Hello Itchers! There will not be a post next week as the whole IQ team will be on much needed R & R in the beautiful land of Indonesia. Enjoy yourselves, wherever you are, and we will be back with a post in the first full week in April (around the 9th). Until then, why not treat your brain parts to some vitamin k(nowledge) with this little tit bit on the history of some of your favourite symbols, or this little ditty on how to find more time to read in your day! Cherish the moments!
Monthly Archives: Mar 2015
The Art of Writing; Practising Plagiarism (or rather, Copywork)
Let’s begin by re-assessing the nature of the title. Of course, this is not going to be an article from a writer condoning the use of another’s material so as to further your own financial and critical success.
Wikipedia defines Plagiarism as: “…the “wrongful appropriation” and “stealing and publication”of another author’s “language, thoughts, ideas or expressions” and the representation of them as one’s own original work.”
We are not here today to try to claim that the above would be good behaviour, not least the behaviour of a true gentleman/gentlewoman! In fact, we are more interested in the practice part.
The method is called Copywork. In its purest form it is just copying or writing out by hand from a written model. The focus is on improving your own writing by imitating other writers who you deem to have a style or ability worth trying to emulate.
Once upon a time in America, this was the way that children were taught to write. Even though it has now been replaced by more productive and child-specific methods, there is still very much a place for it in the advancement of writing ability in people of all ages. Before the invention of the computer, or even the printing press, anything that you wanted to keep, you would have to copy by hand. This meant that many great authors were forced to copy work, regardless of choice. Therefore many greats, as we shall see, were champions of copy work long before it was in vogue.
“Why should I do this?” I hear you cry. Well, I think you might be surprised. Here’s the Itchy Quill run-down of the benefits of Copywork, from children to adults.
Demonstration of Structure
Many different styles have been introduced throughout the long history of the English language, from Gothic to Post-Modern, Romantic to meta-fiction, and they all have their own unique traditions and subtleties that can sometimes not appear obvious. The best way to learn is by doing, and so transcribing examples of them will give you a much greater understanding of the relationship between form and Lexis in a specific writer’s work, so that the mysteries of literary customs will be yours to harness. Will you use this new found power for good or evil?
If you have the drive and motivation, there really is no limit to what you can try to copy. With a wealth of wonderful prose in the English language, you are positively drowning in a vast ocean of words and stylistic whales.
For a greater understanding of the ‘Western canon’, you could try your hand at imitating some Austen. Are you more of a 20th century reader? Dabble in some Woolf, Kerouac or Vonnegut. Prefer contemporary fiction? King and Adichie are but a start. Some writers write with simplicity, some are long-winded and majestic, some just blunt and crude; yet they all have their merits and their conventions.
The point is that each author has a style that fits a greater period of writing, and to truly understand the subtle intricacies of such a writer and the style they set themselves in you can take a punt at mimicking their wordplay. We always encourage that you should try to find your own ‘voice’ in writing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get an understanding of another’s voice beforehand. Politicians the world over utilise tried and tested speech-giving techniques to make themselves seem more caring, passionate and in control. They imitate others, often citing great speech givers like Winston Churchill and Martin Luther Kind Jr. and attempting to emulate their most effective mannerisms. Rarely would we connect politicians with positive life choices, but in this context they may be onto something. Take that mentality to your writing, and watch your words burst forth as you become a prose pro!
The Devil in the Details
This forces you to pay attention to details. Perhaps it is the original author’s use of a specific element of punctuation that you aren’t sure about the use of (such as the pesky semicolon), or even their ability to cite academic works in their text (a la Malcolm Gladwell). Forcing you to focus gives you great practice at using yet more elements of the English language in a context that will help you to produce it again at a later time.
The whole purpose of this exercise is to make it as easy to check as possible. After you have finished transcribing a piece, it takes a few quick minutes to see how much is accurate and correct. It should really become a ritualistic event, much like keeping a journal, but that doesn’t mean you need to dedicate more than about 20 minutes a day to start seeing the results. It is important though that it is done by hand, as there are a lot of studies linking handwriting with cognitive recall. It’s like magic.
