Freelance Writing Promotion from WIF

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Longtime Freelance Writer Gwendolyn Hoff is taking the B2B World by Storm

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More and more business professionals are taking a look at one of the most reliable and punctual producers of quality content/copy on the Internet.





Every one, I mean everybody is looking for that perfect combination of words to:

  1. Sell their product or service
  2. Make their cause more relatable
  3. “I want a 6th grader to understand this”
  4. Entertain the living h*** out of a Google(y) audience


… there are a slug of copywriters out there, most of which are competing for the same clients. It is a dog-eat-dog, don’t blink or you’ll miss it project environment, like a pack of lions fighting over the same water buffalo; the scrawny, the weak, the old are left with the stale scraps. Yuck!

 It’s hard to stand out, but Freelance Writing from Gwendolyn Hoff intends to do so.


Some say that a good old-fashioned work ethic is dead. It may well be, but my Daddy once told me, he said, “Gwen, if you serve people the same ol’ mush day after day, all you’ll do is fill up the garbage can faster.” He was a practical man. “A clean plate is easier to wash.”

I loved my dad.

Think different

Slogan alert:

 “I am not satisfied until you are.”



I’m not just blowing smoke. If it means I need to make revisions until the cows come home, I will.



“So sure, start with a slogan. But don’t bother wasting any time on it if you’re merely going for catchy. Aim for true instead.”

Seth Godin




“Instead of one-way interruption, Web marketing is about delivering useful content at just the precise moment that a buyer needs it.

Search, a marketing method that didn’t exist a decade ago, provides the most efficient and inexpensive way for businesses to find leads.”

David Honegger






Me at Freelance Writing from Gwendolyn Hoff am giving you the chance to hop on the Gwen-train, before it leaves the station or the train fills up; “There are only so many hours in a day,” said a wise daddy Hoff.


  • Direct Response
  • Email Copy
  • Web Content
  • Copy Editing
  • White Papers
  • Landing Pages
  • Case Studies
  • Press Releases
  • Articles
  • Ghost writer


Contact me today and find out out how easy your marketing task will be.

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Reasonable rates – Fixed & Hourly

 Freelance Writing Promotion from WIF

Check out my newly redesigned GoDaddy Website

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Check out my newly redesigned GoDaddy Website




If you are considering starting your own website, I high recommend using GoDaddy. Their new Version 7 website builder is very easy to use. As a writer, I need a comprehensive platform for my clients and readers to go to.

For me, my house is in NE Illinois, but my home is on the World Wide Web.


Type Private company
Founded 1997
Headquarters Scottsdale, Arizona, United States
Founder(s) Bob Parsons
Key people Blake Irving (CEO)[1]
Industry Domain Registrar, Web hosting, SSL certificates, small businesses
Revenue US$1.14 billion (2011)[2]
Employees 4,000 (2014) [3]
Alexa rank positive decrease 83 (April 2014)[4] 


Danica Patrick‘s #10 Go Daddy car at the 2013 NRA 500


Go Daddy is a privately held company that is primarily an internet domain registrarand web hosting company.[5] Go Daddy filed for an IPO in 2006 and later canceled it due to “market uncertainties”,[6] but is preparing for IPO as of March 2014. In addition to domain registration and hosting Go Daddy also sells e-business relatedsoftware and services. On June 24, 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported that private-equity firms KKR and Silver Lake Partners, along with a third investor, were nearing a deal to buy the company for between $2–2.5 billion.[7] On July 1, 2011, Go Daddy confirmed that KKR, Silver Lake Partners, and Technology Crossover Ventures had closed the deal. Although the purchase price was not officially announced it was reported to be $2.25 billion, for 65% of the company.[8] As of December 2011, Bob Parsons has stepped down as CEO into the role of Executive Chairman.[9] Current CEO Blake Irving, joined Go Daddy on January 6, 2013.

Check out my newly redesigned GoDaddy Website

Handwriting 101 – WIF House of Scriptography

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 Lay Back & Relax – On My Handwriting Couch

WIF Grammar 101-001

Before you leave my House of Scriptography, you will know exactly who you really are.


***********No drinking until after the test***********

  1. Large handwriting is associated with being an outgoing, attention-loving person.
  2. Average handwriting is associated with being well-adjusted and adaptable.
  3. Wide spacing between words means you enjoy your freedom. It also means that you don’t typically enjoy large crowds and you don’t like to be overwhelmed.
  4. Narrow spacing between words means that you can’t stand to be alone and you tend to crowd people.
  5. Having rounded letters is typically associated with being artistic or creative.
  6. Having pointed letters can mean that you are intense, intelligent, curious and aggressive.
  7. People who write with connected letters are associated with being logical and systematic.
  8. Crossing the very top of the ‘T’ generally means that you have good self-esteem, are optimistic and ambitious.
  9. Crossing the middle of the ‘t’ generally means that you are confident and comfortable in your own skin.
  10. Leaving open letters (like not closing an ‘O’) typically means that you are expressive, social and talkative.
  11. Writing a closed letter ‘O’ means that you are a private person and an introvert.
  12. If the dot on your ‘i’ lands high above the letter, you are considered to be imaginative.
  13. If your dot lands to the left of the letter ‘i,’ then you might be a procrastinator.
  14. If the dot is perfectly over the ‘i,‘ you are considered to be detail-oriented, empathetic and organized.
  15. If the dot of your ‘i’ has a circle, then you are considered to be a visionary or ‘child-like.
  16. If the dot looks more like a slash, then you might be overly self-critical.

Choose the number(s) and add them up. If you score less than five, I can’t help you. Should your score total more that fifty, the FBI will be in contact with you soon.

Actually the numbers have nothing to do with this less-than-scientific exercise in penmanship; which schools don’t teach and John Hancock is rolling over in his grave.



Handwriting 101

– WIF House of Scriptography

Margaret’s Eclectic Wine & Words

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Margaret’s Eclectic Wine & Words

“The Novel Dames”



When the mood strikes, or the stars align in their proper place, Margaret Epperson (an absolute genuine article from Jersey) convenes one of the most unique gathering of women I have have ever witnessed, this side of THE VIEW. And I do not make such a claim just because I am a member of this vociferous crew.

But this is a book club like none other. While most literary gatherings focus on the writing of the author or the hidden meaning about this or that plot, these ladies are seeking out the fellowship of like-minded women………..oh and did I mention the wine and food?

And from all walks of life…..

  • Do we discuss the merits of the classics? – Only if it’s a vintage Chardonnay 
  • Have we read the latest book on the Best Seller List? – It’s not that we haven’t read, there’s just more important things going on
  • Can we quote the content chapter & verse? – For about 1/20th of the time between 7P and Midnight
  • How can 20 women talk 20 ways to Friday? – That’s easy when you only see each other once a month or so. Enough time has passed that chances are, 1-2-3 and here comes a baby bump!

And yes we do talk about books!

But we prefer short stories!

Pretty soon we will be calling this THE THIN BOOK CLUB, because thick books get in the way of great conversation.

“Who’s house will we be going to next? Margaret will make sure that each of us volunteers our space and kick our husbands, kids, dogs & cats out for that precious 5 hour slot; where minds meet, girlfriends eat and bottles of wine deplete, all in the name of the written word.”



Margaret’s Eclectic Wine & Words

The Merrits of a Editer – WIF Whiteout

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Top Ten4


Top 10 Typos

Spend 10 minutes on Facebook or 5 minutes on Tumblr and you’re bound to see a spelling mistake. They’re an unavoidable fact of life born from a combination of laziness and more laziness. However, some spelling mistakes and typos are more curious than others. Here are 10 of the best we could find.

