A Writer’s Best (Non-Human) Friend

After all these years, I specifically remember only two of the presents I received upon graduating from high school. I know there were many others, and I recall the wonderful gathering of friends and family at our house — and the many cards wishing me well. But, material presents, I remember two: the Taylor family gave me a big black umbrella, which I thought was very cool — it seemed like just the thing to have as a college student; the other, from my parents, was Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. They filled out the front page: Presented to Fred Durbin by Mom & Dad, June 6, 1984. [Wow! That was the anniversary of D day, 40 years later! Isn’t that a solemn realization in and of itself? Forty years before I exited the troop ship and charged up onto the beach of the world, other young — and not-so-young — guys were doing it for real. If they hadn’t done what they did then, I would have been going out into a much different world. . . .]

But anyway: that dictionary has been my constant companion ever since. It’s been to college, it’s crossed the ocean several times, and wherever I’ve set up a workspace for even a short while, my dictionary has been within easy reach.

In 1993-4, the year I worked for a Japanese company thinly disguised as a school, I had an actual desk at work — that’s the only year I’ve ever had a workspace all my own on the job, a desk with my stuff on and in it — and yes, to be sure, my dictionary was there. My fellow native-English-speaking teachers, who had desks all around mine, regarded me as “the guy to have proofread your writing before you use it in any public way.” One co-worker in particular would ask me to proofread things, and whenever I would frown slightly and reach for my dictionary, she would laugh and say, “Okay, what did I misspell now?” (A dictionary at work is a great tool for politeness. It takes the heat for you. You never have to tell co-workers that you think they’re wrong; you adopt the official stance of being “not sure,” you look it up, and the authoritative answer is there in black-and-white!)

About ten or so years ago, I got to  thinking that the language had changed enough since 1984 that it was time for a new dictionary. Not that I wanted to get rid of my dear old Webster’s from my parents — not at all! But I felt it was time for that one to have a junior partner, a helper, a back-watcher. My mom was of the opinion that dictionaries never go out of date; she was still using the Webster’s she received when she went to college. Truth be told, I was using that one (of hers), too. It was our “house dictionary.” Mom had it on a wooden stand that was probably supposed to have been for a Bible. Throughout my childhood and even into my Japan years (since my dictionary was in Japan), I would run into the dining room when I needed to look up a word. It was tattered from decades of use and the pages were yellowing, but it still got the job done.

But I longed for a dictionary that reflected the current language, so when my friend C. in Niigata asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I said I’d really like the latest edition of Webster’s Dictionary. As it turned out, the local bookstore didn’t have a Webster’s when we went shopping. However, they had a beautiful Oxford English Dictionary. I immediately saw the wisdom and attractiveness of having both my Webster’s (American) and the Oxford (British). I could compare spellings and usages in the two countries as well as across time. So that was my birthday present from C. that year, and it’s one of the birthday presents I’ll always remember most — because now it stays with me, too, wherever I am.

C. is full of questions. Once he asked me something about the battle of Thermopylae. The next time I saw him, I gave him some detailed notes. He said, “Wow! You went ‘Net-surfing!” I said, “No, I looked it up in the Oxford Dictionary you gave me.”

After my year in the States, I was shipping things back to Japan, and the guy who runs the shipping company in my hometown looked askance at these two heavy dictionaries I was sending overseas. It’s not cheap to send books that hefty. He asked, “Don’t they have dictionaries in Japan?” Well, yes, they do . . . but these were my dictionaries. They have children in Europe, too, but if you’re moving there with your family, I’ll bet you’ll take your own kids, even though they cost.

A third dictionary joined the team after Mom passed away: not her old one, which is now in storage (but will be back on my shelf someday, Lord willing, when/if I set up a desk in the States), but a deluxe Merriam-Webster’s that my dad gave her. I haven’t really gotten into the habit of using it, because my Webster’s and Oxford do the job so well for me. But still, I’m glad the deluxe edition is there.