Every great writer has a technique to help them get the pistons firing in their head before settling down to enjoy a productive session of writing. Think of them like warmers, small activities designed to get your brain functioning in the correct context, and giving it focus on the area of itself it will need to utilise in the near future.
It is claimed that this technique is nearly as old as education itself, with clay tablets discovered in what would have been Mesopotamia showing evidence of scribes copying down proverbs and sayings. This tradition continued into the Ancient Egyptians and was also practiced by Jewish kings of old, as they were expected to “make their own hand-written copy of scriptures” according to wonder.riverwillow.com‘s introduction to copywork.
It is also true that many of the historical greats of written English would practice this technique, as before the invention of the printing press, much of what people wanted to create a copy of had to be hand-written. William Shakespeare, Robert Louis Stevenson and Charles Dickens are some key examples, and Benjamin Franklin even taught himself to read and write by utilising copy work techniques!
Vocabulary and Grammar
That’s right; it can help you level up your V & G game. Even those of you already operating at a near Wordsworthian height can benefit from seeing both of these elements of written language in context.
I’m sure many of you have at different times thought about expanding your vocabulary, whether it be with a word a day app/calender, wider and more diverse reading or even just using a thesaurus when writing. A wide and varied vernacular is crucial for a writer, and to help understand some more advanced texts to be read for pleasure. Different genres often have their own specific lexical sets too. This technique gives you real time vocabulary seen in context, and produced in such a way by yourself in parroting that you literally see the word fall in it’s correct place in a sentence.
The whole ‘place in a sentence’ thing is extra crucial when we consider grammar. IQ has many grammar gnomes we keep locked away in our basement ready to proof-read our posts, but not everyone can be so lucky to rely on the bookworm-readiness of fantasy creatures.
English is capable of some truly bizarre grammar rules and structures, and a great way to learn these naturally (and not with mind-numbingly boring grammar books – unless that’s your thing, which is fine) is to use them in context. A whole industry of English teachers exist around the world, qualified by and large by the fact that they know the native use of language by heart, without any real formal training. It’s this ability to ‘feel’ what is right that will be one of the greatest benefits of copywork.
The great masters of literature perfected their grammatical cohesion and word choice; let their example set you free!
Need further motivation? TheWritePractice.com has a wonderful blog giving advice on further reasons why imitating your favourite authors will help with your own writing.
This doesn’t just have to be for the fiction writers out there; copywork can be hugely useful for anyone studying or practising law, medicine, history, or any of the other writing heavy subject areas, especially those with specific academic jargon (I’m looking at you, law).
Visit TheArtOfManliness.com for their blog post on copywork, with instructions on different ways to attempt copywork, from smaller work to larger, more intricate texts.
Go forth and imitate. It might be the best thing you do today!
Special thanks to bulldogza, digidreamgrafix, Feelart, hyena reality, imagerymajestic, khongkitwiriyachan and stockimages @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.
© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015
Things to do on a Sunday (besides troll Facebook)
Who doesn’t love a day off? The chance to relax, unwind, and tick off many of the items on a to do list that have piled up over a busy week.
For some, it can also be a day of regret, however. Shattered from a long week, it’s not unheard of for the day to whizz by before anything substantial is achieved, leaving a feeling of hollowness in us that can’t be remedied until another day with a blank schedule is upon us.
But Sundays can be relaxing and productive. We all have our Sunday routines, and I’m sure many readers have a tried and tested formula for what makes their Sunday a day to look forward to.
For those looking for a little inspiration, or a break from their norm and an idea for something else, we’ve got your back!
Cook a big meal
Every nation has a national breakfast, though one of my personal favourites is the Fry Up! It is somewhat of an institution on the British Isles, and there is nothing I love more on a day off than to prepare one for myself or friends, from scratch.
