look up your loanwords

I was editing a passage about a young woman who enjoyed baking, and her interest in making cute cakes came from her grandmother, who baked every weekend for her guests who came for high tea. Thus: ‘She vowed that she would become a patisserie.’

It startled me into laughter. Aspiring to become a French bakery wasn’t a terrible career choice, all in all. 

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online dictionaries with simplified definitions

A tip: If the definition of a word in your usual dictionary (or Google) is a bit difficult to understand, try looking it up at the Oxford Learner’s Dictionaries website. The definitions there are simplified and friendlier to students, and there are example sentences showing word usage. 

I used to have a physical copy of the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary sitting on my desk at my last job. I don’t think I ever opened it, though. It’s easier to look things up online.

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Happy Fountain Pen Day!

Okay, so Fountain Pen Day is on the first Friday of November, so this is a bit late.

I like fountain pens! Well, to be completely honest, I like the inks. I love that there are so many colour options. I’ve always used blue inks ever since I had to use pens in school. Not that those were fountain pens—using fountain pens in schools has never been a requirement here (I understand some European countries insist on this?), as far as I can remember. All the other pens, though: the standard Kilometrico ballpoint pen everyone had, or the more expensive rollerball pens, and those felt-tip pens that were the rage for some reason when I was in secondary school. (Pen dakwat basah, I think we called them. Those pens were terrible for people with chicken-scratch handwriting like mine.) But yeah, for me those pens had to have blue ink. Even now I have a number of the Zebra Sarasa Clip gel pens, possibly in all the shades of blue the brand carries, but I remember complaining to my best friend that the blues were too blue and not dark enough. I think she was rather bemused by the whole thing.

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Dune, and books on loan

I don’t mind lending books to friends, really. Mostly because we have lots of books. Also, while some of the books end up being reread, a lot of them don’t, so it’s not like they’re terribly missed while they’re out on loan.

Sometimes, though, I scan through the bookshelves and notice a book is missing. Usually that’s because it’s part of a series, or by the same author. I was just poking through the shelves today because I was feeling restless and couldn’t find anything I wanted to read (crazy, really—I have way too many unread books but this happens every time I finish a book), and noticed that the first Dune book was missing. I think we had a copy. If it’s with you, that’s fine, just keep it until you’ve finished reading it.

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When I was a subeditor, I would mark things up on the pages I was working on and hand them over to a senior editor named Steve. I was new, but my supervisors had noted that I was diligent, a very fast learner, and had a slightly alarming tendency towards perfectionism. Steve would laugh at the things I’d picked up, saying, ‘You have to let some things go—you can’t fix everything.’ He’d counter the things I flagged with stet (telling me to ‘let it go’ in editing parlance: let it stand as it’s printed; don’t make the correction; leave it be) or sometimes he’d scrawl I can live with that beside my notes in the margins in his cramped handwriting.

I’m not very good at letting things go, even after all this time.

2020 reading challenge

I’ve been on Goodreads for a very long time. Since June 2007, says my profile. I’ve always been meticulous about tracking my books using the site, and it’s been very helpful when I’m at a book sale and just couldn’t remember whether or not I already own a copy of a book.

I’m pretty sure I always mark a book as read when I finish it and usually I remember to put down the date I finished it as well. Data from the last few years should be very accurate. It’s both a puzzle and a mild source of embarrassment when the statistics show that I sometimes read fewer than twenty books a year in the last five years or so.

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currently reading: The Masnavi

Tidying up the bedside table on a rainy afternoon, I realised that this book, The Masnavi, by Rumi (translated by Jawid Mojaddedi), has been sitting there since the end of last year. Oh, I pick it up every now and then, read a few pages, then put it back down. I think it’s the rhyming couplets that’s giving me a headache—sometimes it takes some effort to parse what’s being said.

I appreciate the attempt at authenticity—I picked up this version of the translation because I thought if I were to read The Masnavi, I might as well go for the real thing and not the watered down version some white dude ‘translated’ into love poems. So here we are, three-quarters of the year in, and I’m still trying to understand what a Persian mystic is attempting to teach us.

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find your way

If there was one thing that I was sure that I had always wanted since I was young, it was to write.

When I was younger (oh, a long time ago now, it feels like the distant past) I could write on and on and on, my handwriting a messy scrawl across pages and pages and pages. I was self-conscious about it—I almost never showed any of it to anyone. Handing in writing assignments was almost physically painful since it felt like I was giving a piece of myself away, but still I wrote.

Somewhere along the way, I grew up. I couldn’t write for myself any more, not even in hidden paper journals I’d never show anyone, or locked blogs only accessible to me, or password protected documents in password protected computers. The spark was gone, and I couldn’t find it no matter how hard I looked.

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