Scribblomania–A Word for Writers

Scribblomania was a “word of the day” from the Oxford English Disctionary.

It’s a good word for three reasons:

  1. It’s a good condition when a writer wants to produce a book.
  2. It’s hard to spell wrong: scribblomania, scribblemania, and scribbleomania are acceptable alternate spellings and it’s not likely anyone will notice it’s misspelled if you use a fourth alternative.
  3. If someone tries to interrupt, you could, with a scowl. a growl, and an emphasis on mania, encourage that person to leave you alone.

Definition: Intense enthusiasm or mania for writing.

A century of change in compound words

I hadn’t noticed until I checked the manuscript with Grammarly that many words we write as compounds are separated in these old letters.  Perhaps it was one of Uncle Charley’s quirks, but I have found similar instances in other writers. 

Language changes over time. We now compound word pairs like “state room,” “light house,” “to day,” “up stairs,” “worth while,” “every thing,” “dug out” (canoe), “bow sprit,” “center board” and many others.

The Grammarly program, which goes beyond ordinary spellcheck (that word is both new and compound) flags those now-compounded combinations for me. I make the corrections if it’s my writing, but leave the words as is if I’m quoting an antique letter.

Historic or Historical?

Grammarly–useful for editing, fascinating for details!

I downloaded the app and began using Grammarly to make punctuation and spell-checking more efficient.  If it tells me I need a comma, I either decide it’s correct and tough the button to add it, or I think, “No, you didn’t understand the construction of that sentence,” and tell it “ignore.”

The “possibly confused word” tags sometimes save me from embarrassing mistakes and sometimes teaches me the nuances of definitions.  Did you know that “historic” and “historical” have specialized meanings?  I titled a chapter “The Historic Context,” and Grammarly informed me that: “The word Historic may be used incorrectly. Review the following notes to determine the appropriate usage for your context.”

  1. Historic is an adjective that describes something important, significant or notable in history.
  2. Historical is adjective that describes something concerning history or past events. These are events of less significance than historic events.

Perhaps the second definition fits the chapter title best because when history is the background or context for Grandpa’s actions, the events may not be significant, just whatever happened to be going on.  It’s historical that he attended the University of Iowa and that he worked on his father’s ranch, but there’s nothing notable about that as far as you and I are concerned.

Or the first definition is better because the building of the Panama Canal, certainly a significant American achievement, is the reason my mother was born in Panama.  On the other hand, my mother’s birth didn’t change history, but the Canal did, so it depends on whether the adjective is applied to baby Ruth or the Canal construction.

How did I decide?  The chapter title sounds better with “historic.”  Adding -al seems either affected or too much like hysterical.

The usage may be more important in  complete sentences:

  • “The Panama Canal was a historic achievement.”  Okay–definitely right.
  • “The historical background for my mother’s birth in Panama was not only the need for surveyors to lay out railroad track and buildings there, but the liberal vacation policy which gave Grandpa time to visit home and meet Linnie Coon.”  Probably the better choice.

I can’t use “historic” again without thinking.  Thanks, Grammarly!

The Trapp Family Singers: Maria’s Story

The Von Trapp family singers arrived penniless, earned their way to fame.

Anyone who has enjoyed The Sound of Music is likely to enjoy the true story of the Trapp Family as told by Maria herself in The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.

Yes, the Captain did summon the children with a whistle.

No, he was not nearly the martinet portrayed in The Sound of Music.

It’s fun to read the biography, picking out the details used in the musical.  The rest of the story, after climbing over the mountains (not true) or supposedly taking a skiing vacation (true), continues with as much drama as the beginning, with laughter and tears.

Maria’s struggle with the language made me laugh so hard I couldn’t talk—and then cry because I wiped my eyes after slicing an onion.  I should have been getting dinner instead of reading.  When I could speak again, I read out loud for any family who were nearby, and it even drew a genuine out-loud laugh from a much-too-serious teenager.  Or maybe his funny-bone was tickled because Grandma looked crazy, laughing so hard.

In Maria Trapp’s words:

I invented a method all my own, in which I tried to apply what I had learned about one word to as many like-sounding words as I could find.  … for instance, I learned “freeze-frozen.”  I wrote underneath in my precious little notebook:  “squeeze-squozen” and “sneeze-snozen”.. When I admired the tall “hice” in New York, I got quite offended because they seemed to overlook the logical similarity between mouse-mice and house-hice.”

Maybe the funniest chapter in the book happens before the Nazis invaded Austria, when the Trapp family joined cousins for camping on an island, “Uncle Peter and His Handbook,” but you’ll have to read The Story of the Trapp Family Singers yourself.

How many legs…?

A college graduate tells me that what she remembers from a math class for non-majors (that is, math for students whose talents lie elsewhere) is a question her professor asked at the end of a quiz:

“How many legs does a cow have?”

Answer:  Six.  Two hind legs and forelegs in front.

By the way, they didn’t lose points for incorrect answers on that one.