Mistletoe.

All my life I have thought of mistletoe as a European thing, and associated it with images of druids cutting it out of trees with a sickle–  most likely embedded by all the Asterix  books I read as a kid.

Mistletoe is, in fact, a very old word that dates back to Old English. It had closely related words for the same plant in Old Saxon, Old Norse, Old Frisian, Old High German and Gothic languages.

The plant was venerated by the druids, especially when it was found growing on oak trees, which were seen as the most powerful and mighty of trees. The druids believed that mistletoe had powerful healing properties,  and it has traditionally been associated with life, renewal, hope, magic,  and love. 

This accounts for my enormous surprise last Friday as we were driving through southern New South Wales and I discovered that the teardrop shaped plants growing on Australian gum trees were, in fact, a native variety of mistletoe. They were different enough in colour, leaf shape and habit to be distinct from the trees on which they were growing, and a quick search online confirmed what I had jokingly suggested to my husband as we drove: “Maybe it’s mistletoe!”

Photos: WordyNerdBird. Mistletoe growing in an Australian eucalypt at Wilbriggie, NSW.

As it happens, Australia has about seventy varieties of native mistletoe, and another twenty or so that have been introduced. While they live semi-parasitically on other trees, they don’t do any harm to them or the environment as some other parasitic plants do. (Yes, Golden Dodder, I’m looking at you, you nasty weed.)

So, next Christmas when certain family and friends laugh at me for singing ‘Meet Me Under The Mistletoe’ I’ll be able to inform them that it does grow here naturally, and therefore Australians are just as entitled to sing about it as anyone else.

Sources:
Etymonline
Gardening Australia
Dictionary.com

Mistletoe.
#words #history #etymology

Duplicity: The Many Unattractive Faces of Scott Morrison

A person who shows different sides of their personality to different people or in different situations is commonly called two-faced
Another word for this is duplicity

duplicitous person varies the way they act and speak in various situations in order to conceal the truth and try to make themselves look good, to save face, or to increase their popularity. 

The problem with that kind of behaviour is that nobody likes being lied to and, sooner or later, the truth will expose the lies. 

It must be enormously difficult for any person to maintain the deceit, and exponentially difficult for someone in a position of power or celebrity. 

Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, is also our Prime Example of Duplicity. Like most politicians, he has made an art of duplicity for years, but it seems that now the carefully constructed facades are crumbling. 

After two months full of allegations of heinous behaviour by members of parliament and other employees of the government, one after another after another, closely followed by revelations of concealment and obfuscation by others in positions of power and responsibility, Morrison’s default ‘Thumbs Up’ and ‘Daggy Dad’ personas are insufficient for dealing with the fallout of the current scandals, both in Parliament and in the media. 

He says one thing to reporters he feels are antagonistic, another to reporters he thinks are his allies, and something else in Parliament. You can bet he says something different again behind closed doors when talking with his colleagues, and something else entirely when talking with those who have been accused of a range of very nasty behaviours or of sweeping the offences under a very large piece of Parliament House carpet.

What we are seeing now is an astounding array of very unattractive faces of Scott Morrison:
Overconfident Morrison is glib and supercilious. 
Angry Morrison is vindictive and thoughtless. 
Mansplaining Morrison is condescending and dismissive. 
Misogynistic Morrison assumes the men are telling the truth and the women are always lying— and this is, perhaps, the most telling of all his faces. 

The man who declares that an alleged rapist and another man accused of saying horrible things about his victim are both innocent, without listening to or looking at a scrap of evidence and without any official investigation into either allegation, is disregarding the law  and demonstrating complete and utter disregard for the experiences of every woman who has ever been harassed, abused, assaulted, raped, or gaslighted. He is bringing the government, the political party, and the law of the land into disrepute. 

While Morrison proclaims that his wife and daughters are the centre of his world, his actions communicate something different to Australian women: he and his own power are in fact his first priority. He speaks warmly about the women in his family when he doesn’t want to appear entirely heartless, but his emotions are never for the victims of the plethora of offences against women committed by the other privileged and powerful blokes he knows. 

If he ever stopped for three minutes, like his wife Jen suggested,  to think about any of the women who have been raped, assaulted, publicly denounced as liars, and vehemently slut-shamed over recent weeks as if they were his daughters, it doesn’t appear to have had any effect on his determination to protect the perpetrators in Parliament House. It hasn’t stopped him trying to deflect attention with corny staged photo opportunities and questionable claims about how well Australia’s Covid-19 vaccination program is going. It hasn’t stopped him attempting to explain it all away as storytelling and hysteria, or tut-tutting about the complainants’ mental health. 

