Vocab for Homecoming: Corsage


Photo credit: Varin via flickr CC-BY

The air is chill at night and the leaves are turning  red.  Yes, it’s fall, and if you live among teenagers, or if you are one, you also know it’s Homecoming season.  All the talk about spirit days and semi-formal dances prompted a question at our dinner table:  What the heck is a corsage?  (If this question reminds you of a High School Musical song, raise your hand!)  😉

corsage     \ kȯr-ˈsäzh  \ noun, from French, bust, bodice, from Old French, bust, from cors body, from Latin corpus

  • the waist or bodice of a dress
  • an arrangement of flowers worn as a fashion accessory on special occasions

People have worn flowers as accessories for many years.  The ancient Greeks wore flowers at weddings because they believed the pleasant scent of the blooms would ward off evil spirits.  Long ago, the bodice of a woman’s dress was called a corsage, and women typically wore flowers on this part of their clothing.  The French called this small, “wearable” bouquet of blossoms a “bouquet de corsage,” which eventually was shortened to corsage.

In the 1900s, women wore corsages on their shoulder instead of on the bodice of their dresses and usually pinned the flowers on upside down.  The tradition of giving a girl a corsage for a formal dance started in the 20th century.  When a boy picked up a girl for a dance, he would bring a gift for her parents.  Usually, this gift was flowers, and the boy would pull out a blossom  for his date and pin it to her dress.   Recently, with the popularity of spaghetti straps and strapless dresses, the corsage has moved to the wrist.

Thank you ProFlowers.com for this interesting history lesson!

Don’t forget to visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion for the WWW meme!

If you like to learn about the history of words, visit Wondrous Words Wednesday at Bermuda Onion.

If you’re interested in more Homecoming trivia, visit my post on the history of Homecoming.  

Do you have an interesting Homecoming tidbit to share?  Who knows what “boutonniere” means? 

Thanks for stopping by!







Teen Read Week: Don’t Get Caught

Teens Top TenLooking for a good YA novel? I’ve got just the thing. This is Teen Read Week, an annual event sponsored by YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) to encourage teens to use libraries and read more. The best part about Teen Read Week is the “Teens Top Ten” – teens vote for their favorite books from the year.  There are 26 nominees for 2017, and even though I’m just a few years too old to vote 😉 ,  I like browsing the list to find new books. Since I write YA, I need to read a lot of it too.

I was happy to see that Don’t Get Caught, a teenage “Oceans Eleven” heist story by Kurt Dinan, made this year’s list. My book club read it this spring, and we all enjoyed it.


Max Cobb, disdainfully referred to as “Just Max” by one of his popular classmates, doesn’t have  a life. He’s known best for passing out in front of the class in ninth grade and for scoring in the 49th percentile on the ACT three times in a row. But one day, Max receives a curious invitation:



The Chaos Club has a long and notorious history for pulling off hilarious pranks at Asheville High School, including hacking the district’s website so anyone visiting was redirected to BarnYardLove.com. Even though his gut tells him it’s a bad idea, Max decides he’s tired of being “Just Max” and vows to become “Not Max” as he sneaks out of his house in search of adventure, or whatever The Chaos Club has planned.

At the water tower, Max finds a motley and unlikely crew of his classmates who also received invitations. They find another note, follow its directions to climb the water tower, and find themselves in police spotlights and quickly arrested for vandalism. A set up.  But Max doesn’t care, because the Chaos Club has started a prank war, and he’s ready to fight. Armed with a few key rules he knows from heist movies, Max and his companions launch a series of hilarious pranks and end up learning a ton about themselves and each other.

What I liked

Don’t Get Caught is clever, funny, and an enjoyable read if you need something relaxing. It’s got good messages too, about being true to yourself while stepping out of your comfort zone, and also learning to look beyond appearances and reputation.

I also like that Don’t Get Caught was published by Sourcebooks, an independent publisher located outside of Chicago that seeks to promote authors and their work in new and authentic ways.

Finally, if you flip the pages of Don’t Get Caught from front to back, you get to watch a cow do a cart-wheel. (Sourcebooks prides itself on finding new and creative ways to present media.)


If you enjoy a fun underdog story, try Don’t Get Caught. If you like “prank books”, I also recommend The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (female protagonist) by E Lockhart and Paper Towns by John Green.

Notes on content

There is some “language” and innuendo, but overall, the content is mild.

Can you recommend another prank/ heist book? Better yet, were you involved in any pranks in high school? If you got an invitation from a “Chaos Club”, would you go? I think I could’ve been talked into some pranking in high school, depending on who asked me to do it!

Don’t forget to visit the Tens Top Ten to vote or get reading ideas!

Happy reading!






Vocab for Book Lovers: Marginalia


Do you keep your books pristine, or do you, like me, prefer to interact with the text?  Do you dog ear and underline, or do you cringe when there is a crease in the binding?

Most of my family members embrace the pristine approach to books.  My oldest son has been known to carry novels around sealed in a zip-lock bag to prevent damage.  My daughter just told me yesterday that she cannot read my copy of Mosquitoland because I dog-eared too many pages, and a dog-eared page is to her as repulsive as a ripped off cover.  In college, my husband wouldn’t even highlight in his text books!

