Tag Archives: english

Things That Really Frost My Ass – People Who Ask, “What Do You Mean?” In Response to Clearly Worded Statements

By: Uncle Hardass, Grumpy Old Man Correspondent

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BQB’s Epically Grumpy Uncle Hardassimo “Hardass” J. Scrambler

Hello Degenerate 3.5 Readers.

Still working on your precious writing careers I see.

Hey I just thought of an idea for a novel.

Its about a bunch of Internet bloggers who sit around and try to become writers all day.  Then one of them gets a job at the salt mines. The end.

That’s right. Pure fiction all the way.

Anyway, allow me to bend your ear about the dumbest question in the entire language.

It’s not so much as a question as a response. People use it all the time and if you use it on me it will really frost my ass.

So, suppose I’m digging around in the fridge in search of a nice gallon of moo juice to poor on my doctor approved raisin bran.

I can’t find any so I say:

“We’re out of milk.”

Do you know what my wife, BQB’s Aunt Gertie, would always say in response?

“What do you mean we’re out of milk?”

Hello. Did I not just speak in clear, concise English? Were my words garbled?

Did a damn wizard cast a spell on me when I wasn’t looking and force me to speak in Mandarin?

Look, I’m not exactly a distinguished Professor of English at Oxford University, but I’m pretty sure that the sentence, “We are out of milk” is universally understood to mean any of the following:

  • There is no milk.
  • Our supply of milk is non-existent.
  • The container of milk has no milk inside of it.
  • We are no longer proud owners of milk.
  • Grab a cow and squeeze one of its titties into this damn milk jug so I don’t have to eat my raisin bran dry for crying out loud.

Oh God. People use that response all the time. It’s just nonsensical throat clearing is what it is.

People’s brains don’t work so they need something to say to stall while the hamster in their heads start running around on the gears.

Happens to me all the time.  And Gertie is not the only culprit either.

Perhaps you people have even experienced this phenomenon in your stupid miserable lives.

Let me walk you through the appropriate responses to give in a few scenarios.

WIFE: The sink is broken.

HUSBAND: What do you mean, “the sink is broken?”

Ahh, now some of you dopes are thinking that the husband here is just asking for clarity. He wants to know the exact nature of the problem. Is the sink clogged? Is the water too hot? What?

Well, perhaps that is understandable, but consider this. The appropriate response would be:

HUSBAND: Please clarify the exact nature of the sink’s broken state.

But, since the husband asked, “What do you mean, ‘the sink is broken?’ then in my book, the wife is perfectly within her rights to respond:

WIFE: I mean there’s no f%&king water coming out of it, you asshole! What the f%&k do you think it means?

Perfectly reasonable response. Uncle Hardass, making marriages stronger since I began my column right here on the Bookshelf Battle Blog.

Let’s be honest. My columns are the best thing this dumb blog has going for it.

Moving on, what about this exchange between you and your boss?

BOSS: Did you finish going over the Drexler report yet?

YOU: No, sorry. I didn’t have time.

BOSS: What do you mean, you “didn’t have time?”

Again, the boss should have responded:

BOSS: Please list the other activities you engaged in that kept you from completing your review of the aforementioned file.

But he didn’t say that. He used that loathsome “What do you mean” response.

Ergo, you, as an employee are within you rights to respond as inappropriately as possible.

I suggest going out of your way to be a sarcastic jackass.

YOU: Hmm. I wonder what I meant when I said, “I didn’t have time.” I suppose that most people with a high school education understand the concept that there is a finite amount of time in a work day and if I noted that I did not have the time, that must mean that I was unable to find the time necessary to review the file.

I suppose there could be some alternative meaning in an alternate dimension in which English words are understood differently. Perhaps in another world “I didn’t have time” is understood to mean, “I rode a unicycle to Ted Danson’s house and then Ted and I went to the beach and drove around jet skis all day until we found and befriended a group of friendly dolphins. Now Ted and I and the dolphins solve crimes and fight evil together.”

Sir, I apologize if you are from an alternate dimension where “I did not have time” means something else, but here on Earth, it means, “I did not have time.”

Oh crap on a cracker. I was just handed a note and now I have to state that it is inadvisable to speak to your boss or your spouse or anyone really in any of the above mentioned ways and the Bookshelf Battle Blog can’t be held responsible if you do so.

Fine. You people do whatever you want.

Just remember when I tell you to get a job, and you respond, “What do you mean, ‘get a job’? I mean, “GET A JOB!!!”

