Thursday, October 20, 2011



Ah, the Muse. We writers depend upon her visits.

Etymologically, she started out as a verb, which somehow seems appropriate. Once the Greeks got hold of her, it’s tough to figure out the family tree, but all the various etymological limbs are pretty intriguing.

Many sources connect muse to some unknown language which contributed to the Gallo-Romance word musa, meaning snout, suggesting a connection to a dog snooting around in the underbrush. Though the OED seriously doubts this connection, it appeals to me in terms of an author’s work.

Muse’s OED-approved multi-century voyage to English began as an Indo-Germanic root meaning, “to think, to remember.” It passed through Greek, Latin and French, with its English form first making it to paper in the hands of Geoffrey Chaucer.

The OED offers five full entries on muse, each packed full with shades of meaning, some of them downright quirky. Among the many worth a gander are:

“to look or wait expectantly”
“waste of time”
“to grumble or complain”
“to murmur discontentedly”
“to excogitate”
“to marvel”
“a deception” 
“profound meditation or abstraction”
“to stare about, to idle, to loiter”
“one of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne”

Milton referred to his muse as an idealized version of one of these daughters, Urania, his “true, celestial source of inspiration.”

Given my lack of success when it comes to novel publication, I’m thinking I should try bowing to a new muse, a completely unrelated muse, one which came from the Arabic term, mauz, “fruit of the plantain or banana.”

What do you think? Do you share Milton’s “true, celestial source of inspiration?” Does your muse feel more like a verb or a noun? Does it involve deception, marveling, excogitation? Or, like me, might your inspiration involve peeling the rubbery skin off the Great Banana Muse?

Thanks to this week’s sources:, the OED, &


  1. I had no idea of some of those meanings. So musing is wasting time? Maybe it is. Love the idea of the Great Banana Muse! Do Muses muse, I wonder?

  2. Definitely, peeling the skin off the banana muse, revealing all sorts of interesting secrets about myself and the world.

    Great. Like this, Charlie!

  3. Hi Jean Ann & Anne,
    Thanks for chiming in. Thanks doubly, Anne, for the Tweet about this post.

    Well, I'm off to bow to the Great Banana Muse.

  4. Oh, what fun! Hooray for the OED! :)

  5. Hey Kristen,
    Thanks for popping by & for cheering on the OED. May your muse treat you well.