If a word is not broken, why affix it?



Why affix words? Words have dreams, just like people do. Once a noun, always a noun isn’t true. In the hands of a word surgeon, words can be affixed, even if they are not broken. Affixes can be the wings that turn a noun into a verb. Yes, some of these surgeries go bad; untrained business people take nouns and make verbs that are like pigeons in a park: they’re annoying and do little more than whiten the statues. However, sometimes affixing a noun can make it a better noun or transform it into a real, live person. Imagine a world without Bach, Mozart, Elvis, or Jerry Lee Lewis. Where would we be without word surgeons! (Full disclosure: I am a word surgeon.)



Back in the late 1600s, an Italian named Bartolomeo Cristofori had a lot of time on his hands, so he invented the piano. Although it was beautiful to look at, there was one problem: no one could play it because there wasn’t a word for a person like that. Don’t believe me? Look up the word “piano.” I hope you are convinced now. “Piano” means “quiet.” It sat there, strung out, silent, with its ivories untickled by human hands.



One day, an Italian word surgeon (much like myself except that I’m actually American), Mortadella Datsa Bologna, came over to visit Cristofori and asked about the large piece of furniture sitting in the middle of the room. Cristofori, tried to hide his flummoxity, and said it was supposed to be a musical instrument, but that there was no one to play it, so it remained as mute as a table top. Mute and quiet.



The word-maestro went home, worked through the night, surgically removing the “o” from “piano” and adding the suffix “-ist.” In this way, Bologna invented the pianist. The timing was perfect for Cristofori, his staff rejoiced, his income trebled, and he became a key player in the world of musical instruments. Interestingly, one of Bologna’s descendants, Liberace (Italian through his father’s side) was born in Wisconsin. I live in Wisconsin. I am a word-maestro and often refer to myself as an Italian word surgeon. Maybe I am related to Bologna, or as Wisconsinites say, Baloney.


(Note to reader: This is not the post I intended to type today. I think there is something wrong with my keyboard. Today’s post has not been posted but will appear tomorrow. Please consider this post as tomorrow’s post that has already been posted. Thank you for understanding.)







Carried by my father.


I’ve been carried all my life, though at first I was too small to see. My father carried half of me in a small pouch, until he met my mother. I would have been forgotten, but mother came alongside of him with the other half, then placed me in the pocket she put all her children in.


So spare, so silent, she hardly knew I was there, listening, wondering, and waiting. All day she walked and rocked me. I slept as she moved through her day. When she lay down to rest, I woke. Day and night were both dark to me.


Before I knew the words, I heard voices muffle and murmur love, felt the soft bounce of laughter, and the sharp shake of tears. Hands spoke their joy and expectation, now patting, now prodding, now pushing against my feet as I pushed back. Too young for school and all alone, I tried to find the formula for X and Y that would please them. Outside they waited for a boy, inside I waited as a girl.


I tried my best to stay by staying small, but the pocket could not hold me. I knew I had to go. Thinking I should travel light, I even grew a smaller brain. How was I to know I would need a larger one when I got to that other place?


Leaving was the hardest; the passage, dark and narrow. Mother never had a smaller child or one so fearful to appear before the others. We struggled, both of us, until I was carried home.


Almost forgotten once, half here, half there, now here. Carried, always carried, by stories, time, and secrets.


I’ve been carried all my life. How about you?

I got my poetic license!


Long before I started blogging, I wanted a poetic license. But like so many of my dreams, I let go of it and tried to move on with my life. Blogging rekindled my desire and with the support and urging of my imagination, I decided to apply.


I had to submit all of my blog posts, and that was scary because I have a number of posts  that are about things that actually happened. I was afraid there would be too much truthy stuff on my blog, which would disqualify me.


The rules for getting a poetic license are strict, but thankfully only 70% of your writing (or in my case, typing) needs to comply. After several weeks of fact checking, the review board discovered that the majority of what I type is pure nonsense and includes only a modicum of truth. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me, to say nothing of my imagination, who suddenly feels vindicated.


