Clue or Red Herring


Whilst reading a book or watching a film, even a TV drama, I do enjoy picking up on clues. Those little moments when the writer throws in a stepping stone for us to move a little bit closer to solving the old question. Whodunnit?

I like to marvel at just how many of these clues are not really that, but so-called Red Herrings.

Where does the term Red Herring come from?

 According to an entry in Wikipedia

The origin of the expression is unknown. Conventional wisdom has long supposed it to be the use of a kipper (a strong-smelling smoked fish) to train hounds to follow a scent, or to divert them from the correct route when hunting; however, modern linguistic research suggests that the term was probably invented in 1807 by English polemicist William Cobbett, referring to one occasion on which he had supposedly used a kipper to divert hounds from chasing a hare, and was never an actual practice of hunters. The phrase was later borrowed to provide a formal name for the logical fallacy and literary device.>

I’ve always been interested in the origin of expressions we use every day without thinking. Those which have a meaning completely unrelated to its words. There are so many of these we mostly don’t even think about them:

  1. Bite the bulletUsed as a type of anaesthetic, patients would be given a bullet to bite
  2. Break the iceWhen ships were stuck the nearest nation would send their vessels to release it
  3. Mad as a hatterNothing to do with Lewis Carrol’s books but from a disease of hat makers, caused by Mercury used in the process, which brought about strange behaviour
  4. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwaterIn the early 1500s, people only bathed once a year. Not only that, but they also bathed in the same water without changing it! The adult males would bath first, then the females, leaving the children and babies to go last. By the time the babies got in, the water was clouded with filth. The poor mothers had to take extra care that their babies were not thrown out with the bathwater.
  5. Give the cold shoulderIn medieval England, it was customary to give a guest a cold piece of meat from the shoulder of mutton, pork, or beef chop when the host felt it was time for the guest to leave. This was a polite way to communicate, “You may leave, now.”

These are just a few of the many sayings we have in the English language.

New Year Resolutions

We’re well into January now and all those good intentions should be firmly taking route. Dry January, Gym visits, Smoking patches, and the dreaded Diet , etc means we should all be feeling pretty good about ourselves and our new regimes.

Sadly, for most of us, that will not be the case. My promise to myself (I find it easier not to proclaim my resolutions to anyone but myself.) has already fallen at the first hurdle. My 2018 To-do-list is topped by:

Write a blog post every week.

Second is: Edit a scene from the first draft of my novel every day.

Both of these, sadly, have failed to happen as life, like so often happens, has gotten in the way. So I’ve managed neither of those but I intend to change that and pretend that today is New Years Day and in my new world calendar I’m starting as I mean to go on.

So everything is reset, my new list is on track, I feel inspired and renewed and all is well with the world. Perhaps.

Does Blogging Help or Hinder?

I often wonder to myself whether the time I spend reading blogs and posting on my own blog fuel procrastination. It’s easy to get sidetracked and find that the hour you have dedicated to writing has gone. Many writers extol the virtue of reading as many other writers as you can find the time for, so you can examine all the different styles they use. Reading allows you to hear the ‘voice’ of the characters in the story and I love to read. The problem is, how much time should be spent on this ‘research’. It makes me begin to think that reading and blogging may interfere with the writing process. A bit like emails stop you working, following blogs and reading interesting posts can make the available time disappear in an instant.

I suppose the other voice in my head asks “If I don’t read other people’s blogs no-one will read mine. So what’s the point of writing a blog?” Also how insular would I become if I didn’t read other points of view? I can put my views down and I can ask questions of others but if the inhabitants of cyberworld don’t visit sometimes it’s as pointless as writing a shopping list and leaving it at home. For me, it’s also a break from what I’m writing to be reassured that there are some like-minded people out there. Some of them struggling with the same things I do.

So I think I’ll continue in my endless time juggle and give up something else instead. Like sleeping or eating.

What do you do without to write?