#TBT (Throwback Thanksgiving)

A reblog of Ever On Word’s 2011 Thanksgiving post. Because gratitude is timeless, like that.

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Am I the only one who gets really annoyed by people referring to the fourth Thursday of November as “Turkey Day”?

Not that I’ve got anything against turkey, mind you. It’s tasty. It’s remarkably plumed. Ben Franklin could have gotten his way and had it made the national bird, for all I care. Turkey, in and of itself is not, the problem. This is a matter of respect, and the dignity of names.

I don’t know that holidays have feelings, but if they did, how do you suppose Thanksgiving would feel about being called Turkey Day? Belittled, perhaps? Underappreciated? Loved only for its traditional bounteous feast? Singled out, probably; we don’t treat the rest of the holidays this way!

And, hey, why not? Why not give up the charade of caring what holidays are really about and just call a spade by how we honestly perceive the spade all year long? A sneak peek at the adjusted calendar, everyone:

Valentine’s Day = Spend Big Money on Your Woman Day

Presidents’ Day = Day Off from School

Easter = Candy Day

Birthdays = Cake Day

Independence Day = Fireworks Day

Minstrel Day = Totally Oughtta Be a Holiday

Labor Day = Barbeque Day

All Hallows’ Even = Candy Day Part II

Christmas = Presents Day

New Year’s Eve = Stay Up and Party ‘Til the Next Day …Day

Tacky, isn’t it? So here’s an idea – how’s about we all show Thanksgiving a little consideration by remembering what the day is actually for. Not parades, not football, not awesome pilgrim hats; not even the sweet delights of turkey, pumpkin pie, and all the good eats in between. It’s about giving thanks; expressing gratitude for the stuff we’ll probably go back to taking for granted, most of the rest of the year. I’ll lead off:

Thank you, family, friends, followers, and strangers, for taking a few minutes out of your day to read my blog. I truly appreciate the attention, the support, and the opportunity to share my words with you.

And thank you, too, Thanksgiving! – for just your being you.

“HYSRT!” or “What’s In a Naming?”

“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I've never been able to believe it. I don't believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”
--Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)

I wrote early on in Ever On Word’s history about my feelings regarding names. In one-and-a-half words, love ‘em. Coming up with the perfect names for characters is one of the parts I most enjoy about fiction writing, so I was tickled to come across today’s “HYSRT!”  post on Whitney Carter’s blog, Invisible Ink. Titled “How to Name Your Characters”, it serves up suggestions and food for thought for those of us with books full of babies to name – tips actually applicable for those of us with anything to name, from real children, to pets, to tape dispensers. (Come on, don’t tell me I’m the only one who named my tape dispenser. And if I’m not, please tell me that the rest of you named yours something a little more original than Tape.)

            So here’s the post, which I hope you’ll enjoy; I’d also recommend checking out the continuation of the topic in the comments that follow it, because hey, you should read that, too.

“Thanksgiving”

Am I the only one who gets really annoyed by people referring to the fourth Thursday of November as “Turkey Day”?

            Not that I’ve got anything against turkey, mind you. It’s tasty. It’s remarkably plumed. Ben Franklin could have gotten his way and had it made the national bird, for all I care. Turkey, in and of itself is not, the problem. This is a matter of respect, and the dignity of names.

            I don’t know that holidays have feelings, but if they did, how do you suppose Thanksgiving would feel about being called Turkey Day? Belittled, perhaps? Underappreciated? Loved only for its traditional bounteous feast? Singled out, probably; we don’t treat the rest of the holidays this way!

            And, hey, why not? Why not give up the charade of caring what holidays are really about and just call a spade by how we honestly perceive the spade all year long? A sneak peek at the adjusted calendar, everyone:

Valentine’s Day = Spend Big Money on Your Woman Day

Presidents’ Day = Day Off from School

Easter = Candy Day

Birthdays = Cake Day

Independence Day = Fireworks Day

Minstrel Day = Totally Oughtta Be a Holiday

Labor Day = Barbeque Day

All Hallows’ Even = Candy Day Part II

Christmas = Presents Day

New Year’s Eve = Stay Up and Party ‘Til the Next Day …Day

            Tacky, isn’t it? So here’s an idea – how’s about we all show Thanksgiving a little consideration by remembering what the day is actually for. Not parades, not football, not awesome pilgrim hats; not even the sweet delights of turkey, pumpkin pie, and all the good eats in between. It’s about giving thanks; expressing gratitude for the stuff we’ll probably go back to taking for granted, most of the rest of the year. I’ll lead off:

            Thank you, family, friends, followers, and strangers, for taking a few minutes out of your day to read my blog. I truly appreciate the attention, the support, and the opportunity to share my words with you.

            And thank you, too, Thanksgiving! – for just your being you.

PerGoSeeMo Psalm 6

Psalm 6. Exodus 3:13-15; American Heritage College Dictionary, 4th Ed.

