Dotard -- Don QuixoteThe news lately is full of the word “dotard,” and all of the news sources feel compelled to add a definition.   As if everyone didn’t already know what dotard meant.  In the small fishing village whence I come, “Dotard!” is constantly on every man’s lips.

Seriously, I’ve known it since I was eight or ten, on first looking into Chapman’s Homer The Lord of the Rings.  Who can ever forget the scene where Saruman says to Theoden, “Dotard!  What is the house of Eorl but a thatched barn where brigands drink in the reek, and their brats roll on the floor among the dogs?”

You have to admire the wizard’s command of invective.  (I also admire his use of the word ‘but,” but that’s for another post.)

Still, Saruman should have been a bit more careful with what  he withdrew from his word-hoard since “dotard” shares with “wizard” the derogatory suffix, -ard.  From bastard to buzzard, -ard is how you tell folks that you don’t think much of some person, animal or object.

I will now tread heavily into Dr. Doyle’s territory (but seeing as I have a degree in the same subject as she, and lots of experience as a writer and medievalist, I’m not going to slow down).

The -ard suffix comes from the Teutonic hart, which entered Low Latin as -ardus, thence to Old French as -ard or -art, then made its way into English after William the Bastard imported every Tomás, Dickon, and Harry in Normandy who couldn’t find an honest job into Angle-land.  (Did you hear about the old Saxon chief who knew all the angles?)

Anyway…. that’s where we find folks who are drunkards, dullards, and braggarts.  A sluggard is the worst kind of slouch or slug.  Cowards, cou-ards, come from the Latin caudus, a tail, as in showing it, via the French.  A laggard is someone who lags, really, really badly.  A bastard  is someone who is the get of unmarried parents; bast is Frankish for marriage.  Lollard is obviously derogatory (from lollen, to mumble).  A dastard is someone who is dazed (i.e. stupid), and not in a nice way.  Stinkard (a smelly or despicable person) and blinkard (someone with weak eyes, thus stupid) are words you don’t hear too much any more, but are perfectly good if you’re playing Scrabble.

Jumping over to the animal kingdom we have the buzzard (an inferior falcon), mallard (a wild drake), and haggard (a wild hawk, not to be confused with haggard, lean, from hagged).

Other things:  the tankard (a little bitty tub). The petard (which keeps hoisting people); a variety of explosive which literally means Inferior Fart.  The poniard (a very small sword), billiards (referring to the billiard cue as a small stick), and mustard (due to the musty smell).

From the word Spaniard you can tell the English opinion of folks from Spain.  Same with Savoyards and Lombards. For that matter, from communard you can tell the language’s opinion of folks who live in communes.  The -ard is disguised in cockade, coster-monger (a cost is an apple), beggar, and duffer (duff = deaf, and therefore stupid).  A lumber-room was a pawn shop, because so many pawnbrokers were Lombards.

Some -ard words aren’t derived from the Teutonic -ard ending and therefore aren’t derogatory, however.  Take lizard.  Please.  Orchard comes from ort-yard., that is, garden-garden. Custard meant a pie with a crust; the ‘r’ migrated from the front of the word to the back.  A leopard is leo (lion) with pardus (panther).  A steward is a sty-warden; the keeper of the sty.

A bustard is a slow bird (the -tard here is Latin, the same as in tardy).  Hazard comes from the Spanish, azar, a die. Blizzard is an American word, dating to the 18th century, of obscure (possibly Native American) origin.

Which brings us back to  wizard  and dotard.  A wizard is someone of inferior wisdom. And a dotard (the connotation is senility) is one who dotes, that is, is silly,  and not in a nice way.

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Nostalgia Calling, However Briefly

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Every once in a while, I run across something that makes me wish for a moment that I’d stayed in Academia.† Like this call for papers:

Inside Out: Dress and Identity in the Middle Ages, the 38th Annual Conference at Fordham University’s Center for Medieval Studies.

Not that I’d have anything to present — material culture was never my field — but my word, the papers should be fascinating.

Not often, though, or for very long. I got out at just about the same time as Academia started devouring its own young.

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From my mail

My connection with this group:

Sometimes I do magic for them.


I’m proud to announce that the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua’s Camp Mariposa has been selected as one of 200 finalists in the State Farm Neighborhood Assist® program after competing with over 2000 causes across the nation!

Please help us win a $25,000 grant to support kids in need at Camp Mariposa by casting your vote at The 40 causes that receive the most votes will be announced on Sept. 28 and the grant will be awarded to the affiliated nonprofits to support their cause. Individuals can vote up to 10 times per day from Aug. 16-Aug. 25.

