Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Review by Buzz Words Magazine (Australia)

 Buzz Words

Buzz Words Magazine (Australia) just came out with its latest bi-weekly issue with a review of Caravaggio: Signed in Blood. The reviewer said of the description that
Such detail adds layers of richness to the bones of the narrative
and that this is
 a swashbuckling novel that is sure to win the imaginations of teen readers.
This is the first review I've seen for the novel out of Australia. You can read the full review here.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Secret Meaning of "Riding"

The Election is coming up soon here in Canada, and all the fuss in the media is about the leaders of the various political parties and who among them would do the best job as Prime Minister. But in fact very few Canadians get to vote for the Prime Minister; for each of us votes for a member of Parliament to represent our riding.

Our riding?

Why "riding"? Why not electoral district, like they use in the United States?

A definition from
In Canada, a riding is a place or geographical area that is represented in the House of Commons by a member of parliament, or in provincial and territory elections an area represented by a member of the provincial or territory legislative assembly.

So? That still doesn't answer the question. I asked why, not what.

To find out why, we have to travel back, say 1000 years, to the age of Viking invasions along the Eastern coast of England. In between all their raping and pillaging, they managed to leave behind some vocabulary that worked its way into the common spoken vocabulary of the Britons.

So what is a riding? Is that the distance a person could "ride" in day? Is that it?

No. Wait for it.

The Vikings left us a word in old Norse:

Say that really fast ten times. No, don't. I don't want to be responsible for the oral surgery later.

Thridjungr means "a third part".

In 866 CE, the Vikings captured York and established a kingdom there, adopting the traditional county divisions of North, East and West.*


North thridjungr, East thridjungr, and West thridjungr

Pardon my mix of languages, but that's how English goes sometimes.

By the time people were speaking what we call Middle English, the words had become

North thriding, East thriding, and West thriding.

Well, English speakers are notoriously unsentimental about old usages and pronunciations, and soon they stopped going to the trouble of pronouncing all those "th" and "t" sounds. The "th"s became "t"s. So

North triding, East triding, and West triding.

Then with the assimilation of the final t or th sounds in North, East and West with the initial t sounds in triding, we got

North triding, East triding, and West triding


North riding, East riding, and West riding.

And no riding of animals or vehicles was involved.

Future administrative divisions were also called "ridings," and this term came with the English colonial government in Canada. On ships. That's sailing, not riding.

And here riding remains, not riding anywhere, not related to a division of thirds, but resting in the etymological sediment of English History.

* The map depicted above is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England and Wales License. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Now appearing at WORD Vancouver...


I'm really looking forward to joining D.R. Graham, Janet Whyte, Aleesah Darlinson, and Lori Sherritt-Fleming for one of two CWILL panels at WORD Vancouver. Next Sunday, September 27 at 11 am, we'll be hosting a panel discussion called "Getting Started and Staying Motivated as a Published Children's Book Author." I'll be at the Tradewind Books tent beforehand, and afterward I'll be heading over to the 32 Books booth to sign books. If you are at the festival, please come by and say hello!