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BQB Attempts to Get Spanish Readers with Google Translate


Hello. I am Bookshelf Q. Battler.

I have a blog with 3.5 readers.

I read books. I write novels. I fight yetis.

My best friend is an alien named “Alien Jones.”

Alien Jones’s boss is the Mighty Potentate. He is an intergalactic dictator.


Hola. Soy Biblioteca P. Battler .

Tengo un blog con 3,5 lectores .

Leo libros. Escribo novelas . Lucho yetis .

Mi mejor amigo es un alienígena llamado “Alien Jones .”

jefe de Alien Jones es el Poderoso Soberano . Él es un dictador intergaláctico .

NOTE: Anyone know why it changed the Q to a P?

Moving on…


The Mighty Potentate has demanded that I either write a book so fabulous that it convinces all of mankind to give up reality television or else he will send an army of aliens to conquer the world.

So in other words, the world will probably be conquered by aliens as I take too long to write.


El Mighty Potentado ha exigido que sea escribir un libro tan fabuloso que convence a toda la humanidad a abandonar televisión de la realidad o de lo contrario se enviará un ejército de alienígenas de conquistar el mundo .

Así, en otras palabras, el mundo probablemente será conquistado por extranjeros como tomo demasiado tiempo para escribir.


I live in BQB Headquarters with Bookshelf Q. Battle dog, Video Game Rack Fighter, and other assorted characters.

Frequent Blog Contributors include the Yeti, Dr. Hugo Von Science, Anti-Suck Expert Vinny Baggadouchio, Search Engine Optimized Poet, Nerdstradamus, and the exceptionally cranky Uncle Hardass.

Thank you. I hope you will be one of my 3.5 readers.


Yo vivo en la Sede de BQB con el estante P. Batalla perro, películas y videojuegos en rack de combate , y otros personajes variados.

Colaboradores de blog frecuentes incluyen el Yeti , el Dr. Hugo Von Ciencia , Anti – Suck Experto Vinny Baggadouchio , motor de búsqueda optimizado poeta , Nerdstradamus , y el mal humor excepcionalmente tío Hardass .

Gracias. Espero que sea uno de mis lectores de 3,5 .

NOTE: I cut and pasted this all from Google Translate, so I apologize if any of it was wrong or if any of it translates into something terrible.  I hope I didn’t imply your mothers wear combat boots or anything.

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Daily Discussion with BQB – What is your favorite Shakespeare Play?

Good morning 3.5 readers.

Did you know that this year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death?

Too soon, Bill. Too soon.

As you avid 3.5 readers may be aware, the Shakes-meister is a friend to the Bookshelf Battle Blog.

When I died on the toilet after eating a lightning infused toaster pastry, I met him in the afterlife. He was assigned to be my spiritual guide.

But enough of my bragging.  The next time I talk to Billy Shakes (he still calls me from time to time, it’s a little creepy) which one of his plays should I tell him is your favorite?

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Mark Twain on Zombies

marktwainfaceSamuel Langhorne Clemens, better known to the world as Mark Twain, is widely regarded as one of America’s finest novelists, providing wit and humor with such works as Tom Sawyer and the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Alas, Mr. Twain was among many Americans who found themselves on the wrong side of the Mississippi River when the West Was Zombed, but he made the best of it by jotting down his observations about humans, zombies and their interactions:

  • When it comes to zombies, there are three kinds of lies: lies about zombies, damned lies about zombies, and zombie related statistics.”
  • “The fear of death at the hands of zombies follows from the fear of a life spent surrounded by zombies. A man who lives fully despite the zombie hordes’ worst intentions is prepared to die at any time, be it by zombie attack or by natural causes.”
  • “Get your facts about zombies first and then you can distort your facts about zombies as much as you please.”
  • “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education about zombies.”
  • “Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. And now it is filled with damn zombies.”
  • “The secret to getting ahead of a zombie horde is to get started on skewering their rotten brains.”
  • “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest. Meanwhile, the zombies will not give a shit.”
  • “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything…except don’t forget to bring a hammer…to box the ears of marauding zombies.”
  • “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society. And don’t even get me started on naked zombies…”
  • “It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt. Also, the zombies will hear you and break down your door and feast on your brains.”
  • “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.  Just don’t let a zombie eat your mind.”
  • “Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. But if you are deaf and blind, the zombies will probably eat you first.”
  • “Courage is resistance to fear of zombies, mastery of fear of zombies, not absence of fear of zombies.”
  • “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times. I inevitably put my cigar out in a zombie’s eye and then try, try again in the morn.”
  • “When angry, count to four; when very angry, swear at zombies.”
  • “It’s not the size of the zombie in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the zombie.”
  • “I can live for two months on a good compliment. Three, if a zombie doesn’t devour my brains.”
  • “It’s no wonder that the truth about zombies is stranger than zombie fiction. Zombie fiction has to make sense.”
  • “I didn’t attend the funeral of the man who was eaten by zombies, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it (the funeral, that is, not the man’s dismemberment at the hands of zombies.)”


