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Etymology Excavation: chasten, chastise

Etymology Excavation: chasten, chastise

Chasten and chastise

Well, my brain is wired a little oddly (yeah, fine, all right, ‘little’ may be contextually dubious…), so it woke me up at around 0500 this morning with the announcement “Hey!! I betcha ‘chasten’ and ‘chastise’ have something to do with religious purity standards, y’all should look that shit up!!”… so here I am at lunchtime finding out that my brain was worryingly spot on, and doing an etymology excavation.

So, chasten and chastise both mean (today) something close to punish, or reprimand. You’ll also find the related word ‘castigate’ in use. None of the three is very common in today’s English, but you’ve probably heard or seen at least one of them – e.g. ‘Chastened, the princess lowered her shining head.’ You’ve probably also heard of ‘chaste’ and ‘chastity’.

If chasten and castigate instead bring up images of leather, spikes, and a dominant with a whip, well, I’m not here to judge, although that thought brings us neatly into the actual etymology of the word.

Depending on where you look, chasten showed up in either the 13th century or the 16th, and comes from the Old French ‘chastiier’ or ‘chastier’, which meant to punish, to dominate, to instruct.

That verb in turn appears to have a Latin root, coming from castigare, ‘castigate’ or castus, ‘morally pure, chaste’.

So, from ‘castus’, we find ourselves in need of a way to enforce a state of castus, and end up with ‘castigare’, which is a form of punishment, frequently physical.

This concept of physical or other punishment to enforce moral standards is a popular enough concept to survive down the centuries to show up today in the form of chasten and castigate. The Inquisition is a particularly well-known historical example of the abstract.

Frankly I think the BDSM take is mentally healthier, but there you are, gentlebeings: chastise and chasten, excavated.

What is etymology, and why are you excavating it?

Etymology is like the archeology of a language (definition: the study of the origin of words and the way in which their meanings have changed throughout history).

What does Eostre have to do with it, anyway?

What does Eostre have to do with it, anyway?

Easter, Eostre, Ostern

Easter. Bunnies in pink waistcoats. Eggs everywhere in a gamut of unlikely colours. It’s part of the season, and very few people stop to ask themselves – what the bunny duck do rabbits, eggs, and chocolate have to do with the death and rebirth of Christ?

…actually, nothing at all. Rabbits and eggs are spring and fertility symbols, and while there’s learned argument over whether Eostre, Ostara, or even Freya was the original spring / dawn goddess who inspired the various traditions, you will note that unlike Christmas, the birth of Christ, which has a fixed date in the calendar (despite the calendar having changed a couple of times in 2,000 years), Easter wanders all over the place. You’d really think that the date of Christ’s death would be at least as fixed as his birth date, right?

In actual fact, reasonably solid rumour indicates that Easter was originally a pagan spring festival (take your pick), and the Christian Church wallpapered a ceremony over the top of it. The simplest line between two points involves a Germanic fertility / spring / dawn goddess named Eostre, and a lot of spring and fertility imagery (rabbits, eggs, daffodils…please don’t make me draw you a diagram).

Which is why you have one of the most solemn celebrations in the Christian calendar stuck rather cockeyed over the bright colours and chocolate-infested imagery of Easter, and at random points in the calendar any time from end of March to end of April.

Personally, I’m in for festivals that involve hunting down chocolate and then holing up somewhere comfy to eat it. I’m very culturally flexible for festivals that involve food.

May the chocolate-distributing bunny be good to you.

Eostre

Egging on Easter traditions

Egging on Easter traditions

Egging on Easter – some of the less traditional traditions

I’m a big fan of any festival that involves bright colours and good things to eat. Chinese New Year is one of my personal favourites, since it includes firecrackers as well as all of the above. Christmas, too, is a great excuse for competitive gluttony followed by a food coma with a mound of new books by my side.

However, the one currently up on the roster is Easter, that icon of the Christian calendar, marking the death and resurrection of Christ. Which, for some reason, is widely celebrated with chocolate bunnies and eggs in weird colours (more on that later). As I’d be struck dead if I tried to claim I was a devout anything, I thought I’d have a look at some of the lesser-known Easter traditions and where they came from.

Pretty much everyone’s familiar with the bunnies and the dyed hard-boiled eggs. So how about fashion shows, kites, and murder mysteries?

