Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Reflections”

Word Nerd Confessions: Wander Words


I do so enjoy picking up new words from a book I’m reading. Usually I garner a couple, now and then a handful. Sometimes though, a book will offer a plethora of new diction and I am in linguaphile bliss. Virgil Wander provides an amazing array of words. It’s not so much the actual word Leif Enger interjects, it’s how he applies it that makes the usage so noticeable and appealing.

Let’s begin…

Did you know there is a word for the sound of the wind flowing through trees or through the sea? I didn’t either. It’s known as soughing.

If something is rotten and falling apart, rightly call it out by saying its manky.

Why call it a bat when pipistrelle is more fitting.

As for contributing to the possible delinquent tendencies of minors, especially males, save them from future recidivism by taking away temptations.

Pick up a twin-coil guitar pick if you desire, although utilizing a humbucker sounds much more fun.

Once I realized I was on to a vein of golden lexicon, I began saving sentences and contemplating and translating into my own bag of definitions and choices.

“They had some devious sentience.” My choice would be sense of being or awareness.

“...wrote exegetical papers. Explaining something sometimes is not enough.

I then thought, “sentences and page number”:

“I won’t deny my vocal elan took a hit (p. 122). I would have said enthusiasm.

..left out the rumors of his expiry (p.130) Death is simply too bland.

…a fluminate ache” (p.164) Saying it’s a sudden, intense pain isn’t enough sometimes.

The sheriff is not laconic or severe” (p.136) Here I would have said the sheriff was a touch recalcitrant, but sheriffs of few words are bordering on cliche.

she had passerine eyes” (p.168 ) Is that a compliment or an astute observation if a girl has bird-like eyes? Is she a hawk, a sparrow, a chickadee? I need to take a look for myself.

“…he attenuated his budget” (p. 172) Why lessen the budget when attenuating it sounds more dire?

This word: repatriate*, threw me. This is where a prisoner of war, a refugee, or in some cases, artwork (such as 170 films ranging from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid to Rock Hudson’s Pretty Maids All in a Row) are returned to the point of origin. Here’s the really interesting part–this is a bona fide job. What would it be like to roll up to someone’s house and say, “Hi, I’m here to repatriate that Van Gogh that you thought you purchased from a legitimate source, only to find out it was stolen from a museum? *One of they key elements of the plot was how Virgil inherited a stash of films when he purchased the movie theater. Their legal status created some angst on Virgil’s behalf. As a result, it might require an act of conscience to repatriate the films.

Instead of saying a building was similar in style, Enger says it’s an iteration (p.191)

Why saying the items were falling apart when putrescent is so much more exact? (p.191)

As for the bad guy in Enger’s story, he isn’t merely a villian, he’s “inveterate predator” (p. 219)

When throwing a wild studio fim party, drunken revel comes to mind, but that seems rather base, even banal–Enger describes these parties as bacchanalia (p. 222)

I favor the word brio, since it is a deeper, more expressive descriptive of enthusiasm. Enger interjects it to describe a particular film (p.223)

Remember that villian? He is also described as being avaricious (p.239).Being a bad guy is one thing, being a greedy bad guy is quite a different category of bad.

No one wants to be defined as a lout, especially not a raffish lout (p.423).

Obfuscation is always a better choice than plain old confusion (p.249).

I’ve not looked into the eyes of a sturgeon lately, or ever, for that matter. It would be of great consternation if the eyes of said sturgeon were insouciant (p.189). How can a fish have carefree eyes? Actually, if you read the book and make some decisive connections between the villain and the sturgeon, Enger knew that insouciant was appropriate.

Reading Virgil Wander kept me scampering between looking up the words, translating connotative and denotative meaning, and outright marveling over the usage. The only other book in which I do the dictionary shuffle is Bronte’s Jane Eyre.

What is most admirable about Virgil Wander and his first person vernacular narrative is that he complains how he can’t always find the right word since his accident, when he drove his car into the lake and sustained a few injuries including head trauma. I wonder what his lexicon abilities were prior to his concussion? As much as I love words I am fine staying on this side of the guard rail and the lake and will not be seeking water immersion to improve my vocabulary.

If you haven’t discovered Virgil Wander by Leif Enger, I hope my review and Word Nerds post have convinced you how it is a need to read selection.

Watch out for insouciant sturgeon, by the way.

