Group Writing Projects

The language of celebration: my connecting words

After a hard day, week, month or year of moiling… it’s good to take some time out and celebrate.

Moil is one of my connecting words. It means to work hard, to slave away. I learned it from Brad Shorr in a word nerd challenge, and it’s become part of the shared currency between us - a funny, unusual, expressive word and a reminder of past times moiling, and enjoyment of greater freedom now.

But the other words I’ve picked - well they’re all about the celebrations, the parties, the high days and holidays that follow on after the work. It seemed kind of appropriate for a week that’s a holiday for so many of you.

Words of appreciation

I love learning new words in the comment box here. It’s where I learned two perfect expressions for that moment of recognition, appreciation, delight for what someone else has written. When you hear someone tooting, sweetly.

They were both in response to a piece that Emma Bird from HowToItaly had written here on authentic writing. “Brava!” shouted Sognatrice. (My Italian isn’t all that it should be… so I confess I had to look it up. Of course it’s the female version of “bravo” - a shout of approval, used to applaud a performance.) “Hana Hou!” echoed Rosa Say, teaching us another of those Hawaiian phrases that sound so magical to our ears. I think it’s like a shout of “more”, “encore”. Both “do it again”, and “let’s keep at it”, which is the kind of encouragement you might expect from a coach :-)

Words of celebration

But it is not just unusual words like moil that intrigue me, or words from another part of the world that I want to learn. It’s unpicking some of the plain, ordinary words of the English language - a language that so many of us share, but that offers so many puzzles and surprises too.

The simplest things can surprise us. When some of my female blogging friends talk about dancing around in their party pants… the mental image the words conjure up is different on this side of the Atlantic to the place where you’re dancing. (And yes, I did e-mail a friend and ask which she meant! And no, that’s not an advisable question for guys to ask…)

And when bloggers are celebrating at the best blogging party in town it’s good that there’s someone like Chris Owen around to ask the question that so many of us must have been wondering: what the heck are Klondike Bars anyway? (If like me you didn’t know, here’s the link to the reply from Liz, and a picture of a Klondike Bar cake courtesy of Char.)

It was a simple reminder to me of the way that unfamiliar words can be barriers - but by learning, asking, enquiring, sharing, we can break down those barriers and make new connections.

Words for our holidays

The words we have for the holidays we celebrate have powerful connections and associations. They conjure up memories of holidays gone past, throw us into anticipation of good times ahead, hit us with a flood of associated emotions.

I was reminded of this recently when I wrote a piece about Guy Fawkes Night. Guy Fawkes for me (and I guess most people in the UK) is an instant connection with cold November nights, the smell of the bonfire, rockets exploding overhead, muddy feet, hands warmed on a mug of scalding hot soup. And yet for someone else it’s just two short words, with no connection at all. Or maybe, like Robyn, it’s a half-memory from a conversation in the past, and by asking the question we open up the possibility of sharing our experiences, our understanding, our memories - and learning just a little bit more about each other.

And when writers in the US talk about ‘the holidays’ this week - well that doesn’t trigger any immediate connection or association with me at all. It’s only by reading what people are writing this week that I’m starting to understand something about this holiday time, what those two short words might mean to you. What they symbolise, and suggest. It’s only by being able to ask someone like Brad about what might lie behind the words that I can start to learn more about the meaning behind the words - allowing the words to become a connecting point, an invitation to start a conversation.

And I’d love to know what ‘the holidays’ mean to you too - as the starting point of who knows what new kind of conversation….


This is my contribution to the Connecting Words group writing project.

It’s about:

The words we see and read in other people’s blogs. Words that are new to us, that surprise us, that we’ve never heard before. Slang words, idiom, dialect.

Sometimes we let them by. Sometimes we look them up. And sometimes we go back and ask the author what they mean – because we’re curious, and want to learn. And because it can be a great way to start a conversation.

If you’d like to take part there’s plenty of time - up to midnight (your time) next Friday 30th November. Click here to find out how to join in. The more people that take part - the more words we can learn - and the more connections we can make.