Camp Mariposa is a mentoring and addiction prevention program for youth (ages 9-12) who are impacted by the substance abuse of a family member. The program includes six annual weekend overnight camps that combine traditional camp activities with education and support exercises led by mental health professionals and trained mentors in support of kids who come from family situations of extreme addiction. You can further that mission by encouraging others to support this cause and rallying together to begin voting up to 10 times a day! Voting begins at 12:00am on Wednesday, August 16th and closes at 11:59 PM on August 25th. Also, please encourage your family, friends, and colleagues to help us by voting as well. If you keep posted to our social media pages, you can share daily posts encouraging others to vote.


With one click to vote, you can change the life of a child.  All you have to do is follow this link.

We hope you will join us in this 10 day long voting campaign to fund a vital service for the kids in our community! Every vote counts!

Thank You!

Norman Bouthilette, CEO
Boys & Girls Club of Greater Nashua

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Haec Sunt Mea Ornamenta

Dr. Doyle's Blog

My offspring, they have a podcast:

No Story is Sacred

It’s up at all the usual places.

(“Art in the blood, Watson . . . .”)

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A Brief Note on Current Events

Dr. Doyle's Blog

In a sane and rational world, it shouldn’t be necessary to state for the record that I thoroughly disapprove of alt-right supportersneo-Naziswhite-supremacists dirtbag racist whackaloons holding torchlit rallies, chanting racist slogans, beating up counterprotesters, and ramming cars into crowds of people with murderous intent.

It would be the sort of thing that any person of normal intelligence and good will should be presumed to be against until proven otherwise.

But that’s not the world we live in, so . . . let it be known that I thoroughly disapprove of all of the above things.

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Another Sign of the Changing Times

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Okay, I’ll admit to looking back at my first Epson MX-80 dot-matrix with fond remembrance; that printer was built like a tank, and survived both a transcontinental move and an international move without failing, and was our printer of choice for first drafts for a long time after that.

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One-Sitting Reads

Science Fiction for the ThroneThe mail brought our latest authors’ copies of an anthology with one of our stories.  This is Science Fiction for the Throne: One-Sitting Reads edited by Tom Easton and Judith K. Dial.  A collection of very short stories, Science Fiction for the Thronemostly if not all reprints, by authors including Jo Walton, Greg Benford, Fran Wilde, Cat Rambo, and us.

In our case, the short story is “The Last Real New Yorker in the World,” originally published in Newer York, edited by Lawrence Watt-Evans (Ace, 1991).

Science Fiction for the Throne is published by Fantastic Books.  ISBN-13 978-1-5154-1025-6.

Buy one; better still, buy a dozen.  They make excellent gifts.

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Ice Cream Wizard

Jim Macdonald Illusionist

Jim Macdonald, Illusionist

And so things come full circle (of magic).  The first novel that Doyle and I wrote together was the (still unpublished) Ice Cream Wizard.  A fantasy/SF crossover with some great bits — including the Secret Origin of Doc and Beka (two characters who you’ll remember from the Mageworlds series.)

Anyway, I went to the Ice Cream Ride in Turners’ Falls last weekend to do magic. I did magic, and had a great time.

While there, I met one of my fellow performers, a caricature artist named Otto Metzger, who did this picture of me.

(If you’d like to have Otto at your event, get in touch with Kaleidoscope Art & Entertainment.)


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Make Friendship an Action Figure

Friendship the Magician

Friendship the Magician

Help convince Mattel to make Friendship the Magician from RAW (it’s pro wrestling) into an action figure for their upcoming  Festival of Friendship series.  Sign the petition!

Mattel is producing a Festival of Friendship set as part of their Epic Moments series. But one character is missing, Friendship the Magician. To some Friendship was a goofy character out to make his audience smile, to others a villain who tore apart one of the greatest friendships in WWE history. Either way all fans can agree he was a very important part of this event. Mattel please consider adding a Friendship the Magician figure to your Festival of Friendship set.

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Summer’s Lease Isn’t Up Yet

Dr. Doyle's Blog

Any day now, though, the maple tree by the foot of our driveway will show its first patch of color.  August up here is almost as much the start of autumn as it is the last of summer, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I lived for long enough in Texas, where July and August are fry-an-egg-on-the-sidewalk months; and I spent three and a half years in the literal tropics when my husband/co-author was in the Navy and stationed in Panamá, where you got a choice between hot and rainy and hot and not-rainy (but still humid), six months on and six months off; and believe me, seasons are good, and New England seasons suit me fine.

(Granted, January and February are a frozen hell, but my theory is that no matter how much you like the climate where you are, there are going to be a couple…

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