Weird Words, Part 11

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1970 edition


Even though the word “nincompoop” is considered to be colloquial, it’s claimed that it has a very learned past. One account reports that it stems from non compos mentis, which is Latin for “not of right mind.” It’s claimed that it was once actually a legal term. The idea of a lawyer using that word in a court of law is kind of amusing. In my mind’s eye I can see a lawyer in some fancy suit making his final statement to the jury and finishing by saying with a flourish, “And so you can see that the accused is indeed totally and utterly a nincompoop. I rest my case.”

I can sort of see where you might get “nincom” from “non compos.” But where did the “poop” come from. Oh wait. I know what you’re thinking. I actually do know where poop comes from. Just not in this case.

Poop is kind of a funny word in itself. If you say it too many times in a row, it starts to sound even funnier. I’m not really seven years old. I just act that way sometimes.

If you know me at all by this time, you know I had to look up the word “poop.” Looks like originally it was a verb. Most likely it came from the Middle English poupen or popen. Originally, those verbs meant to make a gulping sound while drinking, blow on a horn, or toot (hmmm?). In Low German (pupen), it meant to fart or break wind. I think there might have been a little bit of onomatopoeia in play there. Farts often make a popping noise if you let go of them suddenly. TMI?

“Poop” is also considered to be a noun. We all know what it means. I’m not going to spell it out. Oh wait, I just did. Silly me. There is, however, a second definition given for the word “poop” and it is unaccountably this:  the sound of a steam engine’s whistle; typically low pitch. Go figure. I don’t get that one at all.

Back to “nincompoop.” A nincompoop is a fool, an idiot, a bonehead or a dope. It might be that the word “ninny” came from “nincompoop” and is a less onerous way of saying, “Man you are so stupid it hurts.”

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1970 edition


A blatherskite is defined as a person who speaks at great length while making very little sense. Another source defines it as a person given to voluble, empty talk. However you look at it, it adds up to a lot of blah, blah, blah.

According to World Wide Words, blether is a Scots word meaning loquacious claptrap (oh my gosh, there’s another good word to investigate). Blether comes from the Old Norse blathra which means to talk nonsense. It is still around now in various other forms such as blather and blither.

The skite part of the word is a little harder to pin down. But World Wide Words offers this plausible explanation:

Skate (or skite as Australians and New Zealanders use it) is the Scots word for a person held in contempt because of his boasting. Note the use of the male pronoun “his.” A female would never …well okay maybe. Nevermind.

It’s thought that skite derives from an Old Norse word meaning to shoot. If this is indeed true, it could be the origin of the American word skeet, as in skeet shooting. Which means that skeet shooting actually means “shoot shooting.”

In any case, blatherskite is first recorded in use in an old Scots ballad called Maggie Lauder, attributed to Francis Sempill (or Semple) and dated to about 1643.

The last line in the first verse is written this way: “Jog on your gate ye blether skyte, my name is Maggie Lauder.” It roughly translates to: “Be on your way, you talkative boaster, my name is Maggie Lauder.”

The song was considered a bit risqué (the piper, for instance, explains how all the girls swoon when he blows his chanter) and was very popular with the American side in the War of Independence. This introduced bletherskate, later blatherskite, to the American vocabulary.

It’s still in the dictionary. And I suppose there are some people who might use this word from time to time. But honestly, I’m not really one of them. I have, however, been known to call myself a total nincompoop from time to time.

American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 1970 edition
My ancient dictionary did not have any version of lollygag in it. I am sooo disappointed.


Simply put, lollygag means to spend time aimlessly, to be idle, or to dawdle.

There is a lot of uncertainty surrounding the origins of this word. Etymonline says it might have stemmed from dawdle or dally. In American English, Etymonline indicates it is better known as lallygag (really? Could have fooled me). And the whole mess might be the result of adding the dialectal lolly meaning “tongue” to gag meaning to deceive or a trick.

But how a tongue trick becomes synonymous with wasting time is beyond me. And if you ask me, this also sounds a little bit risqué.

So then I wondered about lollipop. Don’t the British refer to a lollipop as simply lolly? And if lolly really does mean tongue, isn’t that just a little weird?

