Today begins 2015 PiBoIdMo. Eh?

Today is the first day of PiBoIdMo, 2015. If you’re a picture book writer you probably already know what that stands for: Picture Book Idea Month. Think of a new idea for a picture book every day for thirty days–it’s that easy. This is Tara Lazar’s brain child for people who don’t use the month of November to write a novel in. Or you can do both. This is my first year to join in the challenge. I have started my list–but I ‘m not telling. Maybe some of my ideas will materalize into books.

In the meantime, check out my two latest picture books from Guardian Angel Publishing:



BonBon is a plush toy French Poodle dog. She lives, for the time being, at the Twice-Loved Toy Shop in Paris, France. She longs for a nice child to take her to a loving home. While she practices being patient, she and the other toys look out the window and see the Eiffel Tower. They talk about other beautiful and famous places in Paris. But, oh, no! BonBon is hidden by another toy, a large bear. Will BonBon ever be seen by tourists walking up and down the Champs Elysees Boulevard? A series of fortunate events is about to happen. Eugene Ruble used photographs of the real BonBon to share the pup’s story with readers.


Colby Mouse’s Christmas Gift

Colby Mouse's Christmas Gift

Colby Mouse thinks of a way to take part in the Christmas festivities in the people house where he lives. The little girl, Becky, realizes that the gift left on Santa’s plate is from the clever little mouse.

And here is an announcement from Lynda S. Burch: More new books from Guardian Angel Publishing:

100 Pecans for Tabitha
Academic Wings
Author: Tracey M. Cox; Illustrator: Eugene Ruble
Tabitha is on the search for 100 pecans. Help her count by 5s to reach her goal and have her favorite treats. Recipes and Pecan info included.

America Bless God,  a Children’s Musical
Angelic Harmony
Authors: Dixie Phillips, Sharon Phillips
Light up your 4th of July with this simple easy-to-perform patriotic children’s musical.

Papillon and the Magic Lamp
Chapbooks for Tweens
Author: Osa Kauffman; Illustrator: Aumi Kauffman Perry
A talking butterfly and a boy embark on an adventure in the desert. They encounter a talking camel, a wily salesman, and a magical lamp.

Sunshine Blogger Award

My fellow Guardian Angel Publishing author, Penelope Ann Cole, has passed on to me the Sunshine Blogger Award.

Thank you, Penny, for this honor.


I will tell you about some of my favorite things so you can get to know me better:
Favorite Color – Rainbow
Favorite Animal –at the moment, Elephants, because I’m working on a story about an elephant
Favorite Number – 10, that’s how many grandchildren and great-grandchildren I have, combined
Favorite Drink – Gatorade (purple) mixed with cran-grape juice
Facebook or Twitter – don’t care much for either
Your Passions –Writing/Wild Flowers/Ecology
Giving or getting presents – Giving and getting
Favorite Day –Saturday. This is a holdover from when I was teaching–sleep in!
Favorite Flowers – Milkweed/Passion vine/Roses/Princess flower

I am now extending this honor of the Sunshine Award to 3 more Bloggers.

This prize is given to “bloggers who positively and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere.” 


The 3 blogs I have awarded are listed below. A huge hug and thank you to each of  these bloggers for inspiring me with their knowledge, humor, and creativity:

Maggie Lyons:

Maggie’s blog is sunshine manifest; a smorgasbord of literary ideas.


Tina Cho:

Tina’s Tidbits is a glimpse into an active mind. If you need inspiration, go here.


Laura Sassi:

Laura’s blog is a place that celebrates writing, reading, and life. It’s a joy simply to look at her home page.

Thank you, Maggie, Tina, and Laura for bringing SUNSHINE into the lives of children with your books.


