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Etymology Excavation: Judas goat

Etymology Excavation: Judas goat

What is a ‘Judas goat’?

Originally, a Judas goat refers to a goat trained to make its way into a herd of beasts marked for slaughter, so that they will follow it into the slaughterhouse. The Judas goat itself is then spared from slaughter so it can do the same thing again. (Wikipedia)

The animal in question varies, but the reference is to the figure Judas Iscariot in the Christian Bible, who betrayed Jesus’s identity and ultimately led to his execution. The details of the story vary widely, but the use of the term ‘Judas’ for a traitor has been in use since the C15th (Etymonline.com).

Some examples of Judas goat used figuratively:

  • ‘He’s a Judas goat. He led the whole army into a trap.’
  • ‘That girl’s a Judas goat. Any stupid decision she makes, the entire squad follows.’

It can be used figuratively for a person being used to bait a trap, or for any figure leading others to disaster. All you really need, in terms of world-building, is a rumoured or actual figure who through design or stupidity, caused a disaster. It doesn’t need a lot of build-up (ancient scroll, anyone?) and can be used for local colour in a range of situations.

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).

No New Year’s resolutions, no regrets

No New Year’s resolutions, no regrets

No New Year’s resolutions?

Nope. Nary a one. I’m an irresponsible creature and I hate resolver’s regrets, so about this time in the year I pick a comfy patch of sofa and settle down with a cup of tea to gloat about all the awesome shit I did get done in the past year.

So, this year, feel free to bring-your-own teacup and settle down with me for an organised gloat-in.

2018 was pretty chaotic for me. In my day job, I changed bosses three times, got sent to the UK for a few days, my entire department moved offices, I got promoted, and now have someone reporting to me (or, as I could say, doubled the size of my team).

In terms of writing, I published my very first urban fantasy novel, Death is for the Living, on 26th December, and so far it’s attracted four- and five-star reviews, which I’m pretty happy about, as I’m primarily a sci-fi writer. I now have a row of five books in my shelf that have my name on the spine, which gives me a daily ego boost (not that my ego needs the boosting). I’m hoping to make that six by the end of 2019. With the above-mentioned day job, one book per year tends to be about my limit; there are just too many days when I crawl home and fall face-down in my sofa at the end of the day to reliably manage more than that.

I’m also happy that despite a day job that flattens me on a reliable basis, I managed to read 180 books in 2018, and 41 of them were for-review books (you can check out my top picks if you’re looking for reading matter…).

I got away on holiday this year, and spent two weeks in Iceland, riding very small horses across waterfalls and lava fields, driving around the west coast and into the Westfjords, and basking in mineral hot springs.

So, overall, while I wouldn’t mind 2019 being a bit less crazy, overall 2018 was a pretty good year.

Death is for the Living launch!

Death is for the Living launch!

Death is for the Living launch!

“When ‘here be monsters’ doesn’t only mark the unknown…”

With the Death is for the Living launch, I can finally call myself a sci-fi and urban fantasy author. I’m excited about this. Not only was Death is for the Living somewhat of a pet project for me (OK, all my books are pet projects, who am I kidding), but I wasn’t at all sure how it would be received.

I mean, vampire hunters, yachts, and the Caribbean? It’s a bit of eclectic mix. On the other hand, it met the reviewers, and so far the results have been very encouraging:

Readers' Favorite 5 starYes, pirates, vampires, vampire hunters and storms at sea can exist within the pages of one book — and they do it so well in Death is for the Living. It’s most highly recommended.” ~Readers’ Favorite 5 star review by Jack Magnus

 

I wanted to be mad at the author for the ending; how could they do this! But it was perfect! It ended the way the whole book was written, with mystique.” ~Readers’ Favorite 5 star review by Peggy Jo Wipf

I wrote the first draft of this book a really, really long time ago, and frankly had no intention of publishing it. I missed sunshine (any sunshine, I was living in Yorkshire at the time), palm trees, wind in my face, and the ability to go anywhere without supervision. (No, I wasn’t in juvie…boarding school.) However, one day I floated the idea (oh, ha) in a writers’ group, and instead of getting a roar of laughter, I got some ‘hmm, sounds interesting’ reactions, and began to seriously consider tuning the book up for publication.

While the yacht I grew up on was a 45-foot Mudie ketch, not a schooner nearly twice that size, a lot of the day-to-day aboard a yacht scenes are pulled from my experience living aboard, as are some of the locations (you can read more about those on the book page). I did most of the research on the places I hadn’t visited in the depths of last winter, and let me say that there’s nothing like researching the best sailing approach to Trinidad while there’s a foot of snow on the ground outside.

