I can’t believe it’s been a year already! I think I’ve covered most horror-related words at this stage, so let’s just take a quick look at a very Hallowe’eny word: witch. Continue reading
Passing through some of the suburbs of Dublin on Hallowe’en Night, I was heartened to see a few bonfires burning.
A Monster Calls
I went to see A Monster Calls on Friday night, and really enjoyed it. Without spoiling much, it was a tougher watch than I expected, but still quite beautiful and touching at the same time.
I’ve been ruminating on the word monster since then. While the meaning hasn’t changed greatly in the many years its been in use, I’ve been interested in its complexity and layers of meaning since learning something of its etymology a few years ago. It comes from the old Latin monstrum, meaning divine omen or portent. The appearance of hideous figures was believed to indicate the arrival of some great event. Monstrum is derived from the verb monere, which means both to warn and instruct. From this root also came the verb monstrare, meaning to show or point out. This word gained the prefix de-, with demonstrare meaning to demonstrate, with the prefix meaning entirely.
So while the words demonstrate and monster might seem quite different on the surface, there are some basic similarities in their individual meanings. The appearance of a monster was believed to demonstrate that something momentous was going to happen, and throughout all the time we’ve been telling stories, monsters have been used to demonstrate one thing or another, and instruct us in some important life lessons. Continue reading
Despatches from the Uncanny Valley
The term uncanny is a hard one to pin down. It can be traced back to the 16th century, when it meant mischievous, and it came to be used in Scotland and the north of England in the 18th century to mean associated with the supernatural. It’s more modern applications, however, were inspired by the work of Sigmund Freud.
In his 1919 essay Das Unheimliche, Freud used the German word unheimlich to refer to objects which we project our repressed desires onto. These objects might be everyday things which are rendered strange to us when we see them in this new light. The term was translated as uncanny in English, and came to refer to the sensation of the familiar rendered somehow unfamiliar in a manner that’s difficult to explain or identify. This cognitive dissonance, the simultaneous familiarity and unfamiliarity of something, is at the heart of the effect of the uncanny. Continue reading
I hope you have an enjoyable and suitably spooky day today, whether you’re dressing up, trick or treating, or staying in with some horror movies. To celebrate, I’m going to have a look at some of the words we associate with this day. Continue reading
Hallowe’en Reads: “The Three D’s”
I’m 12 or 13, and it’s Saturday night. I’m reading The 4th Armada Ghost Book, having only recently plucked up the courage to start reading and watching things explicitly identifying themselves as horror. Some of the stories are a little spooky, but I’m disappointed that none of them are as terrifying as I’d expected. Until, I finish reading “The Bus Conductor,” and begin reading “The Three D’s.” I had no idea before I started reading the story that I would be scared out of my wits afterwards… Continue reading
Hallowe’en Reads: The Haunting of Hill House
No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream. Hill House, not sane, stood by itself against its hills, holding darkness within; it had stood so for eighty years and might stand for eighty more. Within, walls continued upright, bricks met neatly, floors were firm, and doors were sensibly shut; silence lay steadily against the wood and stone of Hill House, and whatever walked there, walked alone.
Well if that’s not an opening paragraph that makes you want to read the rest of the novel, I don’t know what is. Published in 1959 by Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hill House is widely regarded as one of the finest horror novels, and, in my opinion, rightly so. Continue reading