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14 Old-Fashioned Words for Writers

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getty images / istock

In our age of bloggers, spammers, texters, and tweeters, there are types of writing earlier eras couldn’t have imagined. But there are also many old, out-of-use words for very specific types of writers (and also terrible writers). At the risk of being a puffer, here are some obscure things to call a quill-driver.

1. PUFFER

This word started out in the 1600s as a word for a bloviator who tended to blow empty smoke about something. Eventually, the word gravitated toward another type of malarkey-spewer: the advertising writer. In this 1998 Chicago Tribune article, the term is clearly not aspirational: “Were we journalists then and we're just puffers of stories now to get numbers?”

2. TOOTLER

The Oxford English Dictionary defines a tootler as a “a writer of ‘tootle’, verbiage, or twaddle.” Tootling took a trip down Horsefeathers Avenue because early meanings referred to birdsong or the notes of a wind instrument, both of which can be pretty but rarely present a logical argument.

3. SARCAST

This noun, in print since the 1600s, would not be useful at all today, since it refers to a sarcastic writer. Sarcasm is harder to find on the Internet than kittens.

4. QUILL-DRIVER

This vivid term has been around since at least 1700, and it can refer to a clerk or secretary, but it’s also a dismissive term for a writer. Quill-driver is as straight-up a synonym you’ll ever find for pencil-pusher. This 1900 example from Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim shows how little respect the term carried: “He wouldn't be terrified with a pack of lies by a cocky half-bred little quill-driver.”

5. CATASTROPHIST

A catastrophist has often referred to a specific type of pessimist—someone who thinks life is constantly falling into debacle and disaster, with apocalypse right around the corner. But the word gained an even more specific meaning thanks to the 1930s Polish Żagary movement: writers who were part of this movement were called catastrophists.

6. BLOTTER

A blotter—like the similar term paper-stainer—is a writer who is not doing much more than literally leaving a mark.

7. SMEAR MERCHANT

Along the lines of blotting, there’s the ignoble profession of smear journalism. Sometimes such writers have been known as smear merchants or smear-mongers. They use smear tactics in smear sheets, where they do smear jobs

8. BOOKWOMAN

This term—which could name a literary superhero and member of the Avengers—has had two meanings. A bookwoman (or a bookman) is someone who loves to read, but a bookwoman can also be a female writer. Many similar sexist terms used to be common, such as authoress (a broader term than murdermongress, a word Ogden Nash used to describe Agatha Christie) and sob sister (an advice columnist for the lovelorn, which was Lois Lane’s first job in the original Superman comics).

9. WRITRIX

Another milestone in sexism was the rare word writrix, which can be found in an astounding 1772 sentence written by José Francisco de Isla and recorded by the OED: “Why should it not be said, she was not a common woman, but a geniusess, and an elegant writrix?” Yikes.

10. COUPLETEER

This is one of many terms that simply alter the name of the type of writing. A coupleteer writes couplets, much as an epigrammatarian writes epigrams, a legendarian writes legends, and a manuscriptor writes manuscripts.

11. DEATH-HUNTER

This sounds like the name of an action or horror movie, but it’s just a type of scribbler: specifically, an obituary writer. Death-hunter has also referred to fun professions such as undertaker and corpse-robber.

12. SNOBOGRAPHER

The OED eloquently defines this word as “A writer on, a describer of, snobs.” 

13. MINIATURIST

This word could plausibly describe a maker of model ships, nanobots, or Ant-Man, but it actually describes a writer of short pieces of music or fiction. This term is still used occasionally. It turns up in a New York Times article from 1989: “Ms. Tolstaya is a miniaturist whose stories lack the political and moral resonance of the most formidable antirealists.”

14. SQUIBBLER

This very rare term—only found in 1671 (and possibly a misspelling of squibber)—is a scribbler who quibbles. Given the endless stream of pretentious think pieces, snotty comments, and mean tweets in the world today, this word could use a revival. So could anonymuncle—a word for an annoying anonymous writer. You can find even more words for ink-jerkers here.

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15 Must-Watch Facts About The Ring
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DreamWorks

An urban legend about a videotape that kills its viewers seven days after they see it turns out to be true. To her increasing horror, reporter Rachel Keller (then-newcomer Naomi Watts) discovers this after her niece is one of four teenage victims, and is in a race against the clock to uncover the mystery behind the girl in the video before her and her son’s time is up.

Released 15 years ago, on October 18, 2002, The Ring began a trend of both remaking Japanese horror films in a big way, and giving you nightmares about creepy creatures crawling out of your television. Here are some facts about the film that you can feel free to pass along to anybody, guilt-free.

1. DREAMWORKS BOUGHT THE AMERICAN RIGHTS TO RINGU FOR $1 MILLION.

There were conflicting stories over how executive producer Roy Lee came to see the 1998 Japanese horror film Ringu, Hideo Nakata's adaptation of the 1991 novel Ring by Kôji Suzuki. Lee said two different friends gave him a copy of Ringu in January 2001, which he loved and immediately gave to DreamWorks executive Mark Sourian, who agreed to purchase the rights. But Lee’s close friend Mike Macari worked at Fine Line Features, which had an American remake of Ringu in development before January 2001. Macari said he showed Lee Ringu much earlier. Macari and Lee were both listed as executive producers for The Ring.