So, without further ado, here’s the teaser text:

By day, Cristina Batista is a deck girl on a Caribbean charter yacht, with all the sun, smiles, and steel drum music that entails. By night, she and her crew hunt the monsters that prey in the dark: the powerful vampire clans of the New World.

Unfortunately Cristina’s past is hunting her in turn – and it’s catching up. Without her partner, sometime pirate, sometime lordling, and ex-vampire, Jean Vignaud, Cristina wouldn’t simply be dead. She’d be something she fears far more.

Cristina and Jean are experienced, motivated, and resourceful. One faction wants them despite it. The other wants them because of it.

You can sit in for an interview both Cristina and Jean if you’d like to get to know them a bit better, or learn a little bit about yacht Artemis – or keep going for ‘buy’ links to contribute to my coffee fund 🙂

Get a copy of Death is for the Living:

Etymology Excavation: When push comes to shove

Etymology Excavation: When push comes to shove

Where does ‘when push comes to shove’ really come from?

‘When push comes to shove’ means when you get down to something, when a subject or situation is stripped down to essentials, when the point is reached at which a commitment must be made.

No one seems to be exactly certain where this phrase actually originated, although there are a lot of interesting theories flying around the Internet. A couple of my favourites:

It originates from the game of rugby, where pushing and shoving is a vital skill. (This origin appears to have the most votes.)

Terry Pratchett, in Thief of Time, hints to the phrase coming from midwifery (Nanny Ogg).

It’s also been featured in songs, notably Grateful Dead ‘When Push comes to Shove‘, and Van Halen ‘Fair Warning –  Push Come to Shove‘.

Examples of ‘when push comes to shove’:

If push comes to shove, I doubt he’s got the guts for it.

Governments may encourage gender equality, but when push comes to shove, they’ll follow the money.

I’ve heard it used reasonably often on both sides of the Atlantic. While it’s definitely a colloquialism, it’s one that’s now been around so long that it wouldn’t be out of place in a range of settings.

Could it be adapted for use in a fantasy or sci-fi scenario? I can’t imagine why not; the phrase itself evokes vivid imagery, so it could be inserted as-is into a lot of world-building without flagging itself as an anachronism. Given the (probable) sporting origins of the phrase, it could be equally easily adapted to a pastime invented as part of your world-building.

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).

Etymology Excavation: Raining cats and dogs

Etymology Excavation: Raining cats and dogs

‘Raining cats and dogs’ means a very hard rain, or a downpour.

Happily, I haven’t come across any mis-uses of this one – feel free to chip in if you have, my comments section is your comments section – but I hate to think what today’s creatively illiterate might come up with as alternates for it.

There’s a rather nice (but convincingly de-bunked) theory that had it that cats and dogs would shelter in thatched roofs in rainstorms, but if the rain was much more than than a shower, they’d be washed out – hence, heavy rain came to be expressed as ‘raining cats and dogs’. Sadly, as anyone familiar with thatched roofs will realise, thatch is very tight. You won’t fit anything much larger than a beetle in thatch; and while a cat might sun itself on top of a roof, it wouldn’t stay there after more than a couple of drops of rain. Also, the next time I see a dog on a roof of any make will be the first.

A more gruesome, but probably more historically accurate, theory states that due to the poor (read non-existent) drainage prevalent for much of England’s history, smaller domestic animals frequently drowned in very heavy rain, and in the aftermath, their bodies would lie in the roads, giving the appearance of it having literally rained cats and dogs.

There’s also a nice version involving Norse beliefs, cats and dogs having influence over winds and storms, and adoption of the phrase into English. Take your pick.

I’ve seen dates on this one from from the 17th Century to the 19th; I’m inclined to credit the earlier end of the spectrum as thatched roofs became increasingly less common, giving way usually to roof tiles in Britain, the closer to the modern day you get. A gentleman named Jonathan Swift seems to be universally credited with one of its earliest uses in writing, in 1738.

It also seems to be largely a phrase used in British English. I haven’t heard it used in North America, although I suspect it’s been around long enough that most people would understand the basic idea, even if it might sound rather quaintly old-fashioned. My usual favourite source for these posts, Etymonline.com, wasn’t willing to commit to much on this expression.

While this phrase might be tricky to adapt as-is to an SFF world, taking the base idea and running with it would provide some excellent world-building opportunities. Take the mythology angle, and you get the chance to develop a spectrum of creatures with influences over the elements, for example.

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).

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