Well, I guess I had better stop lollygagging and put an end to all this blather before everyone thinks I really am a total nincompoop.

Soliciting an Editorial Review

Author: Dean Koontz
This blurb speaks about the author of the novel.

Every now and then, Google offers up an article that is really relevant to my needs. For the most part, though, they offer bits about celebrities with whom I am not even familiar, or sports news. And of course there is the constant barrage of Covid-19 based articles.

But the other night, there was an article about editorial reviews. You know, those blurbs by famous people or institutions that appear on the covers of books. Sometimes they are on the inside and several pages long.

I don’t know how I thought those came about. Actually, I never really thought about it until the other night.

The author of the article said you should just ask for them. I was a bit stunned, to be honest. I’d never considered it. I thought you had to pay companies for that sort of thing. And we have very little money for that sort of thing. Just consider our lack of professional editing and proof reading as an example of the lack of such discretionary funds. Sigh.

Title: “The Julius House”
This blurb speaks about the main character of the novel.

Most sources agree that there are six basic steps: (But this list comes from

  1. Decide Who You Want on Your Cover. It’s dream time! …
  2. Find Those Who’ve Endorsed Similar Books. …
  3. Identify Influencers Related to Your Genre, Book, Industry, or Subject. …
  4. Get All Information Into a Spreadsheet. …
  5. Write Your Template Email. …
  6. Send Away!

Those people/institutions will either say yes or say no. What have you got to lose?

It was eye-opening.

The author (“From out of the Bex,” by Bex) of another article had some recommendations for how to put together a nice letter requesting the endorsement. It runs along like this

Paragraph 1 should include:

  1. Why you’ve chosen this blogger [or author or institution] to review your work. What is it about this particular blogger that caught your interest? Be complementary yet sincere.
  2. Your book title. Make sure you’ve hyperlinked the title to its listing on Amazon, Goodreads, or your publisher’s website.
  3. Your book’s genre, publisher, and release date.
  4. Any accolades your book has already received (optional).

Paragraph 2 should include:

A brief description of the book. And I mean brief! Don’t write an 800 word essay. Just give a clear, concise description of your work.

Paragraph 3 should include:

A clear outline of your request. Are you looking for a blog site review? Posts on instagram [Sic]? Inclusion in a youtube [Sic] video? Be as clear and definitive about your request as possible.

Your preferred timeline. When are you looking for posts to be made active? Around your release date? During a promotion you’re running? Be clear, but flexible.

Paragraph 4 should include:

A sincere thank you for their consideration. Thank them for their time and consideration. Remind them what it is about their unique book blog [or opinion] that makes your book a good fit.

Don’t forget to include an image! The modern world is driven by visual stimuli. Reviewers want to, quite literally, judge your book by it’s [Sic] cover.

Authors: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child
This page in the front matter lists a number of “raves” from actual readers.

There were some ideas about how to get the book to the intended endorser as well.

So, I’m putting together my list of authors. If even one of them says “yes” I’d be so thrilled. But I’m prepared for all of them to say “no.”

But you never know. It could happen.

Pure Delight

Courtesy of Bernd Lehmann. Taken with a Fuji FinePix S8000 digital camera.

We used to feed all the birds. We had thistle seed for the finches. We put out mixed seed for the various songbirds. We were sure to have plenty of black sunflower seeds on hand. And we scattered unsalted, roasted peanuts in the shell for the scrub jays.

We tried a suet feeder for a couple of years. But it didn’t get much use and was a total mess. Especially if we didn’t take it down before the hot summer months came along.

And we would always have a hummingbird feeder hanging from the eaves. All year long. In defiance of those who say not to do that. It just seemed wrong to take it down for the winter since some of the Hummers stay all year … in defiance of those who say they shouldn’t do that.

The only birds we have continued to feed are the hummingbirds.

Courtesy of Bernd Lehmann

There is just something special about the hummingbirds. They’re tiny, cheeky little twits. They complain at us when I take down the feeder to refill it. They complain at each other. They fight over the feeder and who gets to sit where and when and how long.

In July and August, we have a hummingbird bonanza. All the little ones have grown up and the feeder is a hot bed of activity. We have the largest capacity feeder that we could find and still we have to refill it almost daily for those two months.