Well, the fashion show apparently started in New York, according to Mental Floss, sometime in the mid-1800s. Traditionally, it’s considered lucky to wear new clothes on Easter (no real idea why, but I’d posit some link between new beginnings and new clothes…), and apparently some of the New York upper crust felt they should be displayed for a bit more than just the Easter church service. The tradition’s broadened a bit over the years, but still exists today in the Easter Parade.

And I mentioned kites, too, didn’t I? Well, in Bermuda they fly kites to symbolise Jesus’s ascension to Heaven. The kites are brightly coloured, and designed both to fly and to make noise in the air; a great tradition for an island where the Trade Wind blows from the East 364 days of the 365.

Murder mysteries. Well, I have no idea why murder mysteries, but in the Nordic areas, Easter is celebrated with murder mystery TV shows, book releases, and even short mysteries on the sides of the milk cartons. The Visit Norway site thinks it started as a marketing stunt in the early 1900s by a couple of young authors, but whether they’re right or not, Easter in most of the Nordic countries means crime mysteries galore. (And, may I say, Nordic crime shows are fantastic? Generally I have an issue with crime shows, because I figure out whodunnit it five minutes in and spend the remaining 40 minutes being sarcastic, but there’s a couple of Nordic ones that knocked my socks off: check out Trapped and Border Town.)

So… what’s your favourite weird and off-beat Easter tradition? (Beat kites and murder mysteries, I dare ya.)

Easter 2019 Sparkly Badgers

New job, new me?

New job, new me?

New job and lots of changes

Well, for them as follows this blog (all two of you ;)) you’ll have noticed that my posting’s been a bit sparse this past month. So here’s the scoop.

My previous day job was quite demanding and technical (not that this is entirely a bad thing, I get bored easily), but essentially until September 2018 I was trying to handle solo a workload that would generally have required two to three people (make that six if you’re in government). In September my team expanded to two people, which helped. However, unfortunately, March saw my team again reduced to just me, which, in short order, led to me looking for a new job.

There were a number of boring, office-politics style items that contributed, but also the fact that my stress levels have been hovering around the ‘get short of breath to the point where I’m seeing sparkles’ for the past year. To my irresponsible, Millennial mind, no pay cheque is worth that.

Mood swing chains

I found this on Rebel Circus/FB

I therefore began a job hunt, and was lucky enough, towards the end of March, to go from resume submission to job offer in under a week (no, I’m really not that good, although it’s vaguely possible my competition was that bad). I’m therefore starting a new job in the middle of April, and at the stage of swinging wildly between ‘awesome, new job!!’ and ‘OMG, new job!!’

The new job, similar to the old job, will focus on regulatory compliance, but will add some data security elements, which will be (yes, yes, thank you, I do know I sound masochistic) a really interesting new item to learn about.

The new company is also an established tech start-up, so I fully expect that regulatory compliance will offer some interesting new questions to research as we explore how to develop new services and offerings that are also compliant. I also have hopes that the workload may be calibrated to the ‘one industrious person’ level, rather than the ‘two to three peoples’ worth’.

Not being permanently on the edge of meltdown would be very nice. Who knows, I might even have a bit more energy after work to get the wurdz in order in a slightly more accelerated manner.

Phantosmia and marine diesel

Phantosmia and marine diesel

Phantosmia – what is it?

Phantosmia is essentially a nasal hallucination; you smell something continually, usually something unpleasant, that isn’t there.

In my personal case, that ‘something’ is marine diesel exhaust. As in ‘I’m standing a few feet downwind of the exhaust of a WWII battleship that’s just started its engine for the first time since the Armistice’ smell of marine diesel exhaust.

Because it’s a fairly rare problem, there’s no real treatment for it that doesn’t sound as if it got imported from the Dark Ages. Additionally, because it’s fairly rare, and apparently varies pretty widely, the literature on it is less than consistent.

No one really seems to have a clue why phantosmia occurs. They’ve put together a lot of commonalities, some of which (brain tumour, or Parkinson’s, anyone?) are pretty scary, and others of which (allergies, stress, depression, sinusitis) are at least generally non-fatal if treated. It’s rare enough that when I went to my doctor and told him I was smelling diesel fumes all day every day, he laughed and welcomed me to the big city.

But it stinks!

Luckily for me, my phantosmia seems to be stress-triggered (I’m working under the assumption that several years later I’d probably have noticed a brain tumour…), and so when my stress levels get to the ‘get the f*** out of Dodge’ level, I get marine diesel exhaust.