10. Jesus’ name misspelled, on a coin released by the Vatican.


We’re going to go out on a limb here and guess that the people involved directly with the Vatican encounter the word “Jesus” a little more than the average person on the street. We wouldn’t be surprised if half of the people working there could write it in their sleep. So when the Vatican released an official medal to commemorate Pope Francis being elected to the prestigious position of Pope, on which they spelled the word Jesus wrong, it was a huge source of embarrassment for them. The medals, which stylised Jesus as “Lesus” were quickly recalled to be destroyed, though not before savvy collectors managed to snag a few. Ironically, by destroying the medals, the ones that survived became even rarer, catapulting the value of each on to astronomical levels.

Now we could understand a normal person making this mistake, but these were people working for the Vatican, we genuinely can’t fathom how nobody working there noticed this mistake. We mean, seriously, surely the lack of the letter J at least tipped somebody off that something was slightly amiss.

9. Jack the Ripper’s spelling mistakes makes it easier for people to send hoax letters.


Jack the Ripper is known by criminologists and and laypersons alike as one of the most sinister serial killers in all of history. Even today, over a century after he stalked the streets of London, people are still fervently arguing over his identity and motives. One of the things that made Jack so infamous amongst the public was his annoying habit of supposedly taunting the police through letters. We say “supposedly” only because it has never been conclusively proven that the letters were from the killer.

But we digress. The three messages commonly attributed to the killer himself are the “Dear Boss” letter,  the “Saucy Jacky” postcard and the “From Hell” letter. All of them shared stylistic similarities, knowledge of the crimes scenes and an abundance of spelling mistakes. As noted here, after the police received the second postcard, in a fit of frustration they posted copies of both letters for the public to see outside of the station, hoping that someone would recognize the handwriting and turn Jack in. As an example of how bad Jack’s handwriting and spelling supposedly was, try and spot the mistakes in this quote from one the “Openshaw letter”:

“Old boss you was rite it was the left kidny I was goin to hopperate agin close to your ospitle just as I was goin to dror mi nife along of er bloomin throte then cusses of coppers spoilt the game”

Because the public is mainly composed of d-bags, almost as soon as the letters were printed in the press and made available for the public to view the police were flooded with hundredsof copycat letters. Many were made to look authentic without sparing use of Jack’s common spelling mistakes and the other stylistic features present in his letters. Because the case was still open, the police had to waste hundreds of precious man-hours investigating the sources of these various hoax letters. You know, instead of spending it actually looking for the guy stabbing everyone. Gee, thanks, Victorian era British public.

8. There’s a mistake in Newton’s Principia that went unnoticed for 3 centuries.


Okay so this isn’t a spelling mistake, per se, but considering all of the letters Newton used in his mathematical equations, we think it’s close enough to be featured here. Principia is Newton’s most famous piece of work, and it effectively laid the groundwork for everything we currently understand about gravity and the laws of motion today. The impact this book made on science is so great that when Newton dropped the first copy on his publisher’s desk, it immediately caught fire (probably) and it has been studied by eggheads and people with more Ph.D’s than you could shake a stick at for centuries.

With that in mind, the fact that there is a mistake in this book that went unnoticed for hundreds of years is not only surprising, it’s technically a statistical impossibility. Unbelievably though, there totally was a mistake in the book that went unnoticed until 1987. Newton accidentally put the wrong number into an equation and getting the number 11 instead of 10.5, which as we all know may as well be a million in the world of math equations. What’s even more unbelievable is that the mistake was noticed by a student, not an expert or one of the literally thousands of people who’ve studied the book before. The student, unsurprisingly, got an A+ on the paper in which he noticed the mistake.

7. The various misprinted Bibles.

Bible typo

The Bible has been reprinted more times than Batman’s origin story, and the stories behind some of them are almost as brutal and unfair. For example, perhaps the most most infamous example is the so-called “Wicked Bible” in which the famous commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery” was accidentally printed as “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Almost immediately after the mistake was noticed, the people who published it were fined the equivalent of about $40,000 before being stripped of their printing license. The church then attempted to burn every copy of the Bible they could find, though a few survived because of course they did.

Weirdly, that’s not even the most peculiar mistake found in a Bible, or even the biggest fine issued for one, though it is arguably the most offensive. For example, there’s “Lion Bible” which features the quote, “thy son that shall come forth out of thy lions,” instead of “loins” and there’s even a copy of the Bible in which Jesus’ name is written as Judas instead. We’re actually more annoyed that more books don’t have mistakes like:

“Blessed are the placemakers” (instead of peacemakers)

Printers have persecuted me without a cause” – Instead of princes.

“And Rebecca arose, and her camels, and they rode upon the camels, and followed the man: and the servant took Rebecca and went his way.” (It’s supposed to say damsels)

Hell, we’d kill for a copy of Harry Potter where a Snake kills Dumbledore.

6. The Koran misprint that sparked a crisis.


Like the Bible, mistakes in the Koran are a really big deal. Though they’re not as well documented, they have happened and like with the Wicked Bible, it caused someone a lot of trouble. In this case that someone was Ahmad al-Kulaib, who oversaw the production of a state-published version of the Koran that featured a bunch of missing sections.

The mistake was effectively political suicide for al-Kulaib, who was serving Kuwait as their Minister for Islamic Affairs when the mistake was noticed. Less than a week afterwards, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah dissolved the entire parliament. If you’re thinking a tiny mistake like that couldn’t have caused the Sheikh to dissolve parliament, we though that too.Until we saw this article by the BBC basically confirming it.

5. Shakespeare couldn’t spell his own name.


The name William Shakespeare is intrinsically linked with the English language, and he’s widely regarded as one of the single greatest and most influential writers in all of history. He also couldn’t spell his own name. Now as you’re probably aware, back in Shakespeare’s day, the rules of spelling were a little more lax than they are today. However, it still doesn’t change the fact that one of the most famous writers of all time couldn’t even agree on how to spell his own name.

As noted here, of the six total remaining examples of Shakespeare’s signature, he uses a different spelling of his own name in all but two of them, thereby making the actual spelling of his name impossible to discern. The spellings Shakespeare used are as follows:

  • Shaksper
  • Shakspere
  • Shakspeare

In fact, Shakespeare’s penmanship was so terrible that the actual spellings he used are still being debated. If that wasn’t confusing enough, his contemporaries were even worse at spelling his name with his name being stylized as everything from “Shakysper” to “Shakp.” We mean, come on, that last one isn’t even trying.

4. Jane Austen couldn’t spell either.


It’s almost possible to forgive Schakespeire for his inability to spell because he grew up in a time when there was no universally accepted way of spelling things (including names apparently). However, we’re less forgiving of a writer like Jane Austen who, like Shexpere, is known as one of the best writers to have ever lived.

As an example of Austen’s mastery over the written word, consider the story she wrote as a child simply titled, “Love and Freindship.” You can read it in its entirety via Wikipedia if you’re so inclined. But she was a kid when she wrote that; it’s not like she continued to make stupid, easily avoidable mistakes like that well into adulthood is it? Oh right, she totally did. In fact, a bunch of famous authors are infamous for making childish errors in some of their most famous pieces of work, including man’s man, Earnest Hemingway, who famously told his editor that correcting his spelling was his job. Then again, who’d argue with a guy who used to hunt sharks with a machine gun.

Then again, Hemingway also spelled moving as moveing”. Think that’s bad? Agatha Christia once misspelled the name of one of her own characters, writing Colonel Cadbury as “Colonel Carbery,” and President Andrew Jackson, a man famous for his oratory skills spelled development as “devilopment.” Then again, when he was later insulted about his poor spelling Jackson’s response was:

“It’s a damn poor mind that can think of only one way to spell a word.