Sharing the Love of Words

I’m so happy to welcome my fellow-writers to join me in the expression of our love of words and language. Nancy Steward and Janet Ann Collins have picture books published by Guardian Angel Publishing and Barbara Ehrentreu’s young adult novel is with MuseItUp Publishing in the MuseItYoung imprint. You can see by the name of Jan’s blog, “Onwords,” that she enjoys playing with words and her linguistic abilities come out in all sorts of way. Holly is a real-life friend of mine who is a member of the same SCBWI critique group that I am. She has a fantastic fantastical imagination. Thanks, Janet Ann, for posing the question.

I think my love of words goes back to before I could read. My Aunt Martha kept me while my mother was a work. She had a large store of fairy tales that she would entertain me with. She used voices and facial expressions to go with the characters and kept me spellbound on cold winter days when it was too cold for me to go outside to play. Then when I learned to read, I carried books around the house because I loved them too much to put down. My favorite was The Bumper Book, which is an omnibus of different things, like stories, alphabet and counting rhymes, and poems like “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

The arrangement of words is endless. And that is one of the fascinations with them. But words are also important, and not just for communicating. This line is from the movie Arabian Nights: “People need stories more than bread itself. They show them how to live and why.” But we wouldn’t listen to stories if they weren’t intriguingly told, the storyteller pulling words like magic from an imaginary hat.

I have pages and pages of quotes that I’ve copied from books and other places. Sometimes the language is so beautifully put together that I want to be able to recapture the phrase at my leisure.

I love words with a lyrical quality and words that evoke images and emotions.

Here is an example from a kids’ book, All-of-a-Kind Family Downtown by Sydney Taylor. The ten-year-old girl who is speaking is looking forward to getting a nice birthday present from her uncle. “Snuggling back under the blanket, she hugged her happiness to her.”

I know there are other writers who can express the love of words better than I can. Let’s take Aldous Huxley for example. (Maybe this isn’t exactly the love of words, but it is  These words come from John, the savage boy, after he discovers Shakespeare on p. 89 of Brave New World: “He hated Pope more and more. A man can smile and smile and be a villain. Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain. What did the words exactly mean. H only half knew. But their magic was strong and went on rumbling in his head, and somehow it was as though he had never really hated Pope before; never really hated ; he had never been able to say how much he hated him. But now he had these words, these words like drums and singing and magic. These words and the strange, strange story out of which they were taken (he couldn’t make hear or tail of it, but it was wonderful, wonderful all the same)—they gave him a reason for hating Pope; and they made his hatred more real; they even made Pope himself more real.”

I think this why people say facts are just what’s there, but fiction is truth. In books, there’s a collaboration between writer and reader that creates the peoples and the situations.

I love puns and you can be sure I will do a Monday Metaphor blog on them soon. I think punning is something that is used by the majority of people. Jokes are quite often built on a pun and perhaps that is why some people think of them as a low form of humor. Other people think they are a clever use of the language. I’m in the second camp.

I know there are other writers who can express the love of words better than I can. Let’s take Aldous Huxley for example. These words are expressed by John, the savage boy, after he discovers Shakespeare on p. 89 of Brave New World: “He hated Popeˊ more and more. A man can smile and smile and be a villain. Remorseless, treacherous, lecherous, kindless villain. What did the words exactly mean. H only half knew. But their magic was strong and went on rumbling in his head, and somehow it was as though he had never really hated Popeˊ before; never really hated ; he had never been able to say how much he hated him. But now he had these words, these words like drums and singing and magic. These words and the strange, strange story out of which they were taken (he couldn’t make hear or tail of it, but it was wonderful, wonderful all the same)—they gave him a reason for hating Popeˊ; and they made his hatred more real; they even made Popeˊ himself more real.”

I think this is why people say facts are just what’s there, but fiction is truth. Not that non-fiction can’t be beautifully expressed, as well. It simply takes someone who knows how to put the words together. Words give us the power to plumb the depths of ideas and say truth.



Nancy Stewart:

Hi, Barbara,

I remember as a young child, just before going to sleep, thinking about the differences and similarities in words.  I can’t remember a time when the putting together of words was not a part of who I am. 