Joanna Young, The Confident Writing Coach
Because our words count

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8 Responses to “The language of celebration: my connecting words”

  1. On November 20, 2007 at 2:21 pm Robert Hruzek responded with... #

    Joanna, a couple of thoughts for you…

    1. All this time I thought ‘moil’ was what you covered the Thanksgiving day Turkey with while cooking it in the oven (that would make it ‘aluminum moil’)!

    2. You KNEW I was going to ask this… what the heck are ‘party pants’? Telling us men NOT to ask is like telling someone: “Whatever you do, DON’T think of pink elephants!”

    3. I finally understand (the crowd roars) the idea of connecting words!!! Expect a post on it next Monday - after ‘the Holidays’ :-D

    ReplyReply
  2. On November 20, 2007 at 4:40 pm Brad Shorr responded with... #

    Now I’ve got to know what you folks are up to with your party pants … :) I’ve had some interesting word connections at Word Sell. For instance Deb at http://www.punctualityrules.com introduced me to a great new contraction - amn’t.

    ReplyReply
  3. On November 20, 2007 at 5:15 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Robert, when I think about the effort to cook a turkey, how hot and bothered, cross and grumpy we can get in the by-going… moil might just be the perfect word for it!

    I’m looking forward to your contribution :-) Enjoy the holiday first

    Joanna

    PS Saying nothing about party pants!

    ReplyReply
  4. On November 20, 2007 at 5:22 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hmm… amn’t. I like that - although I don’t think I would naturally say it (would you?) so probably wouldn’t be so tempted to write it.

    “I’m no..” would probably be my local variation.

    Or rather “Ahm no..”

    So…

    “Ahm no cookin’ that turkey fir ye!”

    Joanna (hoping my Edinburgh friends arnae readin’ this)

    ReplyReply
  5. On November 21, 2007 at 4:03 am --Deb responded with... #

    Okay, first, I need to take a pity moment . . . you’ve never had a Klondike bar? That is just so, so sad. It’s actually been years since I’ve had one, but I can summon up the perfect flavor and texture from my memory in an instant. For years, there was an ad campaign with a “What would you do for a Klondike bar?” jingle, with people doing wacky things, just to get that crunchy, chocolaty, creamy . . . okay. I’ve got to stop talking about this now.

    I DO know about Guy Fawkes Day, not only for the history behind it, but because it’s the day before my birthday (so remembering the date has never been a problem). It’s funny that you should bring up “holiday,” though, because I was writing a post on that that word last night, planning on having it post automatically on Thursday. Because Thursday, of course, is Thanksgiving here in the USA-classic turkey dinners, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, apple pie, pumpkin pie . . . Mmmmm.

    (Oh, and for the record, I did know “moil,” but am not-or, rather, amn’t-sure what party pants are.)

    ReplyReply
  6. On November 21, 2007 at 11:59 pm Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi Deb - amazing how much we can conjure up just from one or two food related words - so many memories, so many powerful associations.

    I’ve never been to the US (yet) but I’ll treat myself to a Klondike bar when I do - maybe at the same time I’m holding Mr Hruzek to his promise to eat some haggis :-)

    Have a great Thanksgiving, and thanks for your thoughtful and entertaining contributions here, you really brightened a cold, wet gloomy day here :-)

    Joanna

    ReplyReply
  7. On November 22, 2007 at 11:09 pm pussreboots responded with... #

    Imagine any sort of holiday that involves a day of cooking and the home slowly smelling like all the wonderful flavors to be enjoyed at the meal and that’s the crux of Thanksgiving.

    Happy BTT and thanks for stopping by.

    ReplyReply
  8. On November 23, 2007 at 8:41 am Joanna Young
    Twitter: joannapaterson
    responded with... #

    Hi pussreboots - thanks for conjuring up the smell of thanksgiving… and for your wonderful word - I think it might just inspire a post here some time or another…

    Joanna

    ReplyReply

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