Word of the Week: prodigy

When I was a kid I worried I wasn’t right in the head.  People who didn’t exist would walk in, flop down onto a beanbag chair and start telling me their stories.  By my early twenties the party room in my head had morphed into a kitchen and the characters pulled up a chair and sat at the table to talk.  I’ve come to embrace my own brand of insanity, thanks in part to one character who wouldn’t leave.  Thanks to Sunny and her family, I’ve reached a few of my writing goals since my first publication in the late 90s.

Two years ago, before I worked up the courage to submit any ERom, I participated in NaNoWriMo for the first time and ended up with a nice (and hot) story about a man in his late twenties re-connecting with his family.  The man is one of Sunny’s sons, and before that I wasn’t sure what had happened to him.  For years, just about all I knew was that he went away to college in Chicago and basically dropped off the family radar.  Once in a while someone would mention him, so I knew he stayed on the music track and was with a pianist named Charlie.  I thought Charlie was a woman, but it turns out Charlie is a beautiful blond boy with blue eyes and mad piano skills.

By the time I reached the end of that NaNo draft I realized I didn’t know Charlie well enough to write that story.  He felt like a cardboard character, but I could see glimmers of a more interesting guy in there somewhere.  Of course there’s only one way to remedy something like that—through more writing.  After a few months of peeling that onion I had a draft I called The Prequel, and a much clearer picture of the early years of one of my favorite couples (who happen to be the main characters in my Christmas story that’s forthcoming from Etopia Press):  Sam and Charlie.

Sometime during the writing of The Prequel I checked into lesser-known meanings for the word prodigy and was surprised to find it also means “something abnormal or monstrous”.  I suppose it’s possible for a gifted child to seem scary—just like some current technology would probably freak-out someone living in the Middle Ages.  Depending on his mood, Charlie would either agree with this assessment or launch into a scathing soliloquy aimed at anyone daring to say a gift (or a child) could be monstrous.

Here’s the usual info about this week’s word.  I hope you all have an extraordinary week!

Prodigy [prod-i-jee]

noun, plural prod·i·gies.

1. a person, especially a child or young person, having extraordinary talent or ability: a musical prodigy.

2. a marvelous example (usually followed by of ).

3. something wonderful or marvelous; a wonder.

4. something abnormal or monstrous.

5. Archaic . something extraordinary regarded as of prophetic significance.

1425–75; late Middle English prodig < Latin prōdigium  prophetic sign

Word of the Week: mutt

Today as I left class I saw this old, and most likely long-retired, fire truck sitting in a field on the edge of campus and even though I was thinking about homework and errands, one of my characters popped up and really wanted to go check it out.  So, since I love my guys, I let him.

Sam White is one of the main characters in my Christmas story, “Comfort and Joy”, that’s forthcoming from Etopia Press.  I’ve known him and his family for a long time (in fact, my first two published short stories were about his mom).  Sam’s a professional musician but if he didn’t have music he’d want to fight fires and rescue folks from burning buildings.  Over the years I’ve written a few of his stories so I know he calls himself a mutt even though he doesn’t look like one.  He’s a mix ancestry-wise:  French Canadian, Mohawk, German and Dutch on his dad’s side and Irish and Swedish on his mom’s, but he has his dad’s brown skin and shiny black hair.

I’m always curious about the lesser-known meanings of commonly-used words, and the etymology of everything, so I looked up “mutt” and found something I didn’t already know:  it’s short for muttonhead.


noun. Slang.

1.  a dog, especially a mongrel.

2.  a stupid or foolish person; simpleton.

1901, “stupid or foolish person,” probably a shortening of muttonhead (1803); meaning “a dog,” especially “a mongrel” is from 1904, originally simply a term of contempt.

I seriously doubt Sam would use the word to describe himself if he knew this!  As he once told his mom, he’s never been accused of placing too low a value on himself.   A mongrel is one thing but foolish (even if sometimes it’s all too applicable) just wouldn’t fly.

Uh-oh, now I hear Charlie snickering in my head.

Word of the Week: Busk


He was the cellist in a string quartet that busked at Christmas.

This is an awesome word, for more than one reason. The first, is that the most common definition is to entertain by dancing, singing, or reciting on the street or in a public place, usually for money.  I have a major soft spot for musicians, especially those who share at least part of their gift freely with those who couldn’t afford to buy a CD or download a song or go to a concert.

I found this word through research for my Christmas Story. I asked a musical question and some wonderful musicians gave me an overabundance of fabulous ideas. One of their responses included this word. I’d heard it before but didn’t really pay attention to it. My current project is an M/M Romance, so I immediately saw my two main characters, dressed in appropriate holiday finery, playing carols on a streetcorner against a backdrop of decorated shop windows and snow flurries. Sadly, they don’t get to do this; maybe in another story.

When I popped into Kiddo’s room to share my shiny new word she looked at me as though I’d just discovered the word ‘sing’, or ‘musician’. Which cracked me up, and then made me think. Too often if I’m reading a very engaging story and the author includes enough context, I won’t delve deeper into a new word but just keep reading. As a reader, that’s great because I love being so immersed in a story that the rest of the world falls away. As a writer, I can only hope to inspire that feeling in a reader. I’ll never be another Faulkner (whom I’ve read, but only with a dictionary nearby), but if I can make the world fall away for a few thousand words then it doesn’t matter whether I end up writing my own version of the Great American Novel.

Another lovely thing about this word is that it’s also a part of a corset. Per Wikipedia: “A busk (also spelled busque) is the rigid element of a corset placed at the centre front . . . intended to keep the front of the corset straight and upright.”

A Google search for this word is very pretty indeed.

Origin per dictionary.com (for all the word geeks out there):

1850–55; perhaps, if earlier sense was “to make a living by entertaining,” < Polari < Italian buscare to procure, get, gain < Spanish buscar to look for, seek (of disputed orig.)