I hope you all don’t mind me bragging a bit, but I’m happy this morning and feel like my efforts have finally paid off. I guess dreams do come true sometimes.


Just the medicine for the winter doldrums


Do you suffer from the winter doldrums? Did you know you can’t suffer from just one doldrum? Did you realize that the doldrums also refers to a kind of weather that has baffling winds? Has your hair ever been baffled after you were out in the wind? Are you sometimes baffled about why you read this blog?


If you answered yes to any of those questions, particularly the last one, then, indeed, you are suffering. I don’t mean to alarm you friend, but you most certainly have the winter doldrums.


Up until now I have only hinted at my medical condition, trying to make light of it, but today I want to tell the whole sad story; a story of bafflement, suffering, survival, and chocolate.


A baffling wind blew on the day of my birth, or perhaps fate had nothing better to do that day than to ruin my life, but I was born with the tantrums. Unless you have a medical background, you probably don’t know that the doldrums come from the tantrums. Back in the early 1800s, an etymological virus blew in on a baffling wind and infected the word “tantrum,” replicating the second syllable. People who were feeling dull and listless were highly susceptible to this second syllable and soon started coming down with what came to be known as the doldrums.


I was born with a particularly virulent form of the tantrums, and anyone who comes in contact with me is almost guaranteed to get the doldrums and break out in bafflement, unless I take my medication.


From birth, I cried all night and slept all day. Nothing pleased me, and no amount of soothing, rocking, or holding calmed me. My mother, an unlicensed non-nurse, came down with the doldrums and immediately suspected that I wasn’t hers. However, the hospital refused to take me back, so she knew she had to do something. She did what any mother who loved her child and feared for her own sanity would do; she started medicating me with caffeine through my feeding tube (AKA baby bottle). If you’re into heartbreak and tragedy, you can read about it here.


Photo from http://ghirardelli.com/about/ (Personal note to Ghiradelli: How many times do I have to promote you to get some love back?)

Having discovered that administering caffeine to me reduced her suffering significantly, my mother began giving me Easter baskets filled with even more medication, cleverly wrapped in foil to look like little brown eggs. I thought it was candy!


As I grew, so did my tantrums, and I finally had to face the fact that I would need to be on medication for the rest of my life. I’ve come to terms with it now, partly because my family is so understanding and supportive. No matter what the occasion, at least one of my loved ones presents me with coffee or chocolate. None of them ever uses the word “medicine,” but I see the suffering behind their smiles. They take my condition very seriously.


This past Christmas my brother bought me a machine that prepares my liquid medicine called a Keurig. It’s pronounced “cure rig,” and that’s exactly what it does; it’s the rig that delivers the cure. This month to commemorate the baffling wind that blew that fateful day so many years ago, my sister sent me a supply of medicine from Ghiradelli, the well-known pharmaceutical company.


How do you do it, you may be asking. Frankly it’s hard. But I manage. I think the hardest part is when the grandchild comes over. The little one sees my medicine container and doesn’t understand. No, darling, I have to say, that’s grandma’s medicine. The poor little thing thinks it’s candy. So like myself when I was young.


I had to make my own medicine reminder box because the tablets are so large. However, they are surprisingly easy to swallow.

My medicine box helps remind me to take a minimum of one tablet per day.

To prevent my tantrums from infecting others, I must take two kinds of medication: one in liquid form, the other in tablet form. (I won't be offended if you feel sorry for me.)


I have more to say on this subject because medication alone cannot beat the winter doldrums; you also need exercise. However, my cup is empty. Literally. I’m off to find the cure.


(Disclaimer: The statements made on this blog have not been evaluated by the FDA, the FBI, the CIA, the NEA, or anything other three-letter acronymized organization. Use of chocolate requires supervision and who knows more about super vision than Superman. Unsupervised use of chocolate for the doldrums or tantrums can cause stupor, hyperactivity, enlarged hips, and/or sticky fingers, which can earn you jail time in some states. Some chocolates have been known to melt in your hands, the leading cause of finger-licking and wrapper-licking. If this happens to you, go wash your hands and face. Yearstricken cannot be sued, defamed, made fun of, or held responsible for any reader overmedicating. If, however, you experience relief from your symptoms, Yearstricken should be given credit and/or monetary reward. Mention of Ghiradelli is in no way an endorsement of their products, unless they would like to send me products to endorse because I have written about them twice now.)