            To exist in actuality;

To have life, and have reality;

You are, therefore you are.

            To occupy all places at all times,

No need to specify;

Both far and near, both there and here,

Out- and inside of me:

You are maker of all, and are in all you have made.

            To eternally remain

In your indisruptable state:

You, who will be what you’ll always be.

            To take place: You, the great event

Upon which history is hinged.

            You came to go, and you alone

Know when you’ll come again.

            None equal your identity,

Or balance your significance;

            No class can hold your quality,

Aspects beyond equality.

            To seem to consist or be made of:

You are all power, holiness, love.

            Your spirit fallen down to me,

Ours is a mutual belonging.

I am yours.

You are who you are:

Bearer of the greatest name to ever be.

“Name”

You did a blog piece on naming things three days ago!” some mouth in the back complains.

            I signal Security to keep an eye on that one, then patiently explain, “No, the post to which you refer was about titling. This post is about naming.”

            “What’s the difference?!

            Precious little, actually. After all, a title (I recap) is an identifying name. And a name, of course, is “a word or words by which an entity is designated and distinguished from others”. That’s probably not news to anybody. We’re all of us decently familiar with the concept of names, right? I’ll even go so far as to assume that most of us have them; even the chatterbox in the back, though I’ve yet to learn it.

            “Milt!

            Charmed.

            To inform the curious, it took me close to a full minute to decide on the name “Milt”. Even my outspoken extras are named with some measure of care. Names matter to me, like that.

            When I was a kid, virtually everything got named. Figures in doodles that I’d never draw again. The animatronic farmer who rode his tractor around the ceiling at the mall. My fashion dolls and action figures, my stuffed animals, my ninety-nine identical green marbles (much to my mother’s amusement). Some of these names were sadly predictable – Fluffy the bunny, Blacky the black bear… nothing you’d never see coming, like my sister’s stuffed rabbit, Uncle Ruddyduck. Some were trying a little too obviously to be clever – Huckleberry Fin the fish, Claire-Annette the clarinet… nothing awesomely off-the-wall, like my sister’s goldfish, Dog.

            I used to spend a lot of time wondering what to name my future children. For years, I assumed there’d be a son named Jeremy. Then I fell for a boy named let’s-call-him-“Dean”, and wondered if we ought to keep up a family tradition of “D” names for all our offspring. (It became a moot point, by the way; that adolescent love story ended up being painfully one-sided.) I could never settle long on names for my hypothetical girls. Felicity? Ida? Delicatessen? (That would have worked in the Dean scenario!) I still don’t having anything written in stone – and I’m not currently too enthused about the idea of bearing children, anyway – though I’m lately leaning toward Tailor for a boy and Kevyn for a girl. (When in doubt, name your babies in honor of some of your strongest crushes, right? Let’s shoot for three kids and have a Dean, why don’t we.)

            People who hate naming things should probably not become authors of fiction. And authors of fiction who love naming things, rejoice! A novel is a naming playground, full of people and places and pets and peculiar miscellany in need of identification. But for all that I enjoy naming characters, I do not take it lightly. These are names that I’ll have to see and say and type over and over. These names might well be the first my readers will know of the character in question: Before appearance, before voice, before any of the incalculable things that make him or her themselves… we’re told the name.

            I want the name to suit the character absolutely. If I’m in the creation process and the name doesn’t feel right, it’s back to the drawing board (or the book or website dedicated to inspiring people like me who have babies to name). Some of the names that have made the cut are fairly standard – Sam, Jason, Bruno. Some of the names I strung together out of whimsical bits and pieces – Austeryn, Kel-Korrel, Christopher Washington Geoffrey Alexander Riverwood II. Whatever seems like a perfect fit in sight, sound, meaning, or some combination thereof. Whichever name I’ll always know as theirs, no matter how many other “Jason”s or “Austeryn”s I’ll encounter down the road.

            “So how’d you come to settle on ‘Milt’?!” inquiring minds in the back want to know.

            I don’t know. Flipping through an arbitrary list of options, it just seemed you-est.

            “I like ‘Kent’!

            Kent Milton, then. (We nod in mutual satisfaction.)

“Title”

A quick guessing game, readers: I’ll give you four words, and you try to figure out what they have in common. Ready?

“Blog”. “Networking”. “Theme”. “Gant”.

            Right-e-o, now I’ll cue up the iconic thinking music from “Jeopardy!”, and— Oh, never mind, you’ve either figured it out already or I’m about to spoil it all for you. They’re the titles of my previous blog posts, of course – all straightforward, all one word, all… slightly less than dazzling, I’m aware. Maybe coming up with “an identifying name given to a book, play, film, musical composition, or other work” (definition one) or “a general or descriptive heading, as of a book chapter” (def. two) comes easily to some people. Not so to me.