So what’s all the fuss? What’s so great about dictionaries? After all, our computers have spell-checkers, right? And if you need to know anything, you can look it up on-line. Plus, there are perfectly good, state-of-the-art electronic dictionaries no bigger than a pocket calculator that could save me hundreds of dollars in shipping expenses. Yes, but. . . .

Partly, it’s the difference between buying a book on Amazon and buying a book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore. The difference is getting to see and walk past and handle all those books you don’t buy.

When I go to look up a word in a paper dictionary, I almost never get to that word without being ensnared by four or five other words first. Seriously — can you go right to the word you went after, and not read anything else? It’s like putting a mouse into a cheese shop and telling him, “Go straight to the far wall, tag it, and come straight back here.” Not going to happen.

There was an English prof we had in college who would say, “I got the new such-and-such dictionary. I haven’t finished reading it yet. I’m about halfway through.” We thought that was hilarious, the idea of sitting and reading a dictionary. Personally, I’ve never done that, but the longer I live and the more deeply I appreciate language, the less funny that sounds to me.

Dictionaries give you definitions, of course. When I read H.P. Lovecraft, he nearly always sends me running for the dictionary. When I read Lud-in-the-Mist, I made a list of words to look up. You want to know what the list was? I’ve got it right here. Are you ready?

pleached, propinquity, ribands, ribbands, chiaroscuro, hierophantic, cozeners/cozening, plangent, potsherds, poncifs, fulminate, byre, barouche, exogamy, cockchafe, spurious, disquisition, spinney, brawn [as a food], syllabub, squills, “mopping and mowing,” hartshorn, carminative, civet cat, velleity, tuftaffities, sententious, osier, porphyry, quinsy, perdurable, casuistry, cicerone, frangipane, perroration, pullulating

Be honest, now. If you knew the meanings of even most of those, you’re a far better man than I! (Even if, like Eowyn, you’re not a man!)

But also, dictionaries help us with spelling. Like I’ve said, “queue,” “oubliette,” and “oeuvre”. . . . I have to look them up every. Single. Time. (It’s like trying to figure out which side of the car the gas tank inlet is on. If you’re like me, you squirm inwardly every single time you pull into a gas station — which side is it?!)

But those are just the clinical uses of the dictionary. The real reason I love my dictionaries, not simply rely on them, is that they’re like friends who actually help me write.

Writing is a notoriously solitary activity. We writers cloister ourselves off from the world, face the blank screen or paper, and make our sacrifices. We miss the TV shows and the visits and the concerts, etc., in order to walk the lonely path, that line from word to word to word. No one can do it for us. No one can tell us what to write. Except. . . .

“Where do you get your ideas?” people ask us. “Where do these ideas come from?”

I think the single best answer just may be “from the dictionary.” The words we use are all in there, after all. (Well, no, that’s not true. We speculative fiction writers insist upon making up a sizable percentage of our vocabulary. But the dictionary is a great help in making things up, too.) I can’t tell you how many times the dictionary has bailed me out when I’ve needed a name for a character or a place. Not that I necessarily use a word as-is to be a character’s name — I’m not writing Pilgrim’s Progress. But words have resonances; words have sounds and elements. I may lift a part of this word and combine it with a part of that one. I may borrow a word for the way it means or the way it rings. One thing can lead to another — the dominoes fall — and sometimes the dictionary can even unravel plot problems. It’s the wise friend who’s always there. It’s comforting, solid, and infinitely sane. It’s realistic, your anchor to the Earth. It can absorb your tears and help you see more clearly when you’re ready to.

Webster’s is the king of dictionaries for two reasons: it shows where words are divided (which Oxford doesn’t) — and far more wonderfully, it comes with pictures! They’re not there for every word. But for a huge number of words whose meanings are hard to grasp or envision, Webster’s is there with a visual rendering. Again and again over the years, a picture has snagged my gaze, and I’ve understood something new and crucial about my story. If a picture truly is worth a thousand words, then Webster’s is priceless.

