✒Idi…ummmm; The history of some of our favourite idioms (and OK) ✏

Idioms logo

The English language; a diverse and ever-changing beast. As a teacher, I am often confronted with how perplexing our great language can be, and how some of the words that inhabit its planes of communication are far from the lands of sanity. As a mish-mash of various languages, English is very much a patchwork quilt of Latin, French, Germanic, Greek and Polynesian origins. And that is just the start. Trace the history far enough and you will find many more influences too.

Even in our contemporary world, English still insists on ‘loaning’ words when a better one doesn’t already exist in the language, such as Karaoke. New words find their way into our language too from popular culture and general life around us. Anyone who has ever seen The Thick of It will be familiar with Malcolm Tucker’s classic ‘omnishambles’. A word which is only as old as that show, invented to describe a “situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterized by a string of blunders and miscalculations” according to Oxforddictionaries.com.

This wonderful flexibility is arguably one of the reasons why English is such a popular language, and spoken so widely. But, don’t you ever wonder where some of the sayings come from?

Specifically, I like to look at the history of idioms. An idiom is a figure of speech used to mean something other than its literal meaning. In the English language it is estimated there are over 25,000 idioms in use!

That would be a seriously long-read if we tried to define them all! So, let’s start small. Here is the meaning for five famous idioms (and for one famous phrase that isn’t an idiom but has an interesting history).

“Mum, your flan was an omnishambles”
“Aaaargh!”

Always a bridesmaid, never a Bride

Lets start with an easy one, the meaning of which is exactly what it says; someone always being present at other people’s weddings but never having their own. It is often used by old, cruel mothers to mock their unwed female offspring… generally to make single women feel that they are unwanted or cannot find love 😦

It was first used in the Victorian dance hall song Why Am I Always a Bridesmaid by Fred W. Leigh. The phrase gained popularity after being used in a comedic Listerine advert. It shows a picture of a woman named ‘Edna’ under the slogan ‘always a  bridesmaid, never a bride’. She stares forlornly into the distance as she contemplates how her halitosis prevents her from finding love. The solution? Buy Listerine mouthwash and watch the suitors pile in!

Of course, it can't fix everything

Of course, it can’t fix everything

Ride Shotgun

Who remembers their days as a kid/student/adult/parent, scrambling with your friends or siblings for the honour of riding in the passenger seat, next to the driver? Of course, “I called shotgun” is the way of letting all others know you have earned this mighty privilege without the need for bloodshed.

This saying comes from the ol’ Wild West, a time and place where life was much more dangerous than today. If you were sitting next to the driver you would be expected to wield a shotgun so as to defend the stagecoach (the transport of the day) from bandits and looters. More pressure than merely map reading!

“I’m just here for the free ride”

Basket Case

This is a phrase often used to describe someone who is mentally unhinged. It was also the name of a big hit for Pop-Punk trio Green Day in 1994.

This is supposedly a term from World War I, used to describe someone who has lost all their limbs. The first recorded use of the term in official use was by the US government in denial of this practice. In 1919 The US command on public information issued this statement:

“The Surgeon General of the Army … denies … that there is any foundation for the stories that have been circulated … of the existence of ‘basket cases’ in our hospitals.” according to all-that-is-interesting.com

“Yeah, none at all”

Hold Your Horses!

This means ‘wait a moment’, and is often used to calm someone who is showing overt keenness or exuberance.

It is believed to come from around 800BC. A line in book 23 of Homer’s Iliad is commonly translated as “Antilochus – you drive like a maniac! Hold your horses!” That is, apart from the original translation in 1598 that has it as “contain thy horses”. I’m not sure why I prefer if I’m honest. Either way, this Antilochus fellow sounds like a bit of a bad ass. Those horses though…

“Contain this!”

Close, But No Cigar

This is another way of saying that you only just missed out. It was a near miss!

There was a time, many moons ago, when cigars were the preferred choice by fairground stalls as their prizes instead of the large, fluffy plush toys you will find yourself winning these days. One can only imagine if the cigars would also be over-sized and cheaply made… That said, winning was much more impossible than it is now, with games often rigged to make them even harder! The first time it was written down was in a script for the film version of Annie Oakley in 1935,  appearing as “close Colonel, but no cigar” according to phrases.org

From then on it gained popularity and appeared in newspapers from 1949 onwards.

So, it comes from con artists, tricking you into playing a game you were destined to lose. Can you trust anyone?

“We’re out of snake oil, but why not enjoy some of this lovely air. Yours for only $99!”

OK

This, of course, is not an idiom, but it is an extremely popular expression that also has a rather random history.

Used initially in American, then global English, OK is now a staple in many different languages all across the world. It can mean ‘I understand’, or it can mean something is not very good, as in “the karate film was ok”. It can mean I am fine, and can even be a friendly way of saying hello, as in ‘Hey guys, you ok?”

So, onto its origins. There are myriad explanations for where this expression comes from: it could come from the Greek olla kalla, from German alles korrekt or Ober-Kommando, from Finnish oikea, from the Haitian port “Aux Cayes”, from Latin omnes korrecta, from Chocktaw okeh, from a Puerto Rican rum named “Aux Quais”, from Scotland och aye, from Louisiana French au quai, from Wolof waw kay, from Mandingo O ke. There are countless other stories too, increasing the legend of OK; initials on biscuits, branding on cattle, ‘Old Kinderhook’ being the nickname of president Martin Van Buren, ‘0 killed’ being the report of the night’s death toll in WWI or American Civil War, ‘Orl Korrect’ military reporting indicating that troops were in good order, or even ship builders marking wood for the ‘Outer Keel’.