Also luckily, for me, marine diesel exhaust is annoying but it’s also a smell I grew up with, so a few days to a few weeks of it isn’t pleasant but doesn’t have me planning to jump under a bus. Strong scents (peppermint, or sharp berries, for example) can cut through it, as can actually trying to sniff something.

I’m working the theory that I get marine diesel stench under stress because at some subconscious level, I associate the smell of a boat’s engine starting up with moving somewhere new and different. Marine diesel exhaust wafting across the yacht was the prelude to getting the anchor up and going for most of my childhood. To appropriate a Monty Python line, it’s a nasal ‘Run away, run away!’ reaction.

Solutions?

Well, there’s not a lot. I haven’t found that saline spray does anything for it, and I confess to no real desire to have my olfactory bulbs removed – generally I have a pretty good sense of smell, I use it, and when I’m not on public transit, I even enjoy it.

I’m working on reducing my stress levels. It’s a project. It’s not a project that’s going awfully well, but I am chipping away at it, in my copious free time.

Whether getting rid of some of the stress will equal getting rid of phantosmia, who knows. On the other hand, lowering stress levels is a good idea in general.

Twitter basics for authors – what is Twitter?

Twitter basics for authors – what is Twitter?

What is Twitter?

First seen / guest blog on Ryder Author Resources

Twitter bills itself as a micro-blogging service. If you’re looking at that and thinking ‘that’s just great, I’ve already got a website, an actual blog, and an Amazon page – I need more things to keep updated like a hole in my head’, keep reading.

Don’t think of Twitter as ‘oh dear god, not another one’ and start thinking of it as an authors’ coffee bar. Or Irish Pub. Or drum circle. Wherever you go to talk shop and meet like-minded people.

What Twitter probably won’t do for you is get you a ton of eager new readers. I’ll be absolutely up-front about that. My following on Twitter is over 9,000, and I sincerely doubt I’ve sold more than a couple of books there. It’s not a place to set a series of ‘hey, my book’s awesome, buy it here!!!’ posts and forget about it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worthwhile.

What Twitter has done for me is find me my cover designer, my logo designer, various reviewers, and a lot of fellow authors with excellent tips and experience to share. It’s where I met the author group I mostly work with for joint promotions and blog hops.

Getting started on Twitter

Start small, grasshopper. Get an account, if you haven’t already.

Head over to https://twitter.com/ and sign up. If you’re creating this account primarily for author-related stuff, do yourself a favour and pick a ‘handle’ (the part that comes after the @) that has something to do with your author name. Don’t use a book or series title, unless you plan to start and keep up a new account for each book or series you launch.

Now set up your profile. You’ll need a short bio, an author photo, or at least something that you’re willing to be represented by (a lot of people won’t follow back blank profiles), and a header image. If you head on over to my profile, https://twitter.com/steel_jo, you’ll see I’ve used a book banner for my header, but you don’t have to. They’re easy to change.

Don’t put your website link in your bio – that takes up valuable real estate and you get a separate spot for it in set-up. On the other hand, if you have a link other than your website that you want permanent pride of place for, get it a shortlink (see bitly.com, for example) and stick it in.

Do use hashtags in your bio – not enough to overwhelm it, but two or three are fine and make you easier to find. Write horror? Try something like ‘writing #horror, living da dream’. Like marathons? Hashtag it. The hashtags make you searchable. Rumours keep running around Twitter that the hashtags are no longer necessary, but I’ve been there 8 years and I haven’t seen any actual footprints of that particular change, so for a whole extra character, I’d hang onto them.

Hashtags are also the basis for Twitter chats, where you can tweet with people real-time. Learn more about that here.

Is this thing on? Nothing’s happening

Yes, it is, and now you’ve got, or possibly tweaked, your account, let’s get stuck in.

Twitter is all about how many people you follow, and how many people follow you. It’s not like Facebook, where ‘friending’ someone you don’t know and have never met makes you a stalker.

So, if you just started your account, let’s head out to find you some people to chat with. Two options: up at the top right, you’ll see a ‘search’ option. If you know some people, type them in there and follow them. If you don’t, then type ‘#amwriting’ in there. You’ll see a page come up with ‘top’, ‘latest’, ‘people’, etc. Head on over to ‘People’ and follow some of the people whose bios make you grin. Once you run out of those, try another search – I write #scifi, so I’d type that into search and repeat the exercise.