A dictionary can help you find things that you didn’t know you were looking for. Character names . . . costuming . . . architecture . . . plot points . . . conflicts . . . historical details . . . complications . . . specificity. Precision. The right tool for the right job. At every stage of the writing process, from conceptual work to the final buffing of a manuscript on its way out the door, a dictionary is the friend to have beside you.

So how about you, dear readers? In your walk of life — in your career or your hobby — what is the tool you wouldn’t want to be without, and why?

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28 Responses to “A Writer’s Best (Non-Human) Friend”

  1. Elizabeth Says:

    Hmmm…. I think my tool would have to be two, but since you can’t really use the one without the other, it is like a single tool, just with two interlocking parts.

    My notebook and pen are the tool(s) I am never without. My mother told me once that I began using a notebook and pen to write stories as early as the first or second grade, and that by the fourth grade she never saw me without them. It almost never matters what notebook it is, and they can change many times even during the course of a month, and the pens often do as well. Right now though, I am using a blue, hardcover Ecosystem journal and a nice wooden pen, which fits well in my hand and writes superbly. They seem a perfect combination, and I can’t actually imagine switching them for anything else. They accompany me wherever I go, thrust in my purse or bag, because I never know when a story idea will arise or a piece of dialogue will flit through my head.

    Now as far as dictionaries go, I’m afraid I have never been as faithful to a printed dictionary, or even as familiar with one, as you are, Fred! But I feel, when I see how you and our mutual friend, S., use it, that I have missed out on an important, exciting treasure trove.

  2. I am not related to Noah Says:

    As a professional sportswriter, I rely heavily on the AP StyleBook. The maddening part of the APSB is that the guidelines often change every two or three years.

    There is, of course, an entirely separate section devoted to sports. As one jerk professor told a class “sportswriters are not real journalists”. She also said we delight “in murdering grammar” (true!) and once wrote on the board “If metaphor is your king, sports is your thing.” Needless to say, I thought her a real biscuit-eater.

    Most AP sportswriters do not even follow the state APSB guidelines, and that is the great fun of this job: we are giving the reader facts, but facts in action, and Lolly, Lolly, Lolly you can get your adverbs here! Hooray!

    As for my Webster’s, it is currently just over my right shoulder on a shelf perfectly placed where I can spin around and grab it. The jacket is long gone, and the cover is loose and battered, proof of heavy use. Like Fred, it is metaphysically impossible for me to look up one word at a time…

    At the risk of tooting my own horn (definitely a sportswriters trait) I am considered to have a wide vocabulary, at least among the other writers here, and am regularly asked to be THE Webster, or the Roget’s…it is a point of pride.

    BTW: all sportwriters also appreciate up-close press parking passes, gratis food, reliable sources and loosely defined expense accounts.

  3. Daylily Says:

    My essential tool for writing music is my 1913 Story and Clark upright piano. I may be sitting at the computer, entering a score, using the electronic keyboard, MIDI connection, and Finale, and things are humming along. Then I get stuck, something isn’t right, and it’s not something simple. I have to get up, go into the living room, sit at the real piano, and solve the problem. That electronic keyboard just doesn’t know anything. Or possibly, my fingers don’t know anything without the resonance and familiar keyboard of my upright piano.

    • Chris Says:

      Speaking of electronic keyboards! I recently bought a microKorg synthesizer. While I don’t write actual music (prefering to “weaponize” music in may battle to drive my wife and dogs insane), it is an amazingly versatile piece of equipment to that end. There is almost no end of horrific noises it can make and it has a VOCODER so I can occasionally pipe NPR broadasts through it. Ever wonder what FDR would sound like if he were a ROBOT? Well I have the answer!

