Ruthless – having or showing no pity or compassion for others
Ruthless came to mind for two reasons this week. Firstly, I was thinking that it had been ever such a long time since I saw my old friend Ruth (‘old’ as in long-time, not as in age – she is, in fact, an entire day younger than I am!). Thus, I have been, in an entirely different sense, ‘Ruth-less’ 🙂
The other reason was because there was a meme going around on Facebook in which you were asked to name your five favourite characters. Now, I found this an extremely confusing meme – by ‘favourite’ did the meme mean ‘characters I like most’ or ‘characters I find most interesting’ or (given part of my writing background) ‘characters I like writing fanfic about’? It was all terribly difficult.
However, one character who leapt to mind was Nancy Blackett, from Swallows and Amazons. I adored her (and probably wanted to be her) in my childhood, and I am still very fond of her. Her actual first name – lest you wonder why I have wandered so far off the point – was Ruth, but she was always called Nancy (except by her Great-Aunt of terrifyingness). In the film of the novel, her sister (and ship mate) Peggy explains that she is known as Nancy because “Amazon pirates were ruthless”. I have never been able to find this line in the books (and I’ve read all of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series) so I have a feeling it was added in the film (all corrections on this point very welcomed! Preferably with chapter information so that I can go and look it up for myself).
Ruthless. A funny word (much like disgruntled) because you never hear of someone being ‘ruthful’ (or gruntled – apart from in PG Wodehouse novels). But a strangely pleasing one.
Okay, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but someone (Alan, you know who you are) suggested I did something for the word ‘guttersnipe’.
Well, the dictionary will tell you that guttersnipe means “1: a homeless vagabond and especially an outcast boy or girl in the streets of a city. 2 : a person of the lowest moral or economic station.”
I, however, always imagine the picture below whenever I see or hear the word. Poor little snipe in a gutter.
Crannied – Having crannies chinks or fissures as a crannied wall
Okay, so I couldn’t think of a word for today so I went to a ‘random word generator’ online and it gave me this. Whilst, if offered the word ‘crannied’ I would probably have come up with this definition, I would not have been certain that it was a word which actually existed. I’m still not 100% convinced by it now.
Anyone ever used it?
Okay, a change of approach today. This is a “which word should be used?” dilemma.
Woman/Lady – which?
For me, in a customer service role, I’d say to someone else: “This lady has a problem with her computer” (or whatever it might be). But if I were talking about it later, I’d say: “There was a really nice woman who came in today with a problem with her computer.” Possibly equivalent to using vous/tu in French? It’s much easier in my Regency fiction as it’s ‘lady’ all the way. No dilemmas. No concern that I’m going to offend someone. Book characters, mind you, are good like that. They only get offended if I decide they’re going to 😉
I know people tend to have strong views in both directions, so please take care to be polite and respectful of others.
moist – 1. slightly wet; 2. marked by a fluid discharge.
Well, my lovely friend Alan asked for the word ‘moist’ as one of his least favourite words. So here you are. Moist. What is moist? Cakes are moist. Soil is moist. Early sexual secretions are moist. It’s really not a nice word. ‘Moisture’, strangely, is a bit better; and ‘moisturise’ I have little problem with.
Ooh, I’ll tell you what else is moist. The handshake of someone who turns out either to be a villain or to be a pathetic and/or wimpish character in books. Which is a bit unfair on people with ‘moist’ handshakes: you might have damp hands for any number of reasons and there shouldn’t be a moral element, yet somehow there is.
But I guess it’s all about the way you say it.
“Her body was slicked with sweat” somehow sounds much better than “She was moist all over” which just sounds quite icky. If you like a character, fellow writers, don’t describe them, or any part of their anatomy, as moist.
sheepish : 1. abashed or embarrassed, esp through looking foolish or being in the wrong 2. resembling a sheep in timidity or lack of initiative
“His expression was sheepish.”
The joy of sheepish is that it really DOES come from ‘like a sheep’ – and dates back to Middle English (1150-1200, a quick google tells me). And it is a good word to say. Sheepish. Sheepish. Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeepish.
I’ll shut up now, she said sheepishly 😉
Behest – a person’s orders or command.
“they had assembled at his behest“
Behest is a curious word. It looks like it should be related to ‘bequest’ but is actually closer to ‘re
quest’. It also reminds me vaguely of behemoth,
a peculiar biblical word.
Behest is also one of those words that I use in conversation and people give me a look which I suspect means “that’s only supposed to be used in books and not actually said aloud.” (There are many of these. They are not helped by the fact that I’m an unreliable pronouncer of words thanks to having picked up a goodly part of my vocabulary from reading books.)
Whilst I’m on the subject of books and behest… Petticoats and Promises
is now out (or will be tomorrow, possibly), and if people wanted to buy the book at my behest, that would be very excellent 🙂
Gnu – a large dark antelope with a long head, a beard and mane, and a sloping back.
I used the word ‘gnu’ in Scrabble today. And it made me happy. There is a picture of a gnu here: http://pleiotropy.fieldofscience.com/2010/10/im-gnu.html and a song about them here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqgPyqyh4X4
One, two, three, everyone say “How do you do?” 😉
Catatonic – An abnormal condition variously characterised by stupour, stereotypy, mania, and either rigidity or extreme flexibility of the limbs
“They tried to get through to her, but she was catatonic.”
This word makes me sad. It has ‘cat’ in it, and ‘tonic’ in it, and you would think it would be a good thing, therefore. (Unless, of course, it involved GIVING a cat a tonic, which if pills are anything to go by would be a very bad plan – and possibly would be characterised by either rigidity or extreme flexibility of the limbs and mania…)
I want it to be a joyful word, possibly related to the cat therapy which has led to people taking cats into homes for the elderly because stroking a cat leads to lower blood pressure, amongst other things. But unfortunately, people have made the meaning up for it without consulting me. Badly played, world. Badly played.
Serendipity/Serendipitous – means a “fortunate happenstance” or “pleasant surprise”. .
“What a serendipitous occurrence.”
Coming across something by happy accident – what a fabulous thing to have a word for! Serendipity was coined by Horace Walpole in 1754, from a Persian fairy tale called The Three Princes of Serendip, who were always making lucky discoveries.
My one complaint is that I spent years wanting to spell it ‘serendipidous’ (to go with ‘tremendous’ and other –dous words). But this is a minor quibble only. Accidental good luck – a great thing.