Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's Day/Eve!

Happy New Year's Day to my Aussie and Kiwi friends!

And Happy New Year's Eve to everyone else! :-) We have no huge plans for tonight, though Charlotte does have First Night celebrations. A lot of it will depend on how the kids are doing.

Stay safe and see you next year!


All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Questions from "Inside the Actors Studio"

The program "Inside the Actors Studio" focuses on the craft of acting, directing and writing for film. At the end of  the interview, moderator James Lipton poses a set of questions based on the Proust Questionnaire.  The answers reveal aspects of how a creative artist views the world and their personal style. Bernard Pivot used a variation at the end of his interviews, and Lipton (an admirer of Pivot's) adapted it for his own program.

Here are the questions Lipton uses and my answers to them:

1) What is your favorite word? Chocolate
2) What is your least favorite word? "We" as in "the royal we". ("I'm glad we made this decision." when it's really supposed to be "I'm glad I made this decision."
3) What turns you on? Creativity.
4) What turns you off? Closed-mindedness.
5) What sound or noise do you love? The sound of waves on the seashore.
6) What sound or noise do you hate? Crying children.
7) What is your favorite curse word? Three, actually. Bl**dy, f*ckin' hell!
8) What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? World traveler
9) What profession would you not want to do? Anything that has me trapped behind a desk doing the same thing over and over.
10) If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
*God points to nearby hammock* "Take a rest. You deserve it."

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Post-Christmas Clean Up

There is a distinct disadvantage to having everyone home for more than a week. The house looks like a hurricane hit it.

Legos and blocks, trains and books
New Christmas ornaments in every nook
Broken crayons, uncapped markers
DVDs. And Mom is starkers,
going nuts, surveying her house!
But Banshee Girl is quiet as a mouse
And Son is watching the Wiggles
and Baby Girl, she's got the giggles.
Hubs 's paying Zelda on the Wii
A more peaceful setting, never to see
During the rest of the year.
A mess is just a mere
price to see family, precious and dear.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Books and Stuff I Got for Christmas

My bookish, linguistic, bohemian side is jumping up and down this season. A $25 Barnes and Noble gift card from Hubby and some extra spending money gave me a chance to get some things I've had my eye on for a while. Most of the time, I only do window-shopping in the bookstores, unless I can get a good deal on something and/or it's something that I know I can't get anywhere else.

New on the bookshelf (links are to its entry on, where all the publication info is listed):

The Indie Author Guide by April L. Hamilton I definitely wanted to get this one. This outlines how to get organized, whether or not to have a brand name, and the ins and outs of POD publishing. The companion website has additional information and tips too.

Biting the Wax Tadpole: Confessions of a Language Fanatic by Elizabeth Little This book has little anecdotes about how different languages (from Xhosa to Esperanto to Gaelic and Quechua) have things in common, and the little things that drive linguists nuts. She references pop culture icons like Dr. Seuss and Star Wars.

Doctor Who: The TARDIS Handbook by Steve Tribe Yes, I'm an unabashed Doctor Who fan. This book (published by BBC Books) chronicles the history and background of the transdimensional blue police box.

The Brilliant Book of Doctor Who 2011 Compiled of interviews, production notes and other tantalizing tidbits from Series 5, Matt Smith's first year as the 11th Doctor.

Fashion Design Portfolio Edited by Maite Lafuente I was excited to get this one. I'm mostly a landscape/still life artist...I used to avoid drawing people (and clothes) like the plague. Although I'm hardly a fashionista, I'd like to improve on my figure drawing. It's still lacking, but I'm practicing.

Basic Tagalog (for Foreigners and Non-Tagalogs) by Paraluman S. Aspillera While I was growing up, I heard my parents speak Tagalog (Filipino) among themselves and their friends, but they only spoke English to me and my two sisters. So I can understand it pretty well, but I can't speak it really well. It's a part of my culture and heritage, and I think it'd be nice to study the language of my ancestors. (MP3 Audio CD included)

Mandarin Chinese: Learning Through Conversation by Kang Yuhua and Lai Siping  Each lesson is on the MP3 Audio CD and the conversations are written in both Chinese characters and pinyin (transliterated from how the words sound, with diacritical and tone marks). Being able to speak fluently in a language is part of the whole package. You also need to know how to read it and write it too.