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Literary Classics with Professor Nannerpants – When I Was Fair and Young – The Poetry of Queen Elizabeth I


Professor Horatio J. Nannerpants – Esteemed Literary Scholar/Poop Flinger

Good Day, 3.5 Readers.

Class is in session so take out your notebooks and start flinging your poop.

In my very first lecture, I should like very much to discuss one author of the Elizabethan era – Queen Elizabeth I herself.

When she wasn’t busy running an empire, she was quite a wordsmith I’ll have you know.

Take a gander at one of her finest poems:

When I Was Fair and Young

By: Queen Elizabeth I

When I was fair and young, then favor graced me.
Of many was I sought their mistress for to be.
But I did scorn them all and answered them therefore:
Go, go, go, seek some other where; importune me no more.

How many weeping eyes I made to pine in woe,
How many sighing hearts I have not skill to show,
But I the prouder grew and still this spake therefore:
Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more.

Then spake fair Venus’ son, that proud victorious boy,
Saying: You dainty dame, for that you be so coy,
I will so pluck your plumes as you shall say no more:
Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more.

As soon as he had said, such change grew in my breast
That neither night nor day I could take any rest.
Wherefore I did repent that I had said before:
Go, go, go, seek some other where, importune me no more.

:::Sniff Sniff:::

:::Blows my nose in a hanky:::

Oh Elizabeth.  I know your pain, girlfriend.

When we’re young and beautiful, the world feels like it belongs to us and we’re convinced this feeling will last forever.

For the young, there is always plenty of time.

Plenty of time to tell a potential mate to take a hike in the hopes that a better mate is on the horizon.

Even your humble professor is guilty of this. I once told Miss Tiddlywinks, a fellow lab chimp who had the hots for me, to hit the bricks.

Sure, she had a luxurious coat and was eager to please but I convinced myself that I could find a woman capable of throwing larger piles of poop.

Alas, in my middle age, as I cry myself to sleep with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s in one paw, the remote in the other while watching old reruns of Gilmore Girls and wondering where the time went, I wish Miss Tiddlywinks would burst threw the door and throw her small, pathetic piles of poop at my head.

You never know what you have until it’s gone.

Yes, students.  That is a sentiment felt not just by the lowly masses but even by people as high and mighty as Queen Elizabeth I.

Of course, who can blame her?  Her father, Henry VIII chopped off so many of his wives’ heads in search of a son to be his heir and in the end, Elizabeth was left to the job of keeping the throne in the Tudor family.

Like anyone, she surely desired love and romance but she knew that marriage would have led to a man coming in, taking over, becoming the King, and acting like he owns the entire country she’d inherited just because of his insipid penis.

Oh penile domination, how many countries will you tear asunder until your demonic hunger for power is satiated?

Close your eyes, 3.5 students.

Picture a young, hot Queen Elizabeth.

She’s in one of those gigantic dresses rigged up with a series of iron bars, ropes and pulleys to make her ass look scrumptiously fat.

Her hair is done up so high it touches the ceiling.

Her face is coated with a thick slathering of milky white, lead based paint.

She’s hip.  She’s cool.  She makes all the hearts of men at court go pitter patter.

But she sends them packing.  She bides her time. She’s not going to give up that royal booty to just anyone.  She’s waiting for a true love she can trust not to take her throne from away from her.

It was the late 1500’s people.  Men just weren’t as cool with working women as they are today.

Alas, time moved on for Queenie.  She got old.  “Her plumes were plucked.”  She lost her looks.

Men are such visual beasts so ruler or not, few men were willing to get busy with an old broad with plucked plumes.

And so, Queen Lizzy poured her heart out into this poem, lamenting the loss of men she’d told to get lost back in the days when all the men of the realm wanted to get their grubby mitts all over her royal badonka donk.

Moral of the story, 3.5 students?

If you’ve got it, flaunt it…then use your bait to hook a tasty fish before they start swimming out to sea.

Because you never know when your bait will shrivel up, dry out and leave you with an empty hook.

Class dismissed. Throw your poop at will.