  4. Catherine Says:

    My essential tool is . . . my sister! She’ll hate me for this, but she’s indispensable. We’re like this (insert crossed fingers) — can finish each other’s sentences, know each other’s deepest secrets, have the craziest jokes between each other. She hates to hear about my writing. I usually twist her arm anyway. She’s very literal, so if something is too poetic or doesn’t make any sense to her she calls me on it. (I don’t always take her advice, though.) I also periodically hire her for our two-girl theatrical productions, though she’s grown tall enough that she doesn’t have to play all the babies and little children anymore.

    She might also term me as an essential tool, as well — I am writer, musician and thespian whenever I’m NOT an interactive couch.

  5. I am not related to Noah Says:

    If you look back at the previous posts’ comments, you will see that Swordlily has broken her long silence. It has been some time since Zoe and Catherine and a few others have graced us, but I am delighted the LB’s (Ladies of the Blog) are with us in force!

    Elizabeth: About 15 years ago, and after years of saying I was going to do so, I finally broke down and purchased an ink well, quill pen and fine parchment paper. Then came the internet explosion and, well, I just never got around to it very often.
    Your comment on carrying a wooden pen is what brought it to mind, which also brings to mind my regret that I do not write to my friends or family nearly as often as I should. For all the immediacy of texting, of Twitter, blah blah blah, there is still something quite pleasant about seeing that card or letter in your ‘real’ mailbox.

    Daylily: I am engulfed in flames of jealousy for the musically gifted among us. I am a great “air” drummer, but that is it. Music, as a language, might as well be Arabic to me, which is a lifelong regret. I am delighted you are gifted with the outlet it provides …

  6. John R. Fultz Says:

    A thesaurus! One of the banes of my existence is that perilous, persistent problem known as “word echo”…which is when the same word pops up too often in a piece of writing. As much as I try to avoid it when I write my first drafts, some of it usually creeps through, and I have to fix it during revision/rewriting. This is where the magic of the thesaurus comes in…I can find ten or twenty words that mean the same thing as the word I’m over-using. I often use it during first drafts as well, when I need a new word, or when I can’t remember THAT ONE WORD that’s on the tip of my tongue.

    I must admit though, that I prefer using dictionary.com and its sister site thesaurus.com Instant searches are so convenient. So that means that my biggest, most important tool in writing has to be my computer. When I was in college, I wrote an entire novel in longhand…it filled six or seven notebooks when all was said and done, and it was pretty terrible. But it was my first stab at completing a long-form work and I was proud of finishing it. There are great writers even in 2010 A.D. who prefer to work in longhand for all first drafts–such as my favorite Tanith Lee. This boggles my mind. I’m so grateful for a good computer that allows my fingers to fly across the keyboard far faster than I can write. In fact, when I DO write something longhand (a note for instance), I often get frustrated that I can’t write as fast as I can type! And this is from a guy who was a terrible typist in high school. But, like anything else the more you do it the better you get at it.

    I have immense respect for the great writers of yesteryear who had to create every manuscript on manual typewriters (or even electric typewriters). I certainly appreciate the efficiencty and versatility of the modern computer with a good word processing program.

    Ironically, I love to write about pre-industrial societies and fantasy worlds with the help of my splendid laptop computer….

    Cheers,
    John

  7. Tim in Germany Says:

    I’ve got one of those! As I sit here typing, my Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate, inscribed ‘Presented to [TR] by The Durbins, 6/6/86,’ is smiling down on me from the shelf. These days I’ll admit it gets less use than the Langenscheidt, but it’s still the entire family’s go-to source. Thanks Joe, Mary Ann, and Fred!

  8. fsdthreshold Says:

    Hey, everybody! After many technical difficulties, we’ve finally gotten SwordLily’s wonderful comment fixed! It’s presented at last for you in its entirety: so please, one and all, click back one posting to “The Enchanted Hour” and read the comment as it was originally intended! (It’s right at the bottom of the column, the latest comment — easy to find!)