By the end of August, most of the Hummers have headed south to Mexico for the winter and we can rest our vigilance. It’s always something of a relief.

But right now … right now … they are nesting. There is nothing more delightful than coming across a hummingbird sitting on her nest. It’s always amusing to witness the stoic little thing sitting her ground despite the human hovering near. And looking at what she used to make her nest is always a treat.

We found just such a Hummer yesterday while out walking our dog and cat. Yes. We take our cat out on the leash. It’s a more common practice than you might think.

Our neighbor on the east side of us is not a permanent resident. She is gone much of the time. Since her yard and ours are not fenced, both our dog and cat want to wander over there sometimes. Our neighbor has said this is okay.

She has a gazebo in her back yard with butterfly lights hanging on the perimeter. It was on top of one of the lights that a little Hummer lady decided to build her nest. It looks like she used some dog fur and maybe rabbit fur. There are fine strands of weeds and what looks like flakes of bark from the birch tree in our front yard.

Courtesy of Bernd Lehmann

It’s a masterful feat of construction and looks to be very sturdy. Some birds build great nests. Some don’t. Doves are terrible nest builders, but they are great parents. I’ve never observed hummingbird parenting practices so I can’t speak to that. But for sure, Hummers are great nest builders.

Bernd, my husband, managed to get several really good photographs of the little lady sitting in her nest. I got a pretty good look at her myself.

I consider it to be one of the best things that happened all day yesterday. A purely delightful experience.

Side Effects

Side benefits, actually.

My steel-toed work boots have seen a lot of use lately.

My husband’s place of employment still has not reopened. We don’t know if they will. The company was in some legal trouble before the pandemic and since it’s a medical office, reopening poses a few more challenges than it might for, say, a fast food establishment.

So, my husband is still jobless. This has meant that we are finally getting around to doing all the things that have needed doing around the house.

Sanding the rails and the uprights is a bit of a nightmare.

We are very close to completing the painting of the stucco. The parts that are left are going to be the hardest. Our lot slopes downward in the back so that the back side of our house is two stories. We have a walk-out basement that is partially finished. That’s a good thing and a bad thing … too much storage space. There is a deck on the back side that made painting that easier. But the sides are two stories tall.

With this lighting, you can’t tell that this side of the house is two different colors. The old color is yellower and the new is greyer.

Years ago when we painted the fascia, we did the highest parts by lying down on the roof and reaching over the edge. But you can’t do the eaves or the stucco that way.

Major parts of the deck rails have been repainted. On Saturday and Sunday, we painted the utility room. It’s now a cheerful, very pale yellow with a sage green trim. This is the first time that room has been repainted. And the house was built in 1991. It really needed it, but wasn’t something I wanted to tackle entirely on my own as I did with both bathrooms. Moving the washer is hard. It’s very heavy.

Mostly though, I’ve really enjoyed having Bernd home all the time. I know that some people might be having trouble spending 24/7 with their significant others, but that’s not the case for us. I married the guy because I wanted to spend my life and all my time with him. For a lot of years, our jobs interfered with that.

Yes, our finances will suffer if he never goes back to work full time. We might be able to manage if he works part time. But that will wait until there is a vaccine. We have talked and talked about this and decided that is the safest course for us.

On the up side of that is the fact that Bernd has been able to reduce the amount of blood pressure medication that he is taking. I told him for a long time ago that the main reason it was so high was the pressure and stress of his job. I think that now he believes me.

In my mind, there have been more benefits for us from this pandemic than otherwise. I consider us to be lucky.

Most likely, my well-worn and trusty steel-toed work boots will see a lot more work in the days to come.

I think that’s a good thing.


Rain or Shine – Bluestem Amphitheater

It rained during the night. Hard and heavy at times. Sporadic. Making a staccato racket on the aluminum awning that shades the sliding glass door of our bedroom.

Dry lightning has set Tasmania ablaze, and climate change makes it ...

There was thunder and lightning too. Always exciting.

The smell of the rain was like a blessing. Fresh and new. The cool air a welcome change from the heat of the previous day.

bright sunshine by MarissaAngell on DeviantArt

The morning dawned bright and clear and clean. The birds were singing their praises for the rain as we took our first walk of the day.