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Literary Classics with Professor Nannerpants – An Introduction

Good Day 3.5 Readers.


Professor Horatio J. Nannerpants – Esteemed Literary Scholar/Poop Flinger

In the first year of this ridiculous blog, Bookshelf Q. Battler took on the role of a cool, hip online literary lecturer, educating his 2.5 readers (his stats weren’t as high then) about classic novels and poetry in a fun manner.

In year two, he turned the blog into a chronicle of his life as a magic bookshelf caretaker/yeti fighter/human selected by an alien despot to change the world through his writing.

Personally, I found that change to be tres blasé and ever so derivative. If I had a nickel for every blog about a magic bookshelf caretaker/yeti fighter/human selected by an alien despot to change the world through his writing I’d be a fabulously wealthy simian.

Now in year three, BQB has turned his attention yet again to actually writing a novel in an effort to appease the Mighty Potentate.  Occasionally, when he is unable to think what his novel characters should do next, he writes top ten lists implying your significant others are all manner of horrible abominations and helps his staff of malcontent columnists spread their ridiculous opinions.

Ironically, BQB has found that his first year posts are the most searchable, most likely by high school or college English students writing papers about the classics.

(And between you, me and the four walls, 3.5 readers, if any of these kids are citing Bookshelf Q. Battler in their papers and getting A’s then I weep for the state of our education system.)

Ahh, but I do drone on, don’t I? This is where I come in.

Have you ever heard of the old saying that if you were to lock a thousand chimpanzees in a room filled with typewriters, one of the chimps would eventually produce a clean, error free copy of Hamlet?

I am that chimp.

It all began as an experiment at the Advanced Science Institute of Science University.  BQB, literary lover that he was, was studying under the esteemed Dr. Hugo Von Science (they were still friends in those pre-East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse days.)

As part of a research project, BQB rounded up a thousand lab chimps, locked us in a room with a thousand typewriters and over the course of a year, my colleagues produced:

  • 179,854 pages covered in doody
  • One clean, error free copy of a James Patterson novel.  Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman were immediately cast for the movie version.
  • One typo laden copy the collective works of Digital Underground. “The Fumpty Fance is Your Fance to Do the Fump.” Oh chimps, you try so hard and yet you fail, for there can only be one Humpty Hump.

And finally, I was the first chimpanzee in the history of the world to prove the assertion true.

I typed a clean, error free copy of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

And then I smeared it with my doody.

BQB got an A+ for his project.  Dr. Hugo had other plans for me.

Curious about my abilities, the mad scientist performed all manner of tests on my brain.

Dr. Hugo wanted to know if it was possible to educate a chimpanzee.

So he hooked my head up to electrodes and forced me to watch PBS for three weeks straight.

So many documentaries.  So many British TV shows.  So much Masterpiece Theater.

During a storm, an errant thunderbolt zapped the Science Institute, sending a current to the electrodes, which in turn, shocked me.

This left me with the ability of speech….in a British accent.

I used my newfound skill to plead for my freedom with Dr. Hugo but he would not have it.

Bookshelf Q. Battler proved to be kinder and when the coast was clear, he left my cage door open.

For many years, I traveled the world, experiencing all that I could.

Highlights include:

  • Climbing Mount Everest.  What a waste of time.  There’s nothing to see up there.
  • Visiting my friends and family in the jungle.  Alas, Thomas Wolfe was right when he said you can never go home again. All those chimps wanted to do was laugh and throw their poop. Sure, it’s fun for the first five minutes but after that I’m the only one who wants to talk about the collective works of Lord Byron.
  • I was briefly a member of Congress.  I had to quit because everyone there was better at poop flinging than I was. (I’m not even joking.)

And finally, by donning a disguise, and holding myself out as a hirsute little person from London,  I was able to convince a renowned university to accept me as a student of literature.

There I stayed for many years, immersed in my love of the written word, obtaining a doctorate I used to obtain a position as a professor of the classics at the same aforementioned institution.

Note that I haven’t said which one as I continue to hold this position and I don’t wish to be outed as a chimpanzee. I think I’m safe though as only 3.5 individuals read this blog.

Long story short, BQB would like to continue to put his stat counter on the rise by increasing this blog’s search ability amongst students in their late teens to early twenties who stayed up all night smoking refer and playing video games and need to whip up a last minute paper about Longfellow in order to do their parents proud by pulling down a C-.

Under my alternative name, I have written articles in the world’s premiere academic journals.  Thus, I loathe the idea of having my work appear in a poorly studied blog.

Yet, I do owe BQB a favor for helping me escape.