I have lots of marginalia in my copy of Paradise, by Toni Morrison, one of my favorite books.

I take care of my books, avoiding stains, tears, and bent covers, but I am a huge fan of “respectful notation”.   If I underline, it’s only in pencil, so that any marks can be removed and ink won’t seep through the pages.  I often write in the margins, but again, only in pencil.  All of this careful note making helps me absorb more of what I’m reading, and it’s fun to look back years later on my thoughts about a novel or textbook.  I love this passage from Poetry: A Survivor’s Guide.

Perform marginalia. Reading without writing in the margins is like walking without moving your arms. You can do it and still reach your destination, but it’ll always feel like you’re missing something essential about the activity.

And there’s the Word Nerd Word for the day: marginalia – there’s actually a term for my thoughtful scribbles!

marginalia plural noun from the Latin margin

  • marginal notes or embellishments, as in a book
  • nonessential items

Marginalia is a relatively new to English; its first known use was in 1819.  A related word, marginalize (verb), was first used in 1970.  Thank you, Merriam-Webster.

Don’t forget to visit Kathy at Bermuda Onion for the WWW meme!

If you like learning about words, visit the Wondrous Words Wednesday meme at Bermuda Onion.  There, bloggers share new words they’ve learned or fun words they love!

Word Nerd Confessions

Do you have marginalia in your books?  What’s your biggest book pet peeve?  Torn covers? Dog ears?

Now, I have to decide if I must buy my daughter her own pristine copy of Mosquitoland.  It’s such a good book, I think I will.  😉

Thanks for getting nerdy with me!







Protecting Freedom of Speech: Banned Books Week 2017

Graphic courtesy of American Library Association

If you pay attention to the news, you know that we are living in a world where we must balance the right of freedom of expression with the responsibility for respecting alternative viewpoints. When someone is murdered during a protest, as Heather Heyer was in Charlottesville, when the President of the United States suggests NFL players who exercise their right to protest should be fired, we must consider when, if at all, it is appropriate to set ground rules for public speech.

In this charged climate surrounding free speech, this week the American Library Association (ALA) highlights the danger of censorship with Banned Books Week. The ALA uses this annual September event to protect open access to information and the freedom of expression. It also upholds readers’ freedom to choose.

In honor of BBW, here are a few terms that I think Word Nerds and readers should know about:

  • Intellectual freedom: the American and democratic ideal that people should be able to hold, receive, and disseminate ideas
  • Censorship: the suppression of ideas that certain people or groups find offensive
  • Informed selection: an inclusive process, by which librarians, teachers, parents, and administrators gather information about materials and determine what is suitable for the readers they serve
  • Self-censorship: a exclusive process by which individuals or institutions try to deny access to or suppress ideas and information that they find offensive
  • A challenge is an attempt to remove materials from a library or school curriculum, based on the objections of a person or group.
  • A ban is a removal of materials based on the objections of a person or group.

Usually, individuals or groups challenge books with good intentions: to protect children.  However, according to the ALA’s Library Bill of Rights, parents should be the only ones with the right and responsibility to restrict access to reading material for their children, and only their own children.  I agree with this stand.

In years past, I have featured a book review of a banned book during this week.  My life has been a little crazy lately, so I don’t have a new review for you, but here are some links to some of those reviews, should you choose to exercise your right to “informed selection”.

Happy reading!

How Facebook Can Be Used for Good

I have a friend who says that puppies and babies should be the only things we see on Facebook, and I tend to agree. Facebook can be a petri dish for conflict and misunderstanding. I’ve heard too many stories of friends or family members fighting over a snitty comment or a passive-aggressive unfriending. I shy away from politically provocative posts or anything that feels “planted”.  (*Cough*. Russians.) But this week, Facebook did nothing less than facilitate a miracle, or at least it brought together people from many different places to witness one.

Now this is a puppy photo worthy of Facebook. It’s on my feed. 😉

It was Saturday afternoon, and I was hot and hungry, riding home from a cross country meet and thankful that the kids on the bus were tired enough to sit with their ear buds in and their mouths closed. As I bounced along on my brown vinyl seat, scrolling through the photos of puppies and babies and the previous night’s dinners, I came across a disturbing post. My cousin was, at the very moment I read the post, being flown to a Mayo clinic for intensive treatment. Her condition was critical, and her husband was desperate.

He created a Facebook page, even though he knew my cousin would hate such a public display of her medical issues, because he needed friends and family to know what was going on, and he needed a fast and easy way to communicate with all of us. He also needed prayers. As did she. I clicked my way to the beginning of the feed and read about how my cousin had gone from slightly ill to the ICU.

Suddenly, I was even more grateful that my runners were distracted with their devices, because I didn’t want them to see their coach crying. My cousin is my age, with two beautiful children aged 10 and 13 and a wonderful husband who was trying so hard to stay faithful and strong. I could not fathom that she was so sick or that her prognosis was so bleak.

