Inquiring Minds want to Know . . .
Who Put the Butter in Butterfly? a book that survived my Great Book Purge of 2016, was a birthday gift from the Dean of Liberal Arts at my college in 1993. It is billed as“compulsive reading for anyone incurably curious about the idiosyncrasies of the language.”
- Why is a woman’s private stash of cash called pin money? Early pins were made of silver and thus very expensive. “In divorce suits in England, women often sued to collect one year’s pin money, as much as two-hundred pounds a year.” However, over the years, pins have undergone great deflation. Thus, “pin money” doesn’t amount to very much these days.
- How did the zipper get its name? “Zip was … taken from the sound made by the fastener, a word trademarked by B. F. Goodrich in 1925.” Since then the zipper became so popular that it has become a generic term, like the brand “Kleenex” today.
- Who put the butter in butterfly? “Samuel Johnson claimed that the season when butterflies first appear (spring) was when butter was also first churned . . . . Medieval folklore tales included the myth that witches and fairies would fly and steal butter at night—in the form of butterflies.”
* * *
Gisela Hausmann, born in Vienna, got laid off from a construction company in 2008, at the onset of the Great Recession, she admits. A widowed mother of two youngsters, she focused on her strongest skill, communication, which launched her writing career.
In her Little Blue Books Series, she whispers (and sometimes, yells) advice that other writers may not have the courage to tell you. Some nuggets:
- “You owe it to yourself to not publish unedited work.”
- “Read the most acclaimed works from your book’s genre . . . “
- Know that Amazon controls two thirds of the online book market.
- Social media: Watch out for scam artists on Facebook. “Thousands of scam artists, from African princes to widowed four-star generals who seek new love, roam Facebook . . . . !”
- “Even the most influential people seek comments and input.” (Roz Chast from The New Yorker and Laura Schroff, author of The Invisible Thread, responded to my email messages when I sent them my blog links, here and here.)
Both authors float in much bigger ponds than I, but they took the time to respond with a thoughtful email message, which made my day. They may not read my forth-coming book (then again, they might!), but I have made a connection I value.
Other etiquette advice for published authors
- Never badmouth a reviewer in public, including on social media platforms. “If you must vent, rant to your best friend or spouse; in person, not in public.”
- Don’t lie or brag. (Promoting your book sensibly is not bragging, in my view.)
- “Similarly, don’t tell ‘everybody’ information they don’t need to know. Once, I saw a posting in an authors’ group, Amazon just deleted sixteen of my book’s reviews. Dear, You just gave everybody a reason not to read and review your book.”
Any additions to “our illogical language” segment?
Your reaction to tips for authors . . . any you would add?
“Promoting your book sensibly is not bragging, in my view.” I struggle with this, Marian. I love to promote others, but when it comes to myself, I go into a shell. 🙂
I’m happy you saved Who Put the Butter in Butterfly? That sounds like a great book.
One piece of advice that I accepted early on was to find my own voice and don’t compare myself to others. Oh, and avoid time sucks like Facebook.
I hope you had a nice break! 🙂
You have a stadium full of fans, so no worries. Your readers sense your authentic voice on your website and in your novels. By the way, some writer-group websites on Facebook allow authors to promote their books when they launch, like broadcasting a fact, not boasting.
I agree with you about comparisons. One writer has said that the only writer you should compare yourself to is the one you were yesterday.
Yes, I had a nice break, but it’s good to connect again here. I’m thinking of taking a holiday break though, just a way to keep on an even keel. Thanks, Jill, for starting us off today.
Good morning, Marian. I enjoy reading about the derivation of words–the book sounds fun to flip through.
How wonderful that the “big name” authors replied to your e-mail. That says a lot about them.
Hope you enjoyed your break (you seemed to in the photos I saw). 🙂
Merril Smith, you are indeed a wordsmith. One of our mutual friends, Laurie, has said she kidnapped your “petrichor” for her next book.
I was particularly happy to hear back from Roz Chast, whom I have adored for decades. Somehow I thought she was much older . . . maybe because of her wiggly lines – ha!
I doubt that Laurie got petrichor from me, but thank you.
Yes, Roz Chast is amazing. I’ve heard her interviewed on NPR.
