On the Origin of Silly

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I mentioned the other day that my wife and I try to be careful about the words we use around our kids. Not that we sound like sailors when we aren’t around them, but even some innocent words (like ‘stupid’) sound wrong coming from the mouths of our children. So we do a fair amount of language substitution.

One of our most popular substitute words is ‘Silly’.

“You’re just being silly,” I might say when I mean that someone is acting in a undesireable way. It doesn’t get much more G-rated than that.

But the origin of the word ‘Silly’ is even more innocent than its current meaning. In fact, one of the many meanings that silly has had over the years meant ‘innocent’.

It all started with Seely, which was synonymous with ‘happy’ back in the 1100’s. It soon took on baggage and shifted meaning from ‘happy’ to ‘pious’ to ‘innocent’ to ‘harmless’ before becoming associated with ‘pitiable’ in the 13th century. From there, it all went downhill. Silly soon meant ‘lacking in reason, feeble in mind, and foolish’. By the 1800’s, it could mean ‘stunned by a blow’ as in ‘knocked silly’.

So what started out as happiness eventually became evidence of a head-injury. I feel like there’s a lesson in there about pessimism choosing to believe that happy people must have something wrong with them, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Until next time, don’t worry, be silly.

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The Worlds Inside Our Heads

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When I write, I visualize my characters as well as their surroundings. I know that in the world of my Thom & Tom series, that when you open the front door of the treehouse in which the titular characters live, the kitchen will be on the right and the bedrooms will be on the left. There’s a couch along the back wall of the living room opposite an old-style boxy television that sits on the floor. The walls are made of wood, such as one might see in a child’s treehouse, unadorned by either paint or plaster.

But you might never guess the layout of their treehouse from any of my stories. For one thing, as an author, I don’t need to tell you the layout of every building or room in order for you to create a mental picture. Isn’t it cool how our brains fill in the details for us?

For example:

Joan unlocked the door and stepped inside her dark apartment. She hated working late, though not as much as she hated spending time alone in her bed, tossing and turning as she begged sleep to numb her loneliness.

Dropping her purse on the chair near the door, she made her way to the kitchen for a cup of tea. She decided that tea would help her mood. Maybe not as much as a meaningful relationship with another human being, but still, tea was good.

“Maybe I need a pet,” she said aloud to the No One who lived with her.

Joan refused to admit that she talked to herself. Instead, she spoke to No One. Somehow, it helped, like late work nights and tea.

Okay, that was an impromptu little scene, but could you see Joan? Were you visualizing her apartment? Where was her bedroom? Where was the kitchen? What did the chair near the door look like?

Whether you realized it or not, your brain was probably filling in these details for you. You might even have developed a good sense of what Joan looked like, though absolutely no clues about her appearance were given.

And now I’m curious. Let’s do an experiment.

If you read today’s post, would you please comment with a few details that you saw in Joan’s scene? Let’s see how closely we visualized the story.

On Toy Story and Bad Language

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My youngest daughter just turned two, and as kids are wont to do, she received a trove of delightful gifts. Among them was the movie Toy Story.

It’s a quality film that I can’t believe is almost 20 years old. As we watched, I started to believe its age more and more as I realized how much of the film I had forgotten.

It’s funny what things will jump out at you when you watch something as an adult, and much more so when you are watching as a parent. You notice things like violence, insults, even borderline bad words.

Now, I feel that I should mention that Toy Story is solidly rated G, and there isn’t anything objectionable about the content of the film. But while there aren’t any dirty bits, there are still things that I wouldn’t want my kids to repeat. Unfortunately, that’s exactly the situation that arose about a half hour after turning the movie off for the night.

My girls were in their shared room, playing when they should have been sleeping, when my wife and I heard my oldest daughter loudly say, “You are stupid!” to my youngest daughter.

“What did you just say?!”my wife and I asked simultaneously.

My oldest daughter back-pedaled. She knew that she had done something or said something that she shouldn’t have, but even she was unsure of what it was. After a few minutes of trying to convince her that we weren’t mad, but that we just wanted to talk about what she said, she finally told us that she said “stupid.”

Okay, before you call me a prude for being concerned over an innocuous word like “stupid,” let me say that the word isn’t even the issue here. The fact that the word is an insult is what’s at hand. In our house, we work very hard to only build each other up. About the worst things that we will say to one another is “You are acting like a turkey,” and “You’re being silly.”

So, to hear one of my daughters tear the other one down was an icy slap in the face. We just don’t do that. It is never helpful to insult someone, whether you have just cause or not.

After my wife explained all of this to my oldest daughter, she apologized to her little sister and told her that she was pretty (totally unprompted!).

In a way, I’m glad that the incident happened, because life is messy and I can’t shelter my daughters from being exposed to bad words, insults, and violence. But I can teach them that we have a choice in how we respond to those things, in whether or not we will act that way.

I am Handsome.

My wife was talking to our girls about names. We don’t want our kids to call us by our names or anything, but it might be handy if we ever got separated and some authority figure asked them for the information.

“Do you know what Mommy’s name is?”asked my wife.

“Is it ‘Mommy’?”asked my oldest daughter.

“Nope,” said my wife. “That’s what you call me. It’s a title that only you and your sister get to call me. My name is DeAnne. That’s what other people call me.”

“Oh,” said my daughter.

“Do you know what Daddy’s name is?” asked my wife.

“Is it ‘Daddy'”?” asked my daughter.

“Nope,” said my wife. “That’s what you get to call him because he’s your dad.”

“Is it ‘Handsome’?” she asked.

My wife chuckled.

“Nope,” she said. “That’s just what Mommy calls him. That’s not his name. Other people call him ‘Josh’.”

This snapshot of life in the Mosey household is brought to you by Dapper Dan Men’s Pomade.

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Friday 5 | Click-worthy Links

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Here are 5 more places online worth checking out:

  1. It can be easy to say that we don’t have time to read. Maybe the problem is that we don’t have a place to read, to shut out the world outside and enter to world inside a book. To this end, perhaps a bar is right for you.
  2. Some people like pristine beaches with white sand. When the choice is between that or a beach with Lego toys washing ashore, I know which one I’d rather. (Thanks Bob for the link)
  3. You know that fact about eating spiders in your sleep? Well, I guess some facts aren’t what they used to be.
  4. The Adventures of a Middle-Aged Harry Potter! *Irreverent material warning*
  5. For the writers among us, have you ever wondering what goes on behind the scenes of a book marketing campaign. Prepare to have your mind blown.

Enjoy!

100 Word Challenge | Do You Have To Make That Noise?

Sheila was crying again.

As her cubicle mate of two years, Jon was sick of it. Sheila was a terminally shy soul, a human doormat, apt to crying jags.

“Sheila,” he said over her sniffles. “Do you have to make that noise? I know that you are going through some nasty stuff right now. Between your boyfriend breaking things off and Jackie from sales being a witch to you, I get it.”

Her crying was louder now, forcing Jon to raise his voice.

“If you want things to change, you’ve got to speak up!”

“Jon,” sobbed Shelia. “Your chair is on my toe!”

“Oh,” said Jon. “Sorry.”

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