Like many Australian women, I am angry at the continued failure of our nation’s leader to make a meaningful stand on the current scandals rocking the nation. I am furious that the accounts of victims are dismissed, and that there is no responsibility taken at any level for the absence of belief and the lack of justice experienced by victims. I am disgusted that the women themselves are blamed for what has happened to them. I am sickened by the fact that this goes all the way to the highest levels of the Australian government: Members of Parliament and SenatorsCabinet ministers, senators, the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister have both had their integrity besmirched in different ways. 

These issues aren’t going away anytime soon. The credibility of the Prime Minister and his government are damaged, probably beyond  any hope of repair, and many Australians— mostly, but not all, women— are insistently demanding justice for the victims and genuine cultural change. Scott Morrison has a choice: he can lead it, or he can be left behind by it. The longer he leaves it, though, the latter is the far more likely option.

Duplicity: The Many Unattractive Faces of #ScottMorrison

Consent: A Message For The Australian Government

Many men understand and handle the concept of consent perfectly well. Many men are respectful, decent human beings. 
Others? Not so much.

There has been a lot of talk recently in Australian politics and the media about consent. It seems that some blokes out there just don’t understand the concept. 

Honestly, it is not that difficult. 

An image of two hands holding a sign that says “no means no”.

If you’re interested in someone and they say no, that’s the end of it.

Even if you are not particularly interested in someone but you just want to have sex with them, and they say no, that’s the end of that, too.

Even if you’re in a relationship and you want sex and the other person says no, that’s that. 

If someone is drunk or otherwise under the influence, unconscious or otherwise unable to formulate a clear decision about whether or not they want sex, the assumed answer should be no. 

Even if people are already in the middle of having sex, should one partner say they want to stop, that means consent is withdrawn and the other partner should actually stop. 
Awkward? Maybe. 
But that is not the point. 

The entire point is that sex should not happen unless both parties are willing. That’s what consensual means: the people involved are equally willing and in agreement.

Anything else is assault. 
Anything else is rape. 

Any person forcing themselves on another for sex is a rapist. 
Any person assuming consent by someone unable to give it is a rapist.  

It doesn’t matter whether they are strangers, friends, in a relationship or married. It doesn’t make any difference if one is a sex worker, or an employee, or happens to be lying naked in a field of wildflowers. 

Even the dullest-minded man understands consent perfectly well when they are approached by someone they are not interested in or attracted to. When they say no, that’s that. 

Clearly then, is not that they just don’t get it: the fact is that they refuse to get it. Somehow, they think the rules that apply to everyone else don’t apply to them.

So here’s a message from Australian women to the boys’ club in Parliament House: 


‘No’ actually does still mean ‘no’. It always has. 

We don’t need a stupid phone app to register consent.

We just need everyone to understand privilege and power do not magically make “no” mean “yes”. 

We need the people running the country to be truthful and respectful about the wicked deeds of other men— and some women— about things that have been done, and covered up, and excused by those who should be the first to uphold and apply the laws of the land.

It doesn’t matter who it is or what public position they hold:  no rapist deserves leniency, no rapist deserves pity, and no rapist should have anyone explaining things away, covering up the truth or making excuses for them. 
And anyone who does anything to protect a rapist deserves nothing but contempt. 

‘Cancel Culture’ or Consequences?

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

There has been a lot of discussion and a fair bit of outrage over recent months about different things being “cancelled”.

The term ‘cancel culture’ is thrown around quite liberally in response to a particular movie or TV show that will no longer be aired, a book that will no longer be published, or someone’s social media account being shut down.  ‘Cancel culture’ is often used as a slur to denigrate those who stand by the principles of integrity, equality and collectively being better about racism or hatred than we once were.

While it is true that sometimes such measures go too far or seem to be nitpicking, there are things which we should be willing to put behind us because we now understand and acknowledge they are hurtful or misrepresent the true nature of a group of people or a situation.

If something is racist, misogynistic or hateful, it should definitely be set aside and left in the past. We’re not saying it never existed: just that we don’t to continue being like that. As we move further into the 21st century, our society has evolved to understand things differently than we did a hundred, or even fifty, years ago.

If someone posts hate speech or promotes violence on social media, it goes against the terms and conditions agreed to when opening their account. Their ability to post might be restricted for a time, or shut down permanently. That’s not being cancelled: that’s the consequence of posting what they should not.

If someone disagrees or is offended by something another person posts, they are free to scroll past, or mute or block the poster. That is not cancelling: it’s a choice made by the individual to limit another person’s negativity and it’s effects on  them personally.