Reader Round Up: June


Sometimes a novel stands out from the others. It shines out its brilliance so noticeably that it deserves an entire post. Leif Enger’s Virgil Wander is such a read.

Five Star–most def

Halfway through the book Virgil , out titular hero, and Rune, think Gandalf with kites, are drinking a Nordic spirit, apparently possessing the kick similar to sake, and Rune makes the philosophic observance “…that just because a thing was poetry didn’t mean it never happened in the actual world, or that it couldn’t happen still.”

This is what is so noteworthy about Virgil Wander as a novel. It is not exactly real-world in scope, neither is it magical realism, but neither is it so unbelievable as to be dismissable. The naysayer critics argued that Enger’s engaging tale is stretching unbelief a bit too much. Like Rune noted, just because it didn’t happen, doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

It seems storytellers, the ones like Garrison Keillor who come from Minnesota are the ones who take the ordinary and lean it somewhat so that you have to tip your head to get it all in focus. Or at least I do. I took it with a grain of salt when Keillor spun his hometown stories of seemingly average citizens and transformed their lives and situations into above average. Enger does the same with his own Minnesota tale. He takes a small town on the banks of the Lake Superior and tips its inhabitants a bit sideways and creates intriguing situations out of the mundane. For instance, a sturdy sturgeon that is repudiated to be the cause of death for one fisherman takes on menacing qualities akin to Moby Dick. That homey festival that every small town hosts, the one with corn dogs, a parade, face painting, and a band? Enger turns into an event celebrating the hard luck days of the town, complete with children dressing up as frogs to replicate the day it indeed rained frogs upon the fair town. There may or may not be a bomb threat involved. There is even a raven who becomes mildly domesticated of his own volition.

If the novel sounds odd in highlighting aspects that caught my eye. Well, it is odd. Odd wonderful. Oddly captivating. Odd how I couldn’t stop reading it, being irritated when I had to stop periodically to eat or sleep.

I vastly relished Enger’s debut novel Peace Like a River, and so did the nation. It only took eighteen or so years for his third novel to appear (haven’t caught up to his second one yet), but it sure was worth the wait.

Looking for amusing, Keillor-style storytelling, winsome characters, unforgettable setting, and a couple of mysteries to sweeten the plot? Then I hope you locate a copy of Virgil Wander.

Let me know if you found a copy or if you have read it. Let’s dialog this five star find.

Debut Redeux


With libraries and bookstores barely on the open side, you may not have had the opportunity to properly meet my debut picture book, Someday We Will.

written by Pam Webb
illustrated by Wendy Leach

The book’s focus is building the anticipation of grandparents and grandchildren sharing activities when they visit together.

Swimming is a favorite activity

The idea for the book developed from my own anticipation list, for all the “someday” activities I would one day share with my own granddaughter.

There are so many fun activities to share together!
Reading books together builds lovely memories

Reading books together is a favorite activity. Going to the library and selecting titles, suggesting favorite authors, or discovering new reads creates shared moments of lasting value.

Waiting, waiting for that special day to be together again

Being separated from loved ones is difficult, yet keeping that hope of being together again someday is important. That hope and anticipation of one day sharing good times together again is like keeping a bit of sunshine in our hearts on cloudy days.

Memories are sunshine for cloudy days

Although the book’s target audience is for grandparents and grandchildren, holding on to that “Someday” applies to anyone who anticipates being together with a loved one.

Thanks for stopping by!

If you are looking for a book that expresses how you look forward to being with someone, especially if you are a grandparent, I hope you will look up Someday We Will.

BOOK DETAILS
TITLE: Someday We Will
AUTHOR:
Pam Webb
ILLUSTRATOR:
Wendy Leach
PUBLISHER:
Beaming Books, 2020
TOPICS: family, visits, multi-generational, anticipation
AGES:
K-3
FICTION: Hardcover

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Amazon
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Beaming Books
Video Link

Activites Link

Why We Say: Learn by Heart to Lump It


An enlightening resource of why we say

Learn by heart: Think back–are there any poems that you had to learn in school, ones that you still remember and can recite? That, my friend, is an example of memorizing, which the Greeks considered learning by heart since they thought the heart, not the mind, was the seat of thought. Learn by mind, doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it? Maybe it’s because the heart is the seat of emotion and when we learn something with our heart, we feel it more.

