Hallowed Be Thy Name, Buddy

I’m currently listening to one of the Great Courses on the history of the English language and learned something that I found very, very interesting.

I grew up going to church and despite not having been to church in over 10 years, the words of the Lord’s Prayer are still taking up their own little space in my brain. You know, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…”

I’ve always understood those “thy”s to be formal pronouns — in fact I distinctly remember being told that they should always be capitalized because they’re referring to God (which is always capitalized as well, of course.) But apparently I’ve had this wrong for years and years.

In Old English, and into Middle English as late as Shakespearian English, there was still a holdover from Anglo-Saxon of 2nd person informal and formal pronouns (like “tu” and “vous” in French, or “tu” and “usted” in Spanish.) Not terribly surprising, but what I did find surprising is that in fact “thy” and “thou” are the informal pronouns. So the King James Bible deliberately used this form (which was just passing out of general usage at the time it was written) in order to remind us that we have a very personal relationship with God, in which we can speak to him as if he was family.

Blew my mind, let me tell you. Possibly if I had thought about things that way, I might actually still be going to church…

One of the best explanations of the effects of derogatory language I have ever read, by Junot Diaz:

Listen, when you use a word of hate ironically — like, and your defense is “I’m not racist, how could you ever think I’m racist??” I want you to imagine owning a gun, but never buying live ammunition. You only purchase blanks. Ok?

And say sometimes when you hang out with your close friends, you take out your gun, which they know contains no live ammunition, and you shoot it at stuff, and you think it’s funny. And maybe the first time you do it, they’re like “Shit. I mean, I know those are blanks, but that’s kind of fucked up,” but your argument is, “But I can’t really hurt anyone! They’re just blanks!” And over time they just get used to it and find it kind of funny. “Oh, that Cliff, sometimes he takes his gun out and shoots some blanks, but he doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just funny! You know how it goes.”

Now, imagine that over time, having received the acceptance for your actions from your friends, you decide you can start firing blanks around people you’ve never met. In mixed company. You’re at a dinner party one night, you’ve had a few, so you go “Hey, wanna see something cool?!” and those who are your friends at the party know what’s coming, so they’re prepared, but then the people who don’t know you, they see you whip out a piece and go “Oh shit, I’m going to die, it’s everything I feared,” but your friends explain to them it’s not a big deal, there’s nothing to be afraid of, “Cliff wouldn’t hurt a fly,” so they eventually, begrudgingly, don’t say anything about it, don’t call you, Cliff, a fucking asshole. “Fine, it’s kind of ridiculous, but whatever.” Something like that.

And then you are at a large public place. A concert, an open mic, where you and your friends are outnumbered by the rest of the audience. And maybe someone pushes you or gives you a hard time, so you decide, just to give the guy a taste of his own medicine, to pull out your gun, and fire some blanks. Give him a real, real visceral jump. And everyone around you feels threatened, unsafe, about to be part of something they were always on some subconscious level afraid would happen, but at the same time hopeful it would never happen because our society’s getting smarter and more considerate of those around them. And then some other people, who after seeing it happen, feel relieved that you were firing blanks, but also feel empowered by your choice to fire a weapon in a public place, and choose to do the same thing.

Do you get it yet?

The fact is that derogatory remarks, whether used sincerely or ironically, and ammunition, whether blank or live, still creates the same environment of discomfort and fear every time it is used. So cut the shit.

To-Read Tuesdays

One of the things I’d really like to do with my blog is get in the habit of having regularly scheduled posts, so Tuesdays around here are going to be all about the books that have been added to my to-read list in the last week. I may never get around to actually reading them, so you may never hear about them again, but you never know.

Ragged Company

Ragged Company by Richard Wagamese

Four chronically homeless people–Amelia One Sky, Timber, Double Dick and Digger–seek refuge in a warm movie theatre when a severe Arctic Front descends on the city. During what is supposed to be a one-time event, this temporary refuge transfixes them. They fall in love with this new world, and once the weather clears, continue their trips to the cinema. On one of these outings they meet Granite, a jaded and lonely journalist who has turned his back on writing “the same story over and over again” in favour of the escapist qualities of film, and an unlikely friendship is struck. 