    And, SwordLily, thank you for it! It’s fantastic! (And thanks for your patience. I’m not sure why you couldn’t make the whole thing appear. I had to re-type it all, but it went up just fine!) 🙂

  9. Chris Says:

    Tools of the Trade:
    1. My HP-11C vintage RPN calculator. Got it in ’88 (scrimped and saved and even failed to pay some bills so I could buy it) during p-chem class. One of the most daunting chemistry classes known to humankind. The OLD HP calculators are still the best. This one has travelled with me to every science job I’ve had in the past 22 years. (And it’s RPN so few people try to “borrow” it from me!)

    2. A good stats program (right now my favorite is JMP). Since I am not an intuitive mathematician and statistics is famously arduous for the number of things you have to sum and square and square and sum a good stats program is worth its weight in gold. (And it doubles as a great joke-generator when you really want to “geek up” a joke, try running some stats to support the jist of the joke.)

    As for dictionaries I have two unabridged at home. They are my babies but I hardly use them anymore. I find google “define: ” function to be much faster (sadly). And I miss the adventure of running across wonderful new words as you described.

    My goal now: to get a real full-scale Oxford English Dictionary. The two-volume monsters (I heard somewhere that they used to sell them with a magnifier because the type was so small even with multivolumes). Not to be confused with the “Oxford Dictionary of English”, the smaller cousin.

    Second purchase goal: “Catholic Encyclopedia”. Originally published in 1913 and updated in parts over the last century. Some cool stuff in there that spans both religion and philosophy!

  10. Marquee Movies Says:

    Great article, as usual, Fred, and I’ve really enjoyed the responses, too (as usual). Two comments – Fred, I LOVED how you said that basically all of your story ideas come from the dictionary, because pretty much everything every writer needs is in there. It reminded me of that wonderful gift given to Milo in Norton Juster’s marvelous “The Phantom Tollbooth.” (The brilliant Juster is STILL alive(!), and he also wrote the masterpiece, “The Dot and The Line,” animated by Chuck Jones, and winner of the Oscar for best animated short that year.) On his adventures, Milo is given a very beautiful bag, and he is told that in it is every single written work in the history of Western Civilization. He opens the bag, and inside are the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. The things those twenty-six letters have accomplished…..!
    The second thing I am reminded of is the scene in “Say Anything…” with John Cusack and Ione Skye. Ms. Skye is, in the words of one character, “…a genius with the body of a game-show hostess.” (This great film was written and directed by Cameron Crowe.) When Lloyd (John) shows up for one of their dates, he waits in her room while she gets ready to go out. He sees her HUGE dictionary, and to fill the silence, he says, “Nice dictionary.” She says she’s had it since she was very young, and she used to have this habit of marking every word she looked up. Lloyd casually flips open the book, to find many, many words on many, many pages marked. Slightly alarmed, he quickly closes the book. Smart girls are intimidating!
    I feel so much better now that my secret code name is back up – and for those of you who were using my true name in an effort to gain the upper hand, a la the Earthsea books, I bite my thumb at you. Also, to the person whose people saw me shopping and considering the two types of cereal you mentioned, I can say, That wasn’t me, and I knew those guys were there, and I was merely doing that to throw them off, and anyway, my favorite cereal is Quisp, which I will never, EVER reveal. Oh, wait a minute….that….might be a code cereal. Yeah! I’m using code cereals! [Swats away black helicopters buzzing around head.]

  11. I am not related to Noah Says:

    Well, Marquee (and may I call you “Marquee?”) I always favored Kaboom or Apple Jacks, but Quisp works in a pinch.

    I about died when you brought up ‘Say Anything’ an awesome movie. What a great reference you gave us, from a great scene (I still like HiFi better … maybe it is the Chicago setting…).