One order of ordinary, hold the extra


I like a perfectly shaped tree all dressed up for Christmas, wrapped in lights and spangles, gold star atop its head, pretending to be indifferent to all of the gifts strewn at its feet. A tree like that gets my attention; it probably gets your attention, too. When you’re the only tree in the room, you shine in an extraordinary way.


I like Christmas trees; I even admire them. But the trees I love don’t stand around in people’s living rooms doing their best to call attention to themselves. The trees I love live in groves and glades and forests. You can hardly tell one from another. They are ordinary trees, living and dying where they were planted but so full of beauty that if you took the time to learn the history of what they have seen and known and endured, your heart would break with either joy or sorrow, or more likely, both.


Ordinary trees sparkle sunlight across our paths; spend their lives scattering their strength to raise up new generations of trees; nurture winged delight; throw out shadows like carpets, inviting us to stop and rest awhile; whisper truth to those with ears to hear; take our breath away and then give it back. They do this every day, whether anyone notices or not.



Popular American culture values the extraordinary, at least that’s the message I hear. Ordinary is not good enough. You must be smarter, more beautiful, or more athletic than everyone else. You must write better, or be funnier, or take better pictures than other people. If you don’t, you won’t stand out, you won’t be somebody, people won’t know your name or be able to pick you out from a crowd. You will have to wander through life without the only prefix that matters, “extra.” Maybe because extra is rare, everybody wants it. People feel compelled to express their superiority, to trumpet their accomplishments, and to tell people over and over how extraordinary they are, thinking that by saying it often enough, the prefix will magically attach to their ordinary selves.


I appreciate and admire extraordinary people. I listen to their music, enjoy their art, read their books and poems, and enjoy the benefits of their research and inventions. I’ve even known a few I would call extraordinary, but maybe because I am an ordinary person, I like ordinary people best. If I were a tree, no one would choose me to be the centerpiece in a room of celebration. I look like a thousand other trees and even if you walked by me everyday, I doubt you would remember me or be able to pick me out. I am the small, asymmetric tree with the missing branches, standing over there in the northeast corner of the grove.


Twice in the last month, I have touched on this issue with two people who blog. A while back, I  nominated ShimonZ of thehumanpicture for an award. He thanked me but asked to be excused from posting the award on his blog. With his permission, I am including some of what he wrote in response:


Thank you very much for nominating me…I have been nominated for a few awards, and I have tried as best I could to extricate myself without offending those who wished to be nice to me. I don’t want any prizes. I come from a different culture, in which people don’t walk around with medals on their chest, and it is usually an embarrassment to one of us, to get a prize or an award. For me, it is my reward that you read my blog from time to time, and respond here and there.


I like those words. Behind that simplicity, I believe there is a willingness to embrace being ordinary.


Then on the blog The Heartbreak of Invention, I read patricamj’s essay “Why Psychotherapy Doesn’t Work for You” and when I commented I said I thought she must be a good therapist because she seems like an ordinary person. As soon as I wrote that, I realized I needed to qualify it, so I added that I meant it as high praise. I did and I still do.



The world is full of ordinary things and ordinary people, and I am one of them. I read books and stories by famous writers who knock my socks off.  Some of them are extraordinary people. But I am also left sockless by some of the ordinary people who write blogs: people like ShimonZ and patriciamj. They scatter patterns of light that brighten my day; offer shade if I need some rest; delight me with words that soar and sing; blind me with beauty, then teach me to see; whisper truth; take my breath away, and then give it back with laughter. And they do it every day, whether anyone notices or not.


That’s what ordinary people do.

Too busy to blog


Yearstricken is a whiner. I love her and all that (I’m her beloved iPhone), but seriously, she is a whiner.

