Pseudonyms

Did you know there is no Agatha Christie? Mary Westmacott is the real person.

Since ancient times, authors have concealed their true identities behind fictitious bylines by utilising pseudonyms. When their personal name would not have been regarded seriously at the time, some people want their work to be. For them, it is a matter of stigma. Others picked a nom de plume because they yearned to break out of the mould and adopt a new character because their writings were categorised or assigned to a particular genre.

Every tale relating to the decision and utilisation of a pen name is fascinating, even if there are numerous reasons why an author could adopt a name that is different from their own. Although the majority of these aliases are already well-known, there are still plenty that will surprise or interest you to learn.

Agatha Christie is well-known and adored for her unmistakable ability to craft intriguing mystery tales with a twist and a cast of well-known characters, including Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple.

But Agatha Christie chose to work under a pen name while she was a well-known mystery writer for a very straightforward reason. She intended to produce books about other topics, but she was aware that her admirers would always want her to write mysteries. Since Christie only published six books under the name Mary Westmacott, she had the opportunity to delve deeply into the field of human psychology, which is something that conventional Christie fans might not have anticipated from her own-name stories.

The pseudonym itself was picked with care. Agatha’s middle name was Mary, and the Westmacott surname was a common one. Surprisingly, it took close to 20 years for admirers to realise that Mary Westmacott and Agatha Christie were related. We have a lot more regard for what a skilled writer she was now that we know that these vivid and intuitive novels were written by the same person who wrote the Poirot volumes.

Here’s a list of authors who wrote under alias. Let’s talk about the stories behind their pseudonyms. Feel free to add to the list –

  1. Robert Galbraith – J.K. Rowling
  2. Mrs. Silence Dogood – Benjamin Franklin
  3. James Tiptree, Jr. – Alice Bradley Sheldon
  4. Flora Fairfield – Louisa May Alcott

The greatest writing pseudonym of all time is William Shakespeare. Although it would take an entire blog to write just a intro about him.

Interesting stories behind some popular Idioms

I must accept, I did not study as much in my school time as I do now when I sit with my kids. At that age, study was only about somehow mugging up syllabus and get good marks. The study pattern was also not that inclusive of going deep inot the subject. Coming straight to the point, I came across some idioms from my daughter’s textbook and it was then when I looked for how these idioms have centuries old tales to tell.

By definition, an idiom is a statement that cannot be comprehended literally; instead, you must understand its meaning, which rarely, if ever, seems to have any logical relationship to the exact words employed. After all, how precisely does “raining cats and dogs” logically translate to “it’s raining pretty hard”? There isn’t.

There is no clear written history benhind this one but I did find some interesting backstories to few idioms. Feel free to comment if you have something to add to these or to the ‘raining cats & dogs’

1. Take a Rain Check

Believe it or not, the phrase has its roots in athletics, notably baseball in the 1870s. Back then, the relevant teams would reissue tickets for the postponed game if a baseball game was rained out. Rain checks are the names given to these tickets. By the 1890s, the expression had started to be used less literally, leading to the eventual outcome that we today use take a rain check in a variety of scenarios that have absolutely nothing to do with baseball.

2. Pardon My French

Another extremely popular phrase that really doesn’t make any sense objectively is “pardon my French.” This expression is typically used in conjunction with a “Oh, pardon my French” comment after someone curses. Naturally, whatever was just said was probably not said in French; it was probably just spoken in plain old English. Why then should one be sorry for their French? Because the original speaker of the statement was actually speaking French at the time. It seems that throughout the 1800s, it was normal for educated people to smuggle in a few French phrases. However, those with less education would have only been able to speak English, thus they would not have understood a word that was being spoken. The expression became more common as a result. Nobody appears to know exactly how we transitioned from saying “Pardon my French” when speaking in true French to saying it when swearing.