Yes, I believe Terry Gross interviewed her not long ago.
“You owe it to yourself to not publish unedited work.”
And might I add that the same holds true for comments in social media. Just because it’s a comment doesn’t mean that you don’t need to edit it.
[Having difficulties commenting here again. Second try.]
I have a reputation to uphold (English teacher and all), but sometimes errors sneak through. I had proofread this post multiple times + my proofreader gave it a go. Still, after it published this morning, I found two missing quotation marks. Perfection eludes me. 🙁
So sorry about difficulty commenting. Sometimes I have that trouble too (not on your website though). Typically, I use Safari with my Mac, but if I switch to GoogleCHROME I seem to have fewer problems. If I comment on BlogSpot users’ websites, I’ve learned to cut/paste so I don’t have to re-invent my comment all over again. Thanks for persisting here;
I appreciate your caring. Thank you!
“You owe it to yourself to not publish unedited work.” I agree 100% with that advice. ☆ And it should be edited not just by the publisher’s proofreader, but by one or more experts in your field.
I had two professional editors scrutinize my manuscript, and I think doing so was worth every penny. Thanks, Lynn.
Write for yourself, not for others. That is how I have lived my life. If I can’t be pleased with what I write or do, does it matter how it settles with others? This philosophy was inspired by my dad, as he coached me in the finer points of growing up.
Wise father, wise daughter. Pleasing others is a losing game that wastes a lot of energy. You are fortunate to have learned this rule early on. Thank you, Ginger!
You also have to know when to stop editing. I go over a column 4,5,6 times or more and always find things I want to change, tweak, add, delete. Thank goodness for deadlines–outside imposed or your own, or some of us would edit endlessly. Woe to the author who can’t quit, or sends changes long after the deadline. I loved your examples and am coming up dry at the moment but your book sounds like a great save from your personal purge.
You have a good point, Melodie. When I read other novels or memoirs, some anecdotes spark a memory and so I give in to the impulse to add. Fortunately, I have imposed a time in November when I will hand my manuscript off to a copyeditor, and then a proofreader. At some point, the “die will be cast” and to make further changes will cost me big bucks!
I’m glad you enjoyed the book of idioms.
I find etymology absolutely fascinating. I studied Latin and basic ancient Greek in high school, but the origin of modern words also intrigues me. Thank you for sharing these 2 books: I am sure they would make very interesting reading and will look out for them.
You’re welcome, Fatima. I think the “Butterfly” book is still in print. Gisela’s books are also e-books, and I downloaded this particular one very inexpensively. Happy reading!
Great post thanks Marian… I thought pin money was paper money folded into a slim clip of some sort .. never too late to learn a thing or 3. Re the zip – makes me remember the saying ‘put a zip in it’ referring to the rather unkind or graphic way of saying to someone to ‘shut up’. And ‘xyz’ is secret code to pass on to someone that their zip has come undone … ‘examine your zip’.
The etiquette is very useful thank you!
I’ll have to remember the XYZ comment as a way to cue a close family member – ha!
Thanks for reading the post . . . and commenting too, Susan. 🙂
Wow, good books and author tips, Marian! The only tip I would add is to avoid comparing yourself to other writers. That road only leads to a bad place.
I agree that comparisons to others are bad, and said so with a quote in my reply to Jill, the first commenter. Thanks for stopping by to add to the conversation, Marie.
I had fun going back to your Roz Chast post. You inspired me to order her book, and I think it is great that she answered you!
It’s interesting to see which books escape purges. I hated to see my classic texts go, but I know they are the easiest to locate online or at the library, so I reluctantly let them go. I’ll eventually get rid of most of the books in eight remaining bookcases. They are my friends, but I will be able to part with them when the time comes. Many of them will go completely unread, and that’s okay too. Only one life . . . .
How Roz Chast managed two struggling oldsters at the same time and all by herself is beyond me. Casting her book as a graphic memoir made it all the more poignant, bittersweet.
It sounds as though you have already begun the book purge. Books are like friends to me too, and I found it hard to part with many. Serendipitously, I discovered Kondo’s The Magic of Tidying Up as we were preparing for the move, so I found it magical to “spark joy” in someone else. Much later, I found a few English Lit texts with marginal notes I taught from in the dining room storage cabinets under the dishes. One day they will be gone too. As you say, only one life . . . !
