No Word for Wednesday

I know I'm supposed to post about a J word today and follow it with a story clip. Here's the thing: I'm out of J words that fit the parameters of my challenge. The J section in the dictionary is remarkably short compared to the other letters of the alphabet and, beyond that, most of the words are derivative forms of a familiar word. The whole point of this challenge was to unearth obscure and unfamiliar words. That pretty much rules out words like jaunt, jest, judiciary, and jumble. So, unless you want some unpronounceable names of fowls or four-legged critters (some of which are extinct), I'm out of J words.

Which is slightly problematic.

See, each word is supposed to start with the letter of the month in which I post it. Well, July is right around the corner. And that means I'd need four more J words besides today's non-existent one. That's just not going to work. I'm sure I could find some words somewhere, but it'd mean hours and hours scouring online dictionaries and, frankly, I'm not that dedicated ;)

To rectify this situation, I'm going to need your help. I need you to pick a letter - any letter that doesn't start the name of a month. Put your choice in the comment section. I'll count votes up till next Tuesday evening. The letter with the most votes will be the one I use for July's Word-for-Wednesday posts. If there's a tie, I'll do a drawing and go from there. If no one votes, then I'll pick one. But I really, really don't want to do that so...

Help me out?


I'm 22 and I Play with my Food


That's the beauty of catering ;)  Otherwise, there's no possible way I could justify spending hours upon hours making a bouquet of skewered vegetables. But when I have good excuse? Oh yes. Because it turns a very ordinary picnic item (a veggie tray) into this:


A Word for Wednesday

Junket - n, 1. A sweetmeat. 2. A stolen entertainment
                                                     - v, To feast in secret; to feast

When I first read the definition of this word, I was slightly perplexed. It seemed odd to me to use the same word to describe such different things. They're related, sure. But you couldn't tell someone, "I'm going to go eat junkets at the junket." That's just confusing. You'd need two words: one for the feast, one for the sweetmeat. But I really don't want to get into an argument with Webster. So...I'll use Shakespeare to demonstrate the word's use as a food description, and then turn to Jonathan Swift to deal with secret feasting (which is much more interesting).

Shakespeare used this word in what is probably my favorite of his plays - The Taming of the Shrew. (I must admit, though, that I'm not terribly familiar with any of his other plays. So, it's kind of my favorite by default) Courtesy of Shakespeare's Words, I give you a snippet of Act III, Scene II:

Baptista: "Neighbors and friends, though bride and bridegroom wants
               For to supply the places at the table,
               You know there wants no junkets at the feast."

So there you have it: a very straightforward use of the word. There is absolutely no confusion in that sentence about whether he's talking about sweetmeats or hidden entertainment. Considerate of him, wasn't it?

Jonathan Swift used this word quite differently. In his Rules that Concern All Servants in General (The Works of Jonathan Swift, Vol. 8, beginning on page 19), he writes this:

"When you invite your neighboring servants to junket with you at home in an evening, teach them a particular way of tapping or scraping at the kitchen window, which you may hear, but not your Master or Lady, whom you must take care not to frighten at such unreasonable hours."

And this:

"Whatever good bits you can pilfer in the day, save them to junket with your fellowservants at night; and take in the butler, provided he will give you drink."

I skimmed over a few pages of the rest of his rules and he very nonchalantly endorses all sorts of deviant behavior. I wonder if any servants actually read them. His rules are extremely random (really, there's absolutely no order to them at all) but I started cracking up at them. It's laughable to think of servants following his rules. They'd probably loose their jobs if they did, because he says things like:  

"Never come until you have been called three or four times; for none but dogs will come at the first whistle. And when the Master calleth, "Who's there?" no servant is bound to come; for "Who's there?" is no body's name."

Or this: "Lay all faults on a lap-dog, a favorite cat, a monkey, a parrot, a magpye, a child, or on the servant who was last turned off: by this rule you will excuse yourself, do no hurt to anybody else, and save your Master and Lady the trouble and vexation of chiding."

Way to earn your master/lady's goodwill and trust, right? Okay, back on topic now. I wandered off there for a minute, my apologies. Story, story, story...here we go.

"Three taps.

One scrape.

Two taps.

The shadow between the kitchen door and the window was just large enough to hide me while I waited. There was to be a junket tonight. Marta had told Rodger. Rodger had told Nell. Nell had told Luce. Luce had told Will. And Will had told me.

The door cracked open and a sliver of warm light painted the way up the rough stone steps. Luce was at the door, smiling at me, and I slipped inside.