The truth appears to be much more simple than any of that, however. In 1963 a famous etymologist named Professor Allen Walker Read published a book called American Speech. In it, he draws the conclusion that OK effectively started out as a prank.

On March 23rd, 1839, the editor of The Boston Morning Post published a humorous article about a ridiculous organisation named the Anti-Bell Ringing Association (ABRS). They were campaigning to have the laws of dinner bell ringing changed, and OK was used in this article as a shortened version of ‘Oll-Korrect’, or ‘all correct’. At the time it was not uncommon for abbreviations to change the spelling of words, such as ‘KG’ meaning no go (know go) and ‘OW’ meaning all right (Oll Write).

These witty abbreviations are essentially the old world’s LOL and BRB.

“ROFL!”

So, that’s us for this post. Any phrases you think have an interesting story but you didn’t see up here today? Or perhaps you have a phrase you would like us to look into? As always, feel free to leave a comment. Let’s keep the conversation going!

Thanks to mentalfloss.com, all-that-is-interesting.com and phrases.org.uk for the inspiration for this post.

Special thanks to David Castillo Dominici, imagerymajestic, num_skyman, olovedog, stockimages, Tina Phillips and Sira Anamwong @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

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The Wedding Bells – Part 16 (Flash fiction chain # 6 )

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Once again, a group of writers from different parts of the globe join forces to create one linear adventure. The theme this time? Love.

The photograph above serves as the inspirational theme for the 6th Flash Fiction Chain hosted by Jithin of ProTraBlogger. Give his beautiful site a visit and feast your eyes on the inspirational photos or read about his exciting adventures.

A comprehensive list of important characters in the story:

Main:

  • Anna Brighton- 32 year old CEO who owns and runs a publishing company
  • Alex Burns – well established author, Anna’s ex, Toby Blackwell’s cousin
  • Toby Blackwell – co-owns the Blackwell estate, Alex’s cousin

Other characters:

  • Jenny- Anna’s secretary
  • Melissa Doyle –the bride, Anna’s dear friend
  • Harrison – Melissa’s fiance.

Recommendation:

If you’re not caught up, may I recommend you to read the previous part before venturing this part.

  1. Sona
  2. Click here
  3. Priceless Joy
  4. Frenesthetist
  5. Dr. KO
  6. Sweety
  7. Me
  8. I-Read
  9. First Draft
  10. Soul n Spirit
  11. Phaena Says
  12. The Stardust Elephant
  13. Sona
  14. Click Here
  15. Yinglan

Ok, onto the next part…

Part 16

Anna stared at the limp body of Tobias. How could this happen? she found herself thinking. She looked up at Alex, his pale face a picture of emotion. She could feel him gulp from this far, and yet it all seemed somehow forced. Did he actually care?

Alex walked over and crouched down next to her, putting an arm across her shoulders and pulling her in tightly for an embrace. She dropped her head to one side and nestled into him, trying to digest the gravity of what was happening.

“AAAARGH!” cried Toby so loud both Alex and Anna jumped back. Alex flinched so hard he clattered into the coffee table and had to act quickly to avoid an antique vase falling to the floor.

Toby rose to his feet in fits of laughter, doubled over as he choked on the chuckle. Anna was frozen in part anger, part shock.

“You absolute piece of shit… how dare you trick us like this!” said Alex as he stood firm again and tried to regain some composure.

Toby handed the maid a crisp £50 note and offered her his thanks. She turned to leave and made sure not to catch the eyes of Alex or Anna. Something about the maid’s nervous energy made Anna uncomfortable, but she couldn’t explain why.

“Look on the bright side – I bet you’re not so angry about what you saw in the room earlier?” said Toby, still chuckling to himself.

“You sure know how to put things in perspective,” said Anna through gritted teeth. “Come on Alex, lets go.”

Alex held Toby’s stare a little longer than he needed to, then turned to follow Anna from the room.

Toby dipped his finger through the ‘blood’ on his chest and licked it. “Hmm, I love jam,” he said to himself. It was then that he noticed the arrow with the love heart-tip. “Where did this come from?” said Toby aloud as he started to feel dizzy. “Guys wait, come back,” he called, but by then the room was empty.

*****

Anna was furious, stomping heavily down the corridor. Alex followed closely behind, trying hard to keep pace. He was calling after her, but she seemed adamant she wasn’t going to turn.

“Anna,” he cried again. “ANNA!”

Finally she stopped, without turning. She was breathing so heavily her whole body convulsed with every intake of air. He walked round to stand in front of her and placed a hand on each arm, holding her gently but firmly.

She looked up and met his eyes. There were tears, building in size and waiting to roll down the slopes of her cheeks. Alex dabbed them away with his thumbs and pulled her in for an embrace. She didn’t fight back, merely responding to each movement from him with reciprocation. As he pulled away to look back into her eyes he saw they were bright again with happiness. She pulled him in and kissed him deeply and passionately.

Alex pulled away and looked in her eyes. She really was happy, too happy. He could feel a pain in his back, her embrace was so strong, so tight. He couldn’t pull away for long.

“Alex, I love you!” she cried before pulling him in again. This was so unlike her. They hadn’t been passionate people, even as a couple. Their love was built on respect and admiration by the end, never lust nor impulse. That was the mark of their youth, something he had assumed was consigned to the past. Her eyes, something about her eyes. Why had he fallen in love with her? That’s right, he loved her sad and thoughtful eyes. He wanted to cure that sadness, and for a time he’d felt that he had. She was always so ‘elsewhere’, never in the moment, her mind wandering off and never present. Her melancholy was her sweet charm, and it’s depths of feeling and affection were where he found himself hooked on her.

Where was this happiness coming from?

