Finding Out

Sara Maitland in this chapter speaks about the importance of research for a writer, learning new things, exploring new material, finding out is key to creative writers, for curiosity, wanting to learn, moving into new territory, aligns the writer with the reader.

Finding out exercise

Here is a list of eight somewhat obscure words, each with three meanings- one of these is the real meaning as defined by the dictionary, the other two are tiny works of fiction:


1. An ancient Celtic game, still played in some Scottish islands, not dissimilar from hockey.

2. A short, stumpy person; a dwarf.

3. To hit someone from behind; to attack from the rear.


1. Some benefit or profit earned by hard work.

2. A Victorian word for an eccentric or nutter – from the initials of the Orgnization for External and Psychic Studies.

3. Boys in the junior houses of Eton, called fags in other public schools (no pun intended).


1. A clerk or other lowly worker in the Stock Exchange.

2. To cheat or lie your way into a job; to fake your references.

3. An idiot; a thick stupid person.


1. A person who enjoys talking at meal times.

2. A person who believes that the gods are not interested in human beings.

3. A person who studies diseases of the mouth – gums, teeth, etc.


1. A native officer in the Indian regiments during the Raj.

2. An East Anglian word for the hay-making season, late May and June.

3. A type of helmet, with a low visor, worn by medieval knights.


1. Originally a money lender or banker, now any miser, skinflint or excessively ungenerous person.

2. A species of sea snail, a bit like a cockle but with a whiter shell.

3. A small explosion deliberately set off for scientific experiment.


1. A wicked and seductive young mermaid, with a particularly sweet singing voice, who lures sailors to their deaths.

2. An ingredient used in expensive perfumes, extracted from the musk glands of minks.

3. A fierce warrior from a tribe in ancient northern Greece, celebrated by Homer.


1. An unmarried woman, often a belly dancer, living in a Turkish harem and having many of the privileges of a wife, but whose children do not inherit their father’s rank.

2. Putrid snot brought on by ulcerous diseases of the nasal mucous membrane.

3. A mythical beast, somewhat like a gazelle but with the legs of a bird, which the Spanish conquistadors believed to live in what are now the Peruvian and Chilean mountains.

Now you have to guess which is the true meaning. It will be mainly guesswork actually, after you check your answers then you have to write a short narrative using all seven words.

Key to answers:

Knurl = 2; Oeps = 1; Jobbernowl = 3; Deipnosophist = 1; Haysel = 3; Collybist = 1; Myrmidon = 3; Ozena =2.

I got only 2 correct but take a look at the weird narrative that came out of these words.

The jobbernowl knurl said while he was holding a grape in his hand, ‘ what brought here?’

‘I lost all my oeps because of your actions’ said the myrmidon.

The knurl slammed on the table and said, ‘shut up, I want to hear no more. Can’t you see I’m eating my dinner?’

‘I thought you are a deipnosophist?’ said the myrmidon sarcastically. ‘I’ll keep on talking till I take my money back you little collybist’. He added.

‘alright, then give me your helmet.’ Said the knurl with a smile on his face then the myrmidon obediently gave him the helmet.

The knurl blew his nose in the helmet and said, ‘this is all you can get from me, my Ozena in your haysel, now get out off my face’

The myrmidon unsheathed his sword and cut the knurl’s nose and ran away followed by the guards who started to chase him after they heard their master, the knurl screaming.

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