Today, if it is possible, that involvement with the language is even stronger.  I almost consider it a different part of my being, where words are nurtured, coddled and codified to be revisited and used at a later date.  For me, the use of language is a gift, and I treat it as such.

In fear of being redundant, Jane Yolen’s, Owl Moon, is such a fine work.  A poem, really, with words flowing off the pages, inspiring young and old with their magic. It is the seminal work that inspires me to be a better children’s author.  It is a bellwether book to me.


Author of One Pelican at a Time


Janet Ann Collins:

I first became interested in language when I was about three years old and my baby brother was learning to talk.  Because he used intonation patterns and they expected words I could often understand him when the grown-ups couldn’t, which made me feel important. Just before my fifth birthday we moved from the East Coast to California and I was amazed at the different terms people used for things. For example, we had a sofa, but most of my new neighbors had couches and one had a Davenport. 

A couple of years later my Grandfather moved in with us. Every day when we came home from school he’d play his five-stringed banjo and we’d sing songs from the 1800s, which had many different terms than we normally used, in the lyrics. In Sunday School I heard passages from the King James Bible, which contained words and phrases even more different than the ones we used in our conversations. And, since I lived in California, there were lots of Spanish names for places around us.

With all those differences, how could I not have become interested in language?

Janet Ann Collins

Author of Signs of Trouble;

Opening Eyes, Opening Hearts


Barbara Ehrentreu:

I was always interested in words. I was so excited when I could read all the words around me. In third grade my teacher introduced me to poetry and I wrote a poem that was published in the School Bulletin for the whole school district. I also loved reading and my favorite was Alice in Wonderland with its fascinating and unusual words and experiences.

Later in my life when I started wanting to take graduate courses, I majored in American literature and also I took a linguistics class. Finally I realized though I still wanted to teach I wanted to teach reading and writing only. But the truth is my fascination with words and writing continues as I write and read more and more.

I hope this helps!


If I Could be Like Jennifer Taylor.


Holly Owen:

What really captures me is when an author creates characters that feel real. By the end of the story I want to be able to tell you what that character would do in any given situation, what foods they like, what makes them laugh or cry, what scares them. This goes for the main character as well as the supporting cast. If there is one book (books in this case) that I can say has impacted me more than any other, it would be the Harry Potter series. I feel like I know the people J.K. Rowling created and, in fact, in my dreams we are all friends. When I’m searching for a good story, my number one criteria is to find one with characters who I want to spend time with, or in the case of Voldemort, who has enough back story that I view him as a real person with a troubled past. I like people. They’re diverse and entertaining characters. So I suppose it makes sense to want the same from the make believe ones.



Thanks again, My Friends, for collaborating with me on this blog.

Monday Metaphor: Anachronisms: words out of time

Before we get started with our discussion of anachronisms, I want to extend to you an invitation to join me on this blog with your answer to this question, which came to me from one of my favorite readers, Janet Ann Collins:   Can you please explain how and why you became interested in language? You might include some of your favorite works of literature that contain the language that intrigues you.

 I’m looking forward to your responses which will become next week’s (or the week after’s) blog posting. Send to:

my twitter name:  babs22582

* * * *

One does not always think of anachronisms as literary devices. But these inconsistencies in chronological arrangement are not just something for the alert reader to point out and scoff at, but can be useful mechanisms for humor or other effects.

Anachronism brings the Greek words for “back” and “time” together to refer to the misplacement of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other. As Wikipedia says, “The item is often an object, but may be a verbal expression, a technology, a philosophical idea, a musical style, a material, a custom, or anything else so closely associated with a particular period in time that it would be incorrect to place it outside its prober domain.”

Of course, it’s true that anachronisms are sometimes included in works of art accidentally.

The idea of a caveman driving a car, in the case of Fred Flintstone, is an anachronism of an artifact which appears out of its time period and results in an hilarious, what film-makers call, “sight joke.” There are other such items in the cartoon series which are integrated into the lives of the cave family, such as the toucan telephone and the “steam shovel” operated with dino-power. And having a dinosaur as a family pet is astonishing, and probably something that little tv watchers wish they could have.