He pulled away from the powerful pull of her kiss, and held a hand on the side of her face. “Anna,” he said, “you know I still love you too.” He was looking deep into her eyes, trying to find that sadness, that sweetness, and he could see it, distant and flickering. She pulled him in to kiss again, and this time he stopped his urge to fight. He succumbed to her warmth, her grip and suction. They were clasped in a caress, moments melting away. He felt his arms run riot across her body, wanting desperately to touch every part.

It had always been an acquired beauty; never obvious but always worth looking for. She always tried so hard to hide it, never wanting to hide behind her natural beauty like her friends such as Mel. She had almost wanted you to struggle to see it, like only the truly worthy would notice. It was like squinting in the dark, and he had wondered as a younger man whether her beauty even existed in a classic sense, but he’d always reached the same conclusion; a few seconds in her company and the warmth from within permeated the air and enveloped him, forcing impulses and emotions he had never expected. It was happening now. Fireworks, dancing, screams and steam, the sizzle and pop of fresh love, of teenage lust, of stolen kisses. He rubbed his hands in appreciation along her back, chasing her curves. Where had these emotions been hiding all these years?

Then he felt a prick, and pulled himself away from the embrace. He held his hand up to look at his finger. There was no cut. He looked over her shoulder down her back, searching for the source of the feeling. He saw a glisten amongst the fabric of her shirt.

“What is it?” asked Anna.

Alex wasn’t sure as he gripped it between thumb and forefinger. He plucked it from the clothing and held it up between them both.

“Is that, is that an arrow?” asked Anna.

Alex’s face grimaced in perplexity.

He looked around the room, and off down the corridor over Anna’s shoulder he saw Sara, the flower girl, duck into a doorway and disappear.

Stay tuned for part 17 by Dr. Ko

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

Unleash the Beast; How To Get More Stuff Done

get stuff done logo

I would never think of myself as lazy, but I have already posted something about napping, and to take all that time to nap in a full time schedule has meant I have had to learn how to use my time well! Do you ever have those days were it just doesn’t feel like there are enough hours to get everything done? You could be a single parent trying to juggle work and family life, or perhaps a young graduate on your first rung at a big company and trying to make a big impact. Hell, you could just be a freelance writer looking to make more time in your day for daiquiris and dancing.

Humans can be tangential beasts, and these wandering minds can often lead us down mental rabbit holes, blocking us from finishing some of the multitude of tasks we need to. Do you know what I am saying?!

So, whether you want more time for work, for general life, or even just to say you can, this post should go some way toward giving some examples of successful methods, or at least giving you some inspiration to get you thinking of your own way.

Go on...

Go on…

Keep it Simple

Ok so this isn’t really a technique per se, in so far as it doesn’t have a fancy author or a book to go with it. What it does do is draw on common sense ideas that should seem obvious, and it hopes to use these to build your energy, productivity and ability to think clearly; a combination of which should lead to greater output and a ‘to do’ list full of ticks!

So, make sure you: have a good nights sleep (7-8 hours), focus on the task at hand, stay hydrated, get an early start, turn key tasks into habits, eat healthy, exercise, eliminate the non-essential, lock yourself away and be sure to take breaks during work.

Just by making sure you follow these simple pieces of advice could increase your productivity. Sometimes the little things make all the difference, and can be easily overlooked.

Pictured: How NOT to work (but how to have fun)

Pictured: How NOT to work (how to PARTAY)

Stephen Covey’s Priority Matrix

Few have had the impact on time management that this man has. Over his lifetime he was able to craft together several different approaches to making the most of your time, but he is probably best remembered for his two best-selling books, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and First Things First.

Essentially, Covey’s methods focus on his understanding of universal truths, or ‘principles’. It can be shocking how much we are willing to do to avoid doing some tasks, and often we can actually do less and be more effective. Truly, one cannot have a conversation about time management techniques and not mention the late Covey, whose work to this day still inspires millions. Website here.

I used to clean toilets

I used to clean toilets

The Pomodoro Technique

This was a personal favourite of mine at university, and I have had great feedback from students who I have recommended this to since. Invented in the late 1980’s by Francesco Cirillo, the simplicity of this technique is one of the main reasons for its effectiveness. It gets its name from the Italian word for tomato, as the timer used by it’s creator was a tomato shaped kitchen timer.

The technique breaks work into 25 minute slots, separated by 3/5 minute breaks. Each slot is called a pomodori (the plural Italian word for tomato) and put into categories of four. After four pomodori (called a set) a longer break is taken, typically 15-30 minutes.

The general principle is that you choose the task you want to do and then set the timer. You then work continuously for the full slot, only stopping when the timer rings. If you finish before, then the rest of the slot is for ‘over-learning’, or getting more finished that is relevant to the task. Website here.

Tomatoes; not the worst timers

Tomatoes; not the worst timers

Jerry Seinfeld’s ‘Don’t Break the Chain’

This is not the first time in my life I am taking advice from Jerry Seinfeld, but this is one example when he really does show wisdom. The idea is simple; every day you perform a task, then mark a cross on your calender to show you have done something. Over time, a chain will develop, and this will increase your desire to keep working as you don’t want a blank day on the calender (and therefore a break in the chain). This technique has a greater motivating effect the longer is is followed, and so eventually you should be in a state of perpetual work as you don’t want to let yourself down. Find it here.

Don't be that guy

Don’t be that guy

Zen Habits

This method revolves around the idea of not having any goals. I know this seems like it is the opposite of what you want, but hear me out. By removing the focus on goals and deadlines, this method frees the spirit to embrace opportunity and chance. You still know what you want, you just aren’t tied to a certain path and can be flexible in your approach, relying instead on intuition, instinct and passion.

This is clearly one for the free spirits, but a worthy mention none the less. Ponder it here.