3. Saved by the Bell

In contrast to the previous idioms, there are a few distinct theories as to how this one came into use. The phrase “saved by the bell” is said to have its origins in the 18th century. There was a lot of worry about the prospect that someone would be mistaken for dead and end up being buried alive at this time. As a result, a mechanism was created to address this issue (which, by all accounts, may have had some basis in reality). With this method, a string was tied to the finger of the supposed victim and the other end was attached to a bell placed outside the coffin. Then a guard was posted nearby. The concept was that, should it turn out that the deceased was not quite as dead as everyone thought, they could still be able to move, which would sound the bell and warn the guard. Even while this is an intriguing story, there is a notable absence of supporting evidence.

4. Bury the Hatchet

Bury the hatchet is a traditional Native American practise. The chiefs of two rival tribes would actually bury two battle axes as part of a peace ceremony. Since all of the testimonies we have are from colonists, it is possible that this custom is even older than the earliest documents, which date back to the late 1600s. The oldest Iroquois mythology, which describes how the Five Nations united and marked the new peace by burying their weapons under a tree, is the closest thing we have to a Native American narrative. They picked a tree, though, that grew above an underground river, and as a result, the weapons were washed away. However, it is unclear how old this tale is. In any case, the phrase, which was initially only employed in relation to this ritual, gradually spread to other contexts.

5. God Bless You

Similar to the expression “saved by the bell,” there are several alternative origin stories for the expression “bless you.” According to one version of the legend, sneezing somehow exposed you to attacks from bad spirits. Therefore, you were essentially attempting to shield the individual who sneezed by blessing them. According to a different legend, the ban was instituted by Pope Gregory I amid a bubonic plague outbreak, which sneezing was one of the symptoms of. The pope rather understandably felt that, given the mortality rates associated with the bubonic plague, any chance for extra divine help was not to be passed over, and therefore encouraged the practice of blessing people when they sneezed. Yet another story contends that the custom evolved in response to a pervasive belief that the heart briefly stops when you sneeze. According to this story, the reason you bless someone is either to congratulate them on surviving the sneeze or to enable their survival in the first place. So which story is true? Uh. Well. We…don’t actually know.

Bonus :

A Shot of Whiskey – A drink of whiskey and a.45 calibre cartridge for a six-gun cost 12 cents each in the old west. Cowhands would frequently give the bartender a cartridge in exchange for a drink if they were short on cash. A “shot” of whiskey was later coined for this.

 

To read

To read in bed is to draw around us invisible, noiseless curtains. Then at least we in a room of our own and are ready to burrow back ; back to that private life of the imagination we all led as a child and to those satisfactions so many of us have mislaid the key – Clifton Fladiman

While talking to my kids about how we used to read comic books all summer, so many memories popped into my mind and I couldn’t help from chuckling out loud remembering those fun days of innocence. In those times, a comic book for a day was a favorite pass time. Me & my brother would get two books per day, read one by one and bond talking over their interesting stories. Chacha Chaudhary, Pinki, Billu, Shikari Shambhu, Motu Patlu, Adventures of Tintin and various other super hero comic books were somehow building up our vocabulary as well as smartness. We also used to enact some of the scenes. Young minds and nothing else to do, what else can you expect.

Cartoons on TV have totally taken over the habit of reading in young kids. Though I do encourage my kids to read but with easy visual medium and easy availability, they are more attracted towards TV than books. What I want to say through my opening lines is that in my opinion, reading any kind of books not only is good for entertainment, they introduce you to new words, it makes your brain imagine the character yourself. In those moments of reading, you enjoy your solitude. You learn to be alone and be happy within yourself.

I had read somewhere that books let you fight dragons, meet the love of your life, travel to faraway lands and laugh alongside friends, all within their pages. They are an escape that brings you home. Books take you to the places no passport can take you and the areas no one knows about. Reading takes us to places when we have to stay where we are. And these places are all unique to each reader. That’s why they say that start reading and be forever free.

The more you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you will go – Dr Seuss

close up of pictures

What a memory!