If breakfast isn’t really your cup of tea, how about cooking a large batch meal that could save you time during the week for pursuits of leisure? Huffington Post has some great ideas for easy to make batch meals to last seven days. You could just cook an old family favourite such as chilli, or how about finally trying to cook Grandma’s secret sauce?
A flaneur is, according to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘a man who saunters around observing society’. The woman who does the same is know as a ‘flaneuse’. It was a popular pass-time in Victorian England; a hobby of the bourgeois.
Essentially, it’s walking. But, it’s walking for the experience of walking, not just to get from A to B! The writer Will Self is a proud advocate of the benefits of walking, often linking the peaceful stroll and it’s opportunity to appreciate his fellow humans in passing, as inspiration for his creative works. He also argues that walking through your town or city is important in the ‘fight against corporate control’ (The Guardian).
Aside from a gentle amble on a Sunday afternoon, there is also the night walk. This affords the walker a great opportunity to see the world around them in a different light, literally. With dim street lamps and eerie moonlight our only guide, we experience much more potently the smells, sounds and atmosphere of our habitat. Under the cloak of darkness, all cities emanate synaesthesia. Give it a try!
Catch up on Correspondences
Do you have an old friend who you haven’t spoken to in a long time? Perhaps you are trying to network and are worried that some of your connections are drifting away? Whatever the case, sometimes it is nice to take the time to re-connect with others via letters or emails. The written form of communication, though on the increase in text message and phone app form, is declining in the classical sense. Our grandparents were often semi-Jedi in regards to their penmanship, and could craft wonderful missives that could be handed down from generation to generation.
Think how much of history we know due to the letters that have been left behind! What legacy are we leaving for our children; sneezing panda videos and Candy Crush high scores? Ok, so society is hardly in decline, and in truth technology has made it easier to connect in simpler terms. That doesn’t take away the sentimental value to others of taking moments from your day to fill them in on your happenings, especially with the effort demonstrated in a wonderfully scripted letter. Thoughtcatalog.com make a compelling argument for letters here.
Practice a Hobby
Juggling? Diablo? Yo-yo? Cross-stitch? Fire-eating? Flea circus? We all have little hobbies we enjoy doing when the time is right, so why not use your Sunday to level up your hobby game and get closer to pro-status!
A messy room means a messy mind, or so the saying goes. For those among us who already maintain an impeccable level of cleanliness on a day to day basis, how about a deep clean? Move the furniture and get scrubbing on the hidden nooks and crannies. You could even take the opportunity to de-clutter, and chuck away all the old receipts and paperwork that have been clogging up the house.
For the truly brave, you could tackle the ‘man draw’ – the black hole of used batteries, take away menus and half-empty pens.
Try Something New
“Life is trying new things to see if they work” – Ray Bradbury.
It could be trying your hand at a new dish in the kitchen, looking for a new park to relax in, or even heading out to a live performance of something you’ve never experienced before; opera, jazz flute, Tibetan dramyin! Other activities worth having a go at include polka dancing, speed dating and orienteering. Challenge yourself to try something you’ve never done before, and just feel the sense of fulfilment overwhelm you as you access a new facet of your skill set!
Play a Board Game
My favourite thing about Christmas is sitting down with the nearest and dearest to play Monopoly or Risk; the most epic of such memories is of a 36 hour stint of Risk (I defiantly held Kamchatka for the final four hours before succumbing to defeat).
Of course, practice for these epic showdowns is a must, and what better time to do this than on a Sunday?
That said, there is no reason why you can’t just enjoy the feeling of detaching from the TV and other electrical devices and reconnecting with your analogue self. Your eyes and, probably, your mind will thank you.
We’ve spoken before about the advantages to reading regularly for pleasure, and also how to find time to do so in a busy schedule (find it here), so why not use your Sunday to get nose deep in a gripping tome, zip through a riveting novella, or even just dip into the autobiography of your hero?
Giving your eyes a break from a screen will do them the world of good, and using a Sunday to reconnect with written text will be an experience you won’t hate yourself for. Plus, who doesn’t love curling up with a good book if the mood is right?