This is definitely more productive than just waiting for things to happen

Getting Things Done

Back to the self-help books, and another best-seller. David Allen, its creator, focuses on thoughts, goals, ambitions and tasks and lumps them together into one system that can get the best from you. The nature of its structure means it is very flexible, and almost anything can be pinned onto it and worked towards.

In its simplest form, it is essentially five steps; capture, clarify, organise, reflect, and engage. That said, there is much, much more to it as you advance. Find more info here.

“Can I use my own steps?”

App That Task

We live in a digital world guys, and predictably there are already apps available to help you organise your time too. Everything from to do lists (Evernote) to time-wasting tracking apps (Rescue time), and avoiding distraction (focus booster) to syncing work and home devices (dropbox). You can literally find an app for everything, including some of the techniques we have already mentioned (such as Pomodoro!)

It’s the digital age, man. Embrace technology and find yourself much more productive. After all, it’s why humanity invented the stuff! Find a great list of time saving apps here, courtesy of LifeHack.

Which app tells me where I left my keys...

Which app tells me where I left my keys…

Kanban

One thing I love about this method is the fact it gives you a visual chart of your progress to gain instant gratification, and see how productive you are over a period of time giving you a sense of pride and achievement.

Created by Taiichi Ohno from Toyota, based largely on the Toyata JIT (Just In Time) production method for its cars, this system works by tracking your to do list in a series of columns which are divided into done, doing and backlog. It looks complicated at first, but it is a method worth sticking with. Track yourself here and see how satisfying it is to see each achievement as it happens. Nothing beats that feeling of finishing the annoying little jobs.

“All emails answered!”

Eat the Frog

Mark Twain once wrote, “eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you for the rest of the day”. Essentially, get the worst stuff done first, and the rest of the day will feel much better.

This is the basic idea behind the book Eat That Frog! by Brian Tracy. It offers 21 tips on ways to avoid procrastinating. But even if you don’t fancy splashing out on the text, the simple idea can be easily placed into any daily routine; get the greens down you first, then enjoy your steak. Go ahead, eat that frog!

Not literally...

Not literally…

Amalgamate, You!

Nothing above catching your imagination? No worries, just put your favourite elements together to make a super system. A recent online poll showed that many people’s preferred method was actually to put together various techniques and craft them into a much more personalised approach. Pomodoro mixed with getting things done and not breaking the chain is a very popular combination, but you could easily mix eat the frog and some apps. Go full digital and you could even combine various apps together too! After all, more heads are better than one.

We couldn't have done it without you Carl

Give me a T, give me and E…

The possibilities are endless, and ultimately you are the master of your own destiny. But I feel your pain, internet. I know  from personal experience how hard it can be to get everything done that you need to. Sometimes you can be working at your peak, and still find yourself falling short. It’s true that in life we can sometimes face challenges that are beyond the possibilities of human endeavour. That said, you can prepare yourself better for them with a little life shuffling, and perhaps even increase your personal time if you have got all the important stuff out of the way.

Do you know another method you want the world to know? Or do you think that these methods are just for the lazy and procrastinators? I’d love to hear your comments!

Special thanks to adamr, koko-tewan, marin, stockimages, supakitmod, imagerymajestic and watcharakun @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

Napping is our Nature; Reasons Why You Should Take Time to Nap

napping logo copy

Do you remember your first job? I worked in a fish and chip shop in Southern England. I was 14 years old, and my responsibilities consisted of peeling potatoes, chipping them and then blanching them ready to be deep fried by the owner Mr Fukiyama later. He was a Japanese immigrant who had lived in the UK and owned his fish and chip shop for nearly twenty years. I have never tasted fish and chips as good as he made them since.

I worked six days a week, 1.5 hours Monday to Friday, then 2 hours on Saturday morning; they were the cruellest. I would be so tired, dragging myself out of bed at the crack of dawn to make sure there was someone there with the owner to collect the fish delivery that would be shipped fresh in a freezer van from the South Coast.

There was one particular morning where I was particularly tired; shattered in fact, probably from some tryst the night before. Mr Fukiyama informed me he was going to the wholesalers and would be back in an hour. As I heard the door click behind him, and the lock catch, I ducked under a pile of potato bags and began to nap.

I woke no more than ten minutes later to a rather red faced Mr Fukiyama standing over me. He stared down and asked “why are you asleep?”

Not sure what to say, I lied through the tiredness in my lips.

“I’m sorry sir, I’m just so tired from all my school work.”

He looked down at me and smiled.

“In Japan it is seen as a sign of hard work to sleep on the job. For this reason, I will let you off this time,” he said, and then he walked away chuckling to himself.

That’s right. In Japan there is something called Inemuri, which is essentially ‘sleeping while present’. It is the practice of sleeping on the job, demonstrating to your boss that you are working so hard that you haven’t had time to sleep at home. In fact, it is so desirable to do this, some people actually fake Inemuri! People are faking taking naps! Can you Adam and Eve it!?

It raises a good point though. With such a fast paced world, we rarely get a chance to take the time we need to really rest. For those that need reminding, or for those that just need justification, we’ve got you covered! Here are some of the best reasons to take a nap!

Inemuri doesn't apply to schools. Kids are just lazy...

Kids though, kids are just lazy

It’s in our nature!

Cats are great, aren’t they? Little bundles of fluffy joy, always there to cuddle up and keep you warm and comforted. But they are kind of… lazy, aren’t they? I mean, they don’t really do anything, do they? You feed them, you buy them nice things, you keep them groomed and a roof over their head. They just, kind of, sleep really. In fact cats sleep, on average, for 70% of their lives!

