Monthly Archives: January 2019

Time To Talk About Eggcorns.

Don’t tell me you don’t know what an eggcorn is? Actually I didn’t until I read an article about them in a newspaper just after Christmas.

Here’s the definition from Wikipedia: In linguistics, an eggcorn is an idiosyncratic substitution of a word or phrase for a word or words that sound similar or identical (sometimes called oronyms). The new phrase introduces a meaning that is different from the original but plausible in the same context, such as “old-timers’ disease” for “Alzheimer’s disease” An eggcorn can be described as an intra-lingual phono-semantic matching, a matching in which the intended word and substitute are from the same language.  Quite!

An eggorn shouldn’t be mistaken for a malapropism which is the use of an incorrect word in place of a word with a similar sound, resulting in a nonsensical, utterance. (A personal bugbear is the person who talks about militating factors when they mean mitigating).

The term was coined by Geoffrey Pullum, a linguistics professor, after the case of a woman who used the term instead of saying acorn. After all, when you look at an acorn, it does look like a little egg in a cup.

Children often use eggcorns because they have misheard what their parents have said – ‘I’m as white as a sheep (sheet)’ ‘She was swearing like a midwife (fish).’ It’s not just cute; their eggcorn is often as good as, if not better, than the original.

There are plenty of examples of eggcorns on Wikipedia: Some of my favourites are:

  • Curled up in a feeble position (foetal).
  • Antidotal evidence (anecdotal)
  • Butter an eyelid (bat)
  • Can’t be asked (arsed)
  • Furl one’s brow (furrow_
  • Mating name (maiden)
  • The invincible hand (invisible).

Eggcorns are a potential asset for a writer – why not try inserting a few in your next story? Go on, I dare you. But be warned, your editor might not be pleased – may even succumb to conjunctive heart failure. (Congestive).

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Jane Austen for best screenplay?

There is a lot in the media these days about the winners and losers in the competition for awards at the OSCARS, the BAFTAs et al. Someone who is never seen as a contender, primarily because she has never been in or made a film  – and never will, having been dead over two hundred years – is Jane Austen. Nonetheless her books have regularly been made into popular films and television series because there is something about the characters and story lines that film-makers and viewers find re-assuring and enjoyable.

Her novels are sometimes criticised for being safe. Rich, or at least comfortably placed, man meets similarly situated woman, a series of obstacles to have to be overcome before the book ends happily with the sound of wedding bells. The Napoleonic wars, slavery, poverty, crime, and domestic abuse in the world around her rarely, if ever, get a mention. She herself describes her writing as like working with a fine brush “on a little bit (not two inches wide) of ivory.”

So why does the latest ambassador for the Jane Austen museum, David Baddiel, rate her so highly as an author, and link her work to the arts of film direction and writing screenplays?

Firstly he sees her as a fine story-teller – an early, if not the first, proponent of romantic comedy. Second he admires her sense of perspective and how she keeps herself out of the books (no ‘Reader I married him’ (Jane Eyre) for Miss Austen). Instead she imparts information through her characters and action. Lady Catherine de Burgh’s visit to Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice to frighten her off, indirectly gives her, and us, the information that Darcy is in love with her. When Mr Knightley tries to warn Emma (in Emma) that the man she thinks she is in love with has an understanding with another woman, the readers, as Baddiel puts it, get a different camera angle.

As well as the to-ing and fro-ing of her plots (typical Hollywood!) Baddiel also sees the realistic devices she uses when constructing her novels as techniques used in modern screenplays: “ironic narration, controlled point of view, ensemble characterisation, fixed arenas of time and place, [and] the notion that art should represent life as it is actually lived …”

Next time you read a book by Jane Austen, just pause a little to think how readily she would have adapted it for the screen if she’d had the chance.

