Monday, November 3, 2014

The circular mind that is Wendy OR a harbinger of things to come...

November has come in like a lion, so I fully expect it to go out like, well, a lion, since that's what winter tends to do around here.  I would be lying if I told you that I don't look with great envy at the blogs of my Southern Hemisphere pals like Heidi and Ruth, traipsing around in sandals and garden-hopping.  sigh...  This snow won't stay, but it is a harbinger of things to come.

Hmm - am feeling obsessive these days about the origins of words and of course I know what a harbinger is, but for the life of me could not have told you its origin.  Well here 'tis:

Word Origin and History for harbinger
late 15c., herbengar "one sent ahead to arrange lodgings" (for a monarch,an army, etc.), alteration of Middle English herberger "provider of shelter,innkeeper" (late 12c.), from Old French herbergeorfrom herbergier"provide lodging," from herber "lodging, shelter," from Frankish *heriberga"lodging, inn" (cf. Old Saxon, Old High German heriberga "army shelter,"from heri "army" + berga "shelter"); see harborSense of "forerunner" ismid-16c. Intrusive -n- is 15c. (see messenger ). As a verb, from 1640s (harbinge "to lodge" is late 15c.).
Of course, this is from, so I anticipate rebuttals from the historians and linguists in the house.

Did you know Barry is trained as a linguist?  Yes, prior to his career in policing he gained his BA in English with a specialization in linguistics.

Furthermore, did you know that his birthday is on the 15th and that he has ordered me to order this for him for his birthday, since he is an arbiter of good taste?

I was thinking of the word arbiter the other day and for good reason as I am reading Dickie Arbiter's new book:

I've always had a soft spot for Dickie, since for North Americans, he is the 'go-to', along with Andrew Morton and Ingrid Seward, to explain all things Royal to we in the colonies.  I always like his no nonsense approach to things and so when I saw this book, I downloaded it right away and have been making my way through it.  Arbiter deftly weaves his experience as press secretary for Buckingham Palace with his own colourful life, which begins as an orphaned German Jew and moves on to Rhodesia.  People do lead colourful lives and this bloke seems to have landed in the right place at the right time, although not without some nasty bumps and experiences along the way.

Of course as soon as I started reading the book I became obsessed with where the word Arbiter came from:

late 14c., from Old French arbitre or directly from Latin arbiter "one whogoes somewhere (as witness or judge)," in classical Latin used of spectatorsand eye-witnesses, in law, "he who hears and decides a case, a judge,umpire, mediator;" from ad- "to" (see ad- ) + baetere "to come, go." Thespecific sense of "one chosen by two disputing parties to decide the matter"is from 1540s. The earliest form of the word attested in English is the fem.noun arbitress (mid-14c.) "a woman who settles disputes."

One of the most interesting facts in the book, aside from the Royalty stories, is that he legally changed his name from Richard Winston Arbiter to Dickie Arbiter, and long before he became famous.  Dickie is an unusual name, from a North American perspective, perhaps best known when used derisively for this gentleman:

And speaking of Tricky Dicky, I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to acknowledge the death of Ben Bradlee a couple of weeks ago.

Bradlee was a giant in journalism and no doubt the reason that countless young people flocked to the profession in the 1970s and 1980s.

As Editor of the Washington Post, and the guide for Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward's investigative journalism of the Watergate scandal, Ben Bradlee was a shining light of integrity - pushing his staff to get the fact straights through sufficient corroboration of sources.

I can remember reading All the President's Men in the mid to late 1970s.  I admit to being an uber-geek around this sort of thing, and having spent a summer watching a good bit of the Watergate testimony in 1973, reading the behind-the-scenes accounts of how the two reporters pieced the story together and how it brought down a government, was riveting.  At one point in my life, I was desperate to be a journalist, but I suspect I would have spent my entire career relegated to reading the weather or covering You Tube videos...

Most of you no doubt know that Ben Bradlee and his wife Sally Quinn bought the run down Grey Gardens and restored it to its former glory after Big Edie died.

Grey Gardens House

Hard to imagine that this


Became this once more

cc98ef27b981ff79_05_grey_gardens (1).jpg

We take our delights in life where we can, and Ben and Sally obviously loved restoring and living in this fine jewel.

And speaking of delights, one of my, and Barry's, great delights while travelling is listening to Car Talk on NPR Radio.  The show began 37 years ago, but we only discovered it 15 or so years ago.

