Friday Fun Facts: Prompts from the Interwebs

by manuelfloresv
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Happy Friday, friends! This has been a hard month for the world, so here’s a few links that will hopefully provide a little cheer.

Have a great weekend!

Chicago Manual of Style Q&A | November 2015

Every month, the Chicago Manual of Style folks answer questions they’ve received. Following are a couple excerpts from the Q&A of November 2015. To read the full month’s Q&A, visit Q. How do you handle the spacing with a name that is only initials? Do you put a space between the initials or not? For example: “My friend B.J. is an awesome skater.” Or “My friend B. J. is an awesome skater.”

linked here A. Chicago style for initials that are used as a name is to take out the periods and close up the letters: BJ. Please see CMOS 8.4.

Q. Many of our news blurbs contain conference and presentation titles. Folks here, including the head of the organization, insist on constructing sentences with titles thus: “He gave a presentation on ‘Planetary Boundaries and Peacebuilding’ in a parallel session of the conference.” I have explained that this must be recast, either omitting the preposition and adding commas (gave a presentation, “Planetary Boundaries”) or retaining the preposition and translating the title into lowercase (gave a presentation on planetary boundaries and peacebuilding). But everyone here ignores my suggestion. My understanding is that it is a non-negotiable grammatical error, but the error is so widespread, at least in science circles, that I’m beginning to wonder now if it is permissible in other style guides. Is there anything you can tell me to bolster my case?

A. There are some nonnegotiable grammar errors, but this is probably not one of them. The rule (CMOS 8.172) was made to prevent misunderstanding. For instance, in your original sentence, it’s not clear whether the presenter was speaking about a published article titled “Planetary Boundaries and Peacebuilding” or whether that was the title of his own talk. Much of the time, readers will know what you mean whichever way you style it. When there’s a risk of ambiguity, however, it’s worth enforcing the rule.

Friday Fun Facts: Friday the 13th

friday the 13thIt’s Friday the 13th, folks! Are you worried? I typically don’t put much stock in the superstition, but as I’m sitting here in the car shop getting my brakes fixed, I’m starting to wonder.

No one knows just where this superstition originated, though there are a few links to literature that may be responsible for keeping the curse alive:

  • Friday the Thirteenth is a novel by once Wall Street big shot Thomas W. Lawson, published in 1907. In the story, a financier picks Friday the 13th to be the day he will start a stock market panic and bring down Wall Street. Oddly enough, in real life, Lawson’s seven-masted schooner wrecked on Friday the 13th.
  • The “unlucky thirteen” may have started with Norse myth when Loki, the murderer of the god of light, is the thirteenth guest to arrive at a dinner of the gods, after which the murder takes place and the world is plunged into darkness. Unlucky, indeed!
  • In The Da Vinci Code, published in 2003, Dan Brown explored the idea that the origins of Friday the 13th are connected to the arrest of the Knights of Templar on Friday, October 13, 1307.

Do you have any Friday the 13th stories? If so, we’d love to hear them!


Sources: Friday the 13th: The Evolution of a Superstition, and Wikipedia: Thomas W. Lawson.

Writing and War

Great Uncle George in uniform with his father
Great Uncle George in uniform with his father

Since Wednesday is Veterans Day, we want to remember those who have bravely served our country. Sometimes writing about war experiences helps veterans better understand what they went through. For instance, Rachel’s great uncle George Hatcher (who turned ninety-five this year!) served during World War II. His plane, the poetically named Delayed Lady, was shot down over Germany, and he was captured and held as a prisoner of war at Stalag Luft IV. He wrote a little pamphlet about his experiences, and it has become not only family lore but also a story held dear by his entire community. As it so happened, nine men from the tiny town of Erwin, Tennessee, were held at that prisoner of war camp. His captors believed Erwin was a large city because so many young men called it home. They are now known as the Erwin Nine.

Many of the authors we know and love have also served their countries in times of war. Not all wrote about it, but the experience surely helped define who they became.