    PLUS, you mention CHUCK JONES. CHUCK JONES, Frederic! CHUCK JONES! Bugs Bunny is ALWAYS “on the subject” and NEVER liable to penalty by the Pun Fund!

    To top it all off, I am listening to the fabulously lush soundtrack to The Incredibles as I write. What a moment! Whew!

  12. Morwenna Says:

    Thank you, Marquee Movies, for mentioning The Phantom Tollbooth. In this comical fantasy classic, King Azaz the Unabridged rules a bustling city called Dictionopolis.

  13. I am not related to Noah Says:

    OK, where is everybody? Don’t make me come back on here and get everyone all p.o, and fired up again … come on, people!

    • Shieldmaiden Says:

      Still here… Great post! Love the comments. I will leave a comment soon. With the understanding that “soon” is a very relative term. I did want to say, “Welcome back” to SwordLily!! You have been missed, and your comment is lovely. And to SF: It’s nice to have your marquee back up. Hey, just trying to keep the pun-fund alive 🙂

  14. Marquee Movies Says:

    Ooh, Morwenna, thanks for the tip in! I should have mentioned that – it slipped my mind – Dictionopolis. Love, LOVE that story – I like it when they’re at the word fair, and people are selling words and letters – one vendor encourages Milo to “try an ‘A’ ” and takes a bite of an “A” himself, letting the juice run down his chin. I love it when they all get into that cart to take them to the King’s palace, but Milo doesn’t see any horses or motor. “How will we get to -” he begins, but one of the others silences him by saying, “It goes without saying.” After a moment of silence, the cart begins moving. LOVE that story! Digitopolis is also fascinating to visit – as a young boy, I learned what infinity meant, and how averages were interesting on the page, but often not applicable in real life from that book. (I also learned what a dodecahedron was!) And Shieldmaiden, you’ll get no fine from me, but I suspect some of the others here will be rattling a tin can with a few coins at the bottom in front of your face, like that lady in “Back to the Future” shouting, “Save the clock tower,” only for you, they’ll be saying, “Save our punished ears from the puns!”

  15. I am not related to Noah Says:

    Ahh, the Pun Fund. How one silly idea, an old can of fried potato sticks wrapped with masking tape and a black magic marker and ‘presto!’ 25+ years later it lives on!

    Methinks we may have to alter some of the fines/reasons for and nonesuch. For instance, how will we judge if someone is late? Are we going to fine each other for “excessive use of logic and/or the laws of physics?” What about the old fine (a nickel if I recall) for “blowing a door off its hinges?” We finally made so many rules it was impossible not to break them …

    Aside from having to pay into the fund (I was, by far, the most-fined person) I have been told I had two favorite sayings: “No, we are not teleporting to the Pool Room” and “we are NOT going to the Black Stump.

  16. Marquee Movies Says:

    What about a fine for every time someone mentions a fine? OK, that’s a fine. OK, that’s a fine. OK, that’s ANOTHER fine. OK, one more fine. And THAT’S a fine. And a fine for THAT fine. And another fine. Hmmmm……

  17. Morwenna Says:

    Marquee Movies, I’m glad that you love The Phantom Tollbooth as much as I do! Ah, yes, the word market (the letter X “tastes like a trunkful of stale air.”)

    And then there are the cakes at the royal banquet that feature half-baked ideas. “They’re very tasty,” explained the Humbug, “but they don’t always agree with you. Here’s one that’s very good.” He handed it to Milo and, through the icing and nuts, Milo saw that it said, “THE EARTH IS FLAT.”

    • Daylily Says:

      The Phantom Tollbooth was the book my older brother read to us two younger siblings on a long trip. I have loved it ever since. Recently, I had some chicken noodle soup that contained so few noodles and chunks of chicken that I was hungrier after I ate it than before I started. Subtraction Soup!