Singing Birds Images, Stock Photos & Vectors | Shutterstock

The perfect start to another great day.

Two Ways of Looking at Things

Calm Panic Buttons Show Panicking Or Calmness Counseling . 3d re ...

There’s always two ways to consider something. I’d be willing to bet that there’s usually even more than that.

My husband, Bernd, and I have two different basic modes of operation. His is mainly to panic. Mine is to mainly remain calm. It’s not that I’m more enlightened than he is. It just that I don’t like how I feel when I panic, so I try not to. Mostly, I am successful. Thankfully.

Two nights ago, the power went out around 12:45 a.m. I know this because the battery back-up/surge suppressor for our computer started beeping non-stop and it woke me up.

I got up and shut down the computer. After that, the battery back-up stopped beeping continuously and began beeping twice and then pausing, beeping twice and then pausing. Eventually, it ran out of power and stopped doing that. It was much more peaceful after that.

Bernd sleeps with ear plugs in his ears, so he never heard it. When he woke up around 2:30 to feed the cat, I let him know that the power was out and that I had already shut down the computer. Then I went back to sleep.

I’d had some worry about all the stuff in the fridge and it going bad and how hard it is to find animal protein right now. But I decided that whatever happened, we’d deal with it. We’d eat eggs, or rice and beans. Whatever.

Bernd had a different response that kept him awake for several hours. He panicked.

He spent time on his phone trying to figure out what was going on. APS (Arizona Public Service) said that there was an equipment failure and that power would be restored on May 6. If needed, they would reimburse customers for 20 pounds of dry ice or 40 pounds of regular ice. So he panicked even more.

He didn’t know the current date. And in the middle of the night, I guess it sounded like the restoration of service was days away. To make matters worse, his phone seemed to be using an inordinate amount of battery power and dropped below 5% in no time at all. It freaked him out. Luckily, we have some night lights that also serve as a battery back-up for our cell phones. He hooked both our phones up. We live in an area that gets huge thunderstorms in the summer and we can rely on the power going out occasionally so it helps to be prepared.

When we got up he said to me that they said power would be restored on 5/6. So I told him that today was the sixth. And in any case, the power came back on a little after 5:00 a.m. I heard the battery back-up and microwave beep. And also there was the flashing display on my bedside clock. When we got up about an hour later and he told me about his middle of the night escapades, I said to him, “I guess my response was ‘We’ll deal with it’ and yours was ‘Oh my God! What are we going to do?!'”

Bernd was worried about the meat we have in the freezer and the coming shortage of meat. He was worried about the loss of the cost of all the food in the fridge. He was worried in general. He can find more things to worry about in a day than I can in an entire month. I wish, for his sake, that it weren’t so. I don’t know how to change it really.

I think that part of his problem is that his memory for events is not very precise. I know that in the past, we’ve weathered all sorts of difficult situations. We’ve always managed to find a way through whatever adversity we have faced. I’m guessing he doesn’t have this reassuring outlook.

I often remind him of our capacity to overcome adversity, but he either forgets or his tendency to panic is so well-seated that it will always be his first response no matter what I might say.

I don’t know where I come by my aplomb. Maybe I owe it to my dad and his preparedness in all things. His calmly rational manner of looking at a situation. Or maybe I owe it to my mom and her organizational skills and ability to accomplish just about anything she set her mind to. Probably, I owe it to the both of them.

It might seem like there’s not a lot to be thankful for right now. But when I start breaking it down into small, easily digestible bits, I find there are many things for which I am grateful. This is just one of them. So thank you, Mom and Dad, for the grace and ease you have taught me. I only wish Bernd’s parents had done the same.

All Other Concerns Aside …

It’s springtime. Where we live in the higher elevations of central Arizona, which means wild swings in temperature between night and day.

The lows are still in the forties (just two weeks ago they were in the thirties), but the days are in the eighties. That’s a forty degree shift.

During the hottest part of the summer, the shift might be only 20 degrees. Same for during the coldest part of the winter.