Naturally, I won’t use my nom de plume so I will use the name I was given back when I was but a lowly lab chimp.

Horatio J. Nannerpants.

Yes. Based on the filthy stereotype that chimpanzees love…excuse me I have to finish this banana.

Oh…oh yes! Oh sweet, sweet curved yellow potassium stick! You are better that hot sweaty chimpanzee sex!

Pardon me.  Where was I?

Oh yes. Class in now in session, aspiring literary scholars.

And by the way.

That’s Professor Nannerpants to you.

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Book Review – A Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger (1951)

Hey 3.5 Readers,


Buncha phonies.

Alien Jones is taking a Sunday off so I, your humble blog host, Bookshelf Q. Battler can provide you some commentary and analysis on the controversial classic novel, The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger.

Yes, once in awhile an honest to god book review happens here on the Bookshelf Battle Blog.

I’ve heard about this book my entire life, but only about how controversial it is, how it was banned and considered subversive when it first came out.

I never knew what it was about, but given all the negative hype, I assumed it must be something awful that would turn me into a crazed wacko hippy or something.

So when I finally cracked it open, I was surprised to find it’s just about a kid wandering around New York City in a dazed and confused manner.

Even more surprising?  It is equal parts sad and hilarious.

The protagonist?  One Holden Caulfield, a highly opinionated wayward youth whose soul is a bottomless pit of complaints.  From his friends at school to random people he meets, from Hollywood to New York City, everyone, is, to Holden “a phony.”

It took me a moment to get used to 1951 speak.  If this novel is a barometer of culture during the middle of the last century, then apparently youngsters of the time said some pretty bizarre things.

How to Speak Like Holden Caulfield

  • Phonies – Everyone’s a phony.  Hey you!  Yeah you, the only one reading this review!  You’re a phony!
  • And All – Pretty much thrown in at the end of every other sentence.  “So then I went to the park and all and there were some people there and all and I sat on a bench and all…”
  • Madman – Used to describe anything out of the ordinary.  “Those marbles bounced around like madmen.”
  • Goddamn – I don’t know if kids in 1951 said “goddamn” a lot or if Salinger didn’t think he could get away with dropping more than a few F-bombs without being kicked out of the country or something.
  • Really Was – In case you don’t believe him, Holden reminds you that he, she, or it (whatever or whomever he is discussing) “really was” whatever it is he’s saying they were.
  • Put them All Together – “So I went to the bar and all and the waiter was a real goddamn phony.  He really was.  He handed me a gin and tonic and I drank it like a mad man.  I really did and all.”

Continue reading

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Where Are My Readers From? (Views by Country)

Bookshelf Q. Battler here.

My readers – they stoke the fires of the Bookshelf Battle Blog Machine, fueling the furnace of this humble blogger and inspiring me to be steadfast in delivering the latest news about books, movies, aliens, yes, and of course, my magic bookshelf.

Where are you all from?  Let’s take a look-see:

NOTE:  All figures below are for 2015 today)

#1 – USA – Coming in first place – The Americans!  From sea to shining sea, the Yanks are dominating the Bookshelf Battle scene with a whopping 6,262 views.  That’s almost as many times as I caught The Yeti using his Commodore 64 to checkout those Kim Kardashian photos.

#2 – United Kingdom – God Save The Queen!  The Brits come in second place, but at a mere 682.  Was it something we said, Brits?  Are you guys still feeling some sour grapes over that whole revolution thing?  Hell, if it’s any consolation we pay more taxes now than King Edward ever levied on us.  Hoisted on our own petard if you ask me.  Tax the crap out of our tea for all I care.  This blogger’s drink of choice is Diet Shasta Orange anyway.

Please don’t tax my Diet Shasta Orange.  I don’t want to throw all my orange soda into the harbor.  The fish will get gassy.

#3 – Canada – Oh Canada, our home and native land, true patriot love and something something something!  (Look, just be impressed that I knew that much.  We’re still trying to convince 75% percent of the population down here that you guys actually exist and aren’t just a bunch of magical wood sprites living in a fabled frozen land.)

The Canucks have viewed my site 335 times.  Frankly, I blame myself.  I need to do more to capture the Canadian market.  That’s why I’m diligently working on the following reviews of prominent Canadian Films:

  • Dude, Where’s My Moose?
  • The Maplenator
  • Hockey Man
  • Hockey Man 2 – High Stickin’
  • The Fast and The Polite

#4 – Australia – G’day Mates – The Aussies have viewed this site 249 times.  I was impressed until I realized they were all from this guy:


He’s been e-mailing non-stop, begging me to review his self-published book, Eucalyptus Leaves Are Delicious!