In the movie, Aladdin, Disney allowed the Genie to make out-of-place jokes by impersonating famous people of various time periods.

The film Titanic also contains a well-known anachronism. The Leonardo di Caprio character claims to have gone ice fishing on Lake Wissota, near Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Lake Wissota is a man-made reservoir which was not created until 1917, five years after the Titanic sank.

Other films are loaded with anachronisms, many of them dealing with costume and hair style. It’s interesting to compare the various versions of Cleopatra as she was portrayed by Theda Bara, Claudette Colbert, Vivian Lee, Elizabeth Taylor, and others (perhaps Catherine Zeta Jones?). Each one, though dressed to emulate Cleopatra, were icons of their own time periods.

Writers must be particularly careful to avoid anachronisms in their serious work so no one will cast aspersions on their work. Don’t put modern slang and figures of speech into the mouths of characters from the past. Someone from the 17th Century talking about finance would never use the expression “the bottom line.”

There have been incidents in futuristic science fiction where the technology was behind the times, as when the character speaks of “tapes.” They’re already almost obsolete.

In some works by Ray Bradbury, people travel in helicopters rather than cars as the usual mode of travel. This was supposed to have happened by now, but you will notice, it hasn’t.

I think there is only one time I have used an anachronism in my work. I will quote the opening of the article, “Mirror, Mirror,” which was published in Stories for Children.

A long time ago, there were no mirrors. A girl couldn’t see if her part was straight when she combed her hair. A boy couldn’t see if he had chocolate on his mouth when company came to the door. The only way people could see themselves was in a pool of still water. Imagine how happy everyone was when someone invented the mirror.

A related term is anatopism. This word (also from Greek: “against” plus “place”) describes something that is out of its proper place. For instance, an igloo would be out of place in Florida. Just because something is out of place doesn’t mean it is out of its proper time, although, it could be.

Remember, check your work for anachronisms and only use them if you intend to.

 * * * * *

Don’t forget, send me your blurb about your interest, love for, or connection with language to:

Blog hopping

Along with eleven other Muse Authors, I will be participating in a blog hop during the month of September. My first stop will be with Rebecca Ryals Russell on September 1. She is well known as the Yellow Hat Writer. Here is the link to her website, Plotting Worlds:  


Monday Metaphor: Prosthesis: Embolden your writing

I know you thought of the other meaning of prosthesis (prothesis) when you saw the metaphor for today.

The more well-known definition of “prosthesis” is that of an artificial body part, such as a replacement limb or eye.

But the word also has a linguistic meaning, closely resembling the first: “the addition of a sound or syllable at the beginning of a word to make the word easier to pronounce.”

The etymology of prosthesis comes from the Greek, meaning “to put before.”

Shakespeare uses it often for poetic effect:

Prospero: “I have bedimm’d the noontide sun.” Shakespeare, The Tempest



Touchstone: “I remember, when I was in love I broke my sword upon a stone and bid him take that for coming a-night to Jane Smile.” Shakespeare, As You Like It

I all alone beweep my outcast state.—Shakespeare Sonnets, 29

When Shakespeare says, “I hold her as a thing enskied.” he is implying that the girl should be placed in the heavens.

King Lear: “Old fond eyes, beweep this cause again.” Shakespeare, King Lear


I used it in “Hammers,” my story published in both Senior Times and Musings: “Some of the hammers are made of silver or gold, often encrusted with precious jewels.”

And in:

 “Little Hippo,” in Parents and Children Together:

“Enough! Enough! About flying and singing,”

Said Little Elephant, his trunk a-swinging.

“You can’t toss rocks or swing in trees.

Come back with me to the river, please.”

Prostheses are found in other works of literature.

Here is Bob Dylan’s usage in “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall”

            “And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard,

            And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall.”

E. B. White’s humor is showing in this answer to a New Yorker editor who changed the word “fresh” to “afresh” in one of his essays.