Personally, I have blocked certain people because I find their views repugnant. Others have probably blocked me, and I am completely okay with that: I am not so deluded as to expect everyone else to like me or to agree with my perspectives.

If I discover that I have said or written something hurtful, hateful,  or offensive, I’ll gladly apologise and unpublish it. I have done so in the past, because I am not perfect and I am the first to admit it. That’s not being cancelled, that’s being a decent person.

The decision made by the estate of Dr Seuss to no longer publish six of his many books is not cancelling all his books: it is an acknowledgement that some elements of those six books are problematic and may do more harm than good to the ongoing legacy of the much-loved author. You will still be able to read Green Eggs and Ham or Yertle the Turtle to your kids.

Backlash against certain politicians, journalists or other public figures over things they have said or done isn’t cancelling them. They still actually have more of a voice than most of us do. It’s just a consequence of them being horrible to other people and, quite frankly, they should be talking a good hard look at themselves instead of accusing others of being intolerant.

Thus, while some decry  ‘cancel culture’ and accuse others of being closed-minded, it is far more often the direct consequences of speech, though or actions that are no longer acceptable to many members of society. As uncomfortable as that truth may be for some, there are some things that really should be discarded and left in the past.

‘Cancel Culture’ or Consequences?
#CancelCulture #consequenceculture

The Uncomfortable Truth: The Rapists Are Likely To Be Blokes You Know

The irony of writing to men on International Women’s Day has not escaped me, but this is something they need to understand.

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

On the morning of Sunday, March 6, 2021, a white, middle-aged male Australian journalist, especially the privileged and powerful stated on national television that while he was glad that women were speaking up about rape and sexual abuse, he was struggling with the fact that his friend— a prominent member of the government who is obviously innocent, of course— had been accused of rape and is at the centre of a maelstrom of media and public scrutiny as a result. 

It was an absolute AYFKM moment for any thinking g woman watching. The two women on the discussion panel did an excellent job of not saying what they were clearly thinking.I, on the other hand, was not on national television so I was able to express my thoughts more freely. 

When the rage and the nausea subsided, I asked my husband, “Who exactly does he think the rapists are if they’re not among the friends of all the other men?”

The fact of the matter is, rapists and child abusers are very often friends or family members of their victims. They all have friends who would be as shocked by the truth as Peter Van Onselen is by the allegations against Christian Porter. They would all struggle with accepting the heinous behaviour of someone they know and respect. 

That does not mean that allegations and accusations are not true. The only way to know with any confidence is to fully investigate and, if necessary, prosecute the matter. 

In the meantime, friends of the alleged rapist— particularly journalists and his parliamentary colleagues— should recuse themselves from public forums discussing the matter because, quite frankly, it is not the place for biased male perspectives on the experiences of women. It is most definitely not the place for making a woman’s account of rape about them and how much they are struggling with the allegations against their mate. 

Conversely, Australian women are way past being surprised or shocked by men we know, or those in positions of privilege and power, being accused of rape and abuse. And while we have always been angry about rape and abuse, our fury has grown over recent weeks over the number of allegations of rape and abuse connected  to the government and the apparent inability— or outright failure— of those in positions of responsibility and power to deal with those situations appropriately. 

It’s high time Peter Van Onselen, Scott Morrison and anyone else struggling with the current accusations and publicity realised what the rest of us know: while most Australian men are not rapists and many of them are excellent, the abusers and rapists are moving among them and look just like the. They could turn out to be anyone. Nobody is beyond suspicion, regardless of their position in society. 

One other thing is just as sure: if Christian Porter or any of the other accused men in Parliament House were a teacher rather than a politician, his employer’s response would have been very, very different. 

The Rapists Are Likely To Be Blokes You Know
#UncomfortableTruth #blog

Frequently Confused Words: Conscious vs Conscience

This post was inspired by the numerous social media posts I saw this week either stating that certain Australian politicians “have no conscious” or wishing that they would “have a conscious”.While that is, quite ironically, a remarkably astute observation, what those comments obviously meant was that certain Australian politicians have no conscience

Screen shot from Google taken on March 7th, 2021

Conscious is an adjective which means awake, aware, alert, responsive, or possessing mental or moral faculty. If the tweets had been observing a lack of those qualities in said politicians, the word should have been consciousness, as that is the noun form.

Of course, given the behaviour of certain members of the government in recent weeks, and of certain journalists who defend them without investigation or proof of innocence, there is a very strong argument to be made that they lack any number of types of consciousness.

Conscience is the innate, internal knowledge or recognition of right and wrong behaviour, speech, thoughts or motives, or one’s inner sense of fairness and justice. It can also refer to one’s mental or moral faculty that makes decisions based on such knowledge or recognition.