The Peabody Award winning show has been in reruns for the past few years after the hosts, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, retired.  Sure they were talking about cars, but mostly they were joking and cracking wise and spreading their love for all things vehicular with their audience.

Tom and Ray

Sadly, Tom passed away today at 77.  It is hard to imagine one of these brothers without the other, given the obvious delight they took in ribbing one another about their knowledge or lack thereof of cars when folks called in.  The Magliozzis are from Cambridge Massachusetts, a fact obvious to anyone who listens to the show.

When you listened to their show, you always felt that these were a couple of guys who really enjoyed life.  The older I get the more I love to hear people who love what they do.  So many people do not, and what a gift to just be thrilled to go do something you love.

At the end of every show, the two brothers would sign off and say "Don't drive like my brother", but I would change that now to say "Don't drive like Wendy" because yes,

I had a car accident last week.

Perhaps car accident would be too harsh a word, since in reality, whilst backing into a parking spot I scraped my neighbour.  It is amazing how much scraping your neighbour can cost.  Luckily there is insurance for when you scrape your neighbour, but insurance cannot blot out the embarrassment of scraping your neighbour to begin with, can it?  No, I can tell you unequivocally it cannot.

Insert back end and you'll just about it right...

I just hope this little scrape is not a harbinger of things to come....

You did wonder how I was going to keep this in a continual loop, didn't you?

Stay safe out there - and I mean it!  xoxo wendy


  1. oh i didn't know ben bradlee had passed away. that is so sad.

    i was glued to the tv watching the watergate hearings. which totally surprises me know b/c i have no interest in politics. but back then i was fixated.


  2. I love Car Talk; I just heard Tom died of complications from Alzheimer's disease. There is a window in Harvard Square with the lawfirm sign "Dewey Cheatham and Howe"-- makes me laugh every time I see it.

    Can Barry possibly have more talents?? This is just amazing.

    1. I always loved Dewey Cheatham and Howe! I'll have to look for that sign next time I am there!

  3. So sorry to hear about your mishap in the parking lot, Wendy! On the bright side, it's really fortunate that it was not a major crash, and that you are ok. :)

    Love the jacket that Barry is getting for his birthday...he is not only a man of many talents, but also one with very good taste.

    1. He is quite happy and at 40% off it was a good deal! love those good deals!

  4. You have been busy. Watergate was a bit before my time but I have heard Ben was quite "colorful" when he spoke. Barry's jacket will be perfect. Glad your accident was just a simple scraping.

    1. Since we are basically the same age, I am taking it that you were a normal kd versus me, heehee!

  5. A scrape is a scrape and not an accident! As long as you didn't get hurt I reckon take embarrassment over injury! Enjoy the snow bc we get the cold but none of the fun...

    1. But you have London in holiday season! A dream of mine! And you just met our darling Tabs! Another dream!

  6. Hi Wendy, sorry about your little scrape, been there, done that! I'm a bit on edge now, wondering when we'll get our first snow. We are getting the winter tires put on this weekend, just in case.

    Lovely roundabout post, well done on closing the loop!

    1. I was fortunate that I put on the snow tires early. It is all melting today, but we got about 15 cm so it's going to take a few days to leave!

  7. Funny that you should mention word usage this week. There must be something in the NB air right now. The word umbrage popped out of my mouth at a meeting the other day of its own accord. I had a moment when I wondered if I had used it correctly although the audience I was speaking to didn't likely care much. I love the sound of it so did look up the meaning when I got home. I was taking offense at one of the comments made so I did use it correctly. Whew! Too bad about your accident. I hate when that happens.

    1. I always worry when I say a word like that in public - so afraid I will bugger it up! Sounds like you held forth magnificently and perhaps was the first time some of those folks had heard the word!

  8. What a fascinating post, Wendy, and it bounces about all over the place! I love the origin of harbinger. In England the name 'Dickie' is just a diminutive of 'Richard' anyway. And how good to learn that 'Grey Gardens' was restored with love and style.
    Last but not least, take care of yourself! Metal is just metal but bones break.

  9. I loved reading about the wonderful afterlife of Grey Gardens in the NYT piece about Bradlee- such a great story that brought to the fore the loss for his family. Apparently even after all the renovation there was still a small corner that smelled of cat pee when it rained... :)

  10. oh Wendy, sorry to hear about the scrape with your neighbor. Accidents seem to happen when we have too many things going on in our mind...

  11. Glad you were ok. When I got my new car a couple of years ago I drove into my mother in my driveway, damaging both our cars. It was not my finest hour.


Kindness is a virtue...