We are very much advocates of napping here at Itchy Quill, and we’ve spoken before about it’s positive effects here. A lazy Sunday is a Sunday well spent, especially if you live a life with few commitments and have the freedom and space to dip in and out of the world of slumber at will.
Not only is there strong evidence that napping is actually part of a more natural sleep pattern for humans, but it also feels darn good in its own right!
This doesn’t have to be an intense two hour work out at the gym, busting sweat and building gains. Why not take a pleasant jog in the park; flaneur on fast forward? Or maybe take a bike ride? If you’re lucky enough to live close to some natural areas such as rivers, lakes or forests then why not go exploring for a day? Any physical activity that raises the pulse is essentially exercise, so use that definition to embrace a healthy day to yourself (or even with others) and explore the wonders of the world around you!
Providing a service to your fellow humans is one of the most satisfactory experiences one can have. Knowing that your actions, no matter how seemingly small, have benefited a member of your community, can really give you a sense of accomplishment and a feeling that your time has been well invested. Who doesn’t love having a positive effect on the people around them?
Suggestions for things to do: go to work at your local soup kitchen, go and walk some dogs at your local animal rescue shelter, or even go and visit a retirement home and play bridge for the afternoon. It doesn’t have to be anything back-breaking or spectacular, sometimes merely spending some time in someone’s company can be enough, or offering to do things for those who cannot help themselves (like tasks around the house for an elderly neighbour).
You’ll make the world a better place! Not bad for a Sunday, eh?
Learn a Language
Hola! Bonjour! Terve! 您好! здравствуйте! If you don’t understand any of these, perhaps a new language would be a great way to spend this weekend. I’m not talking about total fluency, but learning a few key phrases can benefit you in many ways; for work, for travel, for friendship, for movies, or for the health of your brain. There is evidence to suggest that being bi-lingual can help to stave off dementia in adults, so get a jump-start on your studies now!
Practically, the best motivation many have to learn a language is if they know they are going to be visiting a place where the language is spoken. The way we understand that sentence here at IQ is that we should go and book ourselves a holiday and then use that as motivation to spend this Sunday learning a language. Join us!
The big one; the phonecall to the ‘rents. As time marches on, we still need to reconnect with family as often as possible, no matter how much life tries to get in the way. Maybe you’ve got a younger sibling who’s off in the city and might appreciate a little chat, or a grandparent who’s retired and spending a lot of time gardening but might fancy a little chin-wag. Don’t forget ma and pa, who I’m sure will always appreciate a chance to chew the cud with their spawn.
What do you like to do on a Sunday besides veg out in front of a computer or TV? Do you feel something essential is missing from this list that you can’t stand? Or is there something here you think is utterly ridiculous. As always, comments are appreciated.
Let us know what you are planning for this Sunday!
Special thanks to anankkml, arztsanui, Feelart, Gualberto107, imagerymajestic, khunaspix, Serge Bertasius Photography, stockimages, tuelekza, vectorolie, vegadsl and Witthaya Phonsawat @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.
© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015
✏Idiomics – The History of More of Your Favourite Idioms 🌏🎓
I was discussing recently the idea of innate intelligence. As in, what separates us from each other in terms of intellectual ability. I am intrigued by the question of whether there is even a way to truly rank people in regards to intelligence, especially when it often appears that there are so many types of intelligence. As Einstein once said: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” So imagine my dismay when the person I was discussing this with asked me if I had heard about the ‘super IQ’ test invented by Ronald K. Hoeflin. I, of course, had not, and was perplexed how this was supposed to answer my initial enquiry. My friend then said he knew one of the questions, and so proudly asked me, “Teeth is to Hen, as Nest is to … what?”