Other gifts: a pair of Hershey's Cocoa ornaments, a Virginia Tech-themed ornament, a pair of Virginia-Tech flip flops (complete with a football-y attachment on the thong part...don't ask), jewelry and hair accessories from Del Sol (that change color in the sunlight), gift cards (from Starbucks and other places).

The kids really enjoyed Christmas this year. They received (much needed) clothes and shoes, art supplies, music, flashcards, books and LEGOS!!! Baby Girl is a big LEGO fan. I can see her being an engineer or an architect someday. were your holidays??

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Monday, December 27, 2010

Baby in Da House (Photo Post)

Baby in Da House (1)
Sarah wearing her cap her own way.

Baby in Da House (2)
Dad's amused by his Lit'l Girl
(And the cap says 'USS Enterprise CVN-65)

Baby in Da House (3)
Drive-by Photo Shoot
(You try taking a pic of a moving target!)

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snowy Christmas in Charlotte (Picture Post)

Sarah and Dad in the Snow
Sarah doesn't look impressed.

Snow on the Patio
Care to sit down?

 Tree in Front Yard

 Backyard 1

Backyard 2

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays to You and Yours!

Merry Christmas, Blessed Yule, Happy Kwanzaa and Happy Holidays to everyone!

We visited my sister's in Virginia Beach, but had to come home early today because of bad weather coming into North Carolina from the west. Had some snow, sleet and rain on the way, but we got home in one piece.

Hope all of your holidays are joyous!


All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Admin Post: Christmas Break

I'll be back after the New Year!

Have a happy holiday season and a Happy New Year 2011.


All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Monday, December 20, 2010

Song Lyrics: Vale Decem (Farewell, Ten)

This song was composed and conducted by Murray Gold, one of my favorite composers. He does the music for the Doctor Who series. This particular song accompanied the regeneration scene in "The End of Time, part II" when the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) turns into the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith). The words are in Latin.

Vale Decem                                                                         Farewell, Ten
Honore res quara                                                  Because of (your) honor
Emerio                                                                         (It is) well deserved
Alter altera                                                                      This other (one)...

Vale Decem                                                                         Farewell, Ten
Emerio                                                                        (It is) well deserved
Alter...                                                                               This other (one)
Alteri ti                                                                          Other one of you...

Vale Decem                                                                         Farewell, Ten
Vale Stragem                                       Farewell (to) Carnage (destruction)
Valde Tempetua                                                               (to) intense trials
De glorio...                                                              (of) concerning pride...

Vale Decem                                                                         Farewell, Ten
Vale Decet                                                         (farewell) in a proper way
Honore res quara                                                  because of (your) honor
Alter cerna                                                     The next separation (change)
Armis                                                                             (by) force of arms
Grata tunc, usquera, emani                            flow out, all the way, with joy.
Vale (x12)                                                                                  (Farewell)

("I don't want to go...")

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Post Birthday Report

It's been a whirlwind of 24 hours. Yesterday, we went out early to pick up some coffee and get some lunch at McDonald's. The kids were more than ready to go out and about, even with the gray skies. By the time we reached McD's, it started snowing.

Yup, snowing. It hasn't snowed on my birthday since we moved here to Charlotte in 2001. Sarah was wondering what this stuff was, Michael was entranced, and Christina didn't like all this cold, wet, yucky stuff in her air. All the kids stared out the large windows of the Playplace as the fat flakes fell to the ground, in between climbing and exploring the play equipment.

We went by one of my favorite stores, World Market. Hubs picked up some coffee, while I distracted Michael by showing him all the colorful, pretty gifts on the shelves. He was curious about them, reaching out to touch and being fascinated by the sparkly wine bottles. He particularly liked a huge, green papasan lounge chair. It was big enough for him to curl up and snuggle in the middle of it. I think he would've been content to stay there all day if I'd let him.