So we think he has the upper hand here.

3. Google is the result of a typo.


Google is such a popular search engine that the word “google” is now considered an honest-to-goodness verb meaning “to search for something.” If you’re wondering why we didn’t use a capital letter for the word Google just then, it’s because Google (the company) will send people pissy cease and desist letters if they capitalize it. They even tried to stop it beingincluded in the dictionary. As a result, the term “to google something” is only technically correct if you use a lowercase G. It’s kind of odd because the word “google” itself is a misspelling of the word “googol,” the name given to the number 10^100 (10 with a hundred extra zeroes) which we’re sure you all already knew because everyone here should have already seen Back To The FutureAs recounted here, when the inventors of Google were trying to think of a name for their company, one of the originally proposed names was, “googolplex,” which is 10, times a googol. However, Larry Page (one of Google’s founders) didn’t like the word Googolplex and instead suggested just “googol.” However, when the guy he asked to check if the domain “” was available accidentally typed in “” instead, Larry apparently liked this new spelling better and the name stuck.

2. The typo that would have never been noticed if it wasn’t for the Oscars.


Go check the comment section of any article on the internet, we can guarantee you that there is about a 40% chance that there will be at least one comment pointing out either a factual inaccuracy or a spelling/grammar mistake somewhere it its comment section. If you think that this is a recent trend, you’re right, which still hasn’t stopped it reaching into the past to correct the mistakes of people who died before we were all born. Just ask the author of the New York Times article that was trolled for spelling mistakes 161 years after it was published. According to this article, the paper corrected a typo noticed by an eagle-eyed reader viewing their archives that misspelled the name of the Solomon Northup, the author of the book “12 years a slave.”

The NYT mistakenly identified Northup as both “Northrop” and “Northrup” throughout the 1853 article, a mistake they apologized for a cool 16 decades later (something we want you to keep in mind if you notice a mistake in this piece).

1. A bunch of cities in the States are misspellings of way cooler names.

cities-typoPin It

It’s a crying shame how few cities have awesome names these days, but we guess it’s fair that not everyone can live in Sparta or Batman. If they did, it’d be impossible to send letters because postboxes would keep catching fire. As you can see from this article, a lot of cities in America used to have cool names until an idiot somewhere along the line misspelled it. For example, Novi in Michigan was originally just called No VI, which is very vogue, but people kept thinking the Roman numerals were letters. Similarly, Frankfort, Kentucky was originally just called, Frank’s Ford, after a guy who was stabbed to death in a river bed.

Weirdly, a lot of the cities were renamed purely because settlers didn’t like (or couldn’t spell) the word the Indian Natives used. Hackensack used to be “Ackinchesacky” before the white man arrived and Muncie used to be “Munsee” but no one knew how to spell it so we just guessed and never bothered to check if it was correct. This is a lesson for everyone reading this: if something is too difficult, just do it your own way and hope it catches on.

The Merrits of a Editer

– WIF Whiteout

World Wide Words Issue 863 – WIF Style

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Issue 862

Issue 863




Issue 863: Saturday 4 January 2014



1. Feedback, Notes and Comments.

2. Conformator.

3. Wordface.

4. Squared away.

5. Sic!

Blatteroon Mildred Gutkin wrote, “About pisk: in the Yiddish-speaking world of my childhood, a pisk was an animal’s mouth, as distinguished from moil, the proper word for the human body part. The cat has a pisk; a person has a moil. To speak of a person’s pisk, therefore, is derogatory, intimating loose lips or some such, and that person is, with great contempt, a piscatch. Blatteroon indeed, the meaning then readily extended to dismiss the entire individual, body and soul, as a scoundrel.”

Howard Wolff added, “During my childhood in the 1930s and 1940s in Brooklyn, fermach deine pisk meant ‘Shut your mouth’ or ‘Shut up’. But I must admit that I haven’t heard the word used in that or any other way in many years.”

Miriam Miller contributed further Yiddish terms: “The common phrase frosk in pisk means a slap on the mouth. Pisk has come to mean a loudmouth, not garrulous but dominating conversation. One way to say garrulous is hock meir ein chinick, to knock or bang like a tea kettle, to yammer on until one wishes he would shut up. Your bubbie (grandma) might hock you a chinick, but she wouldn’t be a pisk.”

Site changes Part of the reason for taking a break at this time of year is it gives me time to do essential maintenance and improvements. I’ve recoded the website so that pages now print much better: the side columns vanish so that the text fills the page width within the margins. I am also working on making the site responsive to the screen widths of mobile devices, but finishing this will have to wait until more time is available.

2. Conformator

This contraption came to my attention, as so many things do, whilst I was looking for something else, in this case in a book with the title A History of the City of Lawrence in Massachusetts by Jonathan F C Hayes, dated 1868. This is a peculiarly formatted book, with its text only on right-hand pages, faced by adverts for everything from cough drops to cotton-cleaning machines. One promoted the clothing emporium of C B French, who announced:

The finest qualities and latest styles of silk hats manufactured to order, and fitted to the head by the French conformator.


An illustration showed the conformator to be a sort of circular cage that fitted over the head. Dozens of bars around the rim were pushed in by a spring to record the lumps and bumps on the head of the man or woman being measured. The machine punched a paper pattern for the hatter, who used it to set the outline of a former on which the brim of the hat was reshaped. The pattern was often kept so the customer could order new hats without having to visit the store or go through the process again.

Custom Hat Sizer

The conformator was indeed French, though it had been imported from France rather than being a creation of the firm advertising it (I fear the ambiguity was deliberate.) The word appeared first in the French language, as conformateur, a thing made to conform to the shape of something else (devices of the same name recorded the shape of the bust in dressmaking). The invention of the conformateur for hats is variously credited to a man named Maillard in 1843, to the firm of Allié Aine the following year and then to that of Allié-Maillard in 1852, all based in Paris. Though conformators have long since ceased to be manufactured, they continue to be used by bespoke hatters such as Lock of London; the rare examples that come on the market are highly prized and expensive.

I was delighted to find more terminology in Scientific Hat Finishing and Renovating by Henry L Ermatinger of 1919. He explained that “The conformator consists of two separate parts, the conformator proper and the formillion, or shaping block.” The formillion is the former I mentioned above. He added that “The retailer, or renovator, should provide himself with a brim board and an iron foot-tolliker for smoothing the brim.” A search found that foot-tollikers, usually now just called tollikers (foot referred to the base of the hat, not that the tool was foot-operated), are hand tools to set the angle of the crown to the brim, but I can’t trace the origin of the term.

3. Wordface

Words of 2013 The American Dialect Society continued its tradition of voting for its Word of the Year at its annual conference, held this year in Minneapolis. The winner was a curious choice: because X, where X is a noun or noun phrase without the intermediate of that would be expected in standard English: “because homework”, “because internet”. In such phrases, most often encountered online, because has changed from a conjunction to a preposition. It may suggest the logic behind the reasoning is too poor to survive exposure or the reason is so obvious the speaker doesn’t need to elaborate. The version found most often is because reasons, a hand-waving way of saying that the speaker doesn’t want or need to explain. Because X had also been chosen as Most Useful Word of the Year, beating struggle bus, a difficult situation, as in I’m riding the struggle bus. It is likely that journalists will have a struggle bus telling their readers why because X won (try “because language”, guys).