2. THE DIRECTOR FIRST SAW RINGU ON A POOR QUALITY VHS TAPE, WHICH ADDED TO ITS CREEPINESS.

Gore Verbinski had previously directed MouseHunt. He said the first time he "watched the original Ringu was on a VHS tape that was probably seven generations down. It was really poor quality, but actually that added to the mystique, especially when I realized that this was a movie about a videotape." Naomi Watts struggled to find a VHS copy of Ringu while shooting in the south of Wales. When she finally got a hold of one she watched it on a very small TV alone in her hotel room. "I remember being pretty freaked out," Watts said. "I just saw it the once, and that was enough to get me excited about doing it."

3. THE RING AND RINGU ARE ABOUT 50 PERCENT DIFFERENT.

Naomi Watts in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

Verbinski estimated that, for the American version, they "changed up to 50 percent of it. The basic premise is intact, the story is intact, the ghost story, the story of Samara, the child." Storylines involving the characters having ESP, a volcano, “dream logic,” and references to “brine and goblins” were taken out.

4. IT RAINED ALMOST EVERY DAY WHEN THEY FILMED IN THE STATE OF WASHINGTON.

The weather added to the “atmosphere of dread,” according to the film's production notes. Verbinski said the setting allowed them to create an “overcast mood” of dampness and isolation.

5. THE PRODUCTION DESIGNER WAS INFLUENCED BY ANDREW WYETH.

Artist Andrew Wyeth tended to use muted, somber earth tones in his work. "In Wyeth's work, the trees are always dormant, and the colors are muted earth tones," explained production designer Tom Duffield. "It's greys, it's browns, it's somber colors; it's ripped fabrics in the windows. His work has a haunting flavor that I felt would add to the mystique of this movie, so I latched on to it."

6. THERE WERE RINGS EVERYWHERE.

The carpeting and wallpaper patterns, the circular kitchen knobs, the doctor’s sweater design, Rachel’s apartment number, and more were purposely designed with the film's title in mind.

7. WATTS AND MARTIN HENDERSON HAD A FRIENDLY INTERNATIONAL RIVALRY.

Martin Henderson and Naomi Watts star in 'The Ring' (1992)
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

The New Zealand-born Henderson played Noah, Rachel’s ex-husband. Since Watts is from Australia, Henderson said that, "Between takes, we'd joke around with each other's accents and play into the whole New Zealand-Australia rivalry."

8. THE TWO WEREN’T SURE IF THE MOVIE WAS GOING TO BE SCARY ENOUGH.

After shooting some of the scenes, and not having the benefit of seeing what they'd look like once any special effects were added, Henderson and Watts worried that the final result would not be scary enough. "There were moments when Naomi and I would look at each other and say, 'This is embarrassing, people are going to laugh,'" Henderson told the BBC." You just hope that somebody makes it scary or you're going to look like an idiot!"

9. CHRIS COOPER WAS CUT FROM THE MOVIE.

Cooper played a child murderer in two scenes which were initially meant to bookend the film. He unconvincingly claimed to Rachel that he found God in the beginning, and in the end she gave him the cursed tape. Audiences at test screenings were distracted that an actor they recognized disappears for most of the film, so he was cut out entirely.

10. THEY TRIED TO GET RID OF ALL OF THE SHADOWS.

Verbinski and cinematographer Bojan Bazelli used the lack of sunlight in Washington to remove the characters’ shadows. The two wanted to keep the characters feeling as if “they’re floating a little bit, in space.”

11. THE TREE WAS NICKNAMED "LUCILLE."

The red Japanese maple tree in the cursed video was named after the famous redheaded actress Lucille Ball. The tree was fake, built out of steel tubing and plaster. The Washington wind blew it over three different times. The night they put up the tree in Los Angeles, the wind blew at 60 miles per hour and knocked Lucille over yet again. "It was very strange," said Duffield.

12. MOESKO ISLAND IS A FUNCTIONING LIGHTHOUSE.

Moesko Island Lighthouse is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, at the mouth of the Yaquina River, a mile west of Agate Beach, Oregon. The website Rachel checks, MoeskoIslandLighthouse.com, used to actually exist as a one-page website, which gave general information on the fictional place. You can read it here.

13. A WEBSITE WAS CREATED BY DREAMWORKS TO PROMOTE THE MOVIE AND ADD TO ITS MYTHOLOGY.

Before and during the theatrical release, if you logged into AnOpenLetter.com, you could read a message in white lettering against a black background warning about what happens if you watch the cursed video (you can read it here). By November 24, 2002, it was a standard official website made for the movie, set up by DreamWorks.

14. VERBINSKI DIDN’T HAVE FUN DIRECTING THE MOVIE.

“It’s no fun making a horror film," admitted Verbinski. "You get into some darker areas of the brain and after a while everything becomes a bit depressing.”

15. DAVEIGH CHASE SCARED HERSELF.

Daveigh Chase in 'The Ring'
© 2002 - DreamWorks LLC - All Rights Reserved

When Daveigh Chase, who played Samara, saw The Ring in theaters, she had to cover her eyes out of fear—of herself. Some people she met after the movie came out were also afraid of her.

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European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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