Later, I went back out to the Dollar Store to buy wrapping paper, tape, and plastic zipper bags for holiday cookies. Then to Hobby Lobby for more gold ink, and the office store for some recordable DVDs. In the meantime, Hubs had bought a tiramisu-flavored panettone cake. I'd grown up with panettone (fruitcake) while living overseas in Italy, and it was a special treat around Christmas time. In fact, it's probably the ONLY fruitcake I'll ever eat. This version had tiramisu cream filling instead of fruit. I was in choco heaven.

Yes, birthdays are fun. I can either grouse about being a year older or celebrate it. I choose to be happy, not sad.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Thank you for the Birthday Greetings!

Thank you for all the good wishes! I'm overwhelmed by them all...I'll probably be off line most of today, but I promise a full report tomorrow.

(who turns a year older today)

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Friday, December 17, 2010

Doctor Who Christmas Special

Yes, I'm a Doctor Who fan. I started watching the New Series with David Tennant (Tenth Doctor) on BBC America, then with Matt Smith (Eleventh Doctor). I was was the "traveling anywhere in Time and Space" in a blue Police Call Box. It also helped that I thought David Tennant was a brilliant actor (and a bit cute, in a goofy kind of way. Ditto Matt Smith.)

Midway through the most recent series, I went back and watched the first year of the New Series (with Chris Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor) and a lot of things made sense. I thought it was amazing that with three different men playing three different versions of the Doctor, they still managed to convince me that this was actually the same guy, just wearing three different faces.

I hadn't been too much of a fan of the Classic Who serials, although I'd mostly watched the episodes with Tom Baker (Fourth Doctor). I remembered him because of his long, multicolored scarf and the big googly eyes. When I was a kid, I wondered how he never got that scarf caught in a door somewhere. Or a conveyor belt. Or on an escalator. If I had that thing, I would have been constantly tripping over it. "Ah, let's save the universe...oops!" *trips on scarf and falls on face* Yeah, pretty heroic, Doc.

So I've got a whole line of classic Who episodes in my NetFlix Queue, including "Logolopolis", "Tomb of the Cybermen" and a few others. It'll have to do until the Doctor Who 2010 Christmas Special, 9 PM on BBC America on Christmas Day (Boxing Day, the 26th in Canada). I'll be out of town, but I've got the DVR set to record it.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Trying something new this season...

I'm eager to try new things, artistically speaking. I have a calligraphy pen with four different nibs, watercolor paints, black and gold calligraphy ink. The set's been sitting idle for the past year, since last Christmas. Lately, I've been reviewing both my Chinese and Japanese grammar and realized my kanji, katakana, hiragana, and Zhongwen are awful, since I haven't been practicing lately. My writing in English is decent (for a left hander, anyway), but you still need a decoder to read it.

So I'm back to practicing my characters with pen and ink. Earlier this week, I found some bottles of colored ink at Hobby Lobby for 40% off and picked those up as well. My hands aren't up to fine detail work anymore, but I  think I can manage to do some ATCs (artist trading cards) and postcards with them.

Wish me luck and that my hands will cooperate in this new undertaking. :-D

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Where Did the Time Go?

A major "Mommy moment" today at the pediatrician's. Son needed to get a physical so he could do Special Olympics in the spring. He's seven now, and the nurse took his blood pressure, his height and his weight. Compared with his measurements from last year, he's now 49 3/4 inches tall (a little more than 4'1) and he's gained 10 pounds. That puts him slightly a foot shorter than I am. (I'm only 5'2 1/2).

[Insert googly-eyed emoticon here.]

It seems that time is speeding up for me, especially now that the holidays are approaching. Maybe it's also because I turn 37 on Saturday, and 40 is just around the corner. It's a really sobering thought. My youngest is now a chatty 2-year-old whose favorite word is "Bye-bye." It used to be "No!", but I'm sure that one will make a comeback sometime soon.

A few nights ago, I watched "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Indiana Jones said, "It's not the age, honey, it's the mileage." Times like these make me feel the mileage.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Stuck at home...what now?