A found cigarette package (contents: some unsmoked cigarettes, three $20 bills, and a lottery ticket) changes the fortune of this struggling set. The ragged company discovers they have won $13.5 million, but none of them can claim the money for lack proper identification. Enlisting the help of Granite, their lives, and fortunes, become forever changed.

Why I Want to Read It: Had a brilliant lady recommend this to me at the store and I’m always wanting to read more Canadian fiction. Plus, it sounds like it’ll challenge my privileged existence in at least one way, which is totally the point of my diversity challenge.

How to say goodbye in Robot

How to Say Goodbye in Robot by Natalie Standford

New to town, Beatrice is expecting her new best friend to be one of the girls she meets on the first day. But instead, the alphabet conspires to seat her next to Jonah, aka Ghost Boy, a quiet loner who hasn’t made a new friend since third grade. Something about him, though, gets to Bea, and soon they form an unexpected friendship. It’s not romance, exactly – but it’s definitely love. Still, Bea can’t quite dispel Jonah’s gloom and doom – and as she finds out his family history, she understands why. Can Bea help Jonah? Or is he destined to vanish?

Why I Want to Read It: I’m a sucker for books about real misfits. And YA books that aren’t romances. Will it live up to its promise?

The Horse, the Wheel and LanguageThe Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World by David W. Anthony

Roughly half the world’s population speaks languages derived from a shared linguistic source known as Proto-Indo-European. But who were the early speakers of this ancient mother tongue, and how did they manage to spread it around the globe? Until now their identity has remained a tantalizing mystery to linguists, archaeologists, and even Nazis seeking the roots of the Aryan race. The Horse, the Wheel, and Language lifts the veil that has long shrouded these original Indo-European speakers, and reveals how their domestication of horses and use of the wheel spread language and transformed civilization.

Why I Want to Read It: I’ve really been in the mood lately to learn more about Russian history before Russia was Russia. You know, the Volga Vikings and Kievan Rus and the early Slavs. There really aren’t a whole lot of interesting books out there on the subject (most “complete” histories of Russia have about 50 pages about the pre-Peter the Great era, 450 pages that cover Peter the Great to the Revolution, and 500 pages for the Soviet and post-Soviet era) but I ran across a reference to this book in an article I was reading and it sounds fascinating. Not exactly what I was looking for, but it also hits my linguistic nerdy buttons, so I put in an inter-library loan request.

Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce

I originally read the Protector of the Small series years ago and it wasn’t my favourite of the Tortall sub-series (it was the Immortals series at the time), but this time around I appreciated it a whole lot more. For one, Kel is an awesome character.

She isn’t special in any way — no magic, no special link with the gods — and earns everything she gets through hard work and common sense. Sure, she started learning her weapons at the ripe old age of 6, but she gets really good at them because she never gives up, even when everything hurts and she could be sleeping in. Plus, she cares. She’s compassionate without being a mother-figure (or at least that’s how I see it, despite some of the boys calling her “Mother” in jest.) She’s basically a kick-ass female character who’s three-dimensional and interesting.

The other thing I love about this series is that there isn’t a love story. Sure, Kel has her crushes and relationships, but she realizes that other things are higher on her priority list that love and/or sex and just gets on with them. How often do you see that in a teen book?

Progress on Challenges: These counted as books 7 through 10 in my 52 Books in 2014 Challenge, so I’m chugging along on that. Unfortunately, they really don’t count towards my DIversity Challenge at all.

A New Start

Almost 2 years between posts… that sounds about right around here. But I’ve absolutely decided that I’m going to get better than that! Of course, I’m also pretty high on cold medication, so take it with a grain of salt. Or maybe a teaspoon or two.

For 2014 I made just two reading resolutions:

  1. Read 52 books. I used to laugh at people who had to make this kind of resolution, since I used to read around 200-250 books a year. But now that I have a few distractions in my life (a business that I just can’t get away from, an obsession with knitting that takes up valuable reading time, the internet, and hockey) I found it was actually a challenge last year. I’m doing excellently so far this year (9 books by Feb 2!) but I know how easy it is to look up and realize that I haven’t read an actual book in months, despite owning a used bookstore. (I still read, I just read 150K word mpreg slash fanfics instead. What even is my life?)
  2. Diversify my reading. There are so many more books available now that have main characters who are POC, queer, disabled, or all of the above than when I was growing up and I definitely need to take advantage of that! Especially living back in this most whitebread of towns, I need to read something that isn’t steeped in white, cis, straight, middle-class North America/Britain.