She took my hand. "This way," she said.

I followed her down into the cellar. She let go of my hand halfway down the stairs. The place was full of us - servants, friends, from three households. It was impressive how quiet the lot of us could be, all laughter and jests and friendly arguments, while the Master and his Lady slept over our heads. The feast was spread out on hewn planks and there was drink at the end. I grinned, and wondered how many pies Marta had promised the butler.

"You're late." Will barreled me halfway across the cellar before I could either see him or take a step toward the food. 

I grabbed his head and messed his hair. "I came as soon as I could, you oaf."

"All right, all right, let me up. My hair's unruly enough without your help," he said as I let him up.

I laughed and shoved him into line in front of me."


I Hate This Part

I just finished A Game of Thrones.

And they killed one of my favorite characters.

At first I didn't believe it. The narrative pans away at the last second and I kept desperately hoping that he was going to show up again in one the very few chapters left before the end. I wanted it to be one of those times when the author convinces the reader that the character in dead only to bring him back in some ludicrous fashion.You know those times where the ludicrousness doesn't bother you because you're just so happy that the character is still alive? I so wanted that. I was being pretty stubborn about it too, actually. I kept thinking, He can't be dead. Not really. They can't kill him. Not for good. But I'm afraid that G.R.R. Martin did in fact kill him. Every single related character had confirmed his death by the end of the book.

There's still this sliver of me, though, that thinks Martin just did a really good job convincing me; that my beloved character is going to show up in book two or three or four and I'm going to be like, I KNEW it!

(A girl can hope, can't she??)


A Word for Wednesday

Jejune - a, [L. jejunus, empty, dry] 1. Wanting; empty; vacant. 2. Hungry; not saturated. 3. Dry; barren; wanting interesting matter.

The noun variation of this word - jejuneness - has a similar definition, as it ought to, but with an added phrase that I think will help in understanding the use of the word. So: "Poverty; barrenness; particularly, want of interesting matter; a deficiency of matter that can engage the attention and gratify the mind."

I like to see examples of how these obscure (or at least obscure to me) words were actually used. I try every time but my searches usually come up dry. This time I found some! Two, to be precise. Both are from The Works of Lord Bacon: Philosophical Works.

I don't know how drinks fit into the grand scheme of Lord Bacon's philosophical ruminations, but the first passage I found is one where he is writing about the maturation of drinks and the spirits congregate. He says, "Wine hath them well united, so as they make the parts somewhat more oily; vinegar hath them congregated, but more jejune, and in smaller quantities, the greatest and finest spirit and part being exhaled: for we see vinegar is made by setting the vessel of wine against the hot sun; and therefore vinegar will not burn; for that much of the finer parts is exhaled."

In the second passage, Bacon seemed to be cataloging some sort of experiment he was conducting on different metals. I got lost in minuscule, scanned-in typeface when I tried to figure out the context so I'm afraid you'll have to do what I did and take it for whatever it is: "Gold is the only substance which hath nothing volatile, and yet melteth without much difficulty. The melting showeth that it is not jejune, nor scare in spirit."

What's most interesting to me is that the primary use of the word seems to have changed considerably from when Lord Bacon used it to when it appeared in our dictionaries. He uses jejune to describe physical objects or attributes. Now it seems to be used primarily to describe an intellectual deficiency or the hunger of the mind and/or emotions; "pparticularly, want of interesting matter; a deficiency of matter that can engage the attention and gratify the mind." I wonder when the understanding of how to apply the word, or to whom, changed.

Sadly, we'll probably never know. And since speculation won't be the slightest bit productive, onto the narrative :)

"I crested the peak and looked over the valley that spread out before me. It was a jejune sight. Nearly as jejune as my companion, whose labored breaths I could hear behind me.

"Why can you never give us a hand, Ned?" he said, coming up beside me, half bent over to recover himself.

I had given him a hand, two most times, from the first step of our journey. Apparently "they" had very little memory.

"What a frightfully dull place," he said, shielding his eyes from the sun.

"Indeed," I said. "But it is here out path lies."

I started down the incline, pebbles and choking dust skipping at my slightest motion.

"Wait. Ned. Where are you going?"


"Please, Ned, give us a rest. Just a wee one. We beg you."

Maybe it scalding heat of the sun. Maybe it was the veritable wasteland before me. Maybe it was the thought of all the days past and all the ones ahead that I would have to spend with him. Maybe it was some combination of all those things. I'm not sure. But I started shouting at him in the two steps it took me to return to the crest.

