The Copious Configurations of the Future Tense

headless_horseman_by_adamguzowski-d30oq2oWelcome, dear readers, to the fourth and final installment of my posts about verb tenses. I know I’ve been slacking off lately, but things have been a bit hectic, what with setting up Grammar Ghoul Press and dealing with a variety of other real world commitments. Continue reading

Andy MacDonald’s Deal with the Devil

Demon Lord

Andy MacDonald’s Deal with the Devil

Andy MacDonald didn’t do small-scale anything. His first car was a monster truck. His first house was a sprawling mansion. The man super-sized everything and then went back for more. His first wedding was lavish; his subsequent weddings were extravagant and ostentatious. The matching divorces were loud and protracted affairs that usually ended in court after all the sordid details had been thoroughly dragged through the papers.

So when Andy MacDonald decided to play a prank to scare his current ex-wife and her lover—who also happened to be her divorce lawyer—you better believe it was going to be big. He hired actors, rented out an old warehouse, and invested in the best special effects team in town. But as he watched them rehearse, Andy still felt like something was missing. After ranting at the crew for half an hour, Andy stormed out of the warehouse and went for a walk to cool his head. You might suspect that Andy spent a lot of time walking. You’d be right.

Out on this particular walk, Andy came across an old bookstore, tucked down a side street near the waterfront. The weather-worn sign out front read Rare Books and Other Curiosities. Andy grinned. This place would have what he was looking for. He opened the door and stepped inside.

Books lined the walls from floor to ceiling, interspersed here and there with strange knickknacks, like the collection of bird skulls in the front window or the amber-coloured bottles filled with odd shapes that sat on the counter. Andy’s grin got bigger. This place was perfect.

“Can I help you?” An ancient-looking man poked his head out from behind a stack of books.

“Yes,” said Andy. He gestured at the bird skulls and the bottles. “I’d like to purchase these. And any other odd, occult-like stuff you having lying around.”

The old man dipped his head. “Of course, sir.”

Twenty minutes later, Andy and the old man had amassed quite a collection of curiosities. Andy was impressed with how much stuff the old man had managed to jam into his tiny shop. He waited by the counter as the old man shuffled around in the back room. He’d said he had one more thing Andy might want.

The old man emerged, clutching a large, dusty, leather-bound book. He brushed the dust off with the handkerchief he kept in his pocket, then handed it to Andy. The cover was inscribed with a bunch of weird symbols. Andy had to open it to see the title.

“The Book of Lost Spells and Dark Magicks.” Andy laughed. The book was the perfect finishing touch. The archaic language of its spells would definitely add that missing piece he’d been looking for. “Yes, I’ll take this too,” he said, plunking the book on the counter beside all his other loot.

Although he had to send a car to collect the rest of his purchases, Andy decided to take the book with him. He grabbed a double espresso and found a bench on the boardwalk, where he could flip through the book while keeping an eye out for the next Mrs. Andy MacDonald frolicking in the waves.

Three nights later, the prank was ready for execution. Andy invited his new lady friend to watch from the control room while he donned his costume of silky black robes. He made a mental note to consider silk for the suit at his next wedding, planted a kiss on his future wife’s cheek, and went to take his place on the set.

He’d asked his ex and her boyfriend to meet him here, claiming he was ready to settle. He said he was thinking of converting the warehouse into an exclusive spa and was meeting with the architect, but they could come at 8:00 p.m. and just let themselves in. The cameras caught their car pull up at 7:58 p.m. Andy’s heart pounded with anticipation. This was going to be the best prank he’d ever pulled. Even better than the time he’d kidnapped his rival team’s mascot in his first year at college. That poor guy never knew what hit him. Andy chuckled to himself and pulled up his black silk hood.

When his ex and her boyfriend walked in, the pretend ritual was already underway.

“Andy?” His ex sounded scared and uncertain. Perfect.

“Seize them!” Andy commanded. On cue, four of his cloaked actors grabbed the former Mrs. Andy MacDonald and her lawyer, dragging them to the perfect vantage point, where they were tied to a metal support beam.

“You’re just in time,” Andy said. “I am about to raise hell.” He shot his ex a look. “That’ll teach you to run off with your lawyer.”

“But you cheated on me,” his ex sputtered incredulously.