“My characters will hence forth go afishing, and they will read Afield and Astream. Some of them, perhaps all of them, will be asexual.”

There is more humor in this ungrammatical line from the movie, Mean Girls. Gretchen (played by Lacey Chabert) says, “Irregardless, ex-boyfriends are just off limits to friends. I mean that’s just like the rules of feminism.”

Here is an array of well-known prosthetic words :

Asleep and adream.

I hope it will be just as you envisioned it.

He lay abed.

bemoan = moan, bewail

bedevil = torment

becalm – deprive a ship of wind

bedazzle = dazzle

bedeck = adorn

bedraggle = untidy, disheveled

befit – suitable

befuddle = confuse

bemuse = perplex, baffle

It seems to me, in many cases the prefix reinforces the meaning of the word itself.

Don’t be afrightened to use prosthesis in your work and share with us.

Monday Metaphor: Anacoenosis: Don’t you see it my way?

There are times when a speaker or writer speaks directly to his audience when it is implied that there is a common interest. He appeals to the audience for documentation or approval. He may be asking his audience or opponents for their opinion or answer to the point in question. There are cases when the speaker or writer needs either feedback from his audience or needs to persuade them to his way of thinking.

The rhetorical device he uses is anacoenosis (an-uh-si-noh-sis). Brutus uses it when he attempts to persuade the Roman mob that he killed Caesar for the good of Rome.

“Romans, countrymen, and lovers! hear me for my cause, and be silent, that you may hear: believe me for mine honour, and have respect to mine honour, that you may believe: censure me in your wisdom, and awake your senses, that you may the better judge.

If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar was no less than his. If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:

Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.”

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare,  Act III Scene II

Here are some general examples of anacoenosis.

Do you not think we can do this now?

Now tell me, given the evidence before us, could you have decided any differently?

What do you think? Are we a bit weary? Shall we stay here for a while?

In most cases, a reply is not expected to the rhetorical question. Rather than coming outright and telling people what to think, these anacoenoses  are delivered with a softening effect.

Often times, the speaker wants to endear himself to the listener, as in this example.

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” says the persona of Shakespeare’s 18th sonnet

My granddaughter, Jessica, and her turtle Mudd

Anacoenosis is used in the BIBLE.

The Book of the Prophet Isaiah:  “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem, and men of Judah, judge, I pray you, betwixt me and my vineyard. What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?”

And The Prophet Micah:  “O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the Lord straitened: are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly?” Micah: 2:7


“Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord God be witness against you, the Lord from his holy temple.”   Micah: 1: 2.

This was posted by: E-Shark47 SharkNotes on Deviant Art:

I often wondered why certain people think they are superior
For something so materialistic
As one’s own possessions.
However, have you ever run into the ones
With superiority complexes the size of Miami
For one reason: ideology.
How did it feel when they degraded you for not sharing their beliefs
Or lack thereof?
How did it feel to be ostracized and degraded before your very eyes
And feel so inferior?
Care to tell me of the experience?

In modern literature, we can consider the Ancient Mariner’s speech, when he button-holes the Wedding Guest, to be anacoenosis.

It is an ancient Mariner,

And he stoppeth one of three.

‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,

Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?

The Bridegroom’s doors are opened wide,

And I am next of kin;

The guests are met, the feast is set:

May’st hear the merry din.’

He hold him with his skinny hand,

‘There was a ship,’ quoth he.

‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’

Eftsoons his hand dropt he.

He holds him with his glittering eye—

The Wedding-Guest stood still,

And listens like a three years’ child:

The Mariner hath his will.

I used anacoenosis when I wrote my article “Earth Day—The Giving Holiday,” for April 2009 issue of Stories for Children. I wanted to inform children about Earth Day and persuade them to celebrate a holiday in which they experienced giving instead of receiving.

Earth Day—The Giving Holiday

By: Barbara Bockman

Are you ready for a holiday when you give your gifts to Mother Earth?