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To Go Or Not To Go in Poetry

John Masefield (1878-1967) was English Poet Laureate from 1930-1967 and published his most famous poem, Sea-Fever, in 1902. He published it originally with the title hyphenated, and the opening line of each stanza beginning, “I must down to the seas again…”. Not “go down”. Recent publications, such as Carcanet’s new edition of Masefield’s Collected Poems have reverted to his original version. But in between, generations of British schoolchildren have learnt it as, “I must go down to the seas again…” Robin Knox-Johnson, the round the world sailor – who should know a thing or two about the sea by now – learnt it with ‘go’ included, and still recites it this way.

So why did later editions of the poem change the opening line to each verse by adding ‘go’? Were publishers and teachers worried about the original being ungrammatical? Was it a simple mistake that for generations wasn’t picked up on? What did Masefield himself think about the change?

According to my brief research, it was Masefield himself who inserted ‘go’ into later versions. As well as being a keen sailor, he was also keen to promote poetry throughout his time as Poet Laureate and organised competitions, and annual recitals up to his death. Maybe he thought he should promote good grammar too?

I am not persuaded that this was necessary. Especially in a poem that is noted for its lyricism. You can read it yourself below and check out its rhythms and rhymes; its alliteration and assonance; its use of onomatopoeic words and other poetic devices. It’s hardly a show piece for soberly correct word and grammar usage; but that’s not what it is meant to be. It is an evocative poem that is highly effective at conveying the lure of the sea, with a suggestion in the last stanza of something more profound.

I prefer the original, especially for reading aloud. Insert a ‘go’ if you must!

Sea-fever, by John Masefield

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,

And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,

And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,

And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide

Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;

And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,

And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,

To the gull’s way and the whale’s way where the wind’s like a whetted knife;

And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,

And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick’s over.

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Do You Display ‘Writing Behaviour?’


In a famous experiment in the 1970s (the Rosenhan experiment into the validity of psychiatric diagnosis) a group of researchers faked hearing voices so as to deliberately get themselves admitted to different mental asylums across the US. Staff were not informed that this was an experiment, so treated them as normal patients: that was the purpose of the research – to see what went on behind the closed doors of such institutions.

Once admitted, all the researchers said the voices they had been hearing prior to admittance had stopped. Not one was discharged immediately. Some were detained for months and all were given drugs. Most were diagnosed with schizophrenia in remission and only released back into the community if they promised to continue with a drug taking regime when out.

Files were kept on each researcher at all the asylums, and staff members made notes of their every move. At least one of the researchers also took contemporaneous notes of his experiences whilst in the asylum. When the experiment was over, and all had been released back into the community, this researcher asked if he could look at the professional notes that had been kept on him. He was amused (concerned?) to find that his file made constant reference to the fact that ‘the patient was engaging in writing behaviour.’

So there we have it: writing is not a normal activity for a rational human being, but a symptom of a potentially dangerous psychiatric disorder.

As if we writers and wannabe writers didn’t know that already!

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Characters and colour.

Early one morning my husband and I were chatting in bed over a cup of tea (it’s the sort of activity we get up to now we’ve been married nearly 40 years).

‘Have you ever considered,’ I said, ‘that colours are always used negatively in relation to a character’s character in books? Can you think of any that are used positively?’

Then, because he wasn’t really awake and not yet ready to engage his brain, I proceeded to list some.

Blue – low mood, crude.

Yellow – cowardly, sickly

Red – anger, embarrassment.

White – fear

Black – mood, temper.

Green – envy (though I suppose having green fingers is more a plus than a negative).

Brown – study, dull.

He interrupted then, maybe just to shut me up, to offer gold (good as gold) and silver (silver fox) as positive uses of colour, but I countered that these were metals not colours. He disagreed, and decided it was time to get up, even though his tea was only half drunk.

That was over a week ago. I still haven’t thought of a positive use apart from pink – yes you can be pink with embarrassment etc. But, unlike with red, it is probably a good thing to be ‘in the pink.’

Any suggestions? Please leave a reply.