“Silence!” Andy turned and waved his hands at his crew. They began to chant. Andy opened his favourite prop to the page he had marked and started to read.

“Darkest lord of darkest night, uncloak yourself before my sight.
A sacrifice of virgin tears now brings to life our darkest fears.
Feathers from the purest dove that you might join us up above.
I offer now my soul to keep in exchange for all you reap.
Darkest lord of darkest night, uncloak yourself before my sight.”

Right on cue, smoke and green flames erupted from the circle marked in the center of the room. Even Andy was impressed. Then a tall, dark figure stepped from the circle. The horns looked fantastic and the cloven hoofs in place of feet were a great touch.

The demon looked at Andy. “I have come as you commanded, human. What would you have me do?”

It was all going so well. Andy glanced over at his ex. He couldn’t decide if she looked frightened or awestruck. Maybe it was a bit of both. He wondered what the next Mrs. Andy MacDonald was thinking up in the control room. Now it was time for the climax. Andy faced his demon and opened his mouth just as the room went completely black.

When the lights flashed back on, a larger, more sinister shape stood behind Andy’s demon. It also had horns and cloven feet. And what looked like wings folded behind its back. As Andy watched in horror, the unexpected demon decapitated Andy’s demon in one effortless motion. Andy’s jaw hung open and his crew started to scream and run around in panic. This was definitely not part of the plan.

Andy looked down at the book, then back up at the demon. It had never occurred to him the book might be real.

“Puny human!” The demon’s voice thundered. “Why have you disturbed my slumber?” The demon looked at the altar, where the sacrificial items lay. It knocked them to the ground. “What sort of game do you play? Those are not virgin tears and these—” The demon pointed to the feathers now floating the air. “Are obviously from a pillow.”

“Shit,” said Andy MacDonald as the demon took a step toward him. Andy turned to run, but got caught in his silk robes and tripped. It was spectacular. Even Andy would have been impressed if he’d seen himself fall. He went head first into a metal support post, knocking himself unconscious.

When he woke up several hours later, the warehouse was empty. Sitting on top of his book of rituals were his divorce papers and a note from his ex.

Better sign these or I’ll have to unleash my demon, it said.

Andy never knew if the demon he saw that night was real, but he decided to take a break from married life then and there. Just in case.

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This is my response to this week’s Prompted challenge over at Tipsy Lit. We had to write about a joke gone wrong in under 1500 words.

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Image credit: chevsydeviantART

F is for…

blog-F

There are a lot of fabulously fun words that start with the letter F, making this post particularly challenging. In the end, I decided to include a bonus word, mostly because narrowing it down to just two was really tough!

I can’t hear my first word choice without getting The Clash song Rudie Can’t Fail stuck in my head, which makes this word a worthy choice in and of itself. However, it also happens to be a fun word to say, especially when you’re using it to describe a teenager.

Feckless (adjective)

Etymology:  First appears in the 1590s, derived from the Scottish word feck, meaning effect, vigor, efficiency. Feck is the Scottish shortened form of the word effect. Feckless was popularized by Scottish philosopher/writer Thomas Carlyle.

Definition:  Lacking initiative or strength of character; ineffective; irresponsible.

Example:  It didn’t take Moira long to figure out that her daughter’s boyfriend Alastair was lazy and feckless.

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My second word choice is another fun one, though perhaps not so much for our Old English ancestors…

Fiend (noun)

Etymology:  From the Old English feond, meaning enemy or foe, which comes from the word feogan, meaning to hate, which comes from the Proto-Germanic fijæjan, meaning enemy, which probably comes from the Proto-Indo-European root pei-, meaning to blame or revile.

As you may have guessed, fiend’s original meaning was the opposite of friend, but in the 12th or 13th century it was used to describe Satan, thereby shifting its meaning. Fiend’s use to describe a devotee or an addict first appeared in the 1860s.

Definition:  An evil spirit or demon; a wicked or cruel person; also, a devotee or an addict.

Example:  It took Alastair a bit longer to realize that his girlfriend’s mother was a fiend in the truest sense of the word.

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And now for the bonus word. I couldn’t let F slip by without including the following word. It might be a little somber, but it’s something I’ll wager most of us have had to participate in at some point in our lives.

