Thursday, April 07, 2016

A Delightful Turn of Phrase

I (Donis) can't stay too long today, Dear Reader. I have set the day aside for my Work In Progress and I must get back to it, for I'm on a roll. Well, not really a roll. More like an ooze. I'm on an ooze, but that is better than nothing, and if I stop, it's very hard to get started again.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote an entry for my publisher's blog about the physical perils of writing (check it out here), in which I talked about how an author risks eyestrain and carpal tunnel and numb-butt by sitting too long at the computer. I try very hard to moderate my sitting by getting up and doing some exercise every hour or so, but when you're in the zone sometimes that gets past you. I'm sure you have read the latest research that states that "sitting is the new smoking", which means that sitting too long is very very bad for your health. Therefore, I try to work standing up as much as possible. The only problem is that standing for long periods hurts my back and my feet. I try hard to maintain good posture, but there is only so much I can take even then. The only solution I can think of is to trade off sitting and standing, interspersed with periods of walking, yoga, jumping jacks. Otherwise, the only other remedy is to sit in a chair like Mork from Ork. I have tried it, and it's really rather nice, as long as you can keep from smothering yourself.

On another note, I loved my blogmates' entries below on colorful phrases and expressions. I love a good turn of phrase. In fact, I try to use colorful Southern/Western American phrases for the titles of my books, which can cause me some consternation when I can't think of anything good. I usually wait for one of the characters to say something appropriate. For my W-I-P, (working title: Book Nine) I'm still waiting.

I grew up among people whose goal was to curse in the most imaginative language possible, which can really increase your vocabulary if you apply yourself. My mother was particularly good at coming up with ways to express disapproval using only G-rated words. One of her scariest curses was "I heap coals of fire upon him." The words themselves weren't as frightening as her throaty growl and the curl of her lip over her eyetooth. My father had been a Marine, and knew words that I don't understand to this day, but he had a house full of little daughters and controlled his language heroically. He often had the pee-waddin' scared out of him and wondered what in the cat-hair was going on.

My grandparents—and parents— had the most wonderful way of putting things. One grandparent was born and raised in Kentucky and the others in Arkansas at the turn of the Twentieth Century. Their language and vocabulary was absolutely Elizabethan. When Grandma went to garden over yonder, she put on her gauntlets and hunkered down to tend her “yarbs”.

I, of course, was desperate to get rid of my Oklahoma accent when I was young and speak completely standard American English. My accent is not as strong nor my vocabulary as eccentric as my parents’, nor was theirs as strong and colorful as their parents'. My nieces and nephews in their thirties sound more standard yet. But after years living away from my native place, I saw on a news program an interview with two teenaged girls from Tulsa. They sounded like Valley girls. I was shocked. What happened to that beautiful twang? That poetic way with words? That delightful Scotch-Irish combination of humor and fatalism? Oklahoma is what linguists call a “Transitional state”. My husband, also a native Oklahoman, has an accent that is different from mine. (Mine is more Appalachian, his is more Plains) One thing I specifically wanted to do with the Alafair Tucker series was preserve something of a way of speaking that seems to be rapidly disappearing.


Irene Bennett Brown said...

I've enjoyed the posts on sayings, too. Donis, the Oklahoma-back-when expressions your characters use has a lot to do with your books being entertaining as well as keepers. Keep it up, can hardly wait for the next one.

Eileen Goudge said...

I solved the "sitting is the new smoking" problem by trading my desk chair for an exercise ball. It forces me to sit up straight, and I can roll around on it every so often to keep my joints "oiled." I also do yoga stretches in the morning before work - my new reality as I got older. I used to head straight for my desk, and my Aeron chair, but these days it's a constant balancing act. Is there a colorful expression for that?

Carvinglady said...

I came from Kansas and when I moved to Arizona more than 30 years ago everyone always asked if I was from Texas! Guess I must have lost most of my accent since no one asks me that anymore.

Before I retired I used the occasional 'saying' and the younguns would just look at me with the strangest look on their face and ask 'what does that mean'? I never realized the older folks had a different kind of language than the younger set uses now.