Lick into shape: Summer is here, I’ve got some time off from work, so I’m going to take on the weeding and really lick the yard into shape. Getting something that is somewhat messy, into a more acceptable form is the usual connotation behind this expression. In actuality? It was once thought that bear cubs were born shapeless and in order to form them up into respectable bear, the mother had to literally lick them into shape. No–I am not going to apply that particular technique to beautifying my yard.

Lily-livered: To be called a coward is one thing, but to be called a lily-livered coward–oh, the shame. The Greeks, once again, possessed an interesting anatomically belief. They believed the liver, not the heart, held passion [see above about learn by heart], and the bile produced indicated a person’s disposition: dark bile indicated strong passion; light bile indicated weakness. However, white bile or lily colored bile meant the person had no courage at all. My question is: how did a person produce the bile? Maybe I don’t want to know. Actually, I don’t want to know at all.

Lock, stock, and barrel: When something is completed this expression is often shared, as in, “I packed up the camper for the trip–everything’s ready to go–lock, stock, and barrel. This expression goes back to the days when depending on a gun being ready to go, as in the three parts: the lock (firing mechanism), the main piece (stock), and barrel, had to pass a readiness check.

Lump it: “You can like it or lump it.” If you have participated in a quarrel, sibling quarrels are a good example, this expression might get tossed out. It refers to how faces are a bit misshapen after crying. If someone doesn’t get their way, they might have a good cry or pout, making their face look lumpy. Basically, accept the situation or get bent out of shape (which is probably another Why We Say investigative entry).

Which expressions are in your vernacular range?

Are they all too old-fashioned?

Is there an expression that you are ever so glad the puzzle of meaning has been revealed?

Bard Bits: Once Upon a Word


It’s been flung about how Shakespeare created around 1,700 words, some which we still use today, such as luggage, eyeball, and alligator. Unfortunately, many of the words used in Shakespeare’s time have changed meaning over time. And some of his words simply make no sense to our modern ears.

NO SENSE

auger-hole: tiny spot

bension: blessing

bodements: omens

bruited: reported

clept: called

coign: corner

corporal agent: muscle

foison: plenty

hilding: nasty beast or wretch

incarnadine: turn red

Jill: maid, drinking utensil

make boot: take advantage

SOME SENSE

all-thing: wholly

betimes: quickly

broad words: speaking freely

buzzard: worthless person

closet: room

father: old man

firstling: first

half a soul: halfwit

hart: male deer

in a few: briefly

moe: more

mortified: deadened

FAMILIAR ENOUGH

beholding: indebted

cloudy: sullen

complexion: disposition

coz: cousin

estate: social position; condition

free hearts: true feelings

groom: servant

hurlyburly: tumult

in a few: briefly

keep counsel: keep a secret

loose: let go

make to: approach

Word Nerd Confessions: June hi


This month we shall partake in enjoying learning about words that are about words or using words.

1. conlang: an artificially constructed language used by a group of speakers, as opposed to one that has naturally evolved–for example Klingon.

2. linguaphile: a language and word lover.

3. polysemy: a condition in which a single word, phrase, or concept has more than one meaning or connotation. For example, cleave means to separate and it can mean bring together. [semantics can be tricky on polysemic words]

4. sesquipededalian: given to long words.

5. epiphonema: a sentence that is an exclamation, a general or striking comment, or a succinct summary of what has previously been said.

6. contramine: a word that has opposite or nearly opposite meanings–let’s return to cleave, how it can mean “split” or “put together.”

7. breviloquent: speaking or expressed in a concise or terse style; brevity of speech.

8. quidnunc: a person who is eager to know the latest news and gossip; a gossip or busybody.

9. voluble: characterized by a ready and continuos flow of words.

10. lacuna: a gap or missing part, as in a manuscript, series, or logical argument.

Words about words. I love how sesquipededalian is the manifestation of its derivative. And what about quidnuc? Why doesn’t that one pop up more in more English village novels? I can’t help but be amused that breviloquent is not brief in formation. Definitely not a descriptive of Polonius. It’s also such a score to provide one exemplar twice, as in contramine and polysemy.

Which word is a standout for you?

Reader Roundup: May


Books kept me sane during May.

Between creating and maintaining distance learning lessons that “needed to have value, but not overwhelm students,” while preparing juniors and seniors for their AP exams, I escaped into reading as means of escaping being chained to my laptop screen.