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Another great read from K. C. Sprayberry

Blaze A Team Omega Thriller is an exciting psychological thriller from best-selling author, K.C. Sprayberry. This particular story has been in her ‘to be completed’ files for sixteen years. The concept was always a group of Elementals – individuals capable of manipulating earth, wind, water, and air to control wildfires, working together and sometimes against each other. It wasn’t until she noticed a trend of brush fires in California, blazes which seemed almost unnatural, that she came up with the thrilling adventure this tale is now.

Fires ravage California for eight long years. Into the fray of taming these beasts comes a group of people with the power to control the elements of fire, water, wind, and earth. Their only duty is to subdue the flames ravaging the state, to assist firefighters, hot shots, and smoke jumpers dedicated to protecting the Golden State.

One team stands out among the others, a group of four twenty-three year olds. They came into their abilities while these blazes were at their strongest. Dakota Henderson, Cary Toronto, Fante Cyndall, and Luisa Henderson appear to be ordinary people, doing normal jobs.

Yet, when the call out comes, they dive into the belly of the beast to protect those threatened with the flames of destruction. One of them receives the ability to lead all Elementals, the powers to battle against rogues from their organization. Can this individual put a stop to these wildfires and bring peace back to the embattled state?

You can get this exciting book here:

About K.C. Sprayberry

Born and raised in Southern California, K.C. Sprayberry is living a dream she’s had since she first discovered the magic of books. She traveled the U.S. and Europe before finally settling in the mountains of Northwest Georgia. She’s been married to her soulmate for a quarter of a century and they enjoy spoiling their grandchildren along with many other activities.

A multi-genre author, K.C. Sprayberry is always on the hunt for new stories. Inspiration strikes at the weirdest times and drives her to grab notebook and pen to jot down her ideas. Those close to her swear nothing or no one is safe if she’s smiling gently in a corner and watching those in the same room interact. Her observations have often given her ideas for her next story, set not only in the South but wherever the characters demand they settle.

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www.kcsprayberry.com

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Meet author Dawn Bolton

Dawn Bolton taught law and economics in Higher Education. After leaving formal education she started a tutorial agency. She still tutors adults and children in English, Maths, Creative Writing and French.

Recently she has started writing stories and novels. She writes historical romances under the name of Alexie Bolton and romances/suspense/crime under the name of Toni Bolton. She is an enthusiastic artist and illustrates her own children’s stories. She enjoys renovating houses and has renovated a pub which she now runs as a guesthouse. She enjoys skiing, yoga and going to the gym. She shares the house with her husband and her cats Angel and Louie.

What is the title of your latest book? Innocence and Deception by Toni Bolton. FBI agent fishes a woman out of the sea and finds she is an escaped convict claiming to be suffering from amnesia. He follows her to where her daughter is living. She hasn’t seen her daughter for years since giving birth to the child in prison hospital. A model prisoner, why did she escape custody when her parole was close?

  • What are the most challenging aspects of being a writer? And the most rewarding?Building characters in my books who have suffered abuse or have survived unpleasant situations but are still strong and resourceful.  When readers say they enjoy a book and want to continue the series.
  • What is your top tip for an aspiring writer? Build your platform on various sites like Facebook so when you publish your first book you have followers who had read your works in progress and want to review and buy the book.
  • What are you working on at the moment? Bang. A story about a veteran suffering from PTSM for CALM, a charity helping men who suffer depression.
  • What do you like to read? Romantic suspense, thrillers, ghost stories and historical romances.
  • Where can readers find you?

amazon.com/author/alexiebolton

Email kixley@btinternet.com

Dawn’s author page at dawnpbolton@Facebook

Twitter@dawnbolton2.

Series: Men of valour, women of steel by Toni Bolton


Book one, Escape from fear.

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Book two. Whisper softly or you’re dead.


Book three, Innocence and Deception.



Book 4, Saving Grace.