We talk a lot, so I know all about her schedule this semester: six different classes plus student event scheduling. In fact, I know it by heart because I’ve heard her say it a hundred times or more. Yes, two of her classes are in the evening, so she has some long days, but, people, I am on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week! You don’t hear me whining about it, do you? I have to hear her repeat the same things over and over, day after day, and do I complain? No, I do not. And do you want to know why? Because I am not a whiner.

She said this morning that she was tired and didn’t have time to write on her blog, so I thought I’d do it for her. Right now it’s 9:37 a.m., and we’re in the classroom. She’s at the board writing and I’m in her pocket. It’s a lower level English class and they’re working on pronunciation, one of her favorite subjects.

She’s had them practice saying “Good morning, y’all” and “howdy” for the last 10 minutes, so they’re pretty good at it now. On the board she just wrote three of the possessive adjectives: his, her, your. Next to those she wrote: “Bless _____ heart.” The students can say “Bless his heart” and “Bless her heart” without much problem. She’s careful to tell them not to pronounce the “h,” so in unison they repeat several times “Blesses heart” and “Blesser heart.” It’s taking a bit longer to get them to pronounce “your” correctly. She writes on the board “Bless yer heart” and underlines “yer.” Then she blabs on about how people in Wisconsin speak a dialect; it is not Standard English, which is the correct way to speak and which happens to be spoken in Texas, where she is from. It’s warm there most of the times, she says, as the students watch her mouth move. Then she whines about how people in Wisconsin say “You wanna come with?” and then leave you hanging because they don’t finish the question, so you don’t know if the person wants you to come with you or me or her or him or them, and if you don’t know who you are going with, how can you know if you want to go. This way of talking, she says, has something to do with the weather; it’s cold, too cold to even finish your sentences. Her students, of course, only hear and understand two words of what she said: Wisconsin and cold. They all nod and smile, some of them even repeat the word “cold” out loud, so she’s satisfied they understand. She loves her students for that.

She prides herself on teaching her students proper pronunciation, or as she calls it “talking purty.” When her students have classes with the other instructors, those teachers have to try to break the students of talking “purty.” Yearstricken feels like she’s doing a great job and even thinks the other instructors are complementing her by calling her “Miss Pronunciation.” I love her for that.

1. If you want to join the pantheon of the blog gods, the number one thing to remember is to make your post title short so search engines will have an easy way to find you; in other words, use key words, keep it simple, and don’t make it a complete sentence!!!



2. Try to link as many words as possible to the worldwide web. The more the merrier. Haste makes waste. It’s the magic of SEO and all the cool kids do it. Avast and away.


3. KIM-ize your posts, or in other words, KARDASHIAN-ize them. Keep aBREAST. If that’s too much for you, sprinkle a little SNOOKI here and there. For real class, mention PARIS and your time in the HILTON. Occasionally, mention NUDE-colored stockings if you like fashion. Search engines are all about what is important; you should be, too.


4. Your blog is not your writing junk drawer. You need a theme or purpose. Go to https://year-struck.com/ to see a blog that epitomizes themelessness. Avoid that. First, the reader doesn’t know what to expect; and second, themelessness is not a word. Search engines will have a hard time with words that don’t exist. Write about what others are not writing about: nun fun, earwax, dryer lint, flatulence, and eructation, to name a few. Another idea is to take two topics and create something new and fresh. The Importance of Lint to Nuns would stick in people’s minds, and no one has yet written a blog about the bowels, personifying air as a naughty schoolboy called Bad Air is Expelled. Be creative, okay.


5a. Slick, glossy photos like this are a must!

5b. Drawings of this caliber are rare, but you should strive to develop your skill! (Hint: stop watching so much TV!)
















6. Do you use questions in yours posts? Why not? Don’t you know that you must engage the reader? Why do you not have a question at the end of each and every post? Is it really that hard? Do you think they only want to read what you have to say? Are you a narcissist or something?


7. At the very beginning of your post, make sure you let the reader know what you are going to talk about. For example, don’t wait until the very end to let them know you are going to give them the 7 secrets every blogger should know.