The scientific reason is cats, like many animals, have a polyphasic sleep pattern, which basically means they have different periods of being awake and sleeping throughout a 24 hour cycle. In fact, it’s estimated that around 85% of animals sleep in this way! We are in the minority as monophasic sleepers now, but it is assumed humans would once have had a similar sleeping pattern in times of cavemen so that there would always be someone awake to watch for predators.

Recent studies have shown that the most useful sleep pattern for the modern human would be a biphasic sleep cycle, with a longer sleep at night and a shorter one during the day. This was once popular in countries such as Spain, and finds its origins in Ancient Rome.

So by not napping, you are essentially fighting against nature. Do you hate nature?

All this talking is making me tired

sleeeeeepppyyyyy

Productivity

This seems like a no-brainer to some, but napping actually helps to improve your productivity. That said, there are still those that view sleeping on the job as a sign of laziness. You don’t have to take our word for it though. Arianna Huffington, President of The Huffington Post, is a vocal advocate of work based naps, and even went as far as installing two nap rooms in the Huffpost offices! Employees sign up in advance, and the rooms are always full.

Her justification was simple; “Ultimately, at work, the most important thing is our energy. It’s not exactly how many hours we are sitting at our desks, but how present are we when we’re there.” Arianna Huffington, Business Insider.

In fact, there are studies that show that sleeping in the middle of the day increases productivity in the second half of the day to levels similar to those seen in the first half. You are essentially hitting reset.

As the old saying goes; work smart, not harder. Napping at work is a healthy step toward that goal.

"So Sheila, we need to improve productivity this quarter. How about a nap... later... after dinner... at my house"

“So Sheila, we need to improve productivity this quarter. How about a nap… later… after dinner… at my house…naked”

It improves your men…mom…mam… I’m sure I know this

One of the greatest advantages of sleep is it aids the brain in turning short-term memories into long-term ones. This is due to the fact that during sleep, the brain is much better at avoiding distractions that have the potential to corrupt a memory. When a memory is new it is often stored in the hippocampus, and during wakefulness this can leave the memories fragile and vulnerable. By napping during your learning, you are effectively giving your brain more of a chance to download these memories into it’s hard drive (the neocortex) and make them permanent. Distraction kills memories.

Ooooh, bubbles!

Ooooh, bubbles!

Red Alert

NASA has spent a great deal of time looking into sleep. It is not unusual for astronauts to sleep 0.5 to 2.5 hours less in space than they do on Earth, due to many factors such as environment, physical stress and a jumbled circadian rhythm. To compensate for this loss of sleep, NASA has spent a lot of time and energy researching the benefits of napping.

In tests they performed on sleepy military pilots, it was shown that after a 20-30 minute kip their performance increased by 34% and their alertness by 100%. When you are hurtling through space in a rocket, alertness is kind of a big deal.

'Derik, let go, it's my turn!'

‘Derik, let go, it’s my turn!’

Good Mood Dude

There is a little neurotransmitter called Serotonin that helps our bodies regulate our appetites, sleep and mood. Having a good amount of it is what gives you a feeling of peace and happiness. A lack of sleep, and its associated problems, can lead to blocking of our bodies serotonin, and therefore our ability to regulate our mood. This can lead to irritability, anxiety, stress and depression. According to Dr Mednik, a leading expert on naps (read, napologist), napping “bathes your brain in serotonin, reversing those effects and creating a more positive outlook”. You’ll be happier, which will rub off on those around you until the world is one, giant, happy ball of joyful happiness.

"Freeze Frame"

“Freeze Frame”

You Won’t Be Alone

Napping is nothing new, and there have been many famous people who have been staunch advocates of napping; Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, Napoleon Bonaparte, and John F. Kennedy to name but a few.

In fact, some have even claimed that certain napping rituals are in fact partly responsible for what makes them great. Savador Dali was a big fan of the ‘napping with a key‘ technique. Essentially, you fall asleep with a key in your hand, which is attached by a string to a plate. As your hand relaxes, you drop the key which crashes the plate into the floor and you wake up. This is supposed to increase creativity, and has in fact got some backing from scientists, who call it a hypnogogic nap. It works by waking you before you reach stage 2 sleep, unlocking your creative thoughts that would have otherwise aided dreaming. Dali claimed he learned it from Capuchin monks, and that it was popular among other painters of his generation. Einstein and Aristotle, among others, were also a fans of this kind of napping.

Team napping is scientifically proven to be twice as effective (citation needed)

Team napping is scientifically proven to be twice as effective (citation needed)

It’s Good for Your Health!

Napping has been linked with helping to reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular problems, according to Dr Mednik.

There are also studies that show you burn more calories sleeping than you do watching TV!

It’s not just what it does do, but what it doesn’t do too. Good rest suppresses the production of cortisol, whereas sleep deprivation often leads to an abundance of the cortisol hormone which can lead to health defects. These can be anything from constipation to lowered immunity, weight gain to osteoporosis. You’ll feel so good, you’ll want to shout about it!

naaaaaaaaps!

naaaaaaaaps!

You’ll (probably) Live Longer

There is a crisis in the EU at the moment, and as will often happen, the media are resorting to stereotypes to make their point. In the case of Europe, there are two stereotypes that many associate with the current crisis; the hard working German and the lazy Greek. Not only is this downright racist, it’s also not totally fair. See, there is little evidence to demonstrate that Greeks are any lazier than the rest of the world, but there is evidence to show that they live longer. For example, a 2007 study identified Greek adults who napped regularly as having a 37% lower chance of suffering from coronary mortality, and the risk of death at work being reduced by 64% .

Similar research of some of the longest living communities on Earth has demonstrated similar correlations. Sardinia, which has an average life expectancy of 81 (one of the highest in the world), is famous for embracing the afternoon siesta, and also has the record for producing the most centenarians. A similar story can be found in Okinawa, Japan and also amongst Californian Adventists, both communities that embrace naps in daily life.

