Thursday, August 28, 2014


On today’s The Writer’s Almanac, I read that this is the anniversary of the first paid radio commercial in 1922. Ah, so that’s where it all began! Herbert Hoover thought it shouldn’t be allowed.   

I had to have a small laugh because I know how my husband absolutely hates the commercials, feels there are more and more of them every day, and believes it’s all a conspiracy. It drives him crazy when he switches channels when a commercial pops up during, say, a motor race, only to find that the other channel he was watching, flipping back and forth, is also running a commercial. We don't, as we once did with broadcast, get these programs for free. It annoys him that he has to endure the ads even while paying a hefty monthly fee.

It does seem to me that many channels proliferate just for the income of it, not for the service.  I remember in years past hearing the annual broadcast channels announce the renewal of their licenses.  Part of their license to broadcast was their service to the community. Anyone who disagreed with the license renewal could complain to the FCC. Not anymore! Cable channels, like many under the Discovery banner, consist of repeats, repeats, repeats, strung together with a boatload of commercials. Many old shows are pulled apart and reassembled a bit differently and touted as being new. Even the staid BBC fills its daily schedule with reruns of the ever angry Gordon Ramsey, Top Gear, and Star Trek: The Next Generation, which is now over 20 years old. It costs little to repeat some of these productions ad nauseam, and the income from the commercials must be quite handsome.

Such is the way of the word these days.  If it were just me here, I’d be happy to stick to the PBS channels, making my annual contributions in lieu of all those ads. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014


Today is August 26, 2014. Today is the day!

Yesterday I got the shipping notice from Amazon, and today is the day I’ll get my copy of the latest Louise Penny novel The Long Way Home. I’ve been following the story of Armand Gamache, now retired Chief Inspector of the Sûreté du Québec, ever since my 
dear Canadian friend introduced me to the series.

If you are a Penny fan, a Gamache fan, you know why I’m so delighted.
Amazon had this on the book’s page:  "As with all the author’s other titles, Penny wraps her mystery around the history and personality of the people involved. By this point in the series, each inhabitant of Three Pines is a distinct individual, and the humor that lights the dark places of the investigation is firmly rooted in their long friendships, or, in some cases, frenemyships. The heartbreaking conclusion will leave series readers blinking back tears." —Library Journal

I’m not too sure I’m happy about a “heartbreaking conclusion” – today I can imagine many scenarios, by tomorrow I will know for sure.

I’ll be listening for the telltale sound of the mail truck.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Today’s BBC New Headlines reminded me that this is the 75th Anniversary year for The Wizard of Oz.  How many times have you seen that movie? How many times have I, for that matter? Too many to count, especially since they trot it out almost every year at Christmas time.

And every time I see it I am again fascinated by the Wicked Witch of the West – Margaret Hamilton. I look at her and look at her and wonder if there is any family resemblance.  Miss Hamilton, you see, was my first cousin twice removed. She and my father’s mother were both Hamilton girls, and I am told that they resembled each other when they were young. I favor my father, who favored his mother a bit.  But no, I don’t see the resemblance. Too bad – I’d love to be green!

I think I will enroll Cousin Margaret into my Curmudgeon Hall of Fame.  
She was a bit testy, wasn’t she?

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Today every Tom, Dick and Harry has a last name, but that wasn’t always so.  I doubt that our ancestors were named Fred and Barney, but until they started to sort themselves out and create a hierarchy, I’d surmise that everyone needed only one name.  For millennia, rural people were so far out of town that they knew everyone in the area.  It was when they congregated in cities that they had to tack identifiers on to their simple names.

Once folks realized there were others around with their name they began to tack on the name of town they were from.  Thus we have George Washington, whose forebears were from Washington in England, or James Galway, from Ireland. In English we don’t use the ‘from’, but among others, the German Von, the French or Spanish De, or the Italian Da, mean ‘from’. Think of Von Richtofen or DaVinci. 

Meanwhile, back at home, the population was growing.  Tom wasn’t the only Tom in town, so in many places he became Tom Johnson, the son of John.  In Arab countries a son was ibn-, in Hebrew he was ben-, they’re almost the same. In Gaelic, Mac or Mc means son, and O’ means grandson. Could a Scots-Irish lad be O’MacDonald?  In the Scandinavian countries a son was -son sometimes -sen. Erik the Red was Erik Thorvaldsson. A daughter was -dóttir or -datter. This is still used in Iceland, where Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was the world’s first democratically elected female head of state.

In other instances, instead of being a son of someone, folks added their profession to their given name. They became Tom Baker, Margaret Thatcher, Maurice Chevalier, or Robert Allen Zimmermann. One ‘n’ or two, a zimmermann is a carpenter, but we know this one as a singer: Bob Dylan. They might have had a characteristic that distinguished them: if they were redheads they might be Russo in Italy or Rousseau in France. If they lived by a lake or pond they became Veronica Lake or James Pond. If their father worked for a bishop, abbot, or priest, or if their father was one, they might use that as their surname.  Is that how that comic became Joey Bishop?  Nah, his last name was Gottlieb, which is German for God’s love, and that might have begun as a nick name.  

In 1979, the United Nations adopted a measure that states, among other things, that there should be equal rights in the transmission of family names. Parents can decide to give their children either the name of the father or mother, or a hyphenation of both – although no more than two names can be hyphenated. I wonder what happens when a Smith-Wong marries a Patel-Jones. Though in one form and one place or another this has been going on for a long time, many couples are now deciding on the wife keeping her own name and their children having a combined surname.  When James Pope marries Anne Sicola, their children’s surname will be Pope-Sicola.

So, surnames came from relationships, towns, locations, occupations, even nicknames. There are many whose origins remain a mystery. It’s said that the name Ryan can’t be traced, but that’s the luck o’ the Irish for you. Surname is from the Old French ‘sur’, meaning ‘super’ or ‘on’ or ‘on top of,’ and ‘nom’, meaning name. We’ve just skimmed the surface of surnames.  Names from our western European heritage, once so prevalent in the States, have been joined by a United Nations of names, and their origins are interesting and very intriguing.

This post is from May 2011. I was thinking about it again because I was marveling at the mixture of names and heritages for my three youngest granddaughters.  Their last name is Scottish, but decorating their family tree they will also find the flags of Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, and Poland.(With the Stars and Stripes on the top of the tree.) I think this mix of backgrounds is wonderful – I hope that they’ll appreciate it and want to learn more about it as they get older.

Friday, August 1, 2014



In August it will be so hot
I will become a cooking pot
Cooking soup of course-why not?
Cooking once, cooking twice
Cooking chicken soup with rice

Maurice Sendak

August – ah, just one more month of hot weather – I hope! The humidity has
 been unusually high here this year. I usually take a walk each morning 
before the sun rises and it gets a wee bit too hot for me, but not lately. 
I open up that front door and it feels like I’m heading into a sauna. 
Then I nicely close the door and say “Not today Geraldine”, Geraldine being one of my mother’s flippant nicknames for me when she was about to say “No”.

To ‘celebrate’ the first of August, I believe I will make chicken soup tonight.
No rice – we like fine noodles. (Sorry Mr. Sendak!) By this time of year we’ve gone through the stockpile of frozen soups, so it’s time to start stockpiling again. I can’t think of a better way to start.

While searching Google's picture files for August, I came upon this
interesting photo. I wonder where this was taken.
Did she dive from that bamboo pole?

I'd love to do that - but then I get a 'visual' of my fat-old-lady self,
and I have myself a good laugh.
Maybe in my next life - hmmmm?