My mom would often quote: How do I know what I mean until I see what I say? when we talked about writing around the dinner table. Which we did sometimes, oddball family that we were. That expression immediately came to mind when the lovely Mr. Fandango suggested a blog One-Word Challenge using the word “mean.” I take heart that I did not think about someone performing acts of cruelty, although I cringe slightly that I also didn’t consider anything statistical which, after all, is right up on my blog masthead.
But that’s writing, isn’t it? We don’t really control it.
It turns out E. M. Forster is the source of the original saying, and that he was misquoted. He said “think,” not “mean,” which is a curious distinction.
How can I tell what I think till I see what I say?
–E.M. Forster, Aspects of the Novel
I see fireworks
I see the pageant and pomp and parade
I hear the bells ringing out
I hear the cannons roar
I see Americans, all Americans free
–John Adams, Is Anybody There? from 1776
Bamboo shoots make the best firecrackers. At least, that’s what the Chinese thought, and they ought to know, since they are credited with inventing them. Most folks probably learned the abbreviated history that I did, where Marco Polo brought gunpowder and spaghetti back from China to the Europeans. Not exactly true, since Roger Bacon referenced the gunpowder formula when Polo would have been only about 13. But legends, including those in the U.S., are an important part of the formula. So is China, as one of the most noted artists of our century is a man who paints the sky with gunpowder.
Founder of Crackers
The invention of firecrackers has multiple Chinese stories behind it. One says that folks in the Han Dynasty, (200 BC -200 AD), developed a custom of throwing bamboo stalks into the fire to ward off evil spirits. Since bamboo has hollow air pockets, it pops when it burns, ending with a bang. Continue reading “Pyrotechny Legend and Lore”