"Whhhyyyyy!" "If only he'd napped more!"

“Whhhyyyyy!”
“If only he’d napped more!”

Whatever your opinion, I think we can all agree that napping is definitely something worth doing. Aside from the above advantages, it is also fun! Is it lifestyle that prevents us from napping more? Probably. I am sure that if most of us could find the time, we would nap regularly.

Hopefully, this post has inspired you to take a little more time to nap in your day. If not for pleasure, then perhaps for some of the reasons listed above. Maybe you even have your own reason, and I’d love it if you’d share it with me!

At the very least, I hope that this post has gone some way to challenging the stigma associated by some with naps. We all deserve the opportunity to catch forty winks. Not convinced? Need more time? It’s ok, go ahead and sleep on it.

'Atta boy

‘Atta boy

Special thanks to ambro, arztsamui, marin, olovedog, stay2gether, stockimages, Stuart Miles and  vectorolie @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015

The Wedding Bells – Part 7 (Flash fiction chain # 6 )

img_9020-fileminimizerOnce again, a group of writers from different parts of the globe join forces to create one linear adventure. The theme this time? Love.

The photograph above serves as the inspirational theme for the 6th Flash Fiction Chain hosted by Jithin of ProTraBlogger. Give his beautiful site a visit and feast your eyes on the inspirational photos or read about his exciting adventures.

A comprehensive list of important characters in the story:

(Main)

Anna Brighton- a 32 year old CEO that owns and runs a publishing company

Alex Burns – well established author, Anna’s ex, Toby Blackwell’s cousin

Melissa Doyle – the bride, Anna’s dear friend

Toby Blackwell – co-owns the Blackwell estate, Alexis’ cousin

(Supporting characters)

Jenny- Anna’s secretary

Adam – Owner of Adam and Eve’s

Harrison – Melissa’s fiance.

Percy Tuppence – Owner of the ring shop

I am entrusted to write  Part 7 of the story… To know what has happened already, check out the previous six parts below…

PART 1 by Sona

PART 2 by Yinglan

PART 3 by Priceless Joy

PART 4 by Frenesthetist

PART 5 by Dr Ko

PART 6 by Sweety

Part 7

Alex stared off into the road. His mind was running at a hundred miles an hour while he chewed the inside of his lip; contorting his face in grimace and frown.

What had he hoped for with Anna? He didn’t feel that way any more, did he? They had been good together once, but breaking up had been for the best. Was it pride? She had cut their relationship short claiming she couldn’t stand not being the thing he loved the most in the world. Unusually for him, he’d had no words in response. He’d felt she was right, even if he didn’t like it. But recently…

He felt a gentle tug on his trousers. Looking down he saw the smiling face of a little girl. It was Sara the flower girl. She had a gap toothed smile, resting peacefully under bright eyes.

“Hello little princess,” he said, squatting down to meet her at eye level. “What’s that you got there?” he asked, gesturing to the cone and flowers in her hand.

“Cupid chose me to carry the flowers.”

“The perfect choice,” Alex said, smiling.

“He left the flowers outside my door. Mum says it’s because I have a loving heart, and that my spirit is pure. I think you have a pure spirit too,” she said.

“Thanks very much Sara, it’s nice to know someone does,” he said, mussing her hair and smiling at her.

Sara blushed and looked down, giggling excitedly.

“Now come on, let’s go and find your mother. I reckon she’ll be missing her princess.”

*****
The speedometer revved past 50 and Anna felt a thrill in her stomach; part fear, part ecstasy. She hadn’t had a chance to cut loose and let herself feel out of control for so long. Work, relationships, family, friends; all were tied to a fierce distance she maintained for a feeling of control.
She had memories of the girl she was before the publishing, before the stress and the meetings and the packed schedule. She’d been a dreamer, a free spirit ghosting from place to place in search of feelings and experiences. She would read and learn and chase and dream. She had Alex, and they chased this together.
Somehow it had all changed, suddenly and painfully. He had become a different man, tuned into new feelings that weren’t programmed into her, alien and electronic, foreign and coded. They stayed as robots, connecting in only words – not touch nor soul. She had felt him drift away from her, his touch metallic and slowly his words became so too; the scripted auto cue of embrace left them both unloved and unloving, forging escape plans and exit strategies until the warmth left them both fully, and she closed the door for good.
She’d never imagined they would cross paths again. She definitely didn’t expect it to be this way. He’d taken the words from her, and so she had made her own. Now she had the power to take his words back…
“Are you ok?” asked Toby, changing gear to pull up at a red light. He glanced at her and she felt her body blush. Those dimples.
“Yes, I’m fine. I am enjoying your driving,” she said.
“That’s great darling. Let me know if I am going too fast, I can always go slower,” he said, his voice implying a wink.
“Tobias, you’re so bad,” she said, giggling.
“You don’t know the half of it. Give me a bottle of wine and some massage oil and I’ll show you how bad I can really get,” he said with a smirk as the light changed and he revved off.
They sped down the high street, past the Greenacre pub and the Landsdowne village hall. The sun was shining brightly and Anna was enjoying the feel of the wind in her hair again; had it been so long since she’d felt this?
They pulled up at another traffic light outside a café, and Toby glanced over at her.
“So many red lights. It’s like someone wants us to have a lot of time together,” he said. He was looking at her like she was a lolly on a hot day.
“Or they want to slow us down,” she said, returning the look. His shirt, taught over sinew, was making her heart drum with hunger for an embrace.
“Who would want to slow us down? We need to get that ring or the wedding is ruined. This isn’t some bad romantic comedy,” he said, bellowing a laugh and placing a hand behind her head on the head rest. “Though I guess, if the universe wants it,” he said, leaning in, “we could give it one.”
She felt herself leaning toward him, but as she did she noticed something out of the corner of her eye.
“Wait, is that Harrison?” she said. Toby turned to follow her gaze. Harrison was inside the café holding the hand of a tall, slender and rather beautiful woman.
“What’s he doing here? And who the hell is that?” she asked.
“The bloody blighter’s just having some tea darling, nothing to worry about.”
As Toby said this they both saw Harrison lean in and kiss the woman on the cheek, then mutter something that made both him and the woman laugh.
“That piece of shit,” she yelled.
Toby was staring open-mouthed. “I’m sure there’s an explanation. Harrison is a stand up guy, straight as an arrow that lad, never been the Casanova type” he said.
“Yeah right! It’s so rare to see wealthy men betraying their wives and girlfriends!” she said. Her voice had been raised, and she realised she was letting her passions get the better of her. “I’m going to confront him,” she said, as a car behind them beeped it’s horn. Toby hit the accelerator and sped off down the road before she had a chance to open her door.
“Stop right now, we need to turn around and confront him,” she said.
“Look Anna, right now we need to get that ring. I’m not saying that what we just saw isn’t odd, but there’s got to be an explanation. Harrison just isn’t like that.”
“I don’t care what you say, I know what I saw. We have to got back,” she said.
“Let’s make a deal,” he said, turning to face her. “Once we have the ring we can go back and say whatever you want. I will back you up and support you, no matter what you want to do. We can kill him if you’d like.”
“That’s so sweet of you – wait, kill him?!”
“Yeah, if you want,” he said, his face straight.
“Are you joking?”
“Of course I am,” he said. She let out a huge sigh of relief. “I mean, unless you want to?” he said, smiling at her.
“You’re right, it’s probably nothing,” she admitted finally, as they pulled up outside the ring shop.
“Like I said, let’s focus on getting that ring first and then worry about mysterious women. Now, where were we?” he said, leaning in to kiss her.
She could feel her heart racing again, desperate for his lips. She could smell him as he leant in, a mixture of masculine musk and subtle aftershave. She put her hand up to touch his stubble on his cheek, she could feel his dimples, this was it…