Don’t get upset if not everyone follows you back – some of them will, and that’ll get you started, and it’ll give Twitter something to work with for that section on the right-hand side of your profile headed ‘People to follow’.

As a regular exercise for Twitter, I recommend taking twenty minutes each weekend, and finding 50 or so new people to follow. The following weekend, unfollow all the folks who haven’t followed you back, rinse, and repeat.

Get Tweeting

Following people is all very well, but if you never add any content, followers evaporate fast, so start Tweeting. Top right on your profile, right by the search option, you’ll find the ‘Tweet’ button.

Tweets can contain text (obviously), photos, .gifs, and polls. The character limit is currently 280. Let’s start simply and give you a tweet to ‘pin’ on your profile.

Put together something you’d like people to see as soon as they land on your profile (don’t repeat your bio), something like an intro to your work. ‘Hey, nice to meet you, I’m exploring what happened in #Oz after the Tin Man found his #heart – come and meet the cast!’ plus a website link, for example.

Once you click ‘Tweet’ it’ll show up on your profile. Usually, things you write, or retweet, show up in reverse chronological order, so your older Tweets vanish pretty quickly. To keep a Tweet at the top of your profile, click the little downwards-pointing arrow at the top right corner of the Tweet. You’ll see ‘share’, ‘copy’, ’embed’, and ‘pin’ options. Click ‘pin to your profile’.

It’s considered polite to retweet pinned posts if you’re visiting someone’s profile – it gives their tweet a boost, and lets them know you’re alive, while putting content in your feed. Win-win. Change out your pinned post fairly regularly – at least once a month. Your followers should get a notification when it changes, which gets it a bit more traction than your run-of-the-mill ‘Whoops, there goes my #coffee’ posts.

Pro tip – Twitter lists

So you’ve found Jensen Ackles’s profile, and followed him, and you’re watching Twitter with baited breath for the moment he follows you back. Sorry, ain’t never going to happen. Doesn’t mean you can’t follow him, but you don’t actually have to follow him or have him follow you to see what he’s posting on Twitter.

Enter lists, my favourite thing on Twitter after the .gif wars.

You’ll notice, in your Twitter profile or the ‘Home’ view, you’ve got the search box, a little round photo of you, and the ‘Tweet’ button in a row up the top right? Click once on that round photo, and you’ll get a drop-down menu. Second on that menu is the ‘Lists’ option.

Lists are collections of people whose content you want to see. You don’t have to follow people you add to a list, and they don’t have to be following you.

Lists are important, because once you pass about 200 people you’re following, your Twitter ‘Home’ feed updates so frequently you’ll never catch up on everything that happened while you were at work.

However, if you add people whose posts (Tweets) you really want to keep up with on to a list, you can browse whatever they had to say once you’re at home with your feet up.

I keep a list of people who post useful marketing tips, a list of my close friends, a list of people I publicise with – you get the idea.

Be a real person

Even if your Twitter account is primarily for your writing, don’t just blast your books there. Be a person. Tweet about the asshat who barged in line and kept you from your vital coffee and how you went mutant zombie killer on her ass before you woke up with your cheek stuck to the Starbucks table. Tweet about your pets, or your travel plans, or what you’re reading, or how much editing sucks.

Retweet other people’s posts. It gets you good cess, and inclines them to help you out by doing the same (that pinned post is really helpful for busy people – it give them something of yours to retweet without having to skim down twenty retweets in your feed).

Join a few chats, if you can. If you see an interesting news article, use the Twitter share option – or if there isn’t one, you can usually copy and paste the link into a Tweet.

The golden rule is something like 5% blasting your stuff and 95% everything else. You can play with that a little – if you blog, for example, I recommend retweeting older posts that are still relevant once in a while – it gives your feed content and boosts engagement with your website, but make sure it’s not a constant stream of ‘my books are awesome, buy my books!’.

Oh, and do check your Tweets *before* you post. There’s nothing like typos in a post designed to showcase what a great writer you are to make people wonder, and there’s no ‘edit’ function in Twitter – you wear it or you delete it, and even deleting can’t make it unseen by anyone who’s already viewed it. It’s worth taking a few seconds to proofread.

Have fun!

Ryder Author Resources

RAR is the author’s secret weapon in all things branding, marketing, and book review-related. Check out their site for who they are and what they do! www.ryderauthorresources.com

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