Follow Jason Offutt on a Trip Into Shadows

Sift through the dark memories of a family farm where trees come to life. Run with a frightened young woman through quiet streets after a sinister priest’s smile clings to her like a spider’s web. Meet a convicted man who must flee the family of his victim in a dystopian nightmare. And visit a small Missouri town where a Nazi matriarchy lies silent, hidden, waiting – and they’re hungry.

“Road Closed: Twelve bloody stories to brighten your day” is Jason Offutt’s first book of short horror fiction, which includes the tale “A Just Cause” that won Best Science Fiction Script at the Los Angeles Film and Script Festival in 2011 as a screenplay entitled “The Balance.”

Luke Rolfes, author of ‘Flyover Country,’ says of ‘Road Closed,’ “Readers should put this book down at their own risk. Once these twelve sink in their teeth, it’s all over but the screaming.”

Now available as an ebook, and print.

Hmm, aluminium is a word? Thanks for nothing, Noah Webster

Back off, this is MY language now.

The British chap* on television said something that struck me as silly. Not the context, the pronunciation.

Given that Americans speak English, and the English speak English (strange but true), language comprehension problems between Americans and the English should not exist.
They, of course, do. There are enough subtle differences between the two versions of the English language to make a conversation between an American and a Brit sound like it’s in Klingon.

The man on television pronounced aluminum “al-U-min-E-um,” which I discovered is correct, although horribly uncomfortable to say. Go ahead; try it.

This particular pronunciation problem came from two sources.

The first being English chemist Sir Humphry Davy who in 1807 discovered a metal in alum and named this new metal alumium. He later changed the name to aluminum because “aluminum” sounded more (whatever word they used for “hip” in 1807). Davy’s colleagues in the chemistry department couldn’t let well enough alone and changed the spelling to aluminium in 1812 because they just couldn’t let Davy have his day in the sun, now, could they.

The second reason is that Noah Webster developed a God complex and completely mucked up American English.

Noah Webster, Jr., was a lexicographer, a pioneer in the field of textbooks, and yes, the dictionary dude. In 1828, he published “An American Dictionary of the English Language.” You see what he did there? It’s the “American Dictionary of the English Language,” meaning it’s not the real English language.

Ever wonder why former British colonies like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and freaking Belize spell color with a “U”? It’s because that’s how it’s spelled. Webster thought English spelling rules were inconsistent, so he tried to standardize them.

He cut out the “U” in words like colour and flavour, changed “ise” to “ize” in words like organise, and realise, turned tonne into ton, grey into gray (although for some reason he left the greyhound dog alone), and aluminium to aluminum even though compared to Sir Humphry Davy, he didn’t know jack squat about chemistry, or apparently spelling.

Damn straight.

It doesn’t stop there. Because of Webster’s tinkering even words spelled the same in both countries are not always pronounced the same.

In England, privacy is PRIV-a-cee, advertisement is Ad-vert-ISS-ment, schedule is SHED-u-al, mobile is mo-BILE, oregano is OR-EH-GON-O and garage is GARE-idge.

As an American, this bothers me. I grew up thinking the British talked funny. Turns out it was us. However, Americans aren’t the only villains here. Time, culture, and geography also play a part. But mostly Webster. Yeah, let’s blame most of this on him.

Aluminium indeed.

 

*You can’t use “chap” unless the voice in your head talks with a British accent. For example, “that German chap with the funny mustache gave us quite a fit during the war.” Or, “that New Guinea tribesman chap with the spear.” Wouldn’t sound right coming out of the mouth of a Texan, would it?

Get Your Facts Straight

Bill and Ted, learning all about time travel and beer.

As an author, one of the things you need to strive for is accuracy. I don’t care if you’re writing a science fiction humor novel about conscientious time traveling drunks who jump through the years consuming booze that once led to, but will now prevent historic tragedies* – physics has to work, or, if it doesn’t work, there has to be a scientifically plausible reason WHY it doesn’t work.

Everything has to make sense. And in order for things to make sense, the author has to research things he/she doesn’t know. Here’s an article from Scientific American that points out a few scientific terms people often misuse. Get it right, people, and your readers will respect you for it.

*Totally my idea. Dibs.

Ernest Hemingway’s Bloody Mary Recipe

Ernest Hemingway getting the job done.
Ernest Hemingway writing: Just getting the job done.

Writers drink. Or do drinkers write? Either way we should all turn to the masters to learn our craft. As for writing, Ernest Hemingway said, “Always stop for the day while you still know what will happen next.” As for what happened next, Papa Hemingway often had a cocktail … or seven. Below is Mr. Hemingway’s recipe for the perfect bloody mary.

Hemingway not writing: Having a few drinks, and taking his son fishing.
Hemingway not writing: Having a few drinks, and taking his son fishing for literary critics.

“To make a pitcher of Bloody Marys (any smaller amount is worthless) take a good sized pitcher and put in it as big a lump of ice as it will hold. (This to prevent too rapid melting and watering of our product.) Mix a pint of good Russian vodka and an equal amount of chilled tomato juice. Add a tablespoon full of Worcestershire sauce. Lea and Perrins is usual but you can use A1 or any good beef-steak sauce. Stirr (with two rs). Then add a jigger of fresh-squeezed lime juice. Stir. Then add small amounts of celery salt, cayenne pepper, black pepper. Keep on stirring and taste to see how it is doing. If you get it too powerful, weaken with more tomato juice. If it lacks authority add more vodka.”