zeitgeist – guest post by Jo Atherton

zeitgeist

One word I continually find myself returning to is zeitgeist, a German word meaning spirit of the age. I think this is such an elegant way of expressing so many ideas, encompassed in two syllables.

It sits nicely alongside my practice where I am attempting to capture the zeitgeist by intercepting the tideline.

Literally, ‘time-spirit’, from zeit, ‘time’ and geist, ‘spirit’. The words for time and tide are from the same PIE source.

 

(Image: Flotsam Collection, courtesy of Jo Atherton)

Emily Midorikawa for Margate Bookie x Pieced Work

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Emily Midorikawa is the co-author of A Secret Sisterhood, a book about the literary friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontё, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf, to be published in 2017 by Aurum Press (UK) and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (USA). With her co-author, Emma Claire Sweeney, she runs the female literary friendship blog, Something Rhymed. Emily teaches writing at City University London and New York University: London. She was the winner of the Lucy Cavendish Fiction Prize in 2015.

 

Clatter – I like the way this word sounds so exactly like its meaning, and the actual feeling of clattering that you experience in your mouth when you say it. Collateral, catastrophe and cataclysmic create a similar effect, but nearly always appear in the context of something terrible that has happened. Clatter is more ambiguous.

From Old English clatrung, ‘clattering, noise’, of imitative origin.

 

Crikey – My mother was Japanese. I have a feeling that when she was learning English, someone or something gave her the impression that crikey was a very commonly-used English word. In reality, my mother said crikey more than anyone else I’ve ever known. It was her default exclamation for annoyance, for surprise or to emphasise a point. At some stage in her life, it must surely have dawned on her that no one used this word as much as her. But did that stop her? No way. On the now much rarer occasions when I see or hear crikey, it always makes me smile.

Since 1838, propably a euphamism for Christ, from Greek khristos, ‘the anointed’. Pronunciation with the long ‘i’ is a result of Irish missionary work in England between the 7th and 8th centuries.

 

Portmanteau – In her 1959 memoir Goodness Had Nothing to Do With It, the film star Mae West sings the praises of portmanteau with its many syllables and pleasing rhythm. I agree with her judgement here. It is a great word for a bag. There is also something satisfying about the style of bag it represents – a kind of travelling case with two equal parts – and the fact that portmanteau words take their name from this origin. While there might be some truly dreadful portmanteau words out there, others such as smog (smoke + fog) or Lewis Carroll’s slithy (lithe + slimy) perfectly sum up the concept.”

Port, past participle stem of Latin portare ‘to carry’ + manteau, from Latin mantellum, ‘cloak’. Originally, a court official who carried a prince’s mantle (16th C). Portmanteau word coined by Lewis Carroll (Charles L. Dodgson, 1832-1898) for the words he invented for Jabberwocky.

 

Emily presents Literary Friendships with Something Rhymed at the Margate Bookie on August 20th, details here.

 

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Laura Powell for Margate Bookie x Pieced Work

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Laura Powell is a commissioning editor at the Daily Telegraph and was previously a features writer at the Daily Mail. Her journalism has appeared in The Guardian, Mail on Sunday, Evening Standard and women’s magazines. Her debut novel, The Unforgotten, was released in March 2016. She is the recipeint of a New Writer’s Bursary from Literature Wales and was named as one of Amazon’s Rising Stars. Laura was born in Wales and lives in London.

 

Twp – If you call someone stupid or daft in English, it comes across as mean. But say it in Welsh – ‘twp’ – and it sounds cheeky rather than deeply cutting. It’s native to South Wales (my homeland).

 

“Porthmeor – The prefix Porth- anything brings to mind a Cornish beach or bay or harbour. Porthmeor is one of my favourites; it’s the St Ives beach with angry waves that are perfect for surfing.

 

“Sglodion – Another brilliant Welsh word, it means chips. It rolls off the tongue, and sounds gutsy and luscious (another great word). Even saying it makes me hungry for chips and gravy.”

 

Laura will be at the Bookie’s Literary Lounge on Sunday August 21st, details here.

 

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Author’s portrait by Derek Man

Emma Claire Sweeney for Margate Bookie x Pieced Work

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Emma Claire Sweeney is a writer who has won Arts Council, Royal Literary Fund and Escalator Awards, and been shortlisted for several others, including the Asham, Wasafiri and Fish. Emma writes literary features and pieces on disability for publications including the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday and The Times. She teaches creative writing at New York University and co-runs SomethingRhymed.com – a website on female literary friendship. Owl Song at Dawn, a novel inspired by her autistic sister, will be published by Legend Press in July 2016. A Secret Sisterhood: The Hidden Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot and Virginia Woolf, which she is co-writing with her own writer friend, Emily Midorikawa, will come out in 2017 with Aurum Press in the UK, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in the USA. Emma is represented by Veronique Baxter at David Hingham Associates; you can follow her on Twitter @emmacsweeney.

