I’ve always enjoyed playing with blocks; what kid didn’t? Wooden blocks, of course, the first ones you get when you’re really little, and plastic blocks at my aunt and uncles house. Those plastic ones were my favorites: they weren’t Legos. They were some off-brand, all white blocks with some red and green windows and doors. Some of them were long and thin, which gave them a unique architectural flexibility I didn’t have at home with my primary-colors wooden ones. My older cousins had out-grown them, so that added to their coolness factor.
Sugar cubes can be used as blocks. I once built a pretty funky castle using nothing but a box of sugar and a bottle of Elmer’s glue. I always enjoyed playing with blocks.
Writer’s blocks…not so much. But you work with what you have, right?
So here I sit with a pile of blocks and plenty to get built but nothing is taking shape in front of me; it’s just a mound of metaphorical word shapes. Usually when I have a pile of writer’s blocks I can poke around in it and find a red rectangle or a purple cone, or maybe a green square or blue triangle and come up with…something. But not today, not all this past week. Even my old standby cure of pulling out weathered notebook blocks and rummaging through long forgotten scribblings on cocktail napkins, steno pad pages and electric bill envelopes has not prompted anything of note from my inner Frank Lloyd Write.
Hey, a pun. That’s a start.
In a cyber-age attempt at putting a stent in the writer’s blockage of my creative arteries (getting closer) I simply Google the word ‘block.’ This gave me decidedly mixed results in terms of creativity, though I did come up with another example for my high school English students on why I don’t like them using dictionary.com
‘Approximately flat.’ What can I add to that? (Not much at this stage; you know I have writer’s block.) This will, however, be another fine example for me to beat my students over the head with a ‘be specific when you write!’ PowerPoint slide. Or something.
After that, as my students and own children would say, ‘epic fail’ of a definition, I moved on to my preferred dictionary of choice, the tried-and-true folks at Merriam-Webster.com would not let me down.
From M-W: ‘block noun, often attributive \ˈbläk\ Definition of BLOCK 1: a compact usually solid piece of substantial material especially when worked or altered to serve a particular purpose: as a: the piece of wood on which the neck of a person condemned to be beheaded is laid for execution.’
I have no problem with the basic definition; what I found interesting was their choice for the primary example being a chopping block. For people.
The fine folks upholding Noah Webster’s legacy don’t watch the Food Network? They opted for heads of heretics over heads of garlic? I realize while this tangent doesn’t do a whole lot to advance my narrative here, or do much to solve my writers block, it does afford a really gratuitous opportunity to throw a Rachael Ray picture into a blog post.
That’s gotta be worth something.
Back to dictionary.com. Their thirty-one examples of ‘block’ as a noun include such obscurities as examples from Philately and Falconry. They only offer eleven examples for ‘block’ as a verb, and while there are some obscurities on that list too, my favorite definition of ‘block’ as a verb was this, at overall number 39: ‘Sports . to hinder or bar the actions or movements of (an opposing player), especially legitimately.’
‘Especially legitimately.’ Clunky punctuation, but a good qualifier. There has to be a use for that phrase somewhere. Somewhere.
So here we are, only slightly closer to me having turned my bunch of writer’s blocks into a verbiage Taj Mahal than I was an hour ago. Though in the process of Googling ‘blocks’ and finding cute little graphics for this post, I did stumble across a couple of things to be saved as future fodder for…something.
For example, on a website listing for ‘Famous Executioners’ I found, mixed in with Inquisition All-Stars, conquerors and other brutal ancients, American president Grover Cleveland. Apparently, as sheriff of Buffalo, New York, Grover executed two criminals by hanging them. Later in his political career, his opponents tried to use this against him, but according to the site, many voters of them time thought the nickname ‘Buffalo’s Hangman’ showed him to be tough on crime. (The nickname probably came from some late 1800’s focus group.)
I also found out some interesting trivia about garlic, and then there was this picture of Rachael Ray I stumbled across, and….some other stuff for another time and post.
There. Now I have some fresh (metaphorical) blocks to tinker with…
Hey! Tinker Toys! You can build lots better stuff with those than with blocks anyway.