Marian — What a FUN post! Thank you for introducing me to “Essential Manners for the Modern Author.” I just contacted our library, and while they don’t currently have the book in stock, they are going to acquire it. Woohoo!
The author has written a series of concise books that feel like friendly whispers in authors’ ear. You are smart to ask the library to acquire some; that way they’ll find a wider audience. Smart reader, great writer, good citizen. That’s you, Laurie. 🙂
Words and manners — two of my favorite things. Of course, both can be used to manipulate and control (both have their shadow sides), but what kind of world would our be without words and manners? Words to communicate and question our inner landscape and our hopes, fears, dreams; manners to show kindness, consideration, and respect to others–to keep the peace.
Another bit of etiquette for authors: when readers reach out to you, respond. And — if you become so huge that you can’t respond individually to every reader/fan, be classy like Barbara Kingsolver and hire a secretary to at least say “thank you,” on your behalf.
Thank you for offering your classification. I hadn’t thought of WORDS and MANNERS as headings, but so they are.
Recently, another writer friend mentioned that Barbara Kingsolver received a particularly unflattering review of her latest novel, Unsheltered. From what I know of this author, she’ll deal with it judiciously, perhaps with no comment at all.
As always, I appreciate your weighing in here, Tracy!
I love learning where some of these words and sayings originated! How lovely to get responses from other writers. I love when that happens.
That’s the magic of blogging with writers willing to share from their own experience. I’ve learned from you and others, unselfishly sharing your wisdom. Thanks, Darlene!
Thanks… 🦋 Enjoyed and sharing!
Welcome, Bette!. I can tell you enjoyed the post with your butterfly stamp of approval. Do visit again soon.
Dear Marian, Thank you for the beautiful book review.
A tiny clarification: My writing career started a lot earlier. In fact, next month, in November it’s going to be 30 yrs – I self published three books before anybody dreamed of Kindle and PoD, in 1988, 1993, and 1998.
Which also goes to show how difficult things used to be be in “the good old days.” Even many successful authors could publish a new book only every five years, because, then, we have to pay for paper, printing, binding, and proper (!) storage upfront. Thank you again, Gisela
I am delighted and honored that you are appearing here with a “tiny” clarification, which certainly extends your writing career by decades. Your book certainly resonated with my readers here, In fact, Laurie has asked her library to stock your book. And let me tell you, that persevering woman will follow up with her librarian in Boise..
Your books resonate because of their candor and brevity. I for one will be reading others. Again, thanks, Gisela!
Thanks marian, for such an engaging post. Both books look like lots of fun, especially Who Put the Butter in Butterflies. I love finding out how words came into use.
A minute ago I was retracing my “steps” to find your reply to my comment on your recent blog, and “Bingo” here you are! I’m glad you enjoyed this foray into idiom origins. Thanks, Joan! 🙂
That’s some real unusual treats of illogical language explanations I have come across….:)….the book seems real interesting to explore…..thanks Marian for sharing…..
Thank you for reading and commenting here, Gregory. I see from your website that you are a banker with many other hobbies including music and movies, some interests we share.
:)….I know I have made a mistake of misnaming you as Marie since you are Marian…….so apologies for doing so….
Not a problem. Thanks for making the effort to comment. That’s what counts! 🙂
A fascinating read about some quirky expressions- some known, most otherwise! Lovely read!
I’m glad you enjoyed reading about quirky English expressions. As you can tell, I just visited your blog and enjoyed the fashions, especially the pastels, new for spring. Thanks, Swati!
Fascinating to read where words come from!
I’m glad you enjoyed this!
Fascinating, Marian! All the things I never knew…!
Happy to add to your store of knowledge. Thanks, Christy!
This was a delightful read Marian! A few choice nuggets of wisdom and a fun read all in one. Thanks 😊
Thank you so much for chiming in, Debbie. Glad you enjoyed it!
I enjoyed Gisela’s book too Marian. And I’m going to check out the Butterfly book, lol. 😉
Like you, Gisela’s a prolific author too! Thanks for once again stopping by to comment, Debby! 🙂
I never a miss a post Marian – unless of course, I’m on vacay. 🙂 – 10 weeks and counting!