They're predicting ice/sleet/cold rain tomorrow here in Charlotte. The storm that's hammered the Midwest is heading here. My friend in Miami tweeted that it's too COLD down there. I think Mother Nature's thermostat is broken and she needs someone to come in and repair it. I've never been a fan of cold weather; we moved farther south to get AWAY from it.

My house sits on top of a hill in our neighborhood. We really didn't plan it that way; it just happened. On the good side, we don't have much of a flooding problem when it rains heavily, since water runs downhill. When that water freezes into ice, though, it's impossible to get down the street, much less the housing development. I've actually watched people slip-slide down the hill or try to make it up and fail miserably. During the winter storm of 2002, my husband jokingly called our house "The Fortress of Solitude".

He had a point. The first day of ice is beautiful. The second, third and fourth days aren't. Cabin fever sets in...and the millionth Christmas movie or rendition of "Let's Clap Hands for Santa Claus" drives me nuts. That's when you stock up on hot chocolate, board games, crayons and paper. Take your camera and shoot pictures that will never come again. Spend time with family, snuggled up under blankets and next to the space heater.

And hope that the Groundhog doesn't seen his shadow and spring comes early this year.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Monday, December 13, 2010

John Scharffenberger's Classic Drinking Chocolate

This recipe is from The Essence of Chocolate by John Scharffenberger and Robert Steinberg.©2006 by Hyperion Books, New York NY. Scharffenberger is a chocolate/candy making company.

Classic Drinking Chocolate (serves 6-12). This can be made ahead of time, but keep in mind that the spices intensify over time.

2 1/2 cups whole milk
4 ounces 99% unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Heat the milk in a saucepan over medium heat until it's hot to the touch. Whisk in the chocolate and sugar ad continue whisking for 1-2 minutes until the sugar is dissolved. Whisk in the vanilla, the cinnamon, and the cayenne. Reduce the heat to low. The chocolate will thicken as it sits.

For a lighter, airy consistency, remove the hot chocolate from the heat and mix with a hand blender on low speed just before serving. Or make ahead and use the frother of an espresso machine to reheat it. Individual servings can be topped with frothed milk.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Merry Christmas in Many Languages!

The Omniglot website is a treasure trove of language and linguistic-related information. Here is a list of how "Merry Christmas", "Happy New Year" and similar greetings are said around the world.

Happy Holidays in Many Languages

Here are a few of my favorites:

Maligayang pasko at manigong bagong taon! (Filipino (Tagalog), my parents' native language)

Naragsak a Paskua! Narang-ay a Baro a Tawen kadakayo amin! (Filipino (Ilocano), a dialect)

QISmaS DatIvjaj 'ej DIS chu' DatIvjaj (sg) QISmaS botIvjaj 'ej DIS chu' botIvjaj (pl) (Klingon!)

Alassëa Hristomerendë! Alassëa Vinyarië! (Quenya---Lord of the Rings!)

Nadolig llawen a blwyddyn newydd dda (Welsh) 

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nguzo Saba: The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa

Joyous Kwanzaa, or Habari Gani! (What's the News?)

Kwanzaa is an African-American holiday that runs from December 26 to January 1. It was first celebrated in 1966 to celebrate pride in African heritage and culture. The phrase "matunde ya kwanza" means "the first fruits of the harvest" in Swahili. Households decorate their houses with kente (African cloth) and family members wear brightly colored kaftans (dresses), daishiki (suits) and kufi (caps). Offerings of drinks (libations) are shared from a common cup, and Kwanzaa ends with a large feast for all the participants.

The kinara (candleholder) holds seven candles, with each candle representing Nguzo Saba, the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Three red candles are set on the left, a black candle in the middle, and three green candles on the right. It's similar to a Jewish menorah, lit for Hanukkah.

The seven principles are: Umoja (unity), Kuchichagulia (Self-Determination), Ujima (Working Together as a Community), Ujamaa (Working Together Prosperously), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (Creativity) and Imani (Faith). Each day of the celebration is dedicated to one of these principles and how a person can contribute to the community at large.

Habari Gani! :-)

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Autism Christmas...