Other yearly words Collins Dictionaries announced their word of the year on 17 December: geek. It’s a mark of the word’s changing fortunes. Originally in English dialect a foolish or offensive man, it has travelled via American carny slang to be a term of abuse for an unattractive and boring social misfit, frequently one immersed in the abstruse technicalities of computing. Recently it has become a positive term, foreshadowed by the slogan “the geek shall inherit the earth” that has echoed around theatre, film and book since the 1990s and bolstered by the success of technology entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates, Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg. Collins has already reflected this change by amending its definition of geek to “a person who is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about a specific subject”. For Collins, Ian Brookes commented, “The idea of future generations inheriting a more positive definition of the word is something that Collins believes is worth celebrating.”

Winter falls Alan Harrison asked about give the cat a penny, a dialect expression of the English Black Country and adjacent areas of South Staffordshire, meaning to take a tumble on ice. He wrote, “In a pub conversation, someone suggested it was derived from a German phrase meaning fall on your arse, used by prisoners of war incarcerated in camps on Cannock Chase. This seems improbable. My mother, born in 1924, believes that she has known the term all her life.” I’ve looked into this but can’t find much about it, though I can confirm once again that it’s undesirable to take seriously the etymological assertions of people in pubs. Mr Harrison’s mum is correct to say that it’s old: in February 1873 an equally puzzled correspondent to Notes and Queries recalled that a clergyman in Northamptonshire had written to a local paper about it thirty years previously. As to how it could have come about, I am at a loss!

4. Squared away

Q From Neil Paknadel; a related question came from Carol Nichols: Your questioner about crackerjack some time ago used squared away. Now we need an article on its figurative meaning, though I believe its origin is nautical.
A It is indeed a term from the days of sailing ships, though it has come ashore in its current figurative sense of being tidy or in proper order. It’s common in the armed forces, more so in the US than the UK.

Perhaps his first inspiration to serve was when his uncle, looking sharp and squared away in his military uniform, returned home from the Korean War and introduced himself to Lloyd when he was a little boy.
The Buffalo News (Buffalo, NY); 25 Nov. 2013.

We have numerous idioms employing square which imply related ideas of something that’s proper, correct, fair, honest, straightforward, precise or exact, all of which take us back to well-built structures whose corners are true right angles. Many are recorded for the first time in the sixteenth century and it was in that century, too, that we start to see examples of seafarers using square in various expressions, including square the yards.

It meant that the yards, the spars that carried the sails, were to be set at right angles to the keel line from bow to stern, a state that was known as square by the braces, or square by the lifts and braces if the spars were also set horizontal. (The lifts and braces were part of the running rigging; the lifts raised and lowered the yards and the braces turned them.) At sea, squaring the yards meant that the ship sailed directly downwind. After anchoring, square the yards was an instruction to clear the decks and make the ship tidy and ready for sailing again.

Near the end of the eighteenth century, sailors began to extend the verb by adding away. The combination took on a sense of getting moving or travelling directly to some destination without delay or deviation. This is the earliest I can find:

We have not anchored and shall not, as we shall square away for Canton in the evening.
From the entry of 30 August 1798 in the diary of Ebenezer Townsend, owner and supercargo of the Neptune. Reprinted by the Hawaiian Historical Society in 1888.

In the 1860s we begin to see square away being used by non-sailors in a way that approximates to our current sense and which developed from the sailing one — to make everything ship-shape or to get ready for some action. An early appearance:

I didn’t waste any time in sociabilities with Clarence, but squared away for business, straight-off.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, by Mark Twain, 1889.

Incidentally, from about 1820 in Britain, square away took on a distinct sense of putting oneself in a posture of defence ready for a fist fight, presumably by adopting the conventional pugilistic position with fists clenched and raised. (The American square off appeared about the same time; more recently, square up has been usual in Britain.) This usage of square away lies to one side of our modern meaning but presumably derives from the same source.

5. Sic!

• On 28 December, Stella McDowall found something fishy in the Daily Mail (it also appeared in the Mirror): “A sturgeon who performed the UK’s first hand transplant has revealed an NHS row over funding is delaying further operations.”

• Department of inappropriate simile: a report on the Sydney-Hobart yacht race in the Sydney Morning Herald on 27 December, noticed by Norman King, quoted competitor Tom Addis as saying “Bass Strait will be a landmine.”

• It could have been better expressed 1: Ian Whiting read this online in the journal Bedfordshire on Sunday dated 12 December: “After two years of increased begging, anti-social behaviour and drinking on the streets of Bedford, a dedicated police officer is to once again patrol the centre of the town.”

• It could have been better expressed 2: A Reuters report in the Chicago Tribune on 27 December told DeeDee Wilson: “A Louisiana man is suspected of killing his wife, ex-mother-in-law and a former employer before turning a shotgun on himself and committing suicide at four locations outside of New Orleans, police said on Friday.”

• Jim Frederick read this in the Telegraph online on 2 January: “As we now know, the ship was diverted from her original path to assist the Spirit of Mawson expedition. Although trapped in the ice, the helicopters of the Snow Dragon completed the airlift in four hours.”


World Wide Words – WIF Style

World Wide Words Issue 846 — WIF Style

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Worl Wide Words

Issue 846



Issue 846: Saturday 24 August 2013



1. Feedback, Notes and Comments.

2. Whiffler.

3. Crack shot.

4. Sic!

Parcel “If you are in the habit of reading antiques catalogues,” Anthea Fleming wrote, “you may come across the term parcel-gilt in descriptions of silver items. It means partly gilded, as in a silver figure wearing gilded drapery, or a silver cup gilded inside. I don’t know why this expression is used.” I can help there: it comes from an ancient adverbial sense of parcel, in the sense of “part, partly, partially; to some degree, to some extent”. It’s recorded from the fifteenth century, parcel-gilt itself from 1453.

Lemniscate Several subscribers, either in puzzlement or devilry, queried my instructions about cutting the doughnut. For example, Gareth Williams: “If you lay a doughnut on the board, put the knife vertical against the inside edge of the hole and cut downward .. nothing happens because the point of the blade is now stuck in the chopping board.” It would have been better if I had written, “Take a sharp knife and hold the blade so that its edge is exactly above the inside edge of the doughnut. Cut vertically downwards …” I am reminded of my university physics professor, a Shakespeare scholar who always prefaced his notes on practical sessions with “Bloody instructions, which being taught return to plague the inventor.” Kathleen Dillon registered a complaint: “You are responsible for my having to buy a new bathing suit. I tried to follow your instructions about cutting a doughnut and ruined half a dozen of them, which I had to eat before they became stale.”

Agog again From Peter Armstrong: “I sometimes wish that we English speakers and writers had the use of an accent or other diacritical mark. This morning I was reading your update on agog and wondered why your correspondent was saying ‘it’s happening by way of agape’. How in the world does agog’s meaning get influenced by the word used to express theological love? Ah, my kingdom for an accent.” The two are indeed among the more remarkable homographs in the language: one from Old Norse, the other from classical Greek.

Not cricket? Several readers essayed a translation of the cricket item in the Sic! section two weeks ago, which I mentioned here last week. You may recall that the original read, “On three occasions, thick inside edges avoided the stumps and raced to the fence, while a brace of airy heaves into the leg side somehow dissected the outfielders.” This is from Bruce Laidlaw: “The batsman mishit the ball three times (the ball in each case clipping the edge of the bat) yet still scored four runs each time as the ball went behind him all the way to the boundary; the batsman twice hit the ball hard upwards and to the left, the ball falling between fielders so none could catch or stop it. The implication is that the batsman was lucky, scoring twenty runs by hitting the ball five times to the boundary from bad shots.” Cricket-savvy readers have suggested dissect has taken on a specific meaning; Ricki Barnes explained, “It refers to a ball being hit into the air such that it ends up between a number of fielding positions. Strictly it should refer to more than two fielders. With two, you may instead hear the phrase bisecting the field.” Dissect presumably came about as an error for bisect but has become accepted as what H W Fowler called a sturdy indefensible, since to literally dissect outfielders certainly wouldn’t be cricket! We may now consider this subject closed.

2. Whiffler

Students of Shakespeare will know of whifflers from Henry V:

The deep-mouth’d Sea,
Which like a mighty Whiffler ’fore the King,
Seems to prepare his way.

Whifflers went in front of a procession to clear spectators from its path. In early times, they would have been men-at-arms, wielding their customary weapons such as javelins or swords to keep back the mob. By the time of Shakespeare, they had taken on a formalised role and by the next century had degenerated into being merely part of the ritual of events such as civic parades. They survived until the middle of the nineteenth century in the procession of the London craft guilds to the Guildhall banquet on Lord Mayor’s Day, in which young freemen called bachelor whifflers carried flags to lead each guild. They lived on to about the same date in Norwich:

In that of the Corporation of Norwich from the Guild-hall to the Cathedral Church, on the Guild-day, the whifflers are two active men very lightly equipped … bearing swords of lath or latten, which they keep in perpetual motion, “whiffing” the air on either side, and now and then giving an unlucky boy a slap on the shoulders or posteriors with the flat side of their weapons.
The Vocabulary of East Anglia, by Robert Forby, 1830.

In an entry written a century ago, the Oxford English Dictionary finds the word’s origin in the Old English wifle for a spear or battleaxe. But as whiffle also referred to the wind when it blew in puffs or slight gusts, or veered or shifted about (it became a figurative way to describe a shifty or evasive person), it would be as reasonable to assume that it referred to the continual waving of their weapons to encourage hangers-on to stand back. Whifflers in action would certainly have raised a constant whiffle of wind, as Robert Forby implied with his use of whiff, to blow lightly (this last word is also the source of the word in the sense of a brief or faint smell, as in “a whiff of perfume”).

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Thomas Ratcliffe, a contributor to Notes and Queries, recalled this variation:

The art of the whiffler-waffler is still known, though I have not seen the practice for a number of years. Whiffling-waffling was common when I was a boy, and many boys could give very creditable exhibitions of the art. … Some men were great experts, making the stick twirl in the hands round and about all parts of the body round the head, behind the back, under the thigh, the whiffling-waffling being done as easily with the left as with the right hand. When the exhibition was put of doors the stick was sent whirling high, the performer dancing round a considerable circle before catching it at the right moment of its descent.

We are irresistibly reminded of a drum-major with his mace leading a band in a parade. There certainly seemed to be a skill to whiffling, to judge from George Borrow, who lamented in The Romany Rye in 1857, “The last of the whifflers hanged himself about a fortnight ago … from pure grief that there was no further demand for the exhibition of his art, there being no demand for whiffling since the discontinuance of Guildhall banquets.” The modern drum-major may not have his genesis in the ancient passage-clearing art of the whiffler, but parallels persist.

3. Crack shot

Q From Mark Brown, US: Where did the term “crack shot” originate? The short answer to your question is England, but I suspect that may leave you feeling a bit short-changed. Fortunately I can supply some more on the whys, hows and whens of the term as well as the wheres.

The obvious first guess is that it’s an imitative word for the noise made by a pistol or rifle. Unlike most first guesses in etymology that’s not entirely wrong, but it’s not the whole story.

Around 1500, crack is recorded as a Scots term for loud boasts or brags, which in the following century became much more widely known in England. After it spread south it started to mean the subject of a person’s boast, something that was claimed to be first-class or excellent. This might be a preeminent flock of sheep, the best room in a hotel or a person who was a superbly accurate shot. This last sense appeared at the very beginning of the nineteenth century in a long-forgotten comic playlet that featured a duel:

That’s my friend — you subpoenaed him to attend. I’m dashing Bob, his second, — a crack shot and a crack whip. Take your ground, Colonel.
Modern Sharpers, by an unknown author, in Flowers of Literature For 1804, London, 1805.

However, the term is presumably older in speech. It was taken to the New World by colonists and is first recorded there in the 1820s.

What makes the word particularly relevant to pistols at dawn is that the boasting sense of crack derives from Old English cracian, to make a sudden sharp noise. It is indeed the same word as the one for the noise a gun might make. It’s also where we get cracking from, in the sense of something very impressive or effective (“it was a cracking good film”).

Incidentally, you may see similarities between the boasting sense of crack and the Irish term for enjoyable conversation, news, gossip and general fun. You would be right, as they’re the same word. But crack first took on this sense in the eighteenth century in Scots. It appeared in Ireland only in the 1950s, having been taken from Scotland into Ulster. The Irish Gaelicised it into craic, said the same way. This was reborrowed into English in the 1970s, latterly for commercial reasons linked to the growth of Irish pubs and bars.

4. Sic!


• Seen by John Peck in the Marks and Spencer store in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire, a set of four “serial bowls”. He suggests the great advantage is that one only has to do the washing up every fourth day.

• Neil Hesketh urged, “Don’t mess with US Navy women.” He had spotted a report on NBC News about NASA and the Navy practicing retrieval of splashed-down spacecraft: “Unlike in past recovery efforts, the Navy doesn’t plan to use helicopters to retrieve Orion. Instead, a wench will pull the spacecraft into the Arlington’s well deck.”

• On 5 August, Pattie Tancred tells us, The Economist reported on the burger made from laboratory-grown meat: “After sizzling in a pan for a few minutes under the watchful eye of a British chef, two pre-selected tasters, a nutritional scientist and a food writer, dug in.”

World Wide Words Issue 846 — WIF Style

World Wide Words Issue 845 – WIF Style

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Worl Wide Words

World Wide Words




1. Feedback, Notes and Comments

Agog Dharmachari Padmavyuha wrote, “I think you’re right about this ‘new’ usage of agog being confused with goggle, and I think it’s happening by way of agape (which has the same flavour of meaning as goggle, and which I suspect people are probably hearing in their heads when they use agog that way). I’m most used to it in agog with anticipation, which invokes the spirit of spaniels everywhere.” James McCrudden added, “When I was a child at convent school in the early 1950s in Australia I often heard teachers say to an excited pupil ‘here he is all agape and agog’. I later found that agape and agog was in common use. Sometimes aghast, agape and agog. It’s definitely not rare.”

Sic! Many readers, as unversed as I am in the esoteric jargon of cricket, were aghast (or perhaps agape or agog) at one item in the Sic! section last week. The primary reason for including it was the reference to a ball dissecting fielders. Terry Walsh commented, “Bizarre as it might appear to the uninitiated, to the cricket aficionado it is not only a poetic, but also a perfectly intelligible description of two different types of successful hit. I leave it to those better versed than I am to write with a translation, as, of course, they will.” Nobody has yet, which will disappoint all those readers who have contacted me to ask what the devil it could possibly mean.

2. Lemniscate/lɛmˈnɪskət/

Take a doughnut (not a traditional British one, but an American one with a hole in the middle). Lay it on a chopping block. Take a sharp knife and hold the blade vertical, positioning it so that its edge is exactly above the inside edge of the doughnut. Cut vertically downwards to split the doughnut in two. If you examine the cut ends of the pieces, you will find the smaller one has a cross-section like a figure eight or an infinity sign. You have just created an imperfect example of a lemniscate, a type of mathematical curve.

Lemniscates were named by the Swiss mathematician Jacob Bernoulli, who published a description of them in 1694. He took their name from the Latin lēmniscātus, decorated with ribbons, for no very obvious reason we can now understand except that perhaps the curves looked like ribbons tied into a bow. He is remembered for his studies of one member of the set in particular, now called the lemniscate of Bernoulli. The one in your doughnut (which is an approximation to the geometric shape called a torus) is the lemniscate of Booth, named for James Booth, a nineteenth-century mathematician of Irish birth who worked in the same field.

To attach Booth’s name to it is to deprive a Greek mathematician of the fifth century CE named Proclus of the credit for discovering it. He called Booth’s curve a hippopede, a horse fetter, because it looked like a device for hobbling a horse’s feet.

Outside mathematics, lemniscate frequently takes on mystical or occult undertones because of the associations of the infinity symbol with the Tarot and the teachings of the Russian spiritualist Madame Blavatsky.

The cosmic lemniscate, or sidewise figure-eight, the symbol of infinity, hovered like a halo above the Magician’s head, and about his waist was clasped a serpent devouring its own tail: the worm Ouroborus, a symbol of eternity. All things in all space and time — that was the grandeur of the concept for which this modern Magician strived.
God of Tarot, by Piers Anthony, 1989.

3. Part and parcel

Q From Malcolm Ross-Macdonald, Ireland: Has the parcel in the stock phrase part and parcel anything to do with the parcel handled by the Post Office? I recall resellers of war-surplus goods in the 1940-50s breaking their inventory into parcels that would have required a 3-ton lorry to shift.

A The Post Office kind of parcel (which Americans would prefer to call a package) is a very specific sense of a word that has had a large number of meanings down the centuries.

In its widest sense it can mean an amount or quantity of something, an extremely wide-ranging usage — you can have parcels of land, for example. The OED illustrates its variety over the past couple of centuries with these: parcel of work, parcel of weather, parcel of nonsense, parcel of spray, parcel of rogues and parcel of shares. It can mean a quantity of a commodity offered as a single transaction, a lot, so a tiny package of diamonds offered for auction and your three-tonner load of equipment are both parcels.

All of these in various ways perpetuate the first sense of a parcel as being a constituent or part of some larger whole, a portion or division. This reflects its origins: parcel has come to us via Old French from the post-classical Latin particella, a part or portion.

That makes part and parcel a tautology, since both words in effect mean the same thing. English loves this kind of doublet: nooks and crannies, hale and hearty, safe and sound, rack and ruin, dribs and drabs. Many derive from the ancient legal practice of including words of closely similar meaning to make sure that the sense covers all eventualities: aid and abet, fit and proper, all and sundry.

Part and parcel is a member of this second group — it appeared in legal records during the sixteenth century. We use it to emphasise that the thing being spoken about is an essential and integral feature or element of a whole:

“Do you believe in an afterlife?” “I believe that the energy we have as living human beings is still part and parcel of the universe at some level and makes a difference.”
Financial Times, 6 Jul. 2013.

US English has the mildly humorous variant passel — deriving from a nineteenth-century pronunciation of parcel and often preceded by whole — suggesting a largish group of people or things (passel of problems, passel of accusations, passel of experts).

4. Sic!


• “While walking in AbbeyDore in Herefordshire,” wrote Pete Sinclair, “we saw a plaque over a gate at the church: ‘ERECTED TO THE MEMORY OF CAPT R.C.B. PARTRIDGE, M.C. C. de G. KILLED IN ACTION SEPT 28 1918 BY FRIENDS IN SOUTH WALES’.”

• Gerald Etkind found this headline over a story dated 10 August on the website of the Athens Banner-Herald of Georgia: “Man asked to clean up after dog pulls gun.”

• I quote from an article in The Independent on 12 August about the Australian general election: “On the campaign trail and addressing a Liberal Party event in the city of Melbourne [opposition leader Tony] Abbott said: “No one — however smart, however well-educated, however experienced — is the suppository of all wisdom.”

World Wide Words Issue 845 – WIF Style

World Wide Words Issue 844 – WIF Style

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 World Wide Words Issue 844Issue




1. Feedback, Notes and Comments.

2. Velleity.

3. Agog.

4. Sic!


Pony up Readers pointed out that a number of competing theories exist for why pony should have become associated with money. We may disregard the one that says £25 was the cost of a small horse in the eighteenth century, as that would have been a hugely inflated price. David Coe reminded me of the widely believed story that it derives from the days of the Raj, when the 25-rupee Indian banknote was said to have had a picture of a horse on it. Nobody, so far as I know, has ever found an example of such a note. (The same applies to monkey, slang for £500, which is said to have derived from the 500-rupee note.)

Amy Livingston mentioned another story, that pony is a shortened form of the Latin words legem pone (in the second, the vowels are roughly as in English hot and met), the first two words of the fifth part of Psalm 119. Its first line is “Legem pone mihi Domine viam iustificationum tuarum” (“Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes”). The Oxford English Dictionary says that this used to begin the psalms at Matins on the 25th day of the month. It became linked in particular with 25 March, the first quarter day of the year, and hence to the settlement of debts. The OED adds that it became used “as an allusive expression for payment of money or cash down”. It appears for the first time in Thomas Tusser’s A Hundreth Good Pointes of Husbandry of 1570. The OED has no citations after 1694, which is a century before pony starts to be recorded in its monetary sense. Caution is needed because of the gap, but as pone was said very much like pony, the abbreviation of legem pone followed by creation of the noun and verb seem so probable as to be almost inevitable. It’s notable that in many of the early examples the word is spelled poney, implying that its users knew it was not the same word as pony.

This may have blended with the idea of a pony being a small horse and by extension a small amount of anything. This can be traced back to the early eighteenth century, when pony is first recorded in the sense of a small measure of alcohol. This sense is still known. Walter Frank pointed out: “in Australia a pony of beer is the smallest measure available.” Larry Larson wrote, “A quarter-size keg of beer is referred to as a pony keg in the US.”

Further to my mention of Spanish as a slang term for money, Nick Humez commented, “The shortage of hard currency in the American colonies during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries was so acute that Spanish dollars (8-real coins) circulated, many of them booty from privateering, and were widely used in lieu of, and even in preference to, British money. If so, there may be even earlier attestations for Spanish than Grose awaiting discovery on both sides of the pond.” Emery Fletcher added, “I think you’ll find that in the US, actual Spanish-coined silver dollars were in use as late as the last decades of the nineteenth century, possibly even more recently in the Southwest. Around here in New Mexico, pony up the Spanish might have sounded contemporary into the 1940s.”

2. Velleity/vɛˈliːɪtɪ/

This is mere inclination, a wish or desire that lacks the strength to overcome personal inertia. It is the ultimate inaction, far more so than procrastination, which is merely the postponement of action you know to be necessary. If you make a new year’s resolution to get fit but never even look into joining a gym, that’s velleity. If a notion to write a novel intrigues you, but you do nothing about it, that’s velleity.

Congress often contents itself with enacting “velleities” such as the wish in the 900-page Dodd-Frank financial reform act that “all consumers have access to markets for consumer financial products and services … (that are) fair, transparent, and competitive.”
The Virginian-Pilot, 7 Jun. 2012.

If the wish is father to the deed then velleity is childless. It is the impotent relative of volition, using one’s will. Surprisingly for two near opposites, velleity and volition share an origin. Both are from the Latin irregular verb velle, to will or wish, though volition comes directly from volo, I wish. The English word benevolent is from the same verb, literally well-wishing.

You’ll not find it much used, as it’s restricted to those with large vocabularies or the readiness to browse the less travelled pages of dictionaries.

3. Agog

Q From Gordon Keen: I am all agog to discover the derivation of agog.

A Neatly put …

It comes, like much of our language, from French. Middle French had gogue, entertainment, fun or amusement. From this developed en gogues, in good humour. English took it in and gave it a home, but changed the first element to on and then to a-, at the same time shortening the unpronounced ending.

It’s not a word that many people know or use. Standard dictionaries say it has the sense that you’re using — eager or curious to hear or see something. All agog (“I was all agog to discover who the new Dr Who would be”) has an air of bouncy immature anticipation about it that makes it difficult to use in serious contexts.

Looking around, I discovered that because it is uncommon but rather a fun word to throw out, agog is having serious identity issues. Typical of recent usage was a headline in the Irish Times in 2011, “Americans left agog at confused cruelty of Irish abortion law”. To me, agog can’t mean “astonished”, but its entry in the Oxford English Dictionary, revised in 2012, says it now can. There’s also the alliterative compound agog and aghast, or aghast and agog, which seems destined to become a set phrase:

The discovery that Frankie Dettori had failed a drugs test, at Longchamp in September, left his peers agog and aghast.
The Independent, 15 Nov 2012.

This feels quite wrong — agog for me lacks the implications of shock and horror that accompany aghast. Might its users have been confusing it with goggle?

Incidentally, a related Middle French form was à gogo, uninhibitedly or joyfully, probably formed from gogue by reduplication. This is still in the language and appeared in Paris in 1952 in the name of the nightclub and pioneering discotheque called the Whisky à Gogo (that is, Whisky Galore, presumably from the film of the book of the same title by Compton Mackenzie). The entertainment format became fashionable and it and the name were brought into English, leading to the modified version a-go-go appearing all over the place during the 1960s as a fashionable creation.

4. Sic!


• “A nice homonym appeared in the Express and Star of Wolverhampton on 2 August,” Alan Harrison reported. “The valuables stolen in a burglary included a ‘cygnet ring’.”

• A story of 2 August in the Press-Telegram of Long Beach, California about a sandwich contest at a market caught the eye of Kitty Fries: “Janet Swenson, a 52-year-old resident of Fallbrook, brought a filet mignon goat cheese sandwich to the table. ‘It’s something you can drink with a beer or cabernet,’ Swenson said.”

• Jane Irish Nelson came across this sentence in Murder for Choir by Joelle Charbonneau (in which Killer is a poodle): “Killer gave the officers the evil eye as they walked past him gnawing on a doughnut-shaped rawhide.”

• Peter Mortimer found this cricket report on the BBC website on 3 August: “On three occasions, thick inside edges avoided the stumps and raced to the fence, while a brace of airy heaves into the leg side somehow dissected the outfielders.”

World Wide Words Issue 844 – WIF Style

Writers Disowning Work – “I was taken out of context”

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Top 10 Writers Who Disowned Their Own Work


For most writers, there’s a feeling of catharsis that accompanies having a book published. You had something to say, and now it’s out there for the world to view. It may become a bestseller or it might move five copies, all to your mom, but either way, you created something meaningful. Your high school classmates were wrong about you, just like you always knew!

But sometimes that euphoric feeling doesn’t last. Sometimes it turns to downright loathing. Here are 10 writers who hated, hid, or simply pretended books they wrote didn’t exist.

10) Ian Fleming, The Spy Who Loved Me


1961-62 was a good time to be Ian Fleming. His James Bond novels were consistent bestsellers; production had begun on the first Bond film, Dr. No. Despite all this, Fleming wasn’t happy after learning his adult thrillers were increasingly being read by schoolchildren who idolized James Bond. So he resolved to write a book showing his famous spy from “the other end of the gun barrel,” sort of a cautionary tale about a civilian who gets caught up in Bond’s world. The result was The Spy Who Loved Me, told from the perspective of ordinary woman Vivienne Michel, who chronicles such espionage staples as losing her virginity in a movie theater, becoming a secretary, aborting her boss’s child, and managing a failing motel until mobsters try to torch it (and her) for the insurance money. Bond himself doesn’t appear until two-thirds of the way into the book to dispatch the thugs, seduce Vivienne, and leave before the final chapter.

Whatever Fleming was going for, it didn’t work — critics panned the new Bond novel, in spite of such ultra-progressive dialogue as “All women love semi-rape. They love to be taken. It was his sweet brutality against my bruised body that had made his act of love so piercingly beautiful.” Reviews were not so piercingly beautiful, and Fleming, stung, declared the experiment a failure and requested that no paperback version or hardcover reprints be issued. The next novel proceeds as if TSWLM never happened, and Fleming would only allow the title to be used for a movie if it had nothing to do with the book’s plot. For all that, it did give us one lasting contribution to the Bond canon: Horror, a gangster with steel-capped teeth who inspired the infamous film henchman Jaws.

9) Stephen King (as Richard Bachman), Rage


It’s easy to make fun of Stephen King these days for the sheer volume of his body of work and some of the more, well, hokey concepts. (Killer trucks? Really, Stephen?) But it’s also easy to forget how many of his books, especially the early ones, were genuinely terrifying; and in one instance, tragically prescient. The first novel King ever wrote, Rage tells the story of a high schooler who brings a gun to school, kills two teachers, and holds his class hostage, only for them to begin empathizing with him in a creepy Tyler Durden-esque fashion.

The reason for the book’s censorship is unfortunately obvious — after the spate of school shootings in recent years, a novel told from the perspective of the killer is not something King wants serving as possible inspiration. At least one real-life shooter was reported to have had a copy of Rage in his locker, so King and his publishers jointly agreed not to publish any future editions. Considering he wrote the story when he was still in college, he’s probably just lucky he didn’t get flagged as a potential risk case himself by school administrators.

8) Martin Amis, Invasion of the Space Invaders


If you’ve never heard of Martin Amis, don’t feel bad: it just means you’re an uncultured semi-illiterate, at least according to The Times, who rated him as #19 on their list of The 50 Greatest British Authors Since 1945. (His father Kingsley Amis was #9, meaning the old guy can literally claim to be twice the author his son is.) These days Martin writes serious books and gets into pissing matches with other authors about things like radical Islamism. Which is probably why he’s not eager to claim credit for 1982′s Invasion of the Space Invaders: An Addict’s Guide to Battle Tactics, Big Scores and the Best Machines.

It’s exactly what it sounds like, a guide to early video games that Amis is extremely reluctant to discuss or even acknowledge writing. Hard to imagine, since it boasts an introduction by Steven Spielberg and is filled with fantastic bon mots like: “Do I take risks in order to gobble up the fruit symbol in the middle of the screen? I do not, and neither should you. Like the fat and harmless saucer in Missile Command (q.v.), the fruit symbol is there simply to tempt you into hubristic sorties. Bag it.” And: “PacMan player, be not proud, nor too macho, and you will prosper on the dotted screen.” A reporter once suggested to Amis, possibly in jest, that it was one of the best things he’d ever written, then noted “The expression on his face, with perhaps more pity in it than contempt, remains with me uncomfortably.”

7) Don DeLillo, Amazons


Don DeLillo is a renowned author and playwright, part of the Postmodern literature movement in the U.S. In recent years, noted critic and pretentious guy Harold Bloom described him as one of only four living American novelists who are still writing and deserve our praise. Be that as it may, the one book of DeLillo’s that you would probably enjoy the most is the only one you won’t find on his official list of published works.

That would be Amazons, which DeLillo co-wrote in 1980 after a string of six well-reviewed but financially disappointing novels. A humorous faux autobiography, Amazons tells the story of Cleo Birdwell, the first woman to play hockey in the NHL, which apparently largely consists of sleeping with your coaches and teammates. By all accounts it’s actually pretty funny, but DeLillo has never publicly acknowledged writing the book and specifically asked to have it left off his official bibliography. Which is a shame, because if more award-winning geniuses took occasional breaks from their serious works to do something funny and low-brow, the other 99% of us would probably pay more attention to the rest of their stuff.

6) Dante Gabriel Rossetti, most of his poetry


As the name implies, Dante Gabriel Rossetti was born into an artistic lifestyle — his uncle created the modern vampire story, his siblings all became writers, and his wife Elizabeth Siddal was a prominent artist’s model, posing for Ophelia and other works. Dante himself founded a prominent artistic movement, but between painting and writing poetry, also found time to sleep with plenty of women. Surprisingly Elizabeth was not down with this (chicks, right?), and her husband’s infidelities contributed to her depression and possibly intentional laudanum overdose. Rossetti was devastated, but his response was juuuust a bit extreme: he slipped a notebook full of poems he had been readying for publication into Siddal’s hair in her coffin, then had it buried with her.

Which is creepy but slightly romantic, if you squint hard enough. Except unlike some of the others on this list, Rossetti eventually changed his mind; and if you think you know where this is going, congratulations on being right! Yes, several years later he had Siddal exhumed to recover the notebook. While worms had eaten through parts of the pages (you only wish we were kidding), the poems were eventually published, albeit not to any great critical acclaim. Meanwhile, Rossetti reportedly felt wretchedly guilty over violating his wife’s grave for the rest of his life. As one does.

5) Herge, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets


When it comes to a Tintin book kept under wraps, everyone thinks of the same thing: Tintin in the Congo, where everyone’s favorite Belgian reporter engages in casual racism and slaughters half the animals in Africa. But as uncomfortable as that volume is to modern eyes, writer/artist Herge had no problem with updating and reissuing it years later alongside his newer Tintin books. In fact, there’s only one of his early works that he refused to redraw to match his later style: the very first Tintin story of all… in the Land of the Soviets.

But why? Mainly because the first couple of Tintin stories were forced on Herge by his editor, an ultraconservative priest who wanted to educate kids about things like the evils of communism. And by “educate” we mean “make up a bunch of stuff” — Herge took everything he knew about Russia from one sensationalistic book aimed at criticizing the communist regime. Due to some of the extreme examples depicted — things like fake factories designed to trick people into thinking industry was strong, and elections held at gunpoint — Herge would later call the story “a transgression of my youth.” (Ironically, historians would later note that his depictions were pretty accurate to how terrible living conditions in Russia actually were at the time.) Regardless, Herge kept Tintin in the Land of the Soviets off shelves for years, only relenting when bootleg copies began flooding the market, because you might as well get paid, right? Even then, he would only allow the original, crude black and white strip to be reprinted, without any colorization or updating. Although we’ll be mighty disappointed if some fanboy isn’t working on that even as we speak.

4) Nikolai Gogol, Dead Souls II and III


These days a guy named Nikolai Gogol could only be a Russian mobster or a video game boss (and really, “Dead Souls” sounds exactly like a first-person shooter), but 150 years ago it was also an acceptable writer’s name. In fact, Gogol was one of Russia’s most influential authors, going on to inspire the only two other Russian writers you’ve ever heard of, Nabokov and Dostoyevsky. He was already famous when he penned his masterpiece Dead Souls, a modern updating of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Despite being hailed as his greatest work, Gogol saw it as “a pale introduction to the great epic poem which is taking shape in my mind and will finally solve the riddle of my existence.” He intended to write a complete trilogy that would prompt social reform and actually save Russia from itself, because writers like melodrama.

So what happened? Zealotry, plain and simple. While working on the sequel, Gogol came under the sway of Matvey Konstantinovsky, a fanatical priest who convinced him that his creative work was an abomination to the Lord. Thus, on the evening of February 24, 1852, Gogol burned the nearly complete manuscript of Dead Souls II and any notes he’d made for the third volume; only a few scraps escaped the flames. He then immediately ceased eating and died nine days later, proving that you don’t have to be mentally unbalanced to destroy your life’s work, but it helps.

3) Mark Twain, 1601


You may be wondering what Mark Twain, a man known for holding absolutely nothing sacred, could possibly have written that he would want to bury. A story about incest? A cookbook for human flesh? The reality is almost disappointing: a bunch of fart and sex jokes. 1601: Conversation, as it was by the Social Fireside, in the Time of the Tudors is a pastiche Twain wrote to try his hand at archaic writing and to skewer those who believed the Elizabethan era to have been a time of strict propriety. It chronicles a fictional fireside chat between Queen Elizabeth, several noblewomen, Shakespeare, Sir Walter Raleigh, and others. To give you an idea of what we’re dealing with, here’s a sample line: “In ye heat of ye talk it befel yt one did breake wind, yielding an exceding mightie and distresfull stink, whereat all did laugh full sore.”

Okay, so not his most mature story, but why publish it anonymously and wait 26 years before acknowledging authorship? At one point Twain was apparently proud of 1601, writing to a friend “…for between you and me the thing was dreadfully funny. I don’t often write anything that I laugh at myself, but I can hardly think of that thing without laughing.” (Of course, years later he would say “if there is a decent word findable in it, it is because I overlooked it,” so take your pick.) Written in between his two best-known works, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, it’s likely Twain didn’t want potential bad press over a relatively minor story to cast a negative light on his recent and upcoming masterpieces. Probably smart, since 1601 was considered unprintable by mainstream publishers from 1880 all the way until the early 1960s, when Elizabethans making jokes about pubic hair became more socially acceptable.

2) William Powell, The Anarchist Cookbook


If you fall anywhere on the spectrum between “a little wild in my youth” to “currently stockpiling munitions in my private bunker,” you’re familiar with the 1970 book The Anarchist Cookbook, a veritable how-to guide on everything from mixing explosives to concealing drugs. Though many of the explosives recipes were later found to be inaccurate (some dangerously so), it maintains a cult appeal and continues to sell well to this day… much to the chagrin of its author, William Powell.

You see, Powell wrote the book at age 19, angry at the prospect of being drafted to fight in Vietnam and looking to lash out at The Man. And just as no one has ever looked back at their teenage self and thought “I was a clear, rational person whose actions still make sense to me today,” Powell — now a father and a teacher — would like nothing more than for his infamous book to go away forever. As he writes in the review where he begs people not to buy it, “The central idea to the book was that violence is an acceptable means to bring about political change. I no longer agree with this.” Unfortunately for Powell, he doesn’t own the rights, so the most he can do is give interviews and raise awareness about that thing he wants everyone to forget. And you thought you felt bad about all those mailboxes you smashed.

1) Franz Kafka, everything he ever wrote


If you ever lamented having to read The Metamorphosis in high school, bite your tongue — it could’ve been much, much worse. Kafka, considered one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, was ruthlessly self-critical and is estimated to have burned an unbelievable ninety percent of everything he ever wrote. Not content with making future scholars weep, on his deathbed Kafka asked his friend Max Brod to destroy all of his remaining writings. Thankfully, Brod interpreted this as “do the exact opposite of what I just asked,” publishing several of his friend’s books in the ensuing decade and even smuggling a briefcase full of Kafka’s papers on the last train out of Prague before the Nazis closed the border.

Amazingly, that’s not even the end of the story, as the remaining writings and sketches passed on to Brod’s secretary and in turn to her daughters, who are currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the Nation of Israel. You know, over ownership of 100-year-old papers that were supposed to be incinerated in the first place. Meanwhile, Kafka’s lover kept another 20 of his notebooks safe until they were seized by the Gestapo in 1933. There’s an ongoing volunteer project dedicated to searching WW2-era documents to try to find the notebooks if they still exist. Which just goes to show one thing: if you really want your work destroyed, toss it in the flames yourself.

Writers Disowning Work

– “I was taken out of context”