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

What’s Your ‘Word of the Decade’?

At the end of every year, there is much discussion about which words particularly define the year.

Now, the team at the Macquarie Dictionary is inviting us to vote for what we believe has been the word or term that defines the past decade.

There are some very good inclusions that still carry meaning and import, while others have already fallen in popularity and are not so commonly used.

Even so, the list is a interesting read and an insightful commentary on the past ten years.

Anyone can vote, so have a read and have your say in about the words and terms that evoke the 2010’s most clearly.

Source: Macquarie Dictionary

What’s Your ‘Word of the Decade’?
#words #language #blogpost

Doomscrolling.

Image by geralt on Pixabay.

Doomscrolling is the act of continually updating and reading  one’s social media feed for the latest news on a significant event. It is closely related to doomsurfing, which is scouring the Internet for the same kind of information.

The term has been around for a few years, but found new popularity as a hashtag earlier  this year, predominantly in response to Covid-19. It is surging again on Twitter today as people try to stay updated on the results of the US election.

It may be a relatively recently coined term, but it’s fair to say the activity to which it refers has probably existed for as long as  easy access to the Internet, especially via platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, has been available.

It’s an understandable behaviour – we want to stay informed, after all. These things matter. We want to know. However, it can also be a very effective self-torture device, as it compels us to focus on what is actually causing our anxiety and distress.  It seems that the worse the news is, the more people tend to keep on watching or reading. Some people even become fixated on that event, to the exclusion of other things, no matter how sad or angry it makes them.

The term also hints at the subjectivity of the behaviour: what one interprets as ‘doom’ is likely to be the exact inverse of what another person interprets it to be. It all depends on what outcome one is hoping for whether the course of events is classified as doom or a reprieve.

A highly relevant and helpful Twitter account is Doomscrolling Reminder Lady, who repeatedly tells people to get off the internet and take care of themselves instead.

It’s good advice.

Sources:
Merriam-Webster
Doomscrolling, Explained
Urban Dictionary

Doomscrolling
#words #DoomScrolling #behavior

Horror-ween Week

Photo by Gabby K on Pexels.com

It’s one week today until Halloween. The shops are full of costumes, accessories, and big bags of treats to hand out.

Australians are once again protesting about it being an American thing (it’s not) while they gladly binge-watch American TV series on Foxtel and Netflix, listen to predominantly American music on commercial radio, and argue about whether Coke or Pepsi is better. (It’s definitely Coke.)

Despite the protestations of those Aussie nay-sayers, it’s a week that I quite enjoy. It reminds me of my first Halloween season in Canada, where I learned more about the background of the holiday and started to appreciate it in a different way. I like seeing kids and families out together, dressed up in costumes and walking around my small town, spending time together and having fun that doesn’t involve a screen.

It’s also a time when, like many other horror authors, I’m hoping to put my books in front of people and maybe get a sale or three.

I write spooky short stories, among other things. I work hard to build the right atmosphere, to lure the reader in, and then shock them with a macabre turn of events. I try to appeal to different senses so that they hold their breath while their skin crawls. It’s not splatter for splatter’s sake, and the monsters generally don’t hide under the beds or in the wardrobes of little kids. The monsters I write about are, more often than not, people who seem ordinary in most ways— until they prove they are not.

So, why not try a creepy story? You might enjoy it more than you think!

All in ebook and paperback. Signed copies available.

Horror-ween Week
#Halloween #horror #Halloween2020

Grawlix.

Grawlix is an unusual word that most people haven’t heard of, although they’ve probably seen grawlixes many times before. 

A grawlix is a combination of symbols— most commonly the ones above the numbers on the keyboard— used in place of a offensive language in comics, cartoons and illustrations. It works as a visual, rather than verbal, euphemism.

The term was coined in the 60s by Mort Walker , the creator of the comic strip Beetle Bailey, although the practice had already been in use long before it was given a name.The grawlix is a clever and very effective way to express emotions like anger or frustration without actually offending anyone or causing problems with editors and censors. 

An alternative term that has been suggested is the obscenicon, which is very clever but doesn’t seem to be getting a lot of traction. Time will tell, as it always does when it comes to words and language. 

Somehow, grawlix just sounds more evocative and kind of sweary in itself.

Sources:
Lexico
Merriam-Webster
Grammarphobia

 Grawlix.
#language #words #swearing #interesting #language #blogpost

Five More Great History Podcasts

I have posted about excellent history podcasts on a number of previous occasions. 

During the recent weeks of spending a lot more time at home, I’ve discovered a couple more that are interesting and enjoyable. 

‘That Was Genius’ 

Each week, Sam and Tom share an interesting story from history that fits into a chosen theme for the week. Not safe for listening at work or in the presence of children, it’s irreverent, sweary, and hilariously funny, I started at the introductory episode and subscribed before I got to the end of the second one. It has proven to be brilliant entertainment during the coronavirus lockdown. Having already listened to 37 episodes in the past two weeks, it’s fair to say I’m a fan. 

‘Cool Canadian History’.

I love history, and I love Canada. This podcast is the perfect opportunity for me to pursue both at the same time. The topics are varied and always interesting, and the host David Morris is enjoyable to listen to. 

’Dark Histories’ 

This is a British podcast which focuses on the macabre, spooky, and eerie events of history. The first episode is on Jack The Ripper, but the topics that follow are quite varied and are not limited to people or events of the UK. The material is well written and the podcast is easy to listen to. 

