In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Getting Seasonal.”
In line with the new goal I’ve set up to develop a writing habit (other than research-centric), here goes, a very personal post.
I remember being excited about Christmas when I was little. I remember the endless rehearsals for concerts and plays at church and school. I loved it: I love singing and I love playing pretend. I remember one Christmas at our vacation house, I should have been 5 or 6 years old. I woke up really early to open the gifts, but they were not under the tree nor by the fireplace. Then, the bell rang, and as I opened the door, a huge bag filled with gifts stood there. I yelped to call my sister, “Santa has come!” My mother came up with some excuse related to some issue with our chimney, that rendered it impossible for Santa to drop the presents inside the house. Later, I learned she didn’t have the time to bring them in, because she heard me inside, so she just left them by the door.
As most of my friends can attest, I’m a rather curious person. This might be strange for some people, as I’m known to pull out my blackberry looking for an answer for a question no one knows exactly how to answer. As a consequence, today I’m looking up sheriff, just…well…because!
So, the argument started with me wondering if the word had any relation with “sharif“, an “Arabic title of respect (…) Sharifs originally were heads of prominent families in a town.” (in Enciclopaedia Britannica) My husband kindly reminded me that the word was already used in Medieval England (e.g., the famous Sheriff of Nottingham), and so the search began.
English is not my native language. I’ve learned it since a very young age, I have a better grasp of it than most non-native speakers I’m acquainted with, but that doesn’t make me a native speaker, or a “native writer”. Since I’ve started my PhD, and although I do read a lot in English (or all in English, I should say), I feel as I lost a lot of my skills, not only talking, but most of all, writing! The approaching “end” of my PhD entails a lot of writing, scientific writing nonetheless! And if I’m comfortable writing for friends, having to write scientific papers brought me to an “awkward” place, where I just didn’t (and still don’t) feel completely certain of my own skills to match this challenge! Because of this, I added to my reading list books about writing in English, about writing thesis, scientific articles, and just plain english. And I must say, one of my biggest discoveries was a very small book that one of my mentors advised me: The Elements of Style, by William Strunk & E.B. White. It may sound silly, but just remembering how it is to write, and its basic rules, like being clear and concise, is a big help keeping me grounded and reminding me that, although I’m not writing literature, there is no excuse to write badly!