You are true-blue, my friend! It’s good mental health to have something to look forward to, like a vacay! Well deserved, I may add. 🙂
Thank you. And it sure as heck is! 🙂
Hello DG, good to see you here :))
Imagine that, you two!
Hi Gisela! Glad to see your book in the limelight here at Marian’s blog. 🙂
Wonderful post! I too am fascinated by words and their origins. I had always heard that “butterfly” came from Lewis Carroll. That the old word for this gorgeous creature was “flutterby”, which makes much more sense (since that’s what they do), but that good ole LK thought it sounded cooler to say “butterfly”.
I like your version of the “truth.” Without the aid of a linguist, it’s hard to tease out which is truer. Wikipedia says he was an inventor of a precursor to scrabble, and of an invention called a nyctograph, a writing tablet that allowed note-taking in the dark. I like the sound of “flutterby.”
Thanks for tuning in with a pausible explanaton, Ms. Luheran-liar”! 🙂
You are most welcome. My Mom is responsible for my fascination with words. And, speaking of Scrabble, she’s a crack player—at 89!
You are lucky to still have your Mom. The fact that she’s a wordsmith is icing on the cake! 😊
Such an interesting blog Marian , packed with information and tactics for the budding author.
I am just an amateur author but for me it’s consistency . I was advised once to write every day , even if you diguard what you write , no worries , just write for writing sake and enjoy 😉
That’s good advice ~ writing every day no matter what. Sometimes my awkward sentences lead into something usable. I agree, “just write for writing sake and ENJOY it. Thanks, Cherry! xoxo
Butter in butterflies? Of course, that caught my attention. I’ll have to search to find an ancient story about stealing butter. The advice from Gisela Hausmann is excellent with good tips for widows–like me. I don’t say I’m a widow on any of my profiles, but somehow very wealthy princes with yachts or airplanes from exotic countries find me and know I’m their soul mate and the most beautiful woman they’ve ever seen. What? I don’t give them a chance to say more.
I have to do the big book purge this winter. I feel myself putting it off already, but after two grief workshops in early November, I may run out of excuses. No, I forgot. There’s the Christmas excuse, even though we don’t do lots of gift giving. It will still delay the inevitable, especially going through Vic’s collection, photographing a few pages if he’s made comments, and giving them to the library book sale. Someone needs all those scholarly books I’ll never read. (When friends come over, I suggest they take a book from Vic’s library–if I remember.)
I ike those last three points for writers. Those must be yours and they’re so true. I love your words “my forthcoming book.” I can’t wait.
You are entitled to substitute monarchs for the generic butterfly, dear Elaine, a book title custom-made for you, so it would seem. I admire you work this past months with those amazzing cratures, strong yet fragile.
About those wealthy princes. They have a big net for women of all status, even married ones. Unless they are listed with followers I know, they get the heave-ho, marked as SPAM.
About those last 3 points: They actually come from Gisela, not me, but they’re my sentiments exactly.
I chuckled when you referred to the book purge. A few years ago, when I posted about down-sizing, one of my blog friends (a life coach), took note and gave me 3 (or maybe 6 months) to clean up my act, marking it on her calendar. I got rid of tons of teaching files and books, a combination of our intention to move to a smaller house and her oversight. I knew she would hold me accountable, and of course she DID. Offering one of Vic’s books to guests is a great way to start . . . maybe upping the allowance to 3 or more – ha!
Best wishes on your upcoming workshops. And thanks big time for appearing here with your take; I always look forward to your replies! 🙂
Take it from the pros! 🙂 Not sure what it’s called in English, when two lanes become one and during high density traffic, you are supposed to merge, one car at a time, but in Dutch that’s called “zipping”, as in what a zipper does. I love these language explanations as, seriously, it is quite amazing how all the words came to be in hundreds of different languages. And we think we are geniuses. 🙂
Thank you for educating me about “zipping,” the Dutch version.
About 5 miles from our home, construction on a major artery of Jacksonville requires such a definition – high density traffic, merging. I try NEVER to be on that highway during rush hours, mornings or evenings. It’s always good to hear from you, Liesbet. 🙂