 

Audacious – One of my closest friends accused me of being audacious, and, although he didn’t exactly mean it as a compliment, it made me feel inordinately proud. Since then, the sensation of these syllables in my mouth bring to mind his mischievous smile.

In use since the 16th century, from Latin audax, ‘brave, bold, daring’, from audere ‘to dare, be bold’.

 

“Honeysuckle – I used to dread break time at nursery – the clink of milk bottles, the puncture of straws through foil. But honey, now there’s a taste I’d have liked to suckle.

Circa 1400, in reference to the common climbing vine, from Old English hunigsuge, meaning possibly honeysuckle, clover, wild thyme or privet, literally ‘honey-suck’. Honey, from Old English hunig ‘honey’, from Proto-Germanic hunagam of uncertain origin. Perhaps from PIE k(e)neko – ‘yellow, golden’, where we get the Welsh canecon, ‘gold’ + Suck, from Old English sucan, ‘to suck’, possibly from the same source as Latin sugere, ‘to suck’.

 

“Quirky – One of my most frequent search terms: quirky café bars in Morecambe, quirky bistros in Montmartre, quirky bathhouses in Marrakech. Quirky is where I want to be.”

Unknown origin, maybe originally a technical term for a twist or flourish in weaving. Sense of something peculiar is circa 1600.

 

Emma Claire Sweeney presents Literary Friendships with Something Rhymed at the Margate Bookie on August 20th, more here. She will also be part of the Bookie’s Literary Lounge on August 21st, tickets here.

 

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William Shaw for Margate Bookie x Pieced Work

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The Sunday Mirror has called William Shaw’s new standalone novel The Birdwatcher, ‘A brilliantly constructed thriller, utterly compulsive’. His Breen and Tozer series, set in the 60s, was hailed as ‘an elegy for an entire alienated generation,’ by The New York Times. Before becoming a crime writer, William Shaw was an award-winning music journalist and the author of several non-fiction books, including Westsiders: Stories of the Boys in the Hood, about a year spent with the young men of South Central Los Angeles, and A Superhero For Hire, a compilation of columns from the Observer Magazine.

 

“Carburettor – We live in a world of neologisms, most of them born out of our new, digital culture. The machine age had its own strangely beautiful new vocabulary.

From carburet, ‘compound of carbon and another substance’. Carbon (carb), from Latin carbonem, ‘a coal, glowing coal; charcoal,’ & uret, an archaic Modern Latin suffix. Motor vehicle sense in use since 1896.

 

“Wound – Such a mournful, ancient word that expresses both the act and the result of the act. I would love to be able to use it in a book title but it’s one of those odd English words that reads ambiguously because of also being the past participle of to wind, and sadly doesn’t really work in a short phrase. ”

From Old English wund, ‘hurt, injury, ulcer’. 

 

William Shaw will be at Margate Bookie on Sunday, August 21st – find tickets here

 

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Image: Photo by Aaron C. Greenman 

Andrea Bennett for Margate Bookie x Pieced Work

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Andrea Bennett came to writing fairly late. After her initial career choice of ‘artist’ fell by the way-side, she tried her hand at many things: translator, civil servant and charity manager to name a few. In the mid-noughties she gave up spending half her life commuting and began writing in her spare time. She started work on her first novel in 2012 – it was selected for publication by Borough Press via an open submission process. Galina Petrovna’s Three-Legged Dog Story was released in hardback and paperback in 2015. Based on her recollections of living in Russia during the Yeltsin era, it has since been published in French, Italian, German, Spanish and Portuguese. Andrea has signed a further two-book deal with Borough Press, and is currently working on her second novel, due for publication in February 2017. She lives in Ramsgate with her two sons and a lazy Border Terrier.

 

Spangles – this word brings to mind two things: the glittering sea on a hot summer’s day, when you’re in the water up to your chin and you have to screw up your eyes because it’s so bright, so you’re looking at the patterns of light on the sea through your eyelashes, and it shifts and sparkles, and… 1970s sweets – because they go together with sun-bleached days on the beach! My favourite were Cola flavour: sticky and fizzy brown and slightly lemony, important sustenance for when you’re in and out of the water all day, and good for taking away the taste of salt. My ’70s holidays were spent in North Wales, so I don’t know why I remember them being so spangly, although 1976 was, of course, a good year.

From the early 15th C; ‘small piece of glittering metal,’ from Middle Dutch spange, ‘brooch, clasp’. Related to Old English spang, ‘buckle, clasp’.

 

Cascade – to me this word means music and water, energy and movement. In my second novel, the hero takes solace in playing the piano when things get bad, and I kept coming back to this word when trying to describe the sounds gushing into the air and falling around him.

17th C, from Italian cascata, ‘waterfall’, from cascare, ‘to fall’. From Latin cadere, ‘to fall, sink, settle down.’

 

Andrea Bennett will be at Margate Bookie on Sunday August 21st, tickets here.

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