  18. Morwenna Says:

    Daylily, many thanks for mentioning the funny subtraction stew scene from The Phantom Tollbooth! The Mathemagician explains: “Here in Digitopolis, we have our meals when we’re full, and eat until we’re hungry. That way, when you don’t have anything at all, you have more than enough.”

  19. I am not related to Noah Says:

    I was just checking in on the latest comments and happened to glance at the last line Fred wrote in his post: “In your walk of life — in your career or your hobby — what is the tool you wouldn’t want to be without, and why?”

    This is meant as a question regarding our professions and hobbies, as Fred clearly states. But then (falling quilty of the same thing I am always complaining about liberal judges doing) I read a different intent into the obvious intention by focusing on ‘In your walk of life’ and the answer to that came so clearly that I am embarrassed for myself for not immediately responding: My rosary.

    I do not leave my abode without it. Ever. As I do not wear jeans, slacks, shorts, etc. without pockets, it rides along in the front left. Always. It reminds me that Christ is with me, even when I may not be thinking about Him.

    How glorious! Our Lord loves us without condition, and that love is eternal.

    May His love and peace be with you all…

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Well said! Thank you for that! I’m reminded of a time some twenty years ago when one of the English teachers at Niigata High School (a fifty-something Japanese man who spoke excellent English) asked me what my most prized possession was. I struggled and strained and thought for a good long while, and I finally came out with some lame answer that I don’t even remember now. But I remember his reply: he said, “Why didn’t you say your Bible?” (He knew I’d come to Japan as a missionary.) I think I had the good grace to say, “You’re right. That’s what I should have said.”

      It may make you happy to know that I rescued my dad’s rosary, and it is on the makeshift table just beside my bed. (On the wall of my bedroom is a crucifix from the Vatican, blessed by the Pope, brought back for me by a mutual North School friend of ours, P.V. — you know who I mean? 🙂 )

      Finally, I’ve been meaning to say: when I first saw your moniker this go-around, “I am not related to Noah,” I took it at first to mean the Biblical Noah, and I thought, “I knew it! My old friend is not descended from Shem, Ham, or Japheth. He’s of the line of Elves, not of Men!”

  20. I am not related to Noah Says:

    I am delighted to hear of you having your father’s rosary with you and am happy to hear of the crucifix. (and yes, I know the P.V. to whom you refer).

    Can you believe that my brother was in Rome (on business) for two days in 2008 and did have a few hours of free time, but the damn fool went to see the Coliseum and the fountains and NOT the Vatican, despite the apostate knowing the depth of his brothers’ catholic convictions. I did not even get a postcard with a Vatican stamp!

    The reference in my moniker this time refers to American lexicographer Noah Webster, as you rightly surmised.

    How I wish I had elvish blood! Instead, I have the sorrow of the Noldor but none of the gifts ha ha. And, keeping with the elvish theme, I have recently been writing in the Tengwar again — I had not done so for a few years and wow was it tough to get back into the swing of things. (You may remember my utter satisfaction of seeing the Feanorian characters used in many scenes in the LOTR movies and my delight upon freeze-framing the Fellowship and realizing I was using the elvish characters correctly! Oh how we all love our little triumphs!)

  21. Morwenna Says:

    I also carry a rosary with me (with many more at home).

  22. ericahostetler Says:

    I am hurriedly reading this at work but was amazed to see Lud-In-the-Mist in the tags. I read – and loved – that book years ago. Thank you for that wonderful surprise. Now to read through more of your posts!
    Erica

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Hi, Erica! Thank you for the comment! Yes, two different friends of mine had recommended Lud-in-the-Mist, and it sounded like my kind of book. I hauled it around for a couple years before I got around to reading it — but once I did, I wished I hadn’t waited so long!

      Your blog looks very intriguing! I will be reading it! (I think I learned the word “flensing” from Moby-Dick, and having grown up on H.P. Lovecraft (and it’s probably in Tolkien, too), I’ve used “moldering”/”mouldering” in just about every story I’ve ever written! :-))

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