Life’s changes come in all shapes and sizes. Change could be simply organising your cupboards, changing the layout of your living room or change in your career, moving away from home and so on. These are all the changes we go through consciously and with lot of thoughts put in. However as one grows older, change in viewpoint/likings comes silently and you do not realize until confronted on the subject.

I experienced this firsthand few days ago when I decided to show my kids blockbuster movie of the times when I was younger. My kids are big time fans of BTS (the biggest boy band of the world). While they keep listening to their music all the time, my TV time was reduced mostly to Kpop as they hardly let me touch the remote. So this was a good excuse to take control in my hand and reminisce my old times.

Amongst the available options of movies on digital platform , we chose “Raja Hindustani”. I remember the songs of this movie were a rage. There was not a single bus, taxi or restaurants where ‘Pardesi Pardesi’ song was not blaring. The cinemas were house full and Karishma Kapoor was highly praised for her straight hair look and pairing opposite Amir Khan. We had to wait a whole week to finally get tickets and we were quite thrilled to watch it in hall jam packed with people whistling. For me at that time, Raja Hindustani was a paisa wasool movie.

Cut to the present….the movie starts and we see that pretty & rich damsel Karishma along with her two servants/confidants visits Palankhet (an imaginary town) and comes across an illiterate Taxi driver. His antics impress her and she eventually falls for him head over heals. Believe me people, the movie is so cringeworthy in first half that I was afraid to turn my face towards my kids who were equally disgusted. A full grown woman talking and acting like a child was just not at all attractive. Even my eleven year old is more matured than her. There is a scene where Amir khan tries to impress her by putting face powder in abundance and dance and sing….she laughs and he feels humiliated. Obviously one would laugh if you act like joker. But no, in this movie, Karishma kapoor goes and says sorry and they share a passionate kiss. She comes back home all hyped up and bumps into her father who has come to take her back. Ladies and gentleman, she chooses to leave. Okay, fair enough, after all summer flings do happen. Highlight is that this taxi driver only goes to drop them at the airport. No communication between the pair as to why…how ..now what…nothing.

They stop at a midway sort of place where some people are singing and dancing. Here comes our much anticipated song “Pardesi Pardesi jana nahi”. A beautiful girl starts singing and dancing passionately. Clearly dance isn’t her forte. Nonetheless, she sings exactly what the hero wants to convey at this point in time in the movie. Our hero starts singing too and going by the lyrics, he literally curses the heroine that she wont be able to sleep if she goes and will suffer a lot. Another lady with make up from hell, gets up drinks half a litre of alcohol, breaks the bottle and starts dancing absurdly.

The situation is tensed and supremely weird. Hero is sobbing and so is heroine with her goggles on, bottles are breaking and the father of the heroine has no clue whatsoever. He smiles occasionally.

Now I don’t know whether the curses shook the heroine or it was just that ridiculous dance which forces her to go and give our hero a tight hug and put a stop to this madness. At this point the father’s expressions are priceless. The song is finally over and along with it our desire to watch the movie any further.

Experience the song here yourself 😊 : https://youtu.be/i9lB-am_hyY

Little did I sensed that my memory was about an experience and not a movie per se. If this movie was to be released now, it would have met the same fate of Radhe. With time my likings and interests have changed too. Still, I will keep this song in my happy memories. The melody is no doubt super. I feel nostalgic listening to old songs, but my taste has changed surely. Me and my kids had a hearty laugh talking about the movie and proceeded to watch new release of a kpop group.


Continue reading “What a memory!”
person standing using red umbrella

Ramblings on a rainy day

It has been raining incessantly since last night. Can’t help but write these brilliant lines by Robert Frost

“The rain to the wind said,
You push and I’ll pelt.’
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged–though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.”

Sitting in a high rise, sipping on a cup of hot coffee, one can only romanticize the idea of raindrops falling on pretty flowers in the balcony. The reality is harsher. I look down on the “Kachcha” (mud) houses behind our complex and they are totally submerged under water. How do they see this rain. Surely not the same as me. Such is life.