the intensifier extra) Aust. very good of its kind. [20th c.: origin unknown]

Two things stuck out from this entry. First, the intensifier extra: I have to say I don't remember it being used 'frequently' to intensify an already intense word, but boy, what a compliment. To call something or someone extra grouse - is there any higher praise possible? ('Knock off work early? That, my friend, is an extra grouse notion.')

The second thing that struck me was the little n. right at the start there. It's not a typo - at least not on my part (I might be wrong, but I'm sticking by my definition at the start of grouse as an adjective). But it got me thinking about how one could use grouse as a noun. I thought it could be used in the same way 'star' is used to talk about people who are, well, grouse.

'Thanks for editing my story, mate - you're a grouse.'

But in this example, either you're left waiting for more - a grouse what? - or it sounds too much like 'louse' to be complimentary.

So I may have to beg to differ with the ACOD on this one. Grouse is grousest as an adjective.

(For those wondering what the other two entries were:

grouse (1) n. (pl. same) any of various game birds of the family Tetraonidae, with a plump body and feathered legs.

grouse (2) v. & n. colloq. * v.intr. grumble or complain pettily. * n. a complaint.)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Handy Hints

A helpful post on the blog Strictly Writing about what to look for when editing your own work: 'Writing is Easy'.

Well, most things seem easy when you make a list, but I like the optimistic title.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Question: How many writers does it take to change a light bulb?


a) Who needs a light bulb? the glow of my computer screen will do just nicely.

b) Who needs a light bulb? my mind is illuminated from within.

c) Stuff it, it only adds to the heat anyway.

d) Oh look, the light's gone. I'll have a cup of tea, then I'll change it and then I'll sit down and do some work...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Word of the Week: mordant

I was flicking through the Hamilton Wool and Craft Guild's 1974 spinners' guide, Wool Gathering, hoping for inspiration, when I noticed a chapter titled 'Mordants'.

'Mordants?' I thought. 'I know that word. But as a noun? What the hell are they?' I turned to page 59 to find out, and discovered that as far as spinners are concerned, mordants are chemicals (such as alum, chrome, iron, copper) used to fix dyes in fabrics. I was pretty sure however that I'd seen the word used as an adjective.

So, out came the ACOD (Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary - because it's used so frequently nowadays it has been permanently removed from under my desk lamp and has its own corner of the desk to balance on):

'Mordant * adj. 1 (of sarcasm etc.) caustic, biting. 2 pungent, smarting. 3 corrosive or cleansing. 4 (of a substance) serving to fix colouring matter or gold leaf on another substance. * n. a mordant substance (in senses 3, 4 of adj.).'

I love it when words have both a physical and abstract meaning and you can see the link between them. So someone may have a mordant wit (caustic and biting) or they may just need to set their dyed wool with something mordant (caustic and pungent).

I read on about mordants in the guide book and learnt that they are indeed quite caustic. I found out alum is the best, but the hardest to work with, and chrome is poisonous. Then I came across this little bit of poetry from the Hamilton Wool and Craft Guild:

'Iron darkens or saddens colours.'

What a lovely idea.