Read any news source these days, & you finish reading with more questions than you started with. So this post we're looking into questions.
Indira Gandhi said, “The power to question is the basis of all human progress,” whereas L.E. Landon wrote, “Curiosity is its own suicide.”
The noun question came to English in the early 1200s, meaning a philosophical or theological problem. In the next century it added the meaning a difficulty or doubt, and by the 1500s we could use question as a verb. If we look back a bit further, things get a little dark. Question came from an Old French word meaning difficulty, problem, legal interrogation, or torture, which causes one to wonder about those Old French folk, as quaestionem, the Latin source of the Old French word, simply meant a seeking, a question, or judicial inquiry.
Free of that more menacing shade of meaning are the words querulous & query, which came to English in the 1400s & 1500s as an adjective meaning quarrelsome & a noun meaning a question, from the Latin word quaerere, meaning to seek, strive, endeavor or demand. Query became a verb in the 1600s, meaning simply, to question.
It would be fair to say that behind most questions & queries we find curiosity, a word that arrived in the language in the late 1300s, meaning both the desire to know or learn & careful attention to detail. Arriving about that same time was the word curious, which meant both inquisitive, & the somewhat less positive odd, anxious, & strange. During a spate in the 1700s when curious was seen to mean exciting curiosity, curious operated in genteel circles as a euphemism for erotic or pornographic.
We’ll close off with author Fran Lebowitz’s addition to the conversation:
“Children ask better questions than do adults. ‘May I have a cookie?’ ‘Why is the sky blue?’ and ‘What does a cow say?’ are far more likely to elicit a cheerful response than ‘Where’s your manuscript?’ ‘Why haven’t you called?’ and ‘Who’s your lawyer?’”
Please use the comments section for any questions (or answers) about questions.
Big thanks to this week’s sources: The New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women. Merriam Webster, Wordnik, Etymonline, & the OED.
Last week we took a look at words descended from the Proto-Indo European word duwo or dwo, meaning two. It seems a posting regarding two calls for a partner post, so this week we’ll take a look at a few things intelligent women have said about twokinds of people. In an attempt to decrease redundancy, I’ve started each quote midstream after the author wrote something along the lines of,
“There are two kinds of people…”
“…those of us who are trying to escape from something & those of us who are trying to find something.”
-Ileana, Princess of Rumania
“…those who live for their outsides & those who live for their insides.”
“…the settled & the nomad -- & there is a natural antipathy between them, whatever the land to which they belong.”
“…those who have known inescapable sorrow & those who have not.”
-Pearl S. Buck
“…the people who lift & the people who lean.”
-Ella Wheeler Wilcox
“…those who live poor on a lot & those who live rich on a little.”
“…those who think there are two kinds of people & those who have more sense.”
James Tiptree, Jr. (Alice Bradley Sheldon)
So good readers, does the world divide into dualities, or does that last quote from Ms. Sheldon (or Mr. Tiptree if you prefer) hit the nail on the head?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: The Beacon Book of Quotations by Women & Tiptree.org
My two all-time favorite quotation books are Carolyn Warner’s The Words of Extraordinary Women, & Rosalie Maggio’s The New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women. It fascinates & saddens me that the brilliant bits between these covers seldom appear in most books of quotations, or internet quotation sites. Here are some food-related quotes from these two fine resources:
Fran Lebowitz – Food is an important part of a balanced diet.
Patricia Hampl – When we eat / we are like / everyone else
Ayn Rand – Ah, there’s nothing like tea in the afternoon. When the British Empire collapses, historians will find that it had made but two invaluable contributions to civilization—this tea ritual and the detective novel.
Erica Jong – Eating is never so simple as hunger.
Fran Lebowitz – Cheese that is required by law to append the word food to its title does not go well with red wine or fruit.
Julia Child – Noodles are not only amusing but delicious.
Sarah J. Hale – There is small danger of being starved in our land of plenty; but the danger of being stuffed is imminent.
Sara Peretsky – All food starting with a p is comfort food . . . pasta, potato chips, pretzels, peanut butter, pastrami, pizza, pastry.
Peg Bracken – Molded salads are best served in situations where they have little or no competition.
Joan Gussow – As for butter versus margarine, I trust cows more than chemists.
Isak Dinesen – Coffee, according to the women of Denmark, is to the body what the word of the Lord is to the soul.
Which quote hits closest to home? Which one coaxes a smile out of you? Please leave a comment.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources: The Words of Extraordinary Women, & The New Beacon Book of Quotations by Women.
I’ve always had a somewhat twisted fondness for author, poet & critic, Dorothy Parker (1893-1967). Generally, I try to see the silver lining, take the high road, and all that. However, when it comes to searingly mean wit of Dorothy Parker, I throw silver linings & half-full glasses to the winds & revel in her wickedness. Below are some of my favorite Dorothy Parkerisms.
“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”
“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”
“Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.”
“She runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.”
“If you want to know what God thinks of money, just look at the people he gave it to.”
“By the time you swear you're his,
Shivering and sighing.
And he vows his passion is,
Lady make note of this --
One of you is lying.”
“That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can't say 'No' in any of them.”
“If all the girls attending [the Yale prom] were laid end to end, I wouldn't be at all surprised.”
“That would be a good thing for them to cut on my tombstone: Wherever she went, including here, it was against her better judgment.”
She’s the best (or would that be the worst?) I hope you’ll leave a comment or three.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources Women’s History, GoodReads & DorothyParker.com
As summer leaves us, why not indulge in a bit of etymology & a few celebratory quotes about summer?
Summer comes to English from Sanskrit. It appeared in English in 825, meaning exactly what it does today & spelled sumur. Interestingly, summer is etymologically related to the word gossamer, which came to English in the early 1300s, from a marriage of the words goose & summer, & meant spider threads spun in fields of stubble in late fall. Etymologists theorize that the spider silk looked a bit like goose feathers. Hmm. Within a century, gossamer found its present meaning, of light, flimsy, or delicate.
Here are some authors’ thoughts about summer.
“Summer's lease hath all too short a date.”
”There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart."
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
“Come with me,' Mom says.
To the library.
Books and summertime
“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.”
-Henry David Thoreau
"Summertime and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high,
Your mama’s rich and your daddy’s good-looking
So hush little baby, don’t you cry"
-DuBose Heyward, music by George Gershwin
So, good followers, what say you about summer?
My thanks go out to this week’s sources, Etymoniline.com, Goodreads & the OED.
For a change of pace, I’d like to celebrate a writer, generally fascinating chap & certifiable mensch.
Isaac Bashevis Singer once wrote, “When I was a little boy, they called me a liar, but now that I am grown up, they call me a writer.”
He wrote countless short stories & any number of novels, some arguably memoir. Many of his stories featured holocaust survivors &/or the struggles & joys of the lives of Jews & searchers. Miraculously, Singer spent all those years pondering sadness, disappointment, torture, inequity & cruelty, yet managed to hold onto hope. He won the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature, two National Book Awards, countless other awards, & the love of many readers.
A smattering of Singer wit & wisdom follows:
“If you keep on saying things are going to be bad, you have a good chance of being a prophet.”
“The waste basket is the writer's best friend.”
“There will be no justice as long as man will stand with a knife or with a gun and destroy those who are weaker than he is.”
“For those who are willing to make an effort, great miracles and wonderful treasures are in store.”
“Kindness, I've discovered, is everything in life.”
On that last note, followers, please chime in with one kind thing someone has done for you lately.
My thanks go out to this week’s sources, The Library of America & Goodreads
I write for teens, narrate audio books, bake bread, play music, and ponder the wonder of words in a foggy little town on California's central coast.