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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Naming Things

I brought my camera with me this morning as I walked the 6.5 miles around the lake, all the while wishing I knew the names of the plants and blooming trees. So many colors. So many varieties. So many names unknown to me.

In Cynthia DeFelice's new book, Nelly May Has Her Say, the main character is befuddled by the many names for things she must learn. The English folktale "Master of All Masters" is the basis for this humorous story. Nelly May is the oldest daughter in a family of 13 children. Because her family needs assistance, the girl sets off for the hill-top home of Lord Ignasius Pinkwinkle to ask for employment as a servant girl. Once there, she is in awe of the home and furnishing but even more awed by the terminology the lord demands she use. "I have special names for things, and I expect you to use them whenever you speak to me," he tells her. 

Nelly expects to make the lord's bed every day but is instructed to call it the "resftul slumberific". Trousers are "long-legged limberjohns." Boots are "stompinwhackers." Fire is "flaming pop-and-sizzle." The dog is a "fur-faced fluffenbarker," and the dog's tail is a "wigger-wagger." The list goes on and on...and the girl gets more and more frustrated. When she must use the strange terminology in an emergency, she realizes her Most Excellent of All Masters needs to employ someone other than the "fuzzy-dust-and-fooder" he got in her. It will make a most excellent read-aloud selection in the fall.


  1. Love it!! Naming & language, so wonderful! Making me think of a favorite of mine, The Phantom Toll Booth which plays with language so beautifully. And of course, Sharon Creech's Unfinished Angel & Replay...Thanks again for sharing, Jewel! Love the freshness of your springtime sprouts...The walk around the lake must be so nice...

  2. i'd love to have you read it to me. h.b, l.j.