Funeral (noun)

Etymology:  First appears in the mid-1400s. Comes from the Middle French funérailles, which comes from the Medieval Latin funeralia, both meaning funeral rites. Predated by the Late Latin funeralis, meaning relating to a funeral, which comes from the Latin word funus, meaning funeral, burial rites, death, corpse. May originate from the Proto-Indo-European root dheu-, meaning to die.

Definition:  A ceremony or service held shortly after a person’s death to mark their passing. Often includes the person’s burial or cremation.

 Example:  After Alastair’s funeral, Moira’s daughter refused to speak to her for a week.

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Once again, etymological information and definitions come from the Oxford Dictionary of Etymological English, the Oxford Dictionaries Online and the Online Etymology Dictionary.

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Image credit: Google Images

What’s In A Noun? Part 2

Little devils

Welcome to the second part of my discussion on nouns. If you haven’t already, you should check out What’s In A Noun? Part 1 to learn about the different types of nouns.

Today, we’re going to look at the properties of nouns.

Nouns have two main properties (case and number) and two that some consider relevant (gender and person), while others don’t. I’ll cover all four, and you can make up your own mind.

1. Case

The property of case indicates the relationship between a noun or pronoun and the other words in a sentence. There are two noun cases: common and genitive. The common case is typically broken down into nominative and objective.

Common Case: nominative
The nominative case refers to the person, place or thing acting as the subject in a sentence or clause. It usually precedes the verb and always governs it.

  • The Hellspawn threw a huge tantrum in the grocery store.

Common Case: objective
The objectives case refers to the person or thing acting as an object in a sentence or clause. In this role, the noun will never be the subject of the verb that follows.

  • The embarrassed mother put the boxes of Count Chocula back on the shelf.

Genitive Case
The genitive case is also called the possessive, and it is used to indicate several different functions. Most commonly, it indicates possession, but it can also indicate a relationship, a description, agency, or the role of a subject or object. It is formed by adding either an ’s or an apostrophe to the end of the word. (See my post on apostrophes for more info on this oft-misused piece of punctuation.)

  • Beelzebub’s mother told him to stop playing with his flies and come for dinner. (possessive — his mother)
    This is Mr. Mephistopheles, Hell’s representative. (agency — he represents Hell)
  • The demon’s application was rejected. He shouldn’t have used a red pen. (role of the subject — the demon applied)

2. Number
Shockingly, the property of number indicates whether we are referring to one object or more in a sentence. Typically, it is formed by adding an “s” or “es” to the end of a word — though sometimes forming a plural in English can be a little more, um, unique (datum, data; sarcophagus, sarcophagi). But that’s a whole other topic! Here are some simple examples of the number case:

  • evil, evils
  • flame, flames
  • crash, crashes
  • hex, hexes

3. Gender
While English does not really have gender, in the way that some other languages do (French and German, for example), some English nouns are used almost exclusively to indicate the masculine or feminine and would accompany a gender-appropriate pronoun. Here are some examples:

  • Masculine: uncle, brother, rooster, bull, lad
  • Feminine: aunt, sister, hen, cow, lass

4. Person
The property of person refers to what person the noun refers to. Is it first person, second person or third person? Here are some examples:

  • First person: I, the Lord of Darkness, don’t want to go to bed!
  • Second person: You, little devil, would be wise to get upstairs right now.
  • Third person: She, mother of demons, just wanted ten minutes of quiet.

And there you have it, the properties of nouns in a large nutshell.

As an aside, I want to note that there are a few other roles that nouns can play. I have already discussed appositives in a previous post. Nouns can also sometimes act as adjectives, verbs and occasionally as adverbs — this is known as functional variation.

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Image credit: Antonina Vesna Photoxpress.com

Trifextra: Get Thee Behind Me

Demon

Get Thee Behind Me

My demon and I meet Margrete, bakery proprietress.

In a flash, Azazel jettisons my body, his dark essence engulfing Margrete’s.

“Hey!” I yell. Freedom tainted by indignation.

“C’mon,” says Azazel, “she has pie.”

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Thought I’d write something a little different for this weekend’s Trifecta Challenge. Here are the guidelines we were given:

This weekend, we’re asking for 33 of your own words that exorcise a demon.  One of your own, or one from your imagination.  Let it bleed on the page.

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Image credit: © Aleksandr Ugorenkov / Photoxpress.com