Typically, this time of year, we’ve turned off the furnace and we leave doors and windows open overnight. Right now, the house usually cools down to about 63 degrees by the time the sun comes up again. That’s a good starting point.

Since I have a problem with air conditioned air, we try to use the air conditioning as little as possible. So it isn’t on right now either. And when we do finally turn it on, it will be set to come on only after the house reaches 85 degrees inside. At any rate, yesterday, the house heated up to a max temperature of 79 degrees.

But it’s the temperature of the house in the morning that concerns me most at this moment.

We take our dog, Maddie, for a walk first thing each morning shortly after the sun comes up. Then we come back home and we all have breakfast. I eat a simple breakfast of dry rolled oats and a hot drink. The drink is called “Pero” and it’s intended as a substitute for coffee, but tastes nothing like coffee. It’s better than plain hot water though. Maddie has a sumptuous breakfast. First there is a little scrambled egg followed by a piece of chicken jerky. Then she eats the canned food in her bowl. Often there are left over cat snacks on the floor that Bonfire did not eat and she eats those.

They say that you should eat breakfast like a kind, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. I don’t do that, but Maddie eats breakfast like a kind for sure.

I eat my breakfast while sitting in my recliner. Actually, Bernd and I don’t use the dining table much for eating. It usually has a jigsaw puzzle in progress on it. Maddie often joins me in my recliner. While I’m sitting there, we help each other stay warm. But eventually, I have to get up and get busy with the days chores. Maddie usually remains in my chair.

I worry that she might get a bit chilly once I leave. So I cover her with a throw. This morning, she looked particularly fetching with her head on the pillow and the throw snuggled around her. So I had to take a photo of her.

None of this is really momentous stuff. Especially in the face of the current pandemic. But this is what is important to me right now; my love for our little pooch and my concern for her comfort.

“The Alien Visitation Chronicle” is Live on Amazon

I haven’t received my author copies yet, so this photo of the proof copy will have to do.

I was waiting for the two versions (eBook and print-on-demand) to link up on Amazon before making the announcement that my newest novel is live and available on Amazon. But it has been six days since I published it and five days since it went live and they are still listed separately. Amazon says it can take up to five days, but I lost my patience. Bad me.

So just this morning, I sent out my announcement in emails. As time goes by I might come up with a few more people to let know about my latest novel. But I’m pretty sure that I’ve sent it to all my closest friends. I don’t have much of a marketing strategy. Sigh. Or money for advertising. Big sigh.

I’m not lighting the world on fire with sales. My first novel, “Millie’s Adventures in Time,” has sold a few copies. I don’t expect this latest to do much better.

I didn’t write them to make money. It would be nice if they did. But that isn’t a financial necessity. Thankfully.  Yet.

I write because I love to write. I enjoy creating characters and scenarios and seeing how it all plays out. I enjoy building lives and relationships.

So here’s the rundown. I’ve got about half the sequel to “Millie” written. I have a mystery novel that I started at about the same time as “Millie” and shelved because I was having too much fun writing “Millie.” I’ll get back to the mystery sooner or later. I like the main character too much to just let it go.

Bernd has a fascination with the human form. He also had a fascination for a while with angels. Combining the two seemed like a no-brainer to him.

I have another novel that began as short stories and morphed into what will eventually become a whole story. This one is more of what they call “Women’s Fiction.”  And I have a very short children’s novel that I wrote years and years ago based on an aquarium that my husband and I kept for a while and the funny fishes that inhabited it. If I can get my husband to get really serious about doing some watercolor illustrations for it, I might actually publish it someday. He’s done a lot of watercolors. Some even have won awards at our county fair. He’s sold a few too. Pretty cool.

Bernd has done a number of Native American themed paintings. I like his landscapes a little better. But they are all under glass and hanging on our walls and so I can’t get a decent photograph of them.

And rounding the whole thing out is my memoir tentatively titled “It’s Okay Mom, I’ve been Around the Block.” You don’t have to be famous to write a memoir. Although I suppose it helps if your intent is to sell the thing. Mostly I’m writing the memoir for me. And maybe for my sister a little bit too. I might publish it one day. Could be fun to hold it in my hands.