Mother Earth has been a little sick lately and needs all the help we can give her.

But the Earth is so big, you say. What can I do?

It’s true you are only one person. However, on Earth Day everyone has one thing on their minds—what can we do for the Earth?


There are other ways in which writers speak to their audiences, with other purposes, such as the invocation to the Muse, asides and apostrophes. We’ll get to them another Monday.

Monday Metaphor: slang: this is so rad

Does slang have a place in literary fiction?

In my opinion it does, but there should be a good reason for it. The author can’t just throw in a slang expression for the heck of it. Generally, slang is associated with a particular character or sub-culture. If the character would use slang in his normal setting, then it would not be out of place. It’s best to put vernacular into dialogue, not narrative.

The uses of slang are many, from the teen who wants to distance himself from his parents and the rules of the mainstream culture to the parent himself who has picked up the expressions from his child.

The writer can establish a time frame for his story by using the slang of the day. Writing about the 1920s? Maybe your character is a flapper. She would have been the bee’s knees. Is her fella a big cheese? They might have gone on a blind date.

Slang is as informal as you can get in writing or speaking, hey Cats?

Clark Gable played a lady’s man in Somewhere I’ll Find You. The writer wanted to show him as being clever with a quip. He tells another Lothario, “Guys like us are strictly Cash and Carry On.”

Anachronisms of slang create humor and show the character either has knowledge of the past or, quite the opposite, is totally ignorant of the passage of time and innocently makes a fool of himself. Would I be caught dead saying: “tuff”? Know anybody who wears a D.A. or a French twist or foam domes?

The writer is always looking for ways to create diverse characters. The slang-using character provides the author with a fresh voice.

In my Wounds, when Craig seems to be feeling sorry for himself and doesn’t want to expose himself to ridicule at the Winter Carnival, I allow Nelson to indulge in a bit of slang:

            Mrs. Ark peeked around the door from the laundry room. “Get your coat on, Craig. Let’s go.”

            “I’m not going.” He frowned.           

            “We need your help, Craig,” she said. “I know you don’t want to face all those people. But you’ve been a part of this from the beginning, and you have to see it through to the end.”

            Nelson came up behind his mother. “Yeah, suck it up, Craig.”

J. D. Salinger supplies us with several examples in Holden Caulfield’s introduction in Catcher in the Rye. (bold is mine)

            “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

            “They advertise in about a thousand magazines, always showing some hotshot guy on a horse jumping over a fence.”

             “I was surrounded by jerks.” {Holden hated “fake” people}.

Since Holden is an icon of the 20th Century, we  have to recognize that readers enjoy knowing the character for what he is, even if some of his warts happen to be slang.

More recently, slang in young adult literature often says one thing while meaning the opposite:

“I am SO sure!” “That’s so BAD.” “Yeah, right.” 

Professor Samantha A. Flanagan of Ithaca College explored the “ways in which teen slang is used in young-adult fantasy literature, specifically within vampire novels, in order to determine how teen slang has a positive or negative portrayal of young adults in America today and whether or not it has a marked effect on the popularity of the book as a whole.”

She concluded that “books that use both {sex and teen slang} as little as possible are much more popular among a large expanse of demographics and project young adults in America as a more mature group of people.”

And that leads me to conclude that slang is a pretty immature use of the language. So if a writer has a need to show his character or culture as juvenile, uneducated, or extremely casual, slang is one way to do it.



Monday Metaphor: Epithet: “A rose by any other name… ‘

Even if a person has a perfectly nice name, someone else is going to come along a give him a nickname. There are many reasons for this. Often, when a baby is born, the parents will talk baby talk to him and this extends into a nickname. Witness the many “Bubba”s in the South. That kind of nickname is given out of affection. An attributed, added, or byname is officially an epithet. It brings out a characteristic of the person, or distinguishes him from someone else of the same name, or is used to elevate poetic diction.