It comes as no surprise that my four top countries for views are English speaking lands.  I welcome all viewers, but obviously, I’m limited in that I only speak English, Klingon, and Dothraki.

(New Zealand, I was a little disappointed with you guys – 81 views?  Seriously?  What, you guys are too busy watching all those Hobbit movies get filmed?  Get on the ball, NZ.

Of course, I welcome viewers from all across the globe.  Therefore, I’m working with Google Translate to reach out to viewers in Non-English speaking countries.

For example, the Germans viewed my site 101 times (20 more times than you, New Zealand, not that I’m trying to make you feel guilty or anything.

So allow me to translate some commonly used Bookshelf Battle speak for the Germans’ enjoyment.

ENGLISH:  Stupid Yeti!  Get in the basement!  You know you are only allowed to come upstairs on Thursday nights to watch Scandal!  Away with you!

GERMAN TRANSLATION: Dumme Yeti ! Holen Sie sich im Keller ! Sie wissen, Sie dürfen nur im Obergeschoss am Donnerstagabend gekommen, um Skandal zu sehen! Weg mit dir !

Wow.  That gave me chills.  Thanks Google Translate.  And let that be a lesson to you, Herr Yeti.

What about France?  Our French friends visited this site 49 times this year alone.

ENGLISH:  Alien Jones takes your questions and plugs your blogs!  Yes yes, I love croissants!

FRENCH TRANSLATION:  Alien Jones prend vos questions et fiches vos blogs ! Oui oui, je adore les croissants !

I adore the croissants too, Frenchies.  I really do.

Finally, the Japanese have viewed this site 17 times this year alone.

ENGLISH: The series finale of Dexter was awful! I can’t believe the protagonist became a lumberjack!

JAPANESE TRANSLATION: Dekusutā no shirīzu no fināre wa hidokatta! Watashi wa, shujinkō wa kikori ni natta nante shinjirarenai!

Oh wait.  Before that I should have issued a:


JAPANESE TRANSLATION:  Supoirā keikoku!!!

Sorry about that, Japanese folk.

Thank you citizens of the world for taking in the greatness that is the Bookshelf Battle Blog, brought to you by Blogger-in-Chief Bookshelf Q. Battler.

Also, please allow me to apologize in advance if those translations were incorrect.  In no way did I intend to insult a) your honor b) your beliefs c) your culture or d) your lovely, lovely mothers.

As they say in Portuguese, the official language of Brazil, where my blog was viewed 141 times (still way more than you, New Zealand, just saying):

ENGLISH:  Join us tomorrow on Bookshelf Battle, where nothing can stop the one post a day challenge!

PORTUGUESE TRANSLATION: Junte-se a nós amanhã em Bookshelf Battle, onde nada pode parar a deixar um desafio do dia !

Koala graphic courtesy of a Creative Commons license via Flickr user Marc Dalmulder

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“To a Lady Who Said It Was Sinful to Read Novels” – Christian Milne

Just a quick post today.  The gist?  Reading a novel isn’t a waste of time, because more than likely, the reader would just do something more ill-advised anyway:



To love these books, and harmless tea,
Has always been my foible,
Yet will I ne’er forgetful be
To read my Psalms and Bible.

Travels I like, and history too,
Or entertaining fiction;
Novels and plays I’d have a few,
If sense and proper diction.

I love a natural harmless song,
But I cannot sing like Handel;
Deprived of such resource, the tongue
Is sure employed — in scandal.

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Accents, Other Languages – When Your Characters Aren’t Native English Speakers

You go to the movies.  The setting?  Ancient Greece.  Yet, for some odd reason, none of the characters are speaking Ancient Greek.  They’re dressed like Ancient Greeks – togas and sandals all around.  The sets look Greek enough – plenty of stone pillars to spare.

So why are all these characters speaking English?  Whenever I watch a movie like this with a group of people, there’s always one goober who feels the need to be the smartest person in the room and say, “Oh, I didn’t know Ancient Greeks spoke English!!!”

Well, here’s the problem.  Do you speak Ancient Greek?  No?  Good.  Because neither do I, neither does the American audience the film is intended for, and neither do the actors or the people who made the film.  Nothing against the Ancient Greek language, but if I only have limited free time, I don’t really want to go to a movie where I have no idea what the people are saying.