I saw this link this morning and read this poem. This really describes Christmas for my older two kids, who are autistic. If there is one thing you read today, please read this. Thanks.

An Autism Christmas, on the Autisable website.

Thanks to @LornadEnt on twitter for the link. :-)

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Christmas Memories, Part II

The children of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church (Naples, Italy) took part in a re-enactment of the manger scene. There were Mary, Joseph, Baby Jesus (represented by a doll), the Three Wise Men, angels, shepherds, donkeys, sheep, and townspeople. Yes, it was a major production, and all the Sunday School teachers made sure everyone had a part.

By this time, I was considered too old to dress up (I was in my early teens, so I didn't mind being excluded). My two younger sisters were angels, with white robes and halos made with bendy wire and gold tinsel. Another friend dressed up in the blue robe of one of the Wise Men, and his brother was one of the townspeople. He chose to be a cook, complete with apron, spoon, chef hat, and bowl. We asked him, "Why a cook?" His answer? He admired my dad (who was a cook, or formally a "mess management specialist") and wanted to dress up just like him. Aw!

The production was a great success, even if there were a few stage miscues. After Mass, all the fledging actors and actresses all went home for presents. I was proud of them all for their thespian skills, and even though I wasn't directly involved with the production, it remains one of my fondest Christmas memories.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas Memories, Part I

One of my fondest Christmas memories is going to Rome to see the Pope say Midnight Mass. Of course, when you're thirteen at the time, you aren't exactly thrilled about sitting in a crowded cathedral (or freezing outside sitting in St.Peter's Square), but the atmosphere is like nothing else. Solemn, yet festive at the same time.

We went as an organized church group, with a chartered bus from Naples. It was a 2 hour drive north to Rome and St. Peter's Basilica. The purples of Advent were changed to the red of Christmas, and the Pope was in his red, white and gold robes. Our group ended up close to the back, so the Pope looked like a tiny spot among the cardinals and bishops. The choir sang the Hallelujahs and prayers were said in multiple languages: French, Italian, English, Latin, was a polyglot of chants and intercessions.

The Mass went on for an hour or more. By the time it was finished, all the children of the group were more than eager to go back home and open presents, even thought we didn't arrive until 3 in the morning. We were all too keyed up to sleep on the trip home.

It was difficult to appreciate the event when you were so young, but now I look back on it with fondness and I would turn back time to go there again.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Day of Remembrance, 7 December 1941

Today is the 69th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, that ushered in the US's entrance into World War Two. Please spare a moment of reflection for all those who died that day, including the ones aboard the USS Arizona.


All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Monday, December 6, 2010

This Wonderful(?) Wintry Season

Brrr, it's COLD! I know it's December, I know it's supposed to be cold. There's frost on the grass right outside my window. I've got the heat turned up. The commercials on the kids' channel Sprout are advertising "The Snowy Side Up Show" and "Elmo's Christmas Movies." Some of my on-line friends are digging out of several feet of snow and school's been canceled in some places. We've been rained on, drizzled on, sleeted on, with cold, wet stuff. College football teams battle it out for Bowl games, and the Super Bowl is next month! The malls ring with Christmas music and I still have to figure out where to put up the tree.

But I still enjoy this season. So many different cultural holidays (Hanukkah, Yule, Christmas, Festivus, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day (December 26), birthdays (mine is the 18th, an aunt's is the 25th, Banshee Girl on the 5th of January, Hubs on the 6th of January) and traditions (cookie goodie boxes!).Christmas Eve Midnight Mass, opening presents at 2 AM Christmas morning, and seeing the kids enjoy their new toys and clothes.

Christmas carols, traditional and all the variations thereof, both reverent and irreverent. Before my hands went kaput, I used to play the piano for hours to fill the house with music. My playlist has the Wiggles' "Go Santa Go" with Mannheim Steamroller's "Carol of the Bells" and Bob Rivers' "Wreck the Malls".

I love this season, even with the weird weather this year.

