Working around the block|Shop Talk

It’s been nearly a year since I posted a damn thing to this blog. While I can’t in good conscience say, “I’ve had writer’s block,” I can admit to a year-long complete lack of desire to write.

But I knew it couldn’t last forever. The old itch came back, and I was prompted to revisit some old pieces, to take a look at editing some of my work with a fresh perspective.

Ever felt like this? Is writer's block ruining your life? Is this guy Toby Maguire? Does it even matter?
Ever felt like this? Is writer’s block ruining your life? Is this guy Toby Maguire? Does it even matter?

While scrolling through my documents, I found an interesting exercise in combating writer’s block (see below). The exercise came on the heels of a creative nonfiction assignment during my senior years of college. I was tasked with talking about the moon, the night sky, and how it made me feel–or some such blather. At the time, I couldn’t gather my thoughts on the topic, which left me feeling ridiculous. I mean, here’s this thing I truly enjoy, but I can’t help but fumble about my thoughts. Was I really experiencing writer’s block? Continue reading “Working around the block|Shop Talk”

What gives ‘cunt’ its offensive power?

The offensive power of words. Don’t forget to emphasize the T.

Strong Language

The following is a guest post by Kate Warwick.

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It’s definitely a hand grenade of a word, especially in speech. But is it just the literal meaning of cunt which makes it so offensive? Linguistically, there are other elements of the word which contribute to its force: connotative layers of meaning, its sound and the impact on the hearer.

From the 11th century’s rather off-puttingly named Godwin Clawecunte[1] to the 21st century’s complete cunt, the word has clearly undergone some meaning extension; from literal or denotative to abusive or connotative. It’s notoriously difficult to pinpoint change, of course, but the development of connotative meaning can be seen in Pepys’s 17th century use to mean a sexually active women, ‘he hath to sell such a pouder as should make all the cunts in town run after him’.[2] Later, in Manning’s First…

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The smeg effect

The thin white line between vulgarity and mundanity is disappearing.

Strong Language

Smegma.

“Ewww”?

I hope so. Smegma isn’t a very common word, perhaps partly because so many of us are circumcised. But what it names (a cheeselike secretion that accumulates under the foreskin and around the clitoris – it’s also called dick cheese) is disgusting and prurient.

The disgust is something that gets worn off with repeated use, however; words lose their vividness as they become fixed idioms. Here, compare these two:

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Action in scene|Shop Talk

I’ve been thinking a lot about action in scene lately. Turns out I’m not the only one. In fact, according to this gem of a post I found on The Writing Garden, one of my favorite contemporary authors, Chuck Palahniuk, has some great advice on the subject: It’s all about eliminating thought verbs. I’ve reposted it here as I find the font of the original to be difficult on the eyes. Enjoy.

Continue reading “Action in scene|Shop Talk”

Writing Lesson: Observation|Shop Talk

A great bit of advice from Theodora Goss. Worth the read.

Theodora Goss

I thought it might be interesting to put down some of the things I’ve learned from teaching writing.  From writing too, of course, but I find that when I teach writing, I tend to make certain points over and over.  Because these are the sorts of things that many writing students need to work on.  So I thought they might be interesting to point out here as well, for those of you who are writers, or who simply want to improve your writing . . .

The first one I want to talk about has to do with observation.  If you want to be a writer, you need to also be an observer . . . someone who is curious about the physical world around you. I don’t know about you, but I find it harder to write about the physical world than about mental states. It’s easy enough to…

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The subversiveness of “it’s”|Shop Talk

It’s not that difficult, but its misuse is certainly grating.

Matthew Barlow

Spelling errors and stupid mistakes really bug me.  They bug me in student papers, but they bug me more in venues where the author/designer should know better.  When I lived in Montreal all those years, English translations of official documents (like from the Gouvernement du Québec and the Ville de Montréal) were riddled with typos, grammatical errors, and spelling mistakes.  The same could be said of advertising around the city.  Lately, I’ve noticed faulty grammar, typos, and dodgy spelling on the websites of the likes of TSN and ESPN.  Fine, you say, what else can you expect from dumb jocks.  But the same errors are popping up on the websites of The Globe & Mail, the Boston Globe, The New York Times, The Guardian, and so on.  In particular, “it’s.”  “It’s” is the contraction of “it is.”  It is NOT the possessive of “it.”  The possessive…

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