"Fine. Rest if you must. But only if you swear to me that you will stop calling yourself "us." You are not a plural. You are one man, as I am. You have a name, as I do. If you speak, speak for yourself. Tell me what you need or want or think. Not what "us" needs. Do I make myself clear?"

He shrank away from me. The fear in his eyes doused my anger quicker than water does a fire and I sat down, cursing myself.

"I am sorry, Robert," I said. "You did not deserve that."

"We -" I could almost hear him bite his tongue before he started again. "I forgive."


A Word for Wednesday

Hey there, readers. I'm sure you've noticed that my blog activity has dwindled to a weekly post. I've been spending my non-work time studying. I have three tests left and then I'll be done (!) until I enroll with Thomas Edison State College. It's the last push of a year's worth of intensive study. I'll have earned over over 80 credits in that time. So between that and my continuing inability to comment, I've lost most of the wind in my blogging sails. Thanks for bearing with me in the lull :)

And if anyone knows how to get around the commenting problem, please let me know! I can only comment on pop-up comment window forms.

Onto the word...

Javel n, a wandering or dirty fellow; a vagabond.

There was a note in my 1828 Webster's that said this word was used by Edmund Spenser. So, I did a search with Google books to see if I could find a passage that used javel. I found one, but the print was so incredibly tiny and the context so totally confusing, that I cannot possibly share it in good conscious. It seems, though, that Spenser used this word to mean a slandering fellow. I'm not sure how he turned a wanderer into a slanderer, but he did. The general consensus on the meaning of the word is the above definition, so we're going to run with it.
We're actually going to run right into the story because the Spenserian note is the only tangent I could find to go off on this word. So:

"Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I wasn't, well, me.

But I am me, obviously. And I've always been this way. My life has always been this way. Just me and Dad wandering from one place to the next. "It's who we are, son. Nomads." That's what he always says, with this gargantuan smile on his face like it's the best identity imaginable. You'd think, after fifteen years of roaming together, that he'd notice how fake my smile is when he says it now. How I don't say anything and just look out the window instead. Maybe he thinks I'm admiring whatever landscape it is we're passing. I've seen them all though - desert, forest, plain, mountain, you name it - so there's isn't exactly anything to admire anymore.

I've tried to tell him that nomads only exist in books about ancient Middle Eastern cultures. They rode on camels, not in cars. They're not supposed to exist in the 21st century. "Nonsense," he'll say. "Nomads have existed since time began and they will continue to exist. You should be proud to be one." Yeah. Proud. Right.

I introduced myself as a vagabond the other day. We had stopped at a gas station and there was a kid my age in the chip isle. We had a ten-second debate on which flavor of Doritos was best (I won) and then he held out his hand. "I'm Chip." (No joke. The dude's name was Chip). So I shook his hand and said, "Hey, I'm Trace. I'm a vagabond." I don't know how Dad heard, last I knew he was on the opposite side of the store, but he was furious. Back in the car, I tried to sell it as nomad pride. That didn't fly so well.

I got my thesaurus out that night and my dictionary that's so old it's flaking all over the insides of my backpack. I found a word that defines me in two syllables. So I asked Dad if I could change my name while I rammed my books back into the pack. I told him I was tired of Trace. He just shrugged. "If you like, son." I guess indifference to anything that supposed to be permanent (like names, and homes) goes with being a nomad. I smiled, probably the first genuine smile I've smiled in a while, and thanked him. Then I put my seat down, closed my eyes, and said my new name to myself.

I'm Javel."


A Word for Wednesday

Jambee - n. A name formerly given to a fashionable cane

Canes are like top hats, coat tails, waistcoats, and pocket watches to me. They immediately bring to mind Victorian Era gentlemen. Like these:

It was a time when both dress and behaviour was much more formal, courtly even. Men, particularly in the upper classes, were expected to be gentlemen in both manner and appearance. Jambees were part of that appearance, a fashion essential, as it were. William Tomicki, in his article "The Good Life" for Hotel Belair Magazine said, "Victorian walking sticks were a part of the "correct" attire of the elegantly dressed gentleman, who would change a cane as often as they changed their clothes." 

The Gentlemen's Emporium says this: "[In the Victorian Era] Unless they were a workman or laborer, every gentleman was expected to wear a coat, vest, and hat.  To walk around in shirtsleeves without vest or coat would be the modern-day equivalent of traipsing about in one’s underwear. Very unseemly, and most ungentlemanly!" Cravats, watches, and walking sticks were used as a means of adding class and style to otherwise ordinary suit outfits.