Given the behaviour of certain members of the government in recent weeks, and of certain journalists who defend them without investigation or proof of innocence, there is also a very strong argument to be made for a complete and utter lack of conscience among them.

The two words are crucially different… unless, of course, one lacks both. In that case, the distinction is somewhat irrelevant.

Frequently Confused Words: Conscious vs Conscience
#vocabulary #words

Zarf.

Zarf is a word you might never have heard or used, but it relates to something with which most of us are quite familiar.

These days, the word zarf refers to that cardboard or silicone band on a portable coffee cup that insulates it and stops your fingers getting too hot while holding your drink. Some call it a cup sleeve or a cup holder: zarf is a far more evocative and interesting word.

The word zarf comes from Arabic via Turkish, and simply means ‘envelope’. Thus, its adoption for a cardboard sleeve to go around a disposable coffee cup is logical, and it soon came to be applied to anything that went around or held a cup to make it more comfortable to hold.

Many people assume that the zarf was a late 20th century invention that came about with the advent of the disposable, followed by the the reusable, takeaway coffee cup. Those people are wrong.

The zarf began as a holder for a hot coffee cup in Turkey and across the Middle East as early as the 1600s.

Image credit: nokta_cizgi on Pixabay.

When the Ottoman Empire banned alcohol in the 16th century, coffee became the premier drink of the people. Within one hundred years, coffee houses became such important centres of gathering, culture and political discussion that the Empire banned coffee, too.

As any coffee lover could predict, that didn’t work. The people responded so profoundly that the Empire decided not to stand between the people and their caffeine ever again, but added a significant tax on coffee instead, in keeping with the age-old governmental proverb: if you can’t beat them, tax them. 

image credit: Activedia on Pixabay

As the traditional coffee cups had no handles, the zarf evolved as a functional holder, but soon became elaborately decorative. These are still used today.

Traditionally, the  more ornate and beautiful the zarf, the higher the esteem in which the drinker is held. An ornate zarf can indicate status or affection and respect, which means that a lover, a close friend or a family member might serve coffee in a zarf as beautiful as that served to a sultan or emir.

The zarf and the coffee served in it are just two of the many wonderful things we have inherited from Eastern history and culture. Coffee houses are still cultural and social hubs in the Middle East, a legacy reflected in the popularity of coffee shops and cafes worldwide.

Anyone inclined toward prejudice against Eastern and Muslim cultures should remember that when sipping their morning cup of joe: it would be impossible to live as we do without their contributions and influence.

Sources:
Macquarie Dictionary
The Story of the Zarf
What is a zarf? The bizarre story behind this everyday object.

Zarf.
#words #coffee #coffeelovers

Zucked.

I do the love the Macquarie Dictionary.

It is the dictionary of Australian English, expressive of all classes and of our multicultural society. Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with it because of my frequent reference to it in my word-nerdy posts.

Today, though, the editors excelled themselves.

On the day when Facebook cut off access to all Australian news channels— sadly including sources of information relied upon by particular social groups such as  Indigenous communities, domestic violence support groups for women and families, and local information networks— as a result of a disagreement with the Australian government over market share and finances, the Macquarie tweeted that Australians have been zucked.

An obvious play on the F-bomb and Zuckerberg, it’s a clever new portmanteau word.

A portmanteau word is one created by blending two existing words or parts of words to create a new word. The name comes from a portmanteau, which is a type of suitcase that opens into two halves. This  dates back to Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’:

from ‘Through the Looking Glass’ by Lewis Carroll, courtesy of archive.org

We use portmanteau words every day, without many of us realising how they were created:

  • Botox —  botulism toxin
  • Brexit — British exit from the European Union
  • Bollywood — Bombay and Hollywood
  • Email — electronic mail
  • Fortnight — fourteen nights, so two weeks
  • Sitcom — situation comedy
  • Webinar — web seminar

English is actually full of these words, as it’s a form of wordplay that has been around for hundreds of years.

Sources:
Britannica
Etymonline
Macquarie Dictionary

Zucked.
#words #language #facebooknewsban

Thank You… I Think

It hurts when someone who we think should love and/or appreciate us does not.
It’s also a fact of life that not everyone is going to like, appreciate or love us.  After all, we don’t like, appreciate or love absolutely everyone else, do we?

This poem expresses the truth of that, but also adds a positive spin: when we accept that and grow through it, we become stronger. When we are true to ourselves, we find the people who do love and appreciate us, and they become our tribe.

