This popular idea is also a word in motion

Headlights and taillights on a freeway, blurred into curving lines by long-exposure photography.
Headlights and taillights on a freeway, blurred into curving lines by long-exposure photography.
Photo by Robin Pierre on Unsplash

Recently, I wrote about the rarely-used word anagoge. Since I had been unfamiliar with anagoge until running across it in the surprisingly fascinating A section of the dictionary, I had to do a little more research. Boy, did that open some doors.

Wikipedia’s short article on anagoge explained that it was part of Biblical interpretation in the Middle Ages. According to wikipedia, many medieval theologians used four methods of scriptural interpretation: literal/historical, allegorical, tropological, and anagogic. At the time, I was pursuing the meaning of anagoge, but not so single-mindedly that I didn’t pause a moment to think, Tropological? …


A largely forgotten word about our desire to ascend

Photo by Matt Heaton on Unsplash

As ever, I’m considerably behind on my goal to read The World Book Dictionary, cover-to-cover, in about two years’ time (a pace of approximately 2.5 to 3 pages a day). In fact, I’m still in the A section. However, I can’t feel too bad about this, because I’ve reached the ana- words — and, as it turns out, they are fascinating … as evidenced by the fact that my most popular Medium story to date is this one.

I expect to linger in the ana- section of the dictionary, which is about three pages in length, for longer than the…


On the difference between random action and true insight

Tea cups, saucers and spoons all make great props for characters in conversation to move around unnecessarily.
Tea cups, saucers and spoons all make great props for characters in conversation to move around unnecessarily.
Teacups, coffee mugs and spoons are all favorite props for characters to move around while in conversation. (Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash)

Recently, I received a manuscript to edit from one of the small ebook publishers for whom I work. The managing editor had sent along a memo concerning the novel. It contained the following warning: “This author’s weakness is over-description, especially in how she moves characters within scenes.”

Those words immediately pinged for me. Not only have I seen this in a number of writers … I see it, unfortunately, in my own work. Random, aimless movements: He put his hand on the doorknob. She picked up her coffee cup, but did not drink. He tapped the steering wheel thoughtfully before…


Time out of mind can be a beautiful thing

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Let’s get this embarrassing disclosure out of the way: My introduction to the word anachronism came via Tiger Eyes, the 1981 novel by Judy Blume. Hey, don’t judge. In American suburbia in the 1980s, if you didn’t read Judy Blume, they revoked your birth certificate and forced your parents to have another child. Well, if you were a girl. I think boys had a different ritual: At age 12, they had to choose between Star Trek and Star Wars, and there was no going back, like choosing your faction in Divergent.

Where was I? Oh yes: In Tiger Eyes, the…


Why do six weeks give you so much perspective?

A traditional hourglass with sand spilling through, next to a book and a bouquet of magenta flowers.
A traditional hourglass with sand spilling through, next to a book and a bouquet of magenta flowers.
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Before I explain the title of this piece, perhaps I should define ‘tincture’ — it’s been many decades since this word was in regular use in medicine. Though if you enjoy historical or fantasy novels, it might be familiar, as ‘potion’ and ‘decoction’ are. A ‘tincture’ is a solution of medicine in alcohol, or a medicine consisting chiefly of alcohol.

Short story short, a tincture is a type of medicine, so ‘tincture of time’ is easy enough to understand: It’s the curative effect of doing nothing and letting a symptom or problem resolve itself. …


“What do they know?” is an attitude that’ll hurt your ultimate success

An audience facing away from the viewer, seen in black-and-white.
An audience facing away from the viewer, seen in black-and-white.
Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

My side hustle is stand-up comedy. One of the first things I learned is that a good comedian gets to a venue early and walks the room, looking at the audience and trying to glean information about their demographics: Their age, how they dress, the number of wedding rings on fingers. You can glean a little bit from these details about what they might laugh at.

There’s only so much you can learn from this, though, so the second part of reading the room is trying to change course mid-set if what you’re doing isn’t working. Or not changing course…


Turns out, Stephen Colbert didn’t invent “truthiness”

Debonair man lights a cigarette at a table with a whisky decanter and glasses on it.
Debonair man lights a cigarette at a table with a whisky decanter and glasses on it.
This isn’t a man named Ben Trovato … but doesn’t it feel like it should be? (Photo by Cottonbro via Pexels).

Full disclosure: I am not yet out of the A section in my great cover-to-cover dictionary read. (In fact, since it’s my pandemic project, I’m faced with the prospect that I’m running out of pandemic). Today, we’re jumping ahead a little, to the B section, because I just learned an amazing word — okay, a term, which is what we have to call it when two words or more function as one — and the B section is where it lives.

Enough pfaffing about, Compton; just tell us the term!

Okay, here it is, courtesy of the Merriam-Webster website.

Ben…


What writing an article and posing for a photo have in common

A 20th-century SLR camera sitting on a tabletop.
A 20th-century SLR camera sitting on a tabletop.
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

In the era of the selfie, it might be difficult to remember how awkward it used to be, having your picture taken. Selfie-taking is an inherently low-pressure process: You can take as many shots as you like, see them right away, delete the ones you don’t like, and use photo-editing apps on the ones you do, to make them that much better.

There was a time, though, when having your picture taken was nerve-racking. You’d sit in front of a camera, its lens a dispassionate black eye. Behind it was a photographer who was in charge of the entire process…


What hedge words taught me about my writing style

Photo by Elena Mozhvilo on Unsplash

At writing conventions, it’s not uncommon for panel discussions to turn to the business of revision. I enjoy editing my own work considerably more than I like laying down a rough draft. The first revision is the point at which you realize, happily, that the structure you’ve built is strong enough to stand. It’ll bear the weight of being published, of being read. (Occasionally, unhappily, you realize the story won’t bear weight … but that’s a different article).

So I was happy to talk about what I like about revising. At one point, someone in the audience asked me what…


Why are so many novelists neglecting the comma, which would make their work far more pleasing to read?

Man’s hand on a notebook and table, in black-and-white.
Man’s hand on a notebook and table, in black-and-white.
Photo by Owen Michael Grech on Unsplash

First things first: Using “Nearly All” is not an exaggeration meant to get readers to click on my headline. It’s supported by approximately the closest thing to “data” you can find in the arts and entertainment sphere. To wit: For the past two years, I’ve been a freelance editor for two publishing houses, handling exclusively novels. In that time, I have not handled a single novel in which I didn’t have to insert dozens of commas. In most cases, I’d estimate, more than a hundred of them.

You might be thinking, Hey, maybe it’s just you. I’ve had to consider…

Jodi Compton

Jodi Compton is the author of four crime novels. Learn more about her books at amazon.com/author/jodicompton.

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