Here, we celebrate just a few of these authors and their service.

    Troops of the 4th Infantry move off the Utah Beachhead on D-Day

    J.D. Salinger served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He was in one of the early waves of men who came ashore on D-Day and fought throughout France, Belgium, and Germany. He witnessed such historical moments as the Battle of the Bulge and the liberation of a concentration camp. It’s rumored that he had six chapters of The Catcher in the Rye in his pocket as he stormed the shores of Utah Beach.

  • C.S. Lewis served in the British Army during World War I. He fought in the trenches in Northern France and was badly wounded by shrapnel in 1918. His book Mere Christianity was originally a series of BBC radio broadcasts—one purpose of which was to provide hope in a very dark time. A single reel of audio from this series still exists. Listen to it here.
  • Kurt Vonnegut also served in the U.S. Army during World War II. Like Salinger, he participated in the Battle of the Bulge, but Vonnegut ended up a prisoner of war during that battle. He was imprisoned in Dresden and witnessed the firebombing of that city. He and several other men survived the destruction by taking shelter in an underground German meat locker named the Slaughterhouse Five.
  • Though not technically a veteran, Edith Wharton was a U.S. war correspondent in Paris during World War II. She also helped refugees displaced by the war. She documents this experience in Fighting France: From Dunkerque to Belport
  • Roald Dahl was a British fighter pilot during World War II. A defining moment in his life was when he was shot down over the Libyan desert. The crash left him with head injuries that caused headaches the rest of this life. One bright side of this horrific incident was that he wrote a short story about it: “Shot Down Over Libya.” This piece was so well received that he continued writing, and the world was graced with many more fantastical, amazing stories.

Thank you, veterans, for your service and your bravery.

Sources: Dashboard Citizen, The Airship, The Saturday Evening Post

Friday Fun Facts #9

559143_602284835083_291886449_nRachel’s most awkward moment happened in the Seattle Westin. She was fifteen, and was following a tour guide—Marco—out to the parking lot. (Said tour guide was the hottest man she’d seen to date.) Rachel, busy gawking, failed to recognize that the twelve-foot sliding glass doors had shut behind him and had not reopened for her due to her lack of height. She ran smack into these heavy doors, knocking them off track. The valet crew fell to the sidewalk laughing. Fortunately Marco did not notice.

Lesley’s most awkward moment happened at Walt Disney World when she was a tween. She and her sister were finally at the front of the line, and Lesley felt like she was going to be sick. She grabbed her sister and ran toward a trash can. She did not, in fact, get sick. Instead she fainted, and with the forward momentum she had going, it looked to passersby as though she dove into the trash can. Her grandfather tucked one leg under each arm and tried to pull her back out. Her sister sat down on a bench next to a stranger to watch the show, pretending she was not at all related to the scene.

Politics in Prose

It’s Election Day, folks! Have you voted yet? We hope so.

Politics, as we’ve seen already this election season, can be quite dramatic. There are impassioned speeches, name calling, and critical issues on the line. After all, politics affects everyone—rich or poor, man or woman, adult or child. All of the bright hopes and dark secrets are brought to the surface for the world to judge.

The political process, and everything that entails, provides an often overlooked dramatic element for characters to become embroiled in. Here are a few books that have taken advantage of the chaos of politics.

  • In Middlemarch, George Eliot wisely uses speeches, campaigning, and newspaper editorials to move the story forward. Love set against Britain’s Reform Bill. What’s more romantic than that?
  • All the King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren, follows the story of a governor, which allows Warren to also comment on the role of politics on family and the country at large.
  • The Manchurian Candidate, by Richard Condon, uses the politics of the Cold War to create drama surrounding assassinations, brainwashing, and fear.
  • And, of course, there is Doctor Zhivago, by Boris Pasternak, which intertwines a Russian revolution with an epic love story.

Addressing politics can be a great way to introduce the issues of your fictional world while also building the tension. Use it to your advantage! And check out Flavorwire for more novels using politics.