There was a knock on the window. Anna looked out and saw the helpful and pasty face of Percy Tuppence, the ring maker. He didn’t look like he had been aged but rather, had been pickled. His thinning grey hair was gently being lifted by a slight breeze in the air as his tiny eyes tried to focus behind thick glasses. She wound down her window as Toby straightened up in his chair.

“Hello folks, sorry to interrupt. Miss Doyle called ahead and said I should wait outside with the ring for a red Mercedes,” said Percy softly.

“Thanks,” said Toby sarcastically. Even grumpy he was sexy. Anna felt frustrated she had been so close to getting her kiss, she wanted it more than ever now.

“I appreciate it. Can I have it now,” she asked.

“Oh of course, where is my mind,” he said, reaching a hand into his pocket. “It’s right here,” he said, rummaging around. However, when he retrieved his hand there was no ring. “Oh silly me, I’ve left it inside,” he announced in a croaking voice to the street. “Please bear with me one second while I fetch it,” he said before turning and shuffling back into the shop.

“Is he for real?” asked Toby. Anna found Toby’s subtle anger a little exciting. His attitude, she supposed, was not just from the frustration at the ring maker but also from his desperation to kiss her. It felt nice to be wanted, she hadn’t felt it for so long.

Percy appeared in the doorway with a ring box in his hand and was stepping cautiously on the pavement. As he was about two steps from the car a tramp ran over to him, grabbed the box, and pushed him to the floor.

Toby was out of the car in a flash and straight after the tramp. They disappeared down an alley and out of sight. Anna got out of the car to help the fallen Percy.

As she stepped onto the curb her phone began to ring. She answered instinctively, not giving herself time to see who it was.

“Hello,” she said.

“Hi Anna, it’s Mel. Where are you?”

“Just at the ring shop now.”

“Is everything ok? Is it Toby? Has he stolen your heart?” she said.

“Things are definitely getting stolen here.”

“You sound distracted. Are you two planning on running off with the ring?”

“Not both of us…”

“Are you joking?”

“We didn’t plan it…”

“Anna, are you coming back with the ring?”

“Sorry Mel, I can’t hear you, there’s a tunnel, an… rain… engine”.

She crouched down and helped Percy to his feet.

“How easy would it be to replace that ring?” she asked.

“Not very, it’s one of a kind. I had to get stuff specially shipped in.”

“It’s ok, I’ve got a plan.”

 

Stay tuned – part 8 coming next from Ruth

Part 9 by Austin

Part 10 by Rashmi

Part 11 by Phaena

Part 12 by Manvi

Part 13 by Sona

Part 14 by Yinglan

Part 15 by Yinglan

Non-non-fiction – Absolute lies you’ve believed for years!

title

Children are just terrible, aren’t they? Ok, so maybe they are actually lovely little bundles of joy that just happen to also slip into patterns of annoying behaviour, but still, we can all agree they have the potential to be a nightmare at times.

So, how do you go about addressing their behaviour but also making it seem like you are on their side, and therefore it’s not you punishing them, but the world? You lie, of course!

When I was a small boy, my grandmother used to love telling me ridiculous lies in her effort to try and curb my naughty behaviour. For this reason, I used to have a fear of eating chewing gum as I didn’t want to be digesting it into my teens. When I wouldn’t finish my carrots, she convinced me that James Bond ate all of his and that was the reason he could see so well in the dark. And date beautiful women. And always survive. She even showed me scientific studies… studies!!!

This all reminded me of some of the other factual errors we have been fed as gospel, or statements we have taken as truths. They aren’t all told for children, but I just cannot take the lies any more! So here you are people, an Itchy Quill knowledge bomb coming your way.