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dear Santa (Wish List 2010)

Dear Santa,

Here is my list for this year:

a gift card to any bookstore (Barnes and Noble, Borders, Books-A-Million, etc.)
a gift card to any art store  (Michaels, A.C. Moore)
some clothes to jumpstart my wardrobe
a ticket to Barbados
a week-long stay at the Spa at Hershey's.
a month in my home country (England) and a car to drive all over
Jewelry from Fire Mountain Arts
An iPAD/electronic tablet for art
The Wii fit (so I can get in shape and lose 10 pounds)
The Doctor Who Series 5 DVD Collection

and most importantly...
a world that my kids can grow up without hate and fear.

Thanks, Santa

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Admin Post: Art Blog and Zazzle Art Store Name Change

Note to my readers! I've renamed my art blog to Phoenix Fire Arts. The new feed address is

Please readjust your feeds accordingly!

The Phoenix Fire Art store on is at the same address*

New Christmas cards, posters and apparel will be available by Monday, 6 December! Browse the store to find ideal gifts!


All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Song Lyrics: Two Hanukkah Songs

In honor of Hanukkah, I'd like to share two of my favorite songs of the season. I'm not Jewish, but I have friends who are, so this is dedicated to them.

Dreidel Song (I am a Little Dreidel. Yiddish: Ikh bin A Kleyner Dreidel)
I have a little Dreidel
I made it out of clay,
And when it's dry and ready
O Dreidel I shall play.

A dreidel ("Sevivon" in Hebrew) is a 4-sided top. Each side has a Hebrew letter: Nun, Gimel, Hei, Shin, which is short for "Nes Gadol Hayah Sham", "A Great Miracle Happened There." Each player starts with the same number of tokens (like chocolate coins, or 'gelt') and spin the dreidel during their turn. 

If Nun comes up, nothing is done
   gimel,              , the player takes the entire pot in the middle.
   hei                   , the player takes half (or half plus one, if there's an odd number)
   shin                 , the player puts one token in the middle.

The few times I've played the Dreidel game, I've always been the first one to run out of money. I'm the first to admit I have lousy luck in games of chance.

Oh, Chanukah! (Chanukah is another spelling of Hanukkah. It's the same thing.)

Oh Chanukah, Oh Chanukah
Come light the menorah
Let's have a party
We'll all dance the horah
Gather round the table, we'll give you a treat
Dreidels to play with, and latkes to eat

Menorah: A candleholder with nine branches. The ninth candle is the "shamash" (helper) from which the other eight are lit, one candle per day of Hanukkah.
Horah: A circle dance
latke: Potato pancake

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Detective Inspector, Grammar Police, American English Division

I used to teach ESL (English as a Second Language) to non-native speakers. Since I live in the US, I adopted and used the American English spellings for my lessons. I'm a native-born Brit and it took me a while to adjust to both spellings, depending to whom I'm talking, or to whom I'm writing. I'm sensitive to word spellings and constructions because I also do line editing. I'm so used to AE that a British friend dubbed me the title of this entry (in the most affectionate manner, of course).

So D.I. Annie presents to you some differences between British English and American English:

Just changes in spelling, but same meaning:
defence/defense (nouns end in -ce. If it's a verb, the British use the -se spelling)
storey/story (as in floor of a building)
aluminium/aluminum (note the extra "i" in the British spelling. It's pronounced "a-loo-MEE-nee-um")
anaesthesia/anesthesia (the British keep the extra "a")

Some British English (BE) words and their American English (AE) counterparts:

Davenport:a small writing desk (BE)
a sofa (American and Canadian)

Bomb (v): A smashing success (BE)
a failure (AE)

table (v): to consider immediately (BE)
to postpone till later (AE)

access (n) custodial rights (BE)
permission to go somewhere (AE: visitation rights)

Bristol fashion (adj) all taken care of (BE)
taken care of, all A-OK (AE)

Bungalow (n) modest house, cottage (BE)
one story house (AE)

Call (v) dropped by, visited (BE) The British say, "He telephoned" or "He rang." to refer to a phone call.
telephoned (AE).

catch (you) out (v) spot an error (BE)
The Americans say "Catch an error" or "Spot an error."