Faith McFadden, On Suite 101, says, “The uses of epithets are endless, and they can be a writer’s best friend. For not only do they allow a writer to vary how he refers to a character, but also they can create a special emphasis on the character to whom the epithet belongs.”

There are a number of different kinds of epithets. It is believed by scholars that Homer used epithets as a mnemonic device. Recall “rosy-fingered” dawn, “swift-footed” Achilles, and the “resourceful Odysseus, master mariner.” And not to forget the ladies: there were “lovely-haired” Helen and “white-armed Andromache” the wife of Hector, “tamer of horses and the shepherd of the people.”

John Keats honored Homer by using the epic poet’s own device in his sonnet “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”:

                                    Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
                                    That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne.

In children’s stories, “Little Goody Two Shoes” (which might have been written by Oliver Goldsmith) is a story about an orphan girl who has only one shoe. When she gets a second shoe, she exclaims, “Two shoes!” and is thereafter called “Little Goody Two Shoes.” After working hard as a teacher, she marries well and is considered a worthy person.

Now days, the epithet “goody two-shoes” is usually used in a disparaging way, to denote a person who does good only for show. Other disparaging slurs have been used to denote particular groups, such as people of color, or of a specific religion, or place of origin.

Recently a new edition of Huck Finn by Mark Twain was published with the racial epithets altered or erased. This caused some controversy among purists; even black students in my granddaughter’s high school English classes felt the change was an overreaction—a plethora of political correctness.

The article in this link deals with ways to portray ethnic differences.


This is a tall tale excerpt from (with a bit of hyperbole):

“Davy Crockett done married the prettiest, the sassiest, the toughest gal in the West, don’t ya know! Her name was Sally Ann Thunder Ann Whirlwind and she was all that and then some! She was tougher than a grumpy she-bear and faster than a wildcat with his tail on fire and sweeter than honey, so that even hornets would let he use their nest for a Sunday-go-to-Meeting hat.”


Sobriquet, a synonym for nickname, “but a nickname which is familiar enough such that it can be used in place of a real name without the need of explanation.” (Wikipedia)

I use the term in my story, “The Miracle of the Elephants”:

Ranil ran around to the driver side of the vehicle. “If you’re who I think you are, mister, you got here just in time.”

            “And who do you think I am, youngster?” asked the man with smiling eyes.

            “I think you are Mr. Elliepooh. . . . I mean, Mr. Karl Wald.”

            The man laughed out loud at the sound of his soubriquet. “If you know who I am, then you must be Ranil.” The man held out his hand and Ranil, a broad smile on his face, put his brown hand into the white one.

            “Welcome to Sri Lanka, sir.”

The Great Gilly Hopkins, the central character in the book by the same name, is an eleven-year-old girl who is in foster care, having been abandoned by her mother. The mother is a flower child of the 1970s who names her daughter Galadriel, after a character in The Lord of the Ring books by J. R. R. Tolkien. Gilly chooses her own moniker.

Some epithets are of the necessary type. The help to distinguish persons, places, or things so they are not confused with others. Giving monarchs epithets is of this type. For instance, King Richard the Lionhearted, Catherine the Great and Frederick the Great, Charles the Bald and Charles the Fat. Geoffrey III of Anjou was known as the Bearded.

Famous people:

George Herman Ruth: Babe

William Shakespeare: The Bard of Avon

Bruce Springsteen: The Boss

Louis Armstrong: Satchmo

Elizabeth I: Good Queen Bess

John Wayne: The Duke

Famous places:

New York: The Big Apple

New Orleans: The Big Easy

Ireland: The Emerald Isle

Chicago: The Windy City

Detroit: Mo Town

Jaipur, India: Pink City

Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA: The Twin Cities

Pseudonyms are often used to hide an individual’s real identity, as with writers’ pen names. One of the most famous pen names is that of Mark Twain for Samuel Taylor Clemens. A children’s writer who used pseudonyms is Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss or Theo LeSieg, Rosetta Stone, Theophrastus Seuss, and Peter Pessimist. The name Ellery Queen was used to identify both the sleuth and the author of the Ellery Queen novels. But Ellery Queen was actually two people: Daniel Nathan, alias Frederic Dannay, and his cousin, Manford Lepofsky, alias Manfred Bennington Lee. (Don’t know when they used the aliases).