Sugar is natures turbo booster

Ok, so we all know about this one, right? This has to be true, I mean, I saw Kelsey’s boy Jeremy eat a bag of skittles at his birthday party last week and he was just crazy! It can’t be the parents fault, because they are such wonderful people. It must be all the sugar!

WRONG.

Sugar does not, as commonly believed, lead to hyperactivity in children. The way the body breaks down sugar just doesn’t work like that. Some kids are just innately hyperactive, lest we forget. If they do seem extra hyper, it could be from eating chocolate, and therefore by extension caffeine. Kids on caffeine; now that would be hyperactive.

lamalamalamalamalamalamalama

lamalamalamalamalamalamalama

Swimming after eating can kill you

I might be exaggerating a little on the lie here, but we all know this one don’t we; give yourself thirty minutes to digest your food before you get in the pool, otherwise you could get a cramp and drown. This isn’t true, simply because the human body is more than capable of both digesting and swimming at the same time. It’s had plenty of practice in multi-tasking, after all. Of course, if you eat a big meal and then jump in the pool and vigorously paddle, you run the risk of discomfort. But that could happen during other activities such as working out or running. If you get into the pool and take it easy, you’ll live to eat another day!

It could be the cheesecake that's drowning me... or it could be the fact I can't swim!

It could be the cheesecake that’s drowning me… or it could be the fact I can’t swim!

George’s Marvellous Molars

As sexy as it would have been, George Washington did not have teeth made of wood. His gnashers were in fact made from a combination of walrus and elephant ivory, lead, gold wire and brass. That’s right, the original president was keeping it real with gold (wired) teeth. It is not clear whether he also had a hip hop deal and 50″ rims, but he was famous for popping a few (British) caps…

What's up b**ches!

What’s up b**ches!

Blind as a…

Narwhale? Giraffe? Monkey? Of course, everyone knows the expression, blind as a bat. But here’s the thing, bats can see fine! It’s not known for sure where the myth comes from, but I believe that it is jealousy from humans at the fact bats developed such excellent echolocation. We chose to accuse them of blindness to give us a feeling of superiority at being able to do something they can’t. Well, they can. So I guess we lose. It’s only a matter of time before the bats come to take us all away and get their revenge (citation needed).

"Oi, I'm watching you"

“Oi, I’m watching you”

The Arthritic Bully

Yes, it’s odd that there aren’t a bunch of old men who used to be bullies walking around with arthritis, is it? Not really. Cracking your knuckles, as popular as it is to believe, does not lead to arthritis. Anything from family genetics, your job, previous injury or even obesity could make it more likely you will contract it in later life.

While not causing arthritis, cracking the knuckles can affect your hand’s flexibility and ability to function.

Other side effects are claws and fur... maybe

Other side effects could include sudden claw onset and possible fur… maybe

Forgetful Fish

Anyone who has ever seen a little goldfish swimming from side to side in a fish tank has every right to think that fish must have a short memory purely for the reason that anyone who was aware they were trapped in such purgatory would probably take their own life. Fish, it seems, are actually much better at remembering than we as humans have realised. In fact, there are fish that have shown they can remember information for up to five months!

Still, Dory from Finding Nemo wouldn’t have been quite so cute without her short memory.

"Sharon, I'm sorry! You know I can't remember our anniversary!"

“Sharon, I’m sorry! You know I can’t remember our anniversary!”

Life after Death

There are many stories of corpses that have kept growing their fingernails and hair, and it makes for nightmare fuel. You can rest easy though as it is all a lie. In truth, as the body starts to decompose the skin tightens and shrinks, causing it to give the appearance of nails and hair getting longer.

So while this has obviously answered the question of whether we continue to grow after we die, it has raised the new question of which is more terrifying; growing hair or shrinking skin?

So this is less scary?

How about no hair or skin?

The Penny Assassin

I went to Paris on a school trip in 1998, and was adamant I wanted to drop a penny from the top of the Eiffel Tower for no other reason than you’re not supposed to. A teacher caught me as I was about to let go, and a slapped wrist stopped me from doing it. I got a scolding about dangerous behaviour, and it’s a good thing too. I spent the rest of my teens believing I had nearly caused a death!

It turns out that in actuality a penny dropped from that height would only reach 50mph, which  would not be fast enough to kill someone. Injure, definitely, but kill… nope. Now, am I saying you should go and drop pennies from high places? No, of course not. I am older and wiser than I was as a young boy, and now know how ridiculously stupid it would be to do something like that. I am just saying that it won’t kill someone if it does happen. Looks like kids will have to find another way to murder…

It's ok, I've got some ideas

It’s ok, I’ve got some ideas

Mars is Red

Turns out the red planet isn’t so red after all. I told my friend this and his response was “you’re wrong Itchy, I can see it’s red. Look, look up in the sky.”

Well, that is just the point; it does look red. But that doesn’t mean it is. See, the reason we all know of Mars as the red planet is because of oxidized iron in the soil. For the layman; Mars is rusty. In reality it is more of a butterscotchy/orange hue. Of course, Hollywood perpetuates the myth as a red planet looks a damn site more menacing than a cute butterscotch one would.

Of course, movies wouldn't be quite as scary on a butterscotch planet, would they?

See – spooky!

This is just a smattering of the ‘facts’ that exist out there. What others do you know? Do you have a favourite myth or fact you want to openly criticise or prove wrong?

As always, comments are appreciated. Come and join the conversation.

Special thanks to arztsamui, farconville, fotographic1980, hinnamsaisuy, panuruangjan, SOMMAI, stockimages, vectorolie and Victor Habbick @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.

© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015