            You wouldn’t think it would be so hard. (Or, I don’t know, maybe you would, but I wouldn’t.) Titles don’t have to be all that complicated to stand the test of time. “Oliver Twist”, “Moby Dick”, “Romeo and Juliet”, “Dracula”… Those are all just names, for goodness sake. I might just as easily have dropped “The Ballad of…” and called it a day. And actually, a handful of my stories with naught but a name or names for a title do come to mind. But that isn’t a device I’d want to employ all the time.

            I tend to find it easier, when naming books in a series, if I give myself a template to follow, a la the alliterative adjective/noun pair pattern established by certified genius Lemony Snicket in every volume (save “The End”) of “A Series of Unfortunate Events”. Based on the first title of what morphed into my “Wilderhark Tales”, when it came time to title the subsequent five books in the series, I gave myself rules: First word, “The”; second word, starts with “S”; and the third word could be anything that looked promising.

            But be it series or standalone, only rarely will I attempt to brave a lineup of chapter titles – bane of the label-challenged! …Well, part-time bane. Certainly, writers like Howard Pyle in “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood” – (I pause to sigh deliriously at the mention of Robin Hood) – make it look like a piece of cake. “Robin Hood and the Tinker”; “Robin Hood and Will Scarlet”; “Robin Hood Compasseth the Marriage of Two True Lovers”… Simplicity itself.

            Maybe that’s my problem: I struggle with simplicity. I can’t just say “Bruno and the Frogs” and leave it at that. …Or, I suppose I could, but it just doesn’t have the same ring to it as “When Bloated Frog Things Attack… Or, Y’know, Just Sit There”. So if anything, the unfussy, one-word headers of my blog posts are actually a challenging departure for me. (Kinda like having a blog, in that respect.)

            And to any of you lovely people who are thinking complimentary things about my blog’s title, “Ever On Word”, I thank you… and then pass the kudos onto my tailor (who, for someone who insists on thinking of himself as thick-witted, spends an awful lot of time being the brains of this operation).

“Gant”

Not familiar with this word’s meaning? Don’t kick yourself too hard – up until a few months ago, neither was I, and it’s only just starting to catch on.

            I knew this word as a name, first; the surname of a minstrel known to his friends, author, and multiple worlds as Gant-o’-the-Lute. Yes, Lute is technically a fictional character, and “Gant” is not what one might call a real word. You could say I made it up. I prefer to say I discovered it.

            The word was first utilized in the third novel of a fairytale-inspired series I call “The Wilderhark Tales”. (Not published yet, but oh-ho, it will be.) At the time, and for a good year or two afterward, I didn’t know what the name meant – or what most of the names in the book meant, for that matter. Handy and beloved as my faithful, raggedy “20,001 Names for Baby” book is, it kind of falls down on the job when it comes to baring the etymology of names like Cellodran, Theobon, etc. But eventually, curiosity prompted me to ruminate on the matter, and at last, it came to me:

Gant, adjective.

A root word meaning “great”, from which such words as “gargantuan” and “gigantic” originated.

            I actually had to groan a little when I learned this. The name was all too apt for my self-professed marvel of a minstrel. The man’s arrogance (hmm, “arrogant”… another derivative?…) is – by turns, and sometimes simultaneously – endearing, infuriating, entertaining, and… wholly justified, I am repeatedly forced to admit. His exploits in his introductory book alone make me question why I didn’t immediately doubt his pure humanity, and I really should have known something was up by Book Four, but what can I say? I’m oblivious. Not for lack of clues staring me in the face, it wasn’t until I was prepping to write one of my latest magnum opera*, “The Ballad of Allyn-a-Dale”**, that I realized exactly how fantastically Gant Lute truly is – or at least got a better understanding of some of the reason behind it.

            Now, what the linguists of Lute’s world may not know is that my friends and I have adopted another, slang term for the word “Gant”: A verb referring to a bright rotation of color in ones eyes, typically from blue to gray to green and back again, as an indication of excitement. Lute’s eyes do this, as his son’s have also been known to do, if less frequently. Due to the color stipulation, Ganting eyes are a pretty rare phenomenon. If all you’ve got going is excited shine and sparkle, however, feel free to say that your eyes are “foxing”; it’s what all the hip-happenin’ young authors that I either am or converse with as many hours per week as we can get away with say.

            Leaving one’s stamp on the vernacular: One facet of many of the Authorial Dream.

*Talk about learning something new everyday: I wasn’t aware that the plural for “opus” was “opera” until I just now looked it up for proper usage in this blog piece. I would have guessed “opusi” or something, and would have been dead wrong. So yeah, you want to discuss multiple literary or artistic masterpieces? “Magnum opera”. …Or “opuses”. But that doesn’t sound as awesome.

**Also not yet published, also gonna be. And if you haven’t yet checked out the Facebook page I created for “Ballad”, then one of us is missing out! Go see! Go “like”! Go team! (I like lists of three, I justify.)