Leila Nelson of The World of the Walking Stick has some fascinating articles on her site that chronicles the history of the cane. Here's a few snippets: "In ancient Egypt everyone from royalty to peasants used a cane. These ancient sticks and staffs, now displayed in museums worldwide, were often carved and decorated elaborately. Their shape and form dictated whether the owner was a shepherd, soldier, dignitary, priest, Pharaoh, or even a god. These walking sticks were also used to identify the status of the deceased within their society for afterlife identification. King Tutankhamen had no less than 132 sticks buried with him. [...] It was during the 16th century that the walking stick was widely accepted an an accessory of elegance and social prominence among the aristocracy. Special etiquette dictated the use of the cane during this period. In Europe, a king's power came to be symbolized by the scepter carried in the right hand, while a second staff known as the "Hand of Justice" was carried in the left. [...] The 19th century was the hey-day of walking sticks in Europe. They were a status symbol because it was one way you could judge how much money a man had. [...] Some walking sticks performed dual functions, serving as flasks or as a place to hide cameras, swords, guns, or umbrellas. [...] Anyone who called himself a gentleman owned at least three; an evening cane, a country or day cane, and a system cane. System canes hide something inside or convert into other objects like seats, music stands and hammers."

Now all the gadgety canes you see in movies don't seem too far fetched ;) I read an article from a modern-day cane collector. He had one cane with embedded binoculars that he took to the opera. And another, called a friendship cane, that had silver shot glasses in the knob and a glass cylinder for holding liquor that slid inside the body of the cane. Does anyone else want to go buy a cane with hidden compartments and apparatus'? I know I do. But then I love old things and old ways and old times, so it could just be me.

So, now that you know more than you probably ever wanted to know about walking sticks, onto the narrative. I wrote this one in third person. This is odd. I don't write in third person. I always feel so far away from my characters and whatever they're going through if I'm in the third person. But this story demanded the third person point of view. So here goes...

"It was a night much like any other in London. The bells chimed the hour and a lone man walked the cobbled streets, hazy patches of light springing up in his trail where the lamps responded to his work. Two figures disturbed the deserted silence, spilling out of one of the grand buildings in laughter. The one leaned his companion against a lampost and returned to close the door.

"Ah, you worry too much, Carlys," the one on the lampost said.

"And you too little," Carlys said, taking his friend's weight upon himself again.

"The morrow will dawn and all with be right in the world."

"The only thing that will dawn with you, Halton, is the effects of your drink."

Halton pulled himself up and pointed an unsteady finger at the side of Carlys' face. "I've missed you, cousin."

"Indeed. Come, you are in dire need of chambers."

Halton collapsed back onto Carlys' shoulder in laughter. Carlys brought him to one of several carriages waiting outside the building and helped him in. He gave the driver Halton's address and took his own way down the street. 

The night was cool and crisp and dark. He breathed it in like a drought of wine. This is where he belonged, on the open road awaiting adventure. Not choking on the stuffy conversation and polite contempt that sullied the very air of his grandfather's gentlemens' club. He gave his cane a few artful spins in the air and lengthened his stride. He kept on, going nowhere in particular, following his whims whenever he came upon a crossroad. At one corner, he turned directly into a party of five men lounging in the shadows.

"Well, well, what have we here?" the tallest of them stepped toward Carlys while the rest fell in behind him. "A proper little gentleman, I see. Complete with top hat and jambee."

"The name is Carlys."

"Carlys." The man smiled, a wide dirty smile. "And what is a fine gentleman like yourself doing alone on these streets at this unholy hour?"

"I, sir, am enoying the simple pleasures of an evening stroll." He stepped back into the open space where the roads crossed and stood in a manner of perfect casualty, resting lightly on his cane.

Five mouths opened at once in raucous laughter.

"An evening stroll?" The mirth hardened on the man's face. "I say you came looking for trouble."
Carlys said nothing, only watched the men whip out knives and surround him. He took off his hat and laid it on the cobbles. The men edged closer as he continued simply to stand there, both hands resting on his cane now, never taking his eyes off the leader. They didn't see him twist the knob of his jambee, or hear the click of a latch unlocking as he did.

"For a thousand pounds, I'll leave you alive," the man said.

"A generous offer," Carlys said. "Unfortunately, I cannot accept."

He seemed to rip his cane in two then. Now he held a slender blade in his right hand, and the body of a cane in his left. "Perhaps it is you I will leave alive."

The man snarled and rushed at Carlys. So did the other four.

Carlys smiled. This, this is what he lived for. To dance with danger.