‘Aaron Mahnke’s Cabinet of Curiosities’

Another podcast, this one American in origin, that explores the inexplicable, the unsettling and the curious stories of history. Aaron Mahnke delivers two shows a week, exploring the history of people, events and objects with unusual and sometimes bizarre stories to tell. Some of the tales are coincidental, while others are more sinister. 

‘You’re Dead To Me’  

Hosted by Greg Jenner of Horrible Histories fame, this podcast offers a weekly discussion on a topic of history with the aim to make it interesting and relevant to the everyday person, including those who haven’t taken much of an interest before.  The guests are interesting, drawn from all walks of life, and deliberately not all academics.  I started at the introductory episode and have listened to half a dozen or so now. The topics have been varied and the quality has been consistently.  ‘You’re Dead To Me’ looks like a keeper. 

Five More Great #History #Podcast #Recommendations
#historical #ListenTo

Chalking One Up For Positivity

Who knew a few pieces of chalk and a positive message could make such a difference?

This is one of the best things I’ve seen in ages. 

It’s cheerful, and simple, and sincere, and it’s just so beautiful. 

In the midst of these bleak and socially-distanced times, these messages are a delightful trend that is bringing heartfelt encouragement to communities. 

This story comes from ABC News, Australia. 

Chalking One Up For Positivity!
#StayingHome #StayingPositive #positivemood #PositiveVibesOnly

Image by Wortflow from Pixabay

A Gory Little Story.

It’s when you’re tired that the boundaries that divide the different “parts” of life from one another tend to get a little blurry.

This was evident yesterday when I was working through the online First Aid refresher course that I have to complete before attending the in-person training and re-qualifying on Tuesday. 

When I got to the section dealing with ‘Shock, Wounds and Bleeding’, the introductory notes featured an image of a wound that was bleeding freely. My immediate response was to exclaim, “Must be fresh… must be blood!” And then I  started singing, “Feed me, Seymour….feed me all night long.”

This is evidence of: 

  1. Full and complete engagement in my First Aid training… naturally
  2. Total and complete immersion in the show I’m directing next year
  3. Extreme tiredness at the end of term 4
  4. Consequent failure to observe the boundaries that exist between my different “lives”

And in case what I was singing makes no sense to you, here’s a clip of that scene from the film.

My Go-To Christmas Movie.

One of my Christmas traditions is watching my go-to Christmas movie: ‘The Muppets Christmas Carol’. 

It combines the genius of Charles Dickens with the genius of Jim Henson’s Muppets, featuring Gonzo as Charles Dickens, Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, and Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. It retains key dialogue from the book and adds some delightful character development and interactions, and complements both with an original soundtrack that includes some delightful Christmas songs.

As far as movie adaptations go, this is one that stays faithful to both the storyline and the spirit of Dickens’ classic novella

It’s charming in the right places, and Victorian and Gothic enough to be spooky when it needs to be. It still delivers the crucial message of Dickens’ attacks on Utilitarian thinking and selfishness, encouraging the audience to focus on the value of people and family rather than on making money and treating others as though they are worthless unless they can work. 

It’s great entertainment for the whole family, and even when Scrooge is awful, the Muppet cast is entirely adorable. 

Why This Australian Enjoys Halloween

As an Australian, I get very mixed responses when I tell people I enjoy Halloween. 

Some see it as an opportunity for the community to share in something fun. In my town, the local Scout group organises the trick or treating so that the kids are supervised. Anyone wanting the kids to visit them for treats must be registered and checked out first. One of the local cafes sets up a House of Horror for everyone to enjoy, free of charge, and various other businesses run promotions. 

Most Aussies, however, respond with something like “Ugh, It’s so American!” or “It’s just more commercialism!” 

While it’s true that Halloween hasn’t historically been a big part of our culture in Australia, most are surprised to discover it’s not an American thing at all. It actually originated as a Celtic celebration of Samhain in Ireland, and from there spread to Scotland, Wales, England and France. In a strange coincidence, the British who landed in Australia in 1788 thinking they owned the place also originated in those places, so there’s that. 

My first real experience of celebrating and embracing Halloween was in Canada, where it was all about community and celebrating the season, rather than commercial opportunism. It was wonderful. People decorated their homes and yards as a sign to kids that they were welcome to visit on their trick or treating routes. People in the streets wished each other a happy Halloween. We visited an apple orchard that offered hayrides and a corn maze, in addition to picking your own apples and enjoying the fare of the kitchen. October was a time of festivity and community amidst the changing of the season and the anticipation of winter’s arrival, made all the more cheerful by the brightness of pumpkins decorating shops, streets, gateposts, homes, and anywhere else people chose to put them. 

Sure, the shops sold more chocolates and toys designed to give to kids who came knocking. But why can’t that be seen as a boost to the economy, rather than soulless exploitation of shoppers? If people don’t want to join in the celebration, they are not obligated to do or buy anything at all. 

It is fair to say, though, that the growing popularity of Halloween in Australia is the result of the predominance of American TV and movies on Australian screens. People can complain about Halloween all they like, but until they’re willing to stop watching all the American shows and films they tune into religiously each week, or binge watch on weekends, it’s quite a hypocritical objection to raise. You can’t complain about your neighbour’s kids dressing up to go trick or treating if you can’t pause the latest episode of ’The Haunting of Hill House’ or ‘Riverdale’ to answer the door. 

Ultimately, people can make their own choices. There’s no obligation to join in, but there’s also no need to be supercilious about it. 

I’ll be celebrating Spooky Season all month, and joining in the Halloween festivities in my town again this year.  And I’ll be loving every moment of it.