This post was supposed to be about something, instead, it’s about another. I was going to write up how to do anthologies, as with a few under my belt in the last couple of years, I could do that. Instead, I want to talk about cotton wool. If you’d like to hear a panel discussion on anthologies, by three Indie publishers, slide on over to the Old NFO channel on Thursday Sept 8 at 3 pm central time.
Now, onto the wool. I mean the stuff between my ears today. It’s been a challenging couple of days, and frankly at this time I’d hoped to have been on the road to see friends and pick up some bookshelves. However, the truck is kicking up a fuss, so that’s been postponed. And…
And did you know that cotton plants have pretty flowers?
The area I live in, North Texas, has many cotton fields, and they continue up into southern Oklahoma, too. It took me a little while to identify what that crop was, having only seen the fields as I zipped past at a high rate of speed, but it shouldn’t have surprised me too much – cotton is a good commodity crop, it just doesn’t grow as far north as I have spent most of my life.
So why cotton wool? Why not wool, when we talk about that fuzzy feeling you get after being very tired, consuming an adult beverage, sleeping hard, and waking up earlier than you wanted to? And how about the phrase wool-gathering? Which has fallen out of use, I know, due to the origin being obscured through breeding wool sheep that don’t shed. Yes, sheep used to shed (and some still do) and wool-gathering was indeed a thing, wandering around picking the tufts off bushes where the itchy sheep, hot in their heavy winter coats, had scratched it off. This was a job tended to by children or the simple-minded, and that’s the origin of a term intended to indicate the wandering mind was off somewhere, not attending to the task at hand.
Cotton wool has a different feel to it. Wool can be soft, or coarse, depending on the breed of sheep and other variables. Wool is usually unctuous with lanolin, and if you handle it, your hands will be soft and supple. Cotton on the other hand imparts no oils, the fibers are consistent, and the tiny strands will catch the skin cells on the outer layer of your epidermis, giving it that characteristic almost harsh feel of microfibers tugging against your skin when you handle raw cotton (good cotton balls should be made of this, for a modern comparison). A head full of cotton wool isn’t really a comfortable place to be.
My son and I had a conversation yesterday about slang. He’s 17, and wouldn’t use (or possibly even understand) either of the phrases I started out with. The discussion began over my asking him about his sister’s comment on a photo I’d put in the family Discord (ironic – the word that means conflict is how we keep in touch and connect with silly memes and sometimes
Dad Mom jokes).
“What does pog mean, anyway?”
“It’s complicated. It’s a reference from a video game that references a game from the nineties…”
“Wait, it really did refer to pogs? The little round playing pieces made out of cardboard? I didn’t think it did, you kids never even saw those!”
So my daughter’s short, approving comment on a photo I’d shared of the Boy taking me to Dunks (Dunkin’ Donuts, for those not conversant in New Englander), led to my explaining fluffy yeet cows to him, and the two of us talking about how slang terms crop up, sometimes make it into the popular lexicon, and sometimes just fade back into obscurity. Language does that. Since he’s still feeling his way in the world, that conversation also morphed to a point where I explained to him the origins and etymology of the word fascism. Complete with ancient Roman history through Mussolini to a certain unfortunate speech in the last week. Despite the media efforts to twist the word into the boogeyman they want it to be, it means… well, pretty much the opposite of what they want to use it for. I’m glad my kid is willing to listen and weigh the history against the present. Sadly, I know that most are willing to be ignorant. Happy to be.
Ahem. Stepping off the soap box now. I swear, that thing just sneaks up on you and suddenly there’s a small scuffle of little feet and pop! It’s right under you and you’ve veered off onto a passionate tangent while it bounces slightly in excitement.
Anyhow, I’m going to go drink more coffee to dissolve the cotton wool and then spread some mulch on my new garden before taking the laptop on the port to write some… checks deadlines… alchemists with ghost cats on Malta.
(Header image: Potager Garden by Cedar Sanderson)