Therefore, Hollywood basically does a little wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more, say no more trick.  (Bonus points if you know where that line is from).  The Hollywood suits behind the movie are basically saying, “Hey Audience, we made this movie Greek enough – we speak English, you speak English – so these Greek people are going to speak English so you can actually understand what’s happening in the movie.  Yes, they’re speaking English, but we count on you, the audience, to be smart enough to understand that the characters are Greek).

OK, time to make a point.  In my writing, sometimes a character will come in.  It could be a he or a she, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s say it is a he.  Maybe he’s from Russia.  Maybe he’s from Ireland.  Maybe he’s from Australia.  Heck, maybe he’s just an Italian guy from the Jersey Shore who says, “Fahgeddaboudit” a lot.

As authors, how do you account for this?  How do you get the point across to your readers that a character speaks differently from standard American English?  Maybe he’s an English speaker but has an Irish brogue.  Or, maybe he’s a Spaniard who doesn’t speak English at all, but since I don’t speak Spanish, and my audience, for the most part, doesn’t read Spanish, the Spaniard will have to miraculously speak English?

Should an author try to mimic a particular accent?  I have seen that in books.  Personally, I don’t agree with the practice.  I’ll tell you why after the following example.

Let’s carry on with our friends, Ann and John, who first appeared on my blog in  The Mystery of the Bay Area Strangler.  Let’s call this next installment: Bay Area Strangler 2:  Electric Boogaloo:

After skillfully solving the Bay Area Strangler Case, Ann and John decided to rekindle their long lost romance.

“I want to rekindle our long lost romance, Ann,”  John said.  “Let’s go to Mexico for a nice, long vacation.”

And so they went to Cancun, but alas, as soon as they stepped off the plane, they were greeted by Manuel Sanchez, Chief of the Cancun Police Department.

“Hola, Ann y John,”  Manuel said.  “I was hopeeng to catch you fine dee-tect-teeves before you left the aeropuerto.  There is a creemenal on the lose in Cancun and he’s been strangleeng a lot of senors y senoritas.  Can you be of any asseestance por favor?”

OK, so before you take off your shoe and throw it at me, in the hopes that it will pass through your monitor and come out of mine to wack me in the face, remember, before the above example, I did say that I don’t agree with this practice.  I suppose when authors try to mimic a character’s accent, they’re trying to add an air of realism but I don’t like it for a number of reasons: a) it’s difficult to read.  Who wants to wade through all the misspelled words to figure out what is being said  and b) I feel like it’s practically a hate crime, I mean, holy crap, the Chief, a duly designated Mexican law man, pretty much ends up sounding like Speedy Gonzalez.

If I were actually writing this novel, here’s how I’d write the above paragraph:

After skillfully  solving the Bay Area Strangler Case, Ann and John decided to rekindle their long lost romance.

“I want to rekindle our long lost romance, Ann,” John said. “Let’s go to Mexico for a nice, long vacation.”

And so they went to Cancun, but alas, as soon as they stepped off the plane, they were greeted by Manuel Sanchez, Chief of the Cancun Police Department.

“Hello, Ann and John,”  Manuel said.  “I was hoping to catch you fine detectives before you left the airport.  There is a criminal on the lose in Cancun and he has been strangling many of our citizens.  Can you provide us with assistance, please?”

And there you have it.  I’ve presented the reader with three characters.  Ann and John are Americans who speak English.  The third character, Chief Manuel Sanchez, is a Mexican citizen.  I leave it up to the reader.  Maybe Manuel studied in America and became a bilingual Spanish/English speaker.  Or, maybe, and most likely, I just made Manuel speak English, because, hey dummies, you don’t read Spanish, so please just go along with it.

Suppose I want to convey the fact that a character speaks English, but with a heavy accent.  Let’s go back to Ann and John.  Remember, this is an example that I don’t agree with:

“Great,”  Ann said.  “Just great.  We try to get away on a nice vacation and we can’t have five minutes before someone gets strangled.”

“I know,”  John said.  “And you were just starting to forgive me for sleeping with your sister behind your back on multiple occasions, including your birthday, our anniversary, and most major Federally recognized holidays.”

“Even Arbor Day?”  Ann asked.

“Twice on Arbor Day!”  John replied.

Shamus Rooney, who left his home in Dublin years ago to open up the restaurant that Ann and John were eating at, strolled over and introduced himself with his typical Irish brogue.

“Faith and Begorrah!”  Shamus said.  “Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!  Lad and Lassie, me ears were burnin’ when I heard ye mention a strangler on the loose!  Why, it sounds like the modus operandi of me old IRA buddy Connor Houlihan, who moved here long ago.  To the best of me recollection, that lad was quite a strangler back in his day, and I’d bet me bag o’ gold that he’s down here strangling again!”