I stared at him, baffled. Cuckoo? On account of them not making nests (I was supposing). I was, of course, guessing wrong. “Mare,” he said, matter of factly, before turning to walk away. A mare’s nest, it turns out, was a term common in literature from around 1650 to 1850, and so only those who were well read would be able to know and recognise this. Both ‘hens teeth’ and ‘mare’s nest’ have similar meanings; something is extremely rare (rare as hen’s teeth), or an illusory discovery (a mare’s nest). Essentially, something so rare as to be non-existent. My friend had merely perpetuated an archaic approach to intellectual appreciation, and fallen into the age old trap of undermining another with the use of a tricky, niche intelligence question designed to alienate and promote hierarchy. That said, I wish I’d known the answer… So, proof idioms could save your life? Not quite, but proof they can be very interesting, and could also help you gain a mega IQ score of 180+ without needing to study? Perhaps.
We have already explored the history of some idioms in a previous post, but here we expand on this information with a few more for your reading pleasure, courtesy of recommendations from bloggers such as Quilt Musings. Dark Horse The word ‘dark’ found a lot of use in Victorian England to describe anything mysterious or unknown, hence it became a popular term used to discuss any outside horse who was able to surprise the order and win a race from around the 1830’s onwards. Interestingly, this idiom translates almost exactly into many languages, from Finnish (musta hevonen) to Chinese (黑馬). Still… horses are not to be trusted, dark or not.
Raining Cats and Dogs
This is one of those expressions that people often wish had a literal origin, but alas it does not. The real truth behind this saying is much darker than merely the cute idea of furry rain. England in the 1700s was, to put it bluntly, pretty disgusting. Many houses didn’t have toilets, and you would normally throw your faeces straight out of the window and into the street. After time, as you can imagine, the streets became a place for all kinds of rubbish, and many people would dump many different things into the streets along with the faecal matter. This included the dead bodies of animals! Now, we are all aware that England is a drizzly land of rain. It is often named as the place where rain was invented (citation needed) and this rain would often lead to storms and minor floods. In such floods, it would not be uncommon to see the corpses of pets and animals floating in the street. The earliest reference of this can be seen in the poem ‘A description of a city shower’ by Jonathan Swift, first published in Tatler magazine in 1710, where he refers to dead animal bodies floating in the streets, along with other gross things. Urgh!
To see it in it’s current form, we have to look a little later to a book by Jonathan Swift titled A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation. It was released in 1738 and contains the line: “I know sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs.” See the quote and a picture of the man for yourself here at izquotes.com
Turn a Blind Eye
For this particular idiom, we must journey back to the battle of Copenhagen in 1801; a navy tussle between British forces and a combined opposition of Norwegian/Danish ships. Admiral Hiratio Nelson was leading an attack with a fleet commanded by Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. Now, it was common at that point in history for ships to communicate between each other using semaphore and flags. During the heat of battle smoke and general fighting could distract and disrupt messages, and it was not unheard of for some to be misunderstood completely. Nelson, it should be noted, was a man who already contained a rather rebellious disregard for orders when they contravened his innate desire for success at all costs. The ambiguity of flag signals only seemed to play into his already heightened sense of disregard for key orders at key moments. Nelson = Badass.
As Nelson was leading a charge again Danish broadsides, his position started to look a little weaker from the distance. Parker, fearing that Nelson was only charging in further to battle to save face and not be seen as a coward, offered Nelson an ‘out’ by signalling the order for retreat. Nelson had previously lost the sight in one eye during a campaign in Cadiz in Spain before, after shrapnel sent sand and stone at his face. Upon noticing the flag command coming from Admiral Parker, Nelson turned to his flag captain (Foley) and said: “Foley, you know that I have lost an eye, and have a right to be blind sometimes.” He then raised the telescope to his blind eye and said, “I really do not see the signal”. Find the quote here. And so a hero and a rather apt idiom was born.
The story of words and how they have come to find use is fascinating, and I hope you enjoyed it too. As always, comments are valued and appreciated. Is there an idiom you really wish had made it in this time? Let me know below.
Special thanks to phrases.org.uk for the wonderful information
Another special thanks to Habbick, James Barker, koko-tewan, papaija2008, stockimages, Tina Phillips and vectorolie @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net for use of their photos in this blog.
© Itchy Quill and ItchyQuill.WordPress.com, 2015