Though a rose by any other name is still a rose, using epithets in your writing can add interest and variety.

Monday Metaphor: Euphemism, Coming in the Back Door

It’s a good thing we know how to use euphemisms otherwise we might embarrass ourselves or offend somebody. A euphemism is a delicate way of getting around saying outright the very thing we want to say yet conveying the essential idea by using a substitute word or expression. In other words, we come in the back door, but we are in.

Euphemisms are not generally used in stories for very young children because young children are literally minded, and need to call a spade a spade. As boys and girls get into the tens, they enjoy a play of words and like to be in on the joke.

Bruce Coville’s books are filled with wry humor. In My Teacher Flunked the Planet, the alien is talking to the narrator about the possibility of activating the button that would destroy the Earth. He says,

            “It takes a complex series of secret command to activate it.”

“And if that series of commands is used?” asked Susan Simmons, who was standing beside me.

            Broxholm turned and gazed at the image of Earth. “Stardust,” he whispered. (1)

Under what circumstances have people found it necessary to use euphemisms? The most common example that comes to mind is the use of the expression “passed away” to mean “died.”

For some people it is emotionally painful to say that “a person died.” So the expression is useful both for the teller and the listener. “Terminal illness” is a less upsetting way of saying someone is dying.  But saying someone “kicked the bucket” is hardly more delicate than “died.”

“I gotta see a man about a dog,” means “Excuse, me; I’m outta here, but I’m not going to tell you my business.” It can be said with a real or implied “wink” giving the impression that the listener know what the business is.

In Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms, Ralph Keyes traces euphemisms back to the church’s attempt “to avoid blasphemy, honor taboos, and make nice.” (2) Ostensibly, it means that the culture is becoming more civilized and polished.

Euphemisms are useful not only in everyday speech, but they are used to advantage by businesses in advertizing (as in referring to a grave marker as a “monument” and a used car as being “pre-owned”) and by the military to soften harsh reality, as in “friendly fire” when we accidentally fire on our allies.

There are bodily function euphemisms, such as, “to relieve oneself,” and the expression my mother-in-law used, “to shed a tear.” In many movies, the ladies excused themselves to “powder their noses.” Parents usually teach such acceptable turns of phrase to children in order to communicate in public without being crude or coarse. It’s one way of teaching children to be polite, so it has an important function.

In his The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald names the community of old money East Egg and the community of the newly rich West Egg—West Egg being the “less fashionable” of the two. (3)

In The Giver, Lois Lowry uses the term “Birthmother” not to mean the loving caregiver, but simply someone who produces children. (4)

In my “Do You Have a Funny Bone?” I used “funny bone” as a euphemism for “sense of humor.” (5)

Here’s more from “Food Fight,” the story that takes place in an academy for all kinds of ghoulish characters. The vampire, Bram, is speaking. “The lunchroom ladies were lined up ready to serve us. A zombie loaded my plate with Mystery Meal # 64.” “Mystery Meal” is a term that students love to use when referring to cafeteria food. Like “passed on,” its hidden meaning is commonly accepted. (6)

The Greek root of euphemism means “to use auspicious words.” But the listener should beware of “doublespeak,” lest he fail to discern the difference between the spoken auspicious word and the hidden meaning.


(1)   Coville, Bruce. My Teacher Flunked the Planet.

(2)   Keyes, Ralph. Euphemania: Our Love Affair with Euphemisms.

(3)   Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby.

(4)   Lowry, Lois. The Giver.

(5)   Bockman, Barbara. “Do You Have a Funny Bone?” STORIES FOR CHILDREN.

(6)   Bockman, Barbara. “Food Fight.” LONG STORY SHORT.

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