I’m going to do my best to blog about both those resolutions as the year goes on. Wish me luck!

Genre Shmenre

Tonight I was commenting on a blog post and found myself ranting about 1) people who read only one genre and 2) gender-specific genres (you know, how sci-fi is for boys and funny contemporary fiction that has a relationship in it is chick-lit, and all that shit.) I ended up toning down my rant in the comment itself, but it got me thinking about how glad I am that I really do read a little of everything. My shelves are filled with all sorts of different books and in my life I have read from pretty much every different section in the bookstore.

But it got me thinking about what genres I have never read, and I could only come up with three: Westerns, Horror, and True Crime. Well, I guess some of the vampire novels I read way back when could be considered horror — Laurell K. Hamilton, I’m looking at you and your terrible decent into utter shit. And there’s a reason I’ve never read a true crime novel and it can be summed up with two words: empathy and wuss.

So, I’m challenging myself to read a Western this year. Maybe a Louis L’Amour or a Zane Grey? I’ll Take a look tomorrow and see what sounds interesting.

we’re coming dangerously close to the conversation i’d have with maura, when she’d say she knew exactly what i was going through, and i’d have to explain that, no, she didn’t, because her sadness never went as deep as mine. i had no doubt that tiny thought he got depressed, but that was probably because he had nothing to compare it to. still, what could i say? that i didn’t just feel depressed — instead, it was like the depression was the core of me, of every part of me, from my mind to my bones? that if he got blue, i got black? that i hated those pills so much, because i knew how much i relied on them to live?

~ Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

New Year’s Resolutions

My challenge to myself to read a book a week for the last 20 weeks of the year fell to pieces rather quickly.  Not that I didn’t read any books, but I certainly didn’t blog about them!  That’s okay though, because one of my NYR this year is to not feel guilty about things like that…

I don’t usually do the whole NYR thing. I really do have enough guilt in my life already without piling more on, but this year I do feel like challenging myself a little. I made some knitting resolutions that I posted over on Ravelry already:

  1. Finish the baby projects BEFORE my sister goes into labour (due date is mid-February.) This includes: blocking the baby blanket; sewing up, adding i-cord ties to, and blocking the Baby Surprise Jacket; finishing at least one set of the many baby booties I have half finished.
  2. Finish at least 12 charity projects this year. I want to do some baby hats for the hospital, as well as some adult and/or kid hats and mitts for somewhere like Mitzbah House.
  3. Have any Christmas knitting I decide on DONE by the end of October.
  4. Pull out all my WIPs and either finish or frog them.
  5. Get my Ravelry projects up to date and keep them that way.
  6. And finally (stealing Kathy’s lovely idea), do something crafty every day.

Now I also want to make some reading related ones:

  1. Read 50 books this year (and keep track of them.)
  2. Blog about at least 1 book a month.
  3. Branch out into short stories — read at least 1 every week.

Let’s see how long I can keep any of these going!

And Another!

Cover ImageThis week’s book was Silent in the Grave by Deanna Raybourn. The best way to describe it would probably be as a historical mystery romp. I found myself comparing it to early Anne Perry novels (before they got all same-y), but maybe a better comparison would be one of Elizabeth Peters’ Amelia Peabody novels. Well researched in the historical details, but the characters have pretty modern sensibilities — I know that annoys a lot of people, but I love it.

The novel opens with the death of Lady Julia Grey’s husband, presumably of natural causes, but quickly jumps to a year later when evidence comes to light that maybe it wasn’t quite as natural as all that. With the help of Nicholas Brisbane, a “private inquiry agent”, she investigates the murder.

It’s the first in a series and I’ll definitely read more. There’s a hint of paranormal-ish goings-on (not vampires or werewolves, more like Gypsy highjinks) in this one, so I’ll be interested to see if she digs deeper into that aspect.

Quote that I read to everyone in close proximity: [First line] To say that I met Nicholas Brisbane over my husband’s dead body is not entirely accurate. Edward, it should be noted, was still twitching upon the floor.

Next Up: Goodnight Tweetheart by Teresa Medeiros or Don’t Tell Mom I Work on the Rigs: She Thinks I Am a Piano Player in a Whorehouse by Paul Carter