Exploring a word that sometimes gets a rotten rep: middle

1114537406586n57I thought I would explore the word middle just a bit. After all, this is a blog about middle grade books. There’s a lot of stuff middle that just gets a bum rap or just seems, by its very essence, problematic.

You know, like middle school. Middle children. The Middle Ages.

Let’s first get to the origin of the word middle. According to the website membean.com, the word comes from the Latin root word medi. And medi has given birth to loads of words like mediocre, medium, and medieval.

In my opinion, all words with some bad associations.

Mediocre—This means not bad not good. Pretty blah. And according to the Oxford Dictionaries comes from the “Latin mediocris ‘of middle height or degree’.”

Medium—Which means the center of things. And medium isn’t one of those words that’s all bad. But it does seem kind of boring. You don’t want you steak rare, or well done but medium. It seems very sensible but blah. But then there’s psychic mediums who get into the center of spiritual spaces and relay messages. Kind of cool. And there’s medium as an instrument, like words. Hey, I’m liking medium—how about you?

Medieval—No forks during this time a pest problem, and it was known as the Dark Ages. But today, historians are less bleak about this period. In fact, historians want to call it the medieval period versus the Middle Ages since they don’t want to imply that it was something not so impressive wedged between two more impressive eras. However, this seems like a silly PR job to me as medieval basically just means the Middle Ages! Why the fear over the word middle, folks? Really. It’s not all that bad.

Personally, I’m enjoying the wisdom and the self-confidence of being middle aged. I’m not longer so young that I don’t know who I am, but I’m not closed off to new experiences. I no longer care so much what others think. I’m not longer working so hard at being impressive. When I was younger, I used to never go anywhere without popping in my contacts. And I’d wear them forever, even if it meant a corneal abrasion. These days I’m perfectly content with my glasses, thank you very much. I’m myopic and if someone doesn’t want to befriend me because I’m bespectacled then it’s his or her loss.

You see, the space between is perfect; it’s not too high or too low, neither hot nor cool. I mean there’s a reason why Goldilocks liked Baby Bear’s soup the best!

And a mediator is someone who is in the middle of a conflict yet helps to solve it.

Don’t we value someone who jumps right into the middle of things and takes action? You know they take immediate action.

So maybe that’s why I love reading and writing middle grade fiction. It’s that space between younger forms of fiction and young adult. It’s a transitional place, and that implies dynamic change, a place of learning. And yes, sometimes the middle zone gets overlooked or disparaged. But these days, I’ve got thick skin, and don’t worry about it.

To me the between place is a place of magic, a space to pause to try something new, a place that invites the imagination. A place where a child’s sense of selfhood expands, where true independence begins.

I’m so glad to be a middle-aged woman, writing middle grade books. But I must confess to being happy that I’m not living in the Middle Ages!

How do you feel about the word middle?

Hillary Homzie is the author of the newly released Queen of Likes (Simon & Schuster MIX 2016), The Hot List (Simon & Schuster MIX 2011) and Things Are Gonna Be Ugly (Simon & Schuster, 2009). She can be found at hillaryhomzie.com and on her Facebook page.

Hillary Homzie
  1. I’m glad I don’t live in the Middle Ages either! Very fun post. Thanks.

    • Thanks, Rosi! I don’t mind the Middle Ