Word of the Week: Mirth

Word: mirth

Pronunciation: mərth

Part of Speech: noun

Definition: amusement, especially as expressed in laughter

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

The holiday season is in full swing once again, so what better vocabulary word to learn today than one related to joy? As fiction writers, we should always be equipped with a full arsenal of emotional words, but when our stories are set in happy times with plenty of amusement to go around, words like “laughter” and “cheerful” can become overused. It never hurts to know more positive and simple vocabulary, so instead of having your characters “laugh with joy” or “giggle with amusement”, why not sum up their excitement with a word like “mirth”?

“Mirth” is an expression of amusement, especially through laughter. The word comes from the Old English noun myrgth “mirth” and is Germanic in origin. This noun derives from the adjective mirige, meaning “pleasant” or “enjoyable”.

The word “mirth” shares its origin with the word “merry”, which also derives from the Old English adjective mirige. On the happiness spectrum, “mirth” generally refers to joy or amusement as expressed through laughter, as does its adjective form “mirthful”, so these may be good substitutes to turn to if you find yourself overusing the verb “laugh” and its synonyms. If you write jolly characters who often express their amusement out loud, “mirth” is a great word to include in your stories!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

Yuletide Eve

My family and I decorate the tree with colored lights.

Outside, the snow falls as carolers sing sweet music.

Come evening, we enjoy a delicious meal together.

Then we all gather around the tree.

We spend the night exchanging gifts.

At midnight, the bells ring.

I grin with joy.

The holiday’s here!

My favorite!


This piece is based on What If? Exercise 93: “Ten to One”. The exercise is to write a 55-word story in which the first sentence has ten words, the second has nine, etc., until the last sentence has only one word. The objective is to show that precision and thrift in writing can produce surprisingly powerful results. I hope you enjoy what I’ve written. Thanks for reading!

My Reading Goals: Books I’ve Read in 2017

As we reach the end of 2017, it’s a good time to look back on our achievements over the past year. Back in January, I set another goal to read 10 books for the Goodreads Reading Challenge, and though I’m still technically working on it, I’m optimistic about reaching my goal again!

So following two January posts on the ten books I wanted to read this year and a midyear progress report in July, here’s my final report on my reading challenge goals for 2017. Enjoy!

2017 Reading Goal: 10 books

Total books read in 2017: 8 books (80%)

Books I planned to read this year and did

  1. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
  2. A Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin
  3. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
  4. 1984, by George Orwell

Books I planned to read this year but didn’t

  1. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
  2. The Martian, by Andy Weir
  3. Shogun, by James Clavell
  4. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
  5. StarTalk, by Neil deGrasse Tyson

Books I read this year but didn’t plan to

  1. I Am Pusheen the Cat, by Claire Belton
  2. High Performance Paperback, by Ray Brehm and Jim Molinelli
  3. You Are A Writer, by Jeff Goins
  4. The Adventure, by Jennifer M Zeiger

Books I’m still reading

  1. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
  2. Creating Character Arcs, by K.M. Weiland
  3. The Business of Writing & Editing, by Sagan Morrow

And last but not least…

My Favorite Book of the Year: 1984, by George Orwell

What about you? Did you set any reading goals this year? Were you able to meet them? What were your favorite books of the year?

Word of the Week: Sententious

Word: sententious

Pronunciation: sen-TEN-(t)shəs

Part of Speech: adjective

Definition: given to moralizing in a pompous or affected manner

Source: Oxford Dictionaries

“Thoughtcrime is a dreadful thing, old man,” he said sententiously.
1984, George Orwell (1949)

If it isn’t already obvious by the first word in the given example, I learned today’s Word of the Week from George Orwell’s famous novel 1984. The above excerpt is from a conversation between Winston, the Party-hating protagonist, and Parsons, his Party-loving neighbor. Without going into too much detail about why they’re discussing thoughtcrime, this line shows the latter is only too eager to call it out as the worst thing that can happen to a person. He may be dull, but given his extreme loyalty to the Party, it only makes sense that Parsons would be so “sententious” about this subject!

A “sententious” act is one that moralizes in an affected or pompous way. The word arose in late Middle English and comes from the Latin adjective sententiosus, which derives from the noun sententia, meaning “opinion”. This noun stems from the verb sentire, which means “to feel”.

Interestingly, the original definition of “sententious” was “full of meaning or wisdom”, but this meaning eventually became obsolete and the word since took on a depreciatory sense. To a lesser extent, “sententious” can also be used as a synonym for “pithy” or “concise”, though it’s unclear how common this use is. If your characters often moralize issues in a pompous or self-important way, “sententious” may be a good word to use in your stories!

What are your thoughts on this word? Any suggestions for future “Word of the Week” featured words?

First Snow

I had never seen anything like it before.

It was soft and fluffy, like a white blanket that covered the space where the yard used to be. But it was wet and cold to the touch, not like any blanket I’d ever slept on. In the nine months I’d been living here, it was the strangest thing I’d ever seen.

I wasn’t sure if I liked it.

The kids and the dog were the next to come outside. Unlike me, they weren’t afraid to run out into the white stuff. In fact, they seemed to love it, like they’d been waiting all year for it. They all looked better prepared than I was: the kids wore thick clothes that covered them from head to toe, and even the dog had a sort of long blanket around his neck.

Mom and Dad followed the kids out into the yard a few minutes later, also covered in strange thick clothes. How did everyone else know this cold fluff was coming today? I watched as they packed the white stuff into balls and threw them at each other. How strange. I know I would hate that, so why did they look like they enjoyed it so much?

I’m not proud to admit that watching them all play in the yard made me a little curious. What was it about the cold, wet fluff that made it so fun? I was curious to know why the kids loved it, and I was intrigued to see Mom and Dad playing in it like they were children too.

But it was the sight of them all playing with the dog that made me jealous. Why should Buddy get all the attention while I was stuck on the porch like a common house pet? I could have fun outside too! Right?

Cautiously, I took another step off the porch. The cold shot through my paw and up my leg, but I shook it off and took another few steps until I was standing completely in the white stuff. I was already starting to regret my decision; my paws were freezing and my fur was damp. But I couldn’t stop now. Or could I?

I glanced between my family and the porch, wondering what to do next. Just then, I heard a whistling sound coming from the yard. I turned and froze at the sight: a great white ball was flying toward me!

I dove out of the way a split second in time. The ball missed me, crashing into the tree behind me instead. I jumped to my feet and shook the white stuff off my fur, licking my paws clean of their cold touch. That was a close call. Or so I thought.

Another whistling sound over my head made me look up. More of the fluff was falling toward me, dislodged from the branches above. This time I wasn’t so lucky.

What happened next happened so fast that I barely had time to react. I remember I was suddenly very cold and very wet, surrounded by nothing but white. The next thing I knew, I was being scooped out of the pile into Dad’s arms. They rushed me into the house and I sat shivering on the table as Mom warmed me up with blankets and a blowdryer (it was loud and scary, but at least it got my fur warm and dry again). I glared at the dog as he stared at me with those innocent yet mocking eyes. As the kids watched, one of them laughed and made a comment to the other.

“Maybe we shouldn’t let Buttercup out in the snow anymore.”

That was my very first winter, three years ago. Since then, every year when the weather gets cold and the yard turns white, I’ve kept my paws dry and curled up to watch my family from the warmth of the porch. This fluffy white stuff they call “snow” is not for me.

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