pavement (n) (BE)
The Americans say, "sidewalk."

razzle (n) A binge (BE) "To go on the razzle." means "to go on a spree" for Americans.
"razz" (v) to tease (AE).

run in (v) Breaking into a brand new car. (BE)
to meet unexpectedly, have an accident (AE).

slag (v) to mock, deride, tease (BE) to "slag (someone) down" means to "give someone hell, read them the riot act, call them on the carpet"
(n) destroyed (AE, military). "It was reduced to slag."

shake (someone) down (v) to let someone stay the night at your place (BE)
"shakedown cruise" in American naval terms is the maiden voyage of a newly commissioned ship.

flat, n. apartment (BE).
It's an adjective in AE, meaning two-dimensional.

bonnet (n) a car hood (BE)
a ladies' hat (AE)

boot (n) the trunk of a car (BE)
a shoe that goes above the ankle (AE)

zebra (zebra crossing) (n) pedestrian crossing (BE) Also called pelican crossing
crosswalk (AE). Also a sports term for the referee (who wears a black and white shirt)

wash up (v) wash the dishes. "Do the dishes" doesn't exist in BE.
use the restroom (AE)

And to clarify some numbers:
A zero in the US is a naught or a cipher in England.
A million in both countries is 1,000,000 (1 with 6 zeros)
A billion in the US is 1,000,000,000 (1 with 9 zeros). In England, it's a milliard.
A trillion in the US is 1,000,000,000,000 (1 with 12 zeros). In England, it's a billion.
A quadrillion in the US is 1,000 x 1 trillion (1 with 15 zeros). In England, it's a thousand billion.

So a billion in the US isn't the same as a billion in England. It does make a difference...a huge difference, by about 1,000.

And some commonly misused proper names:
(Note: Most people think of themselves as Scots, Welsh, Irish, etc. first, before being British)

British: a naturalized subject of Great Britain (it can include someone from Scotland, Wales, N. Ireland, or from any Commonwealth Country)
Briton: a person from Great Britain/England (shortened to Brit)
English: specifically from England in culture and outlook. (DO NOT refer to a Scot, an Irishman or a Welshman as "English". Just don't.)
Scot: A person from Scotland
Scottish: from Scotland (i.e. bagpipes, kilt, etc.)
Scots: Scottish English, Scottish dialect of English (NOT the same thing as Scottish Gaelic, which is Gaidhig)
Scotch: This is the English word for Scottish dialect (see above). The Scots themselves would not use this for their language.  It's also in certain expressions "Scotch whiskey" (whisky in England), and "Scotch tweed".

(Most terms from British English A to Zed: Revised and Updated Edition by Norman W. Schur, updated by Eugene Ehrlich ©2001 by Checkmark Books, New York)

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The "Fiction" in Science Fiction (part II)

Yes, scientific accuracy is important in a science fiction short story or novel. A glaring mistake can pull the reader out of the story and ruin the experience for him or her.

Then there's something called "suspension of disbelief". It's the concept that allows us to believe in blue-skinned humanoids with antennae on their heads, or a sentient android, or a time-traveling alien who can alter his appearance before he dies. It allows us to believe in Warp 9.8, hyperspace drive, and a floating space station not far from the event horizon of a black hole. Or a man being trapped in a computer, fighting for his life in a deadly tournament.

Science is one important part of science fiction, but the fiction part is important too. As I stated before, each author puts his or her unique spin on the same concepts, and that is what makes each story unique. Bug eyed aliens (or Reptilians) take over Earth? How do our heroes triumph over the bad guys? Do our heroes stumble all over the universe, finding problems to solve in every space and time? What kind of adventures do they have? Good storytelling transports the reader into that particular world and as the pages turn, he or she becomes so engrossed in the story that the words "THE END" is a disappointment.

That's a hallmark of good writing, no matter what genre. Science Fiction, in particular, should be a balance of science and fiction, in order to tell a good story.

P.S. Can you identify the various SF series/movies/books mentioned in this article (Parts I and II)?

All original writing and art copyright A. Dameron 2000-2010