Tuesday, June 28, 2011

whatnots, trifles, novelties, gewgaws, knickknacks and whathaveyous

by J J Cohen

Some scattered doohickeys, along with some gimcracks, doodads, thingamajigs and veeblefetzers.
  • Three days ago Katherine asked me the meaning of "whatnot." She's been keenly reading the "Little House on the Prairie" series, and occasionally comes across a word that has gone out of use that she'll ask any nearby adult to explain. I told her that whatnot is a placeholder term. It doesn't mean anything, really, it just gestures towards words that haven't yet arrived for the speaker. I then went on to give her a list of similar terms (see above). "Remind me to never ask you what a word means again," she stated, returning to her book.
  • I had so many of these terms close at hand because Cary Howie and I have been working on the introduction to our special issue of postmedieval, New Critical Modes. When we were brainstorming the contours of the issue, Cary had (unforgettably, for me) associated New Critical Modes with novelties and ice cream trucks. The word novelty and its relation to novel ("a small new thing," from Latin novellus) -- that is, to a term that means new as well as indicating a kind of writing -- seemed perfect for this project: seasonal, maybe; ephemeral, perhaps; inventive, we hope; sweet, I think; a time-knot, most certainly. So our introduction uses novelty a bit, as well as gewgaw and nugae (why not employ the Latin version of these terms? We are medievalists after all.) The whole thingamabob is almost ready to enter production.
  • KEC with the whatnot she wore to crazy hat day
  • Speaking of Katherine, she and I are making a quick trip to New York together next Friday to visit the Guggenheim. I am desperate to see this exhibit. She on the other hand is eager to go because the building plays a significant role in a film she just saw. We'll take the bus early in the morning and return the following afternoon.
  • With this sudden trip to New York, a looming second trip there in September (at least Myra Seaman found a cool hotel to stay in), a family trip to Bordeaux for Thanksgiving -- and most looming of all, a Big Trip to southern Australia in a few weeks --I've been doing a great deal of travel planning. My favorite discovery so far: the Aquila EcoLodges at Grampians National park, where we'll spend a few nights after we leave Melbourne. We'll also be visiting Tower Hill Reserve, located on an inactive volcano -- and staying for a night in a glass cottage built into the hillside. If we are not ambushed by marauding kangaroos while out in the wilds we will be sorely disappointed; Katherine has been teaching herself karate.
  • Speaking of Melbourne, here is a glimpse of what I will be doing there. All the Cohens are going, but only one of us has to give a lecture. Though I dread the flight itself, I've never so looked forward to a trip. Just have a pesky keynote to compose ...
  • Other than my second life as a travel agent, it's been a summer of meeting deadlines. My race essay is off to the editor. A late addition: an excellent and thorough two part essay by Geraldine Heng, "The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages" from Literature Compass (here and here). I've just finished a book review and will submit that tomorrow. The abecedarium is done, another book project I am working on is nearly finalized, etc.
  • Lastly, I am looking forward to Alex returning from camp in West Virginia this weekend. Every day brings a few pictures of him posted to the web, and he's written us some hilarious letters, but I miss the guy. The novelty of a quiet house I can do without.


Alison said...

Hey Jeffrey: If Katherine is reading "By the Shores of Silver Lake," then this is what Wilder meant by "whatnot":
There's a chapter in which Mrs. Boast teaches them how to build one--they were all the rage in Iowa.

Myra Seaman said...

Had I really been on my game, I'd have found us an EcoLodge in Manhattan, rather than just some cool hotel.

This old world is a new world said...

I'm training those kangaroos to maraud with panache and brio at the moment.

I am on a committee where one of the members uses "and whatnot" at least once every time she speaks, and another uses "and what have you" just as often. Now that I have realised this, I have to steel myself from giggling when I go into those meetings.

Hey, word verification is "clock". Perhaps blogger is finally sick of its own whatnots.