Family isn’t just who you are born to, or the people connected to that group in one way or another. Sometimes, the best family is the one you find while being the person you are meant to be.

Photo by Francesca Zama on Pexels.com

How ironic
That you don’t like it
When I stand up for myself:
You’re the one
Whose weapon words
Gave me real-time training
In the art of self defence.
Had I not learned
To deflect your contempt
And resist your hateful words,
I would not be here today.

You prompted my resistance,
Inspired my defiance,
And forced my indifference
To anything else you have to say.

So thank you, I think,
For helping me become someone others like
Infinitely more than you do.

ⓒ2020 Joanne Van Leerdam

Thank You… I Think
#poem #Poetuit

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Post-epidural.

I wrote yesterday about waiting to receive a CT guided epidural spinal injection to treat the constant lower lumbar and sciatic pain I have been suffering due to further degeneration of the disks on my spine.

Actually, I do try really hard not to walk like that …

I am sincerely touched and thankful for every message of support and encouragement that I have received since publishing that post.

In the light of the fact that there are some good medical sites available but relatively few “this is what it was like for me” posts to be found, this post is intended to address that imbalance.

When I got to the treatment room, I was provided a hospital gown and asked to change. I was able to leave my underwear on, so I wasn’t completely exposed.

I was then invited to lie face down/on my stomach on the Ct scanner table. The nurse and radiologist helped me to get as comfortable as I could, reminding me that I wouldn’t be able to move during the scans and injections.

Once I was settled, they did some test scans to give the doctor initial images to work with.

When the doctor came in and introductions were done, he proceeded to wash my lower back with iodine and prepare the injection site.

That was all completely fine until we got to the initial local anaesthetics. Knowing I couldn’t move, I gritted my teeth and made some indiscriminate grungy noises that communicated more than “ouch”.

Then came the insertion, at a precise location in my lower back, of the needle and cannula for the delivery of the rest of the injections.

“Just a scratch now,” said the doctor.

In response, I laid very still but made more ugly noises.

“How is that?” he asked me.

Showing significant restraint, I responded with “I’m not sure what scratches you, but it’s very different than anything that usually scratches me.”

He didn’t say anything, but the nurse and radiologist laughed at that, which I found rather satisfying: I may be lying prone and vulnerable while a very clever person with a tendency toward understatement sticks sharp, pointy things into my spine, but I’m still hilarious.

The radiologist scanned my back again to make sure the needle and cannula were in the right place, and the doctor proceeded to administer the prescribed anaesthetic and steroids.

In the course of the procedure, counting anaesthetics and steroids, the doctor made multiple injections .
It wasn’t unbearable but it definitely wasn’t painless. I wouldn’t have wanted it to happen without the local anaesthetics, but I could still feel the injections.

After the procedure, I had to lie down with my upper body elevated for about 90 minutes before being declared able to go home.

The advice given to me before being allowed to leave was as follows:

  • Do not lie flat for 12 hours as nobody wants the anaesthetic heading north instead of south, which could cause significant complications.
  • When the local anaesthetics wear off, I would probably not feel both my original pain and some pain around the injection site. .
  • The injection usually takes 2-3 days to start taking effect. Full effect is generally reached after 10 days to 2weeks.
  • Rest for a couple of days to give things the best chance of healing.
  • The injection deals with the symptoms, not the actual degeneration in my back. I will still have the same limitations as before, but hopefully with a lot less pain.

I came home feeling quite tender and a bit jelly-legs, which I am told is normal.

I spent the afternoon and evening in my recliner with my feet up, changing the angle of the chair every now and then. I made sure I drank plenty of water, and that I got up regularly for necessary short walks.

I have experienced an increase in my fibromyalgia pain — which is a different kind of pain altogether from my back and sciatic pain, so it is easily distinguishable. Such pain flares are totally standard whenever my body experience stress or trauma. It’s fair to say that’s not helpful in the sleep department m, either.

Twelve hours later, the injection site is fairly painful , so lying on my back and trying to sleep isn’t much of an option right now. Some bruising is coming out, but I haven’t had any bleeding from the injection site. There is no significant swelling, redness or heat in the area, so I am assuming this is just par for the course and not anything I need to follow up.

It was a great relief to get into bed and lie down, albeit with an extra pillow, but even with my usual pain medication, sleep seems unlikely at this point. Not only am I a rubbish sleeper at the best of times, I have to lie on my back to sleep — I can’t ever sleep on my side or stomach because it’s just too uncomfortable for my back. So, 2.43am seemed like an opportune time to write an update post.

I am really hoping that I do see some improvement over the next couple of days, and that some consistent relief from pain is imminent,

Stay tuned.