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Wondrous Words Wednesday

September 16, 2015

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme where you can share new words that you’ve encountered or spotlight words you love.  Feel free to get creative!   If you want to play along, grab the button, write a post and come back and add your link to Mr. Linky!

Julianna Baggott

I have something a little bit different for Wondrous Words Wednesday today.  Julianna Baggott, the author of Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders, has written a fun guest post about the word cowlick and I thought it was a perfect fit for this meme.

When applying to graduate school to study fiction, they asked for a literature paper. I’d taken few English classes – it wasn’t my major – and had nothing on hand. So I decided to narrow the paper down as much as possible and I wrote about one word. Cowlick.

Why that word? Well, I have some cowlicks myself, which came in handy in the 80s, but the word had recently struck me visually – a child in a field being licked by a cow so that their hair stuck up.

I don’t know what form the essay took but I recall looking up presidents to see how many had cowlicks. I recall learning that in some cultures they were a sign of “comeliness,” a word that has struggled to remain part of the vernacular for some obvious reasons. I wrote weirdly and obsessively, I suppose, and finally I started to research if the word was a combination of “cow” and “lick” in other languages. The words “honey” and “moon” are shoved together in a number of languages to mean honeymoon, but I won’t derail myself here with my thoughts on that word. I thought that perhaps anywhere there were kids with swirled locks and cows that the word might exist.

This wasn’t the case. I found that in most languages the word for cowlick had nothing to do with cows licking the heads of children, but was instead a wayward bit of hair, unruly, something to be dealt with.  I really don’t know what the point of my paper was. It was ages ago. But I remember being proud of the person who’d come up with the visual, poetic word.

I don’t know what graduate program required this essay and, amid rejections and acceptances, I don’t know if it got me in or got me kicked off the list.

About Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders:

HarrietWolfJacketThe reclusive Harriet Wolf, revered author and family matriarch, has a final confession-a love story. Years after her death, as her family comes together one last time, the mystery of Harriet’s life hangs in the balance. Does the truth lie in the rumored final book of the series that made Harriet a world-famous writer, or will her final confession be lost forever?

Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders tells the moving story of the unforgettable Wolf women in four distinct voices: the mysterious Harriet, who, until now, has never revealed the secrets of her past; her fiery, overprotective daughter, Eleanor; and her two grown granddaughters-Tilton, the fragile yet exuberant younger sister, who’s become a housebound hermit, and Ruth, the older sister, who ran away at sixteen and never looked back. When Eleanor is hospitalized, Ruth decides it’s time to do right by a pact she made with Tilton long ago: to return home and save her sister. Meanwhile, Harriet whispers her true life story to the reader. It’s a story that spans the entire twentieth century and is filled with mobsters, outcasts, a lonesome lion, and a home for wayward women. It’s also a tribute to her lifelong love of the boy she met at the Maryland School for Feeble-minded Children.

Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders, Julianna Baggott’s most sweeping and mesmerizing novel yet, offers a profound meditation on motherhood and sisterhood, as well as on the central importance of stories. It is a novel that affords its characters that rare chance we all long for-the chance to reimagine the stories of our lives while there’s still time.

What words do you want to celebrate today?

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 16, 2015 6:35 am

    This is a great idea, very interesting! Have a good week.

  2. September 16, 2015 7:56 am

    I’ve always liked that word… and the visual image it conjures!

  3. Patty permalink
    September 16, 2015 9:23 am

    I love this post…I forgot all about that book!

  4. September 16, 2015 9:43 am

    Such a neat word. Thanks for the post! 🙂

  5. September 16, 2015 10:00 am

    What an original idea for a paper!

  6. September 16, 2015 12:36 pm

    What a beautiful post! Julianna Baggott made me “see” a cow and a little girl. I think I even smelled the field. Fun. Now I have to go find Harriet Wolf’s Seventh Book of Wonders. I suspect this might make a good book-club book. Thanks Kathy for sharing this with us. A very nice twist on our normal routine.

  7. September 16, 2015 2:03 pm

    What a fun post! My sons and I have cowlicks, and whenever I mention them, my husband looks at me like I’ve sprouted an extra ear. Julianna has inspired me – I might have to do some of my own research on cowlick! Thanks to both of you.

  8. September 17, 2015 12:23 am

    Happy WWW, Kathy! I knew the meaning of cowlick (I think I have a couple) but this post made me see cows and other entities. The Harriet book sounds wonderful.

  9. September 18, 2015 12:26 am

    So my cowlick (it’s a little tiny one, honest – but I did manage to give it to my two older kids too) is comely? Love this!

  10. September 21, 2015 10:37 am

    What a fun guest post! Loved this book and how she approached this literature paper.

  11. bookingmama permalink
    September 22, 2015 8:25 am

    What a great treat for WWW! I can’t wait to read her book!

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