I have some ideas for other books, but they are not very clear in my head yet. So that’s all I’m going to say about them.

I’m very excited to have published another novel. It’s scary in a way, too. But mostly, I’m just happy to have done it. A lot of living seems to be like that. Very big sigh.

Love Your Characters

first page of the original manuscript

While proof reading the hard copy of my first novel (“Millie’s Adventures in Time”) just now, I had a revelation.

It’s been a long while now since I finished writing it and it’s been awhile since I last worked on the sequel. So I had quite forgotten the tone of my writing and how I approached describing my characters.

One of my most favorite authors is Dean Koontz. Many years ago, before I considered writing any kind of real novel of my own, I thought that nothing would be better than to be able to write like Dean Koontz.

I am not comparing myself to that esteemed author. Nor do I think that I will ever write as well as he does. But I think there is one thing we might have in common. It is this: we love our characters. We love them deep down inside.

Until just now, I didn’t realize this was true for me. Shoot, I didn’t really think of Koontz’s writing in those terms either. But reading, just now, what I had written about Millie, I realized that I love her and all her foibles and inconsistencies. I love her opinionated ideas and uncompromising standards. It was then that I realized that the same must be true for Koontz.

I believe that Dean Koontz loves even his evil characters. You can sense this in the completeness with which he portrays their lives and motivations.

I think this is key. I think loving them is what makes my characters real for me. One needs to know and love their characters very well in order to write about them very well. They have to be real for the author in order for them to be real for the reader. And love is always a good place to begin.

I like Science Fiction but I Don’t want to Participate

CONTAGION Posters | Collider

Well … if I could get on a rocket and go to the moon today, I’d be sorely tempted. I’ll qualify that: a nicely settled, well-established moon base would be preferable. Hey! I’m 67. I like some comfort in my life these days.

It’s movies like “Andromeda Strain” and “Contagion” that I don’t really want in my real life.

The Andromeda Strain original release german movie poster ...

I started reading science fiction when I was about 11 years old. I’d grown tired of the limits of my super hero comic books and wanted more. The Librarian at our local library was most helpful. She got me started on the sci-fi for kids.

Andre Norton PERILOUS DREAMS book cover scans

I read every book in that section and moved on into the adult section, again with help from that Librarian. She introduced me to some of the simpler reads in the adult area. I read books by Andre Norton to begin with and slowly worked my way into the likes of Vonnegut, McCaffrey, Delaney and Heinlein.

Before I knew it I was reading Silverberg, Asimov, Clarke and all those authors people these days think of as classics. Eventually Crichton made the list as did Sagan, Dick, Niven and Le Guin. I’ve probably read them all. Just sitting here and thinking about it, names keep popping into my head. I might be able to list them all, but it would be really long. I mean LONG.

Doc Savage – Pulp Covers

There were a few that might qualify as “pulpy.” There was E. E. Doc Smith, the father of space opera. I loved his “Lensman” and “Skylark” series. “Doc Savage” started out as actual pulp fiction and morphed into paperback books. For one summer vacation, my mom bought me the whole series for my birthday. She thought it would last me all summer. Hah!

It hasn’t been lost on me that what we are going through right now with Covid-19 is a lot like a science fiction movie or novel. And I don’t much like it. It doesn’t help that those movies and novels have always shown how easily things can get out of hand. Spiral out of control. Create apocalypse kind of trouble.

It seems like a lot of the people where we live are relaxing their vigilance lately. It worries me. It saddens me too. It’s my belief that this could still all go south in a heartbeat. I’d rather it didn’t. We all would. But the only way it will not is if we batten down the hatches, dig in for the long haul, and think proactively about what is needed to keep people alive and the world running along at the same time.

The Math Behind Social Distancing - Visual Capitalist

I don’t have the answers. I’m willing to bet that no one actually does. Every day I read something new about the novel corona virus that makes me wonder if we will ever get to the end of the things it messes up; of the havoc it can wreak on the human body, young, old, and in between.

I just hope that the measures that are already in place are sufficient and that people stick with them long enough to make a real difference. Consistency and perseverance are absolutely essential to the realization of any goal.

I’ll continue to read science fiction. I’ll continue to write it too. I just don’t want to live it.