As the weekend progressed, my cousin’s husband, let’s call him “Jack”, posted regular updates. (He’s already in enough trouble with his wife for the FB page; I’m not going to compound the issue.) I don’t know if he has any experience in writing, but the words he used to share his pain and concern and, yes, even a little bit of humor, brought me and hundreds of other loving friends and family right into the ICU with him. Here is a snippet of one of his heart-rending posts:

We are crushed right now. We are crushed emotionally. We are crushed spiritually. We are numb and everything is moving in such slow motion. I write this crying what I expect are the last tears I could possibly have. But then I look at my son and he’s writhing to the left and to the right playing Temple Run on his phone and I smile.
Again – thank you to each and everyone of you. Please pray for our “Jill”. Please pray.

In his posts, Jack balanced the hard reality with humor.

I’ve also learned you have to remind a ten year old to not only shower but to put on clean clothes. Turns out he has worn the same clothes for three days. Sorry about that.

On Monday, the children who go to school with my cousin “Jill’s” kids stopped midday to pray the Rosary. I shared the “Pray for ‘Jill’” FB page with a few close friends and prayer warriors and asked them to join in.  One mother posted a picture of the children pausing during their school day to pray for my cousin.

This FB photo made me cry

And now, almost a week later, “Jack” is still posting, but thank God it’s better news. My cousin got a much needed organ transplant.  That they found a donor so quickly is truly a miracle; that she is getting better, little by little each day, is too.

My friends who I invited to pray, who have never met my cousin, continue to read Jack’s posts and share in this journey with me. I am so grateful to them for caring so much. (I also think “Jack’s” writing skill has something to do with it.)

In a public statement related to the upcoming elections in Germany, FB founder Mark Zuckerberg stated that he created Facebook to give people a voice and to bring people together. As of today, 845 people are following the “Pray for ‘Jill’” page, and we are commenting and liking and giving “Jack” the support he needs in that ICU room.

So, yes, Facebook can cause turmoil, and is probably best used for pictures of puppies and babies, but maybe it’s the place where miracles can happen too.

Thank you to “Jack” for this excellent example of using words to bring people together for something good, and thank you to my friends who follow the Pray for “Jill” feed and who have shared my concern this week.

Word Nerd Workout

Hug someone you love today (Jack’s idea) and please share other ways you’ve seen Facebook used for good.

Thanks for getting nerdy with me.

Vandals Ordered to Read

Sure, we’ve all had required reading in school, but have you ever heard of a judge handing down a sentence to read? Well, that’s exactly what happened last year in Loudon County, Virginia.

Last fall in Ashburn, VA (northwest of Washington, D.C.), five teens spray painted swastikas, the words “WHITE POWER”, and vulgar images on the walls of the Ashburn Colored School. Black students attended school there during the era of segregation. The Loudon School for the Gifted currently owns the site, and students from that school have been restoring the historic building.

One of the teens guilty of vandalism left the Loudon School for the Gifted on “unpleasant” terms, and three of them were minorities themselves. None of the teens had a prior record with the law. Considering these facts, Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney Alex Rueda decided the boys acted out of teenage naiveté moreso than racial hatred, so she recommended an unusual sentence, one intended to educate the boys about hate speech and the effect of their actions on the community.

When the boys pleaded guilty, they were given a sentence that included reading several books by black, Jewish, and Afghan authors, visiting the Holocaust Museum in D.C., and writing a report on hate speech. Rueda compiled a list of books based on their literary significance and content regarding race, religion, and discrimination.  The list included:

  • Night
  • The Color Purple
  • My Name is Asher Lev
  • The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Black Boy
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns
  • Cry the Beloved Country
  • The Bluest Eye

I love that Rueda focused on making this a learning opportunity for the teens. Since none had previous issues with the law, and their actions didn’t cause physical pain to anyone, it seems appropriate to focus on education over punishment. Exposing the teens to other opinions and experiences hopefully did more to influence their future behavior than community service alone. Especially now, in an era when hateful speech seems more prominent in the media, we need do a better job of understanding the people we share our communities with, and reading books about them is a good place to start.

With books, the teens experienced new ideas and perspectives in a non-threatening way. I hope they wrote papers or discussed the books with someone not only for accountability but also to help them process and absorb the ideas in the novels. Judging from the other terms of the sentence, including a research paper on hate speech, I bet they did. A good follow up might have been to meet with real people from different ethnic backgrounds and cultures for a facilitated discussion. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any follow up news stories on the case; I would love to know how these teens responded to their sentence.

When I first heard about this story, I had concern that reading used for punishment might turn teens off of books. Hopefully, the emphasis was placed on education and understanding and the books were interesting enough to the teens to keep them engaged. Again, the focus on learning is one we can all benefit from. The Washington Post banner that hovered over the news story seemed especially significant; it said, “Democracy dies in darkness.” Hate speech and all of its iterations is a language of darkness. We must always champion understanding and promote the language of light, even if that means utilizing unusual methods to do so.

If you want to learn more about this interesting case, read

The Washington Post

The New York Times

Thanks also to my friend Nan for sharing this story.  🙂

Do you think reading fiction is a useful tool for understanding? Should it be used more often for cases like this?

Thanks for getting nerdy with me.