I mean, seriously?  I’m expected to keep this nonsense up for an entire novel?  I’m going to expect a reader to sift through that crap?  I have to make the man sound like he’s Lucky the Lucky Charms Leprechaun just to get across the point that he’s Irish?

Here is how I’d prefer to write such a scene:

“Great,” Ann said. “Just great. We try to get away on a nice vacation and we can’t have five minutes before someone gets strangled.”

“I know,” John said. “And you were just starting to forgive me for sleeping with your sister behind your back on multiple occasions, including your birthday, our anniversary, and most major Federally recognized holidays.”

“Even Arbor Day?” Ann asked.

“Twice on Arbor Day!” John replied.

Shamus Rooney, who left his home in Dublin years ago to open up the restaurant that Ann and John were eating at, strolled over and introduced himself with his typical Irish brogue.

“Hello and good morning!”  Shamus said.  “Sir and Madam, my ears were burning when I heard you mention that a strangler is on the loose.  Why, it sounds just like the modus operandi of my old IRA friend, Connor Houlihan.  He moved here long ago.  To the best of my recollection, that lad was quite a strangler back in his day, and I would bet that he’s here in Cancun and strangling again!”

So, what’s different?  First, you’ll notice I left this part in:

Shamus Rooney, who left his home in Dublin years ago to open up the restaurant that Ann and John were eating at, strolled over and introduced himself with his typical Irish brogue.

Right there, I’ve told the readers that Shamus speaks in an Irish brogue.  I’ve relayed the information to the readers that Shamus has an Irish accent.  Isn’t that enough?  I would submit that is enough.  I suppose authors can have different opinions, but me, personally, I feel after I have stated to the reader that Shamus has an Irish accent, I can, from thereon, have Shamus speak with perfect English, and leave it up to the reader to imagine Shamus saying these words with an Irish accent.  I do not have to offend the Irish people by making Shamus talk like a leprechaun throughout the entire novel.

Let’s try another example:

“We’ll need to pack some heat if we’re going to take down the Cancun strangler, who may or may not be Connor Houlihan, friend of the man who owns the restaurant we ate nachos at last night,”  Ann said.

“Indeed we will,”  John said.  “By the way, your sister and I used to pack heat all the time.”

“I hate you,”  Ann said.  “I want to marry you just so I can divorce you again.”

Ann and John walked down the street, when a man in a trench coat with a Russian accent said, “Psst, Americans, vhat you vant?  You vant guns?  You vant AK-47?  You vant Uzi?  Vhat you vant?  You tell Sergei vhat you vant and I get it for you.  Anythink you vant.  Anythink at all.”

Seriously, at this point, Sergei might as well say, “As long as you don’t work for pesky moose and squirrel!”  Here’s how I would write it:

“We’ll need to pack some heat if we’re going to take down the Cancun strangler, who may or may not be Connor Houlihan, friend of the man who owns the restaurant we ate nachos at last night,” Ann said.

“Indeed we will,” John said. “By the way, your sister and I used to pack heat all the time.”

“I hate you,” Ann said. “I want to marry you just so I can divorce you again.”

Ann and John were walking down the street, when a man in a trench coat with a Russian accent said, “Psst, Americans!  What do you want?  You want guns?  You want an AK-47?  You want an Uzi?  What do you want?  My name is Sergei.  You tell me what you want and I will get it for you.  Anything you want.  Anything at all.”

Again, I suppose this is a point where authors could have a difference of opinion.  And again, I feel that once I mention to the reader that Sergei has a Russian accent, my work is done when it comes to portraying that accent.  I’m not going to offend the Russians by making a character that sounds like Boris Badenov.  I’m not going to ask my readers to wade through poorly written English just to make the point that Sergei is Russian.  The readers know what a Russian sounds like.  They can imagine Sergei speaking the words I write for him with a Russian accent.

Am I right?  Am I wrong?  Authors, how do you handle characters who don’t speak English or who have accents in your writing?

P.S. – Shamus was the strangler.  He sent Ann and John after Connor to throw them off his trail.  Connor had become a priest at a Cancun church, and aided Ann and John in setting a trap for Shamus.  Chief Sanchez was overjoyed and nominated Ann and John for Mexican Medals of Honor.  John quickly pawned his and ran away to El Salvador with Ann’s attractive cousin.  Ann vowed revenge, which she will get in Bay Area Strangler III – The Quest for More Profits for the Author.

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