Fortunately, my local library opened up curbside service, allowing patrons to order up books from the website catalog and we would then schedule a pick up appointment. A definite sanity saver. I was beginning to wonder if I would have to raid my hubs’ technical reference books and hunting guides for reading material.

Title Highlights for May:

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

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I will grant that Cormier is a brilliant writer, and his novels are unique in how they challenge readers to lift up the rocks of humanity to study the ugly that lives underneath. I personally cannot tolerate the bullying and senseless cruelty that is the center of the plot, and had to really force myself to finish the book.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

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Second read, six years later:
Having devoured the 530 page book in a day the first go round, I have always felt I did it an injustice. I am glad I returned to this sumptuous novel and took the time to savor its brilliance this time. I initially avoided it as I didn’t want to read about WWII during Covoid quarantine, yet I then realized it wasn’t so much a war story as it was a story how the human spirit can endure through tragedy, often continuing with the means to thrive. It is an inspirational story deserving of all its accolades.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham

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Creative plot, and more mystery/thriller than detective novel, The Tiger in the Smoke is a quick and mostly satisfying read if one can keep the characters straightened out—a problem when starting out with #14 in a character driven series.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️The Book Charmer by Karen Hawkins

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The story vacillates between Mayberry and Parks and Rec with its wholesomeness, off-color humor, quirky characters, and small town politics. Apparently, this is the first in the series. Frankly, I was hoping the novel would live up to its title. The seventh daughter talking with books was the best part of the plot.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr

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Despite its unique and lyrical style, it’s difficult to connect with characters who continually make incredibly unwise choices. No doubt a five star book in its own right, yet this reader still needs to enjoy the story, not just admire the writing.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ I Can’t Remember What I Forgot by Sue Halpern

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For those who like their science delivered in friendly, anecdotal ala Malcolm Gladwell style, then Halpern’s book about the timely topic of memory loss, as in preventing dementia or finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, is a read to consider.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️The Here and Now by Ann Brashares

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Take the trope of outlier girl meeting up with too-good-to-be-true boy (Meg/Calvin from Wrinkle in a Time) and stir in a time traveling plot complete with distracted mother and missing father, and you find yourself on familiar ground in Brashares’ story about the future.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Ah, there is nothing like a full-blown, well-written Victorian drama set in a quaint English town. There’s gossipy neighbors, entangled romances, unexpected weddings and funerals, secret undercurrents, plot twists—just the right elements for a BBC historical series. Bronte and Austen seem to be the more remembered lady novelists of that era; however, Gaskell holds her own and should not be overlooked.

May consisted of a grand mix of genres and the variety proved a tonic for my frazzled state of mind. You can find more reviews at my Goodreads website.

UPDATE: The library opened its doors today! Double Woo-Hoo!!

Birthday Songs


Happy, Happy Birthday to Me!

June 14th. It’s Flag Day and it’s my birthday. It’s embarrassing to admit, but clear up to the age of twelve, I believed my mother that the neighborhood, in recognition of my birthday, hung their flags out. You would think I would have become a bit suspicious of her story’s validity since there were flags out all over the town. Maybe I simply believed that strongly in my mother’s influence.

Flag Day first, then my birthday

Birthdays have always been a big deal for me. Growing up with flags unfurled can do that, I suppose. However, as the candles marked the increase of years, my enthusiasm has decreased for acknowledging my yearly passage. Unless it’s a big deal year—as in significant. Fifty was a big deal year. Not because 50 is a big deal—rather it was because my first grandchild was born the next day. That’s right, the next day. We missed sharing the same birthday by that much. This year, 2020, is not a big deal year. Two years from now, yes. Not this year. In fact, with the pandemic on, and the family separated, and in isolation, I’m not expecting much. I will hang my flag out though.

As for birthday songs, that’s another reflection of note. I’ve never understood the traditional birthday song. It’s morose sounding and usually sung off key. Trevor Noah provides an enlightening dissertation on the birthday song. He grew up with a much better version.

Years ago, my mom and step-dad began calling up and leaving a rendition of the birthday song on the answering machine. I had never heard that version before, and even though two retired permanent-status snowbirds sang it pitch unaware, it became a highlight of my birthday. Sadly, my step-dad passed away last May. No more songs, and Mom is too sad to sing solo. Yet, I discovered the song in a movie—a Disney movie called The Emperor’s New Groove. I don’t think the folks watched that movie, maybe if Barbra Streisand had been one of the voices, she would have, so I am wondering where they got their birthday song. I will have to ask her. In the meantime I will go find my flag.

Do you have a Flag Day birthday? Then happy birthday. May you have a happy birthday song sung to you!

Looking Forward to Looking Backward


A backwards glance takes a back seat for now

Today is the last day for the 2019-2020 school year and I officially begin my summer break. Usually I stay in “teacher mode” and work on lesson plans and revise units while it’s all fresh in my mind. I do this until June 30th and then allow myself to take July off and slowly ease back into school mode around the middle of August.

That’s the plan, anyway. This year the usual has changed. I am ready to embrace summer break without any hesitation, and will not give school much thought until August rolls around.

This year beginning mid-March business as usual changed. We scrambled to create distance learning curriculum and adjusted and adjusted some more as we rode out the school year. Who would have thought two months could feel like a lifetime.

School officially ended May 29th for our school district. Graduation took place in the school parking lot with families in cars and grads socially distanced. There was a reduction in pomp due to our circumstances. The ceremony ended minutes prior to a spring rain storm. How fitting.

I spent Sunday posting my grades from home and Monday will be spent wrapping up my classroom for the summer. I usually celebrate the end of the school year with reflective euphoria. I dwell on victories and successes of teaching and tuck away the ritual of student farewells.

I haven’t seen the majority of my students since March 18th and briefly said good-bye to a handful of seniors who ventured into my classroom. Sans hugs, I wished them a masked farewell.

This has been a weird end to a school year that started out with such promise. I look forward to looking backward on the 2019-2020 school year. Right now I am numb, weary, and a bit heartsick at not only how the school ended but how our nation is troubled by the pandemic and violent protests.

I usually spend part of my summer break traveling and visiting friends and family. That won’t be happening. This saddens me greatly.

I am blessed to live in a small town, a tourist town. And yet, that brings its own set of concerns as the outside will permeate our little bubble dome of safe haven and possibly bring infection to our fair city.

With all the closures, hard times, and scary events clouding my daily life, I do have something to look forward to: the good news is the library is opening up a day after my birthday. Best present ever!

Any other teachers, parents, or students have reflections on the end of the school year?

What good news do you have that brings some sunshine to your cloudy days?

Why We Say: from Horse Sense to Knuckle Under


April zipped by without the input of the usual “Why We Say” feature, in which investigation of common (or uncommon sayings) are explored. Let’s make up for lost time and continue through the “H” entries from the handy little book Dictionary of Word Origins by Jordan Almond:

Horse Sense
For those of you who remember the show, it can be agreed Mister Ed was one smart horse; however, when someone is tagged with having horse sense, it’s not referring to the horse but to the horse trader. Horse traders could be fairly savvy in their business dealings.

How do you do?
A holdover phrase from “back then” days when “do” meant “fare” which transcribes to performing in a particular situation, which better translates as “doing.” With all that said, we are actually saying to someone “How is it going with you?”

Hunky-Dory
From the Dutch word honk which means “safe” or to achieve a goal in a game, comes the expression meaning everything is all right. The “dory” part is a bit of a guess.

Idiot
Derived from the Greek, the original meaning concerns itself with a private citizen who held no public office. Since the Greeks thought it honorable to hold office, and if someone couldn’t take part in public affairs, well then, they must be an “idiot.”

Too Many Irons in the Fire
A blacksmith knows how to keep his business going, and will have several pieces of iron heating in the fire, ready to place on the anvil; however, too many irons in the fire are difficult to watch, and problems could arise from not tending them properly.

I don’t think he is actually a blacksmith…

Josh
“I’m just joshing you.” If you have heard that expression you are hearing a derivative of the Scottish word “joss” which means “to jostle” or to “push around.” Comedian Josh Billings furthered the meaning. So, if someone is joshing you they are pushing you around in a humorous way.

Kit and Kaboodle
“Boedel” in Dutch means “effects” or what a person owns. Thieves breaking into a house would steal the “boodle” they found and carried it away in their bags or “kits.” If the robbers made a clean getaway, they might brag that they made off with “kit and boodle,” which became “kit and kaboodle.”

Knuckle Under
A knuckle is a joint, any joint–yet, in this expression the referenced joint was the knee, and to “knuckle under” was to bow down in submission.

Well, we are caught up, rushing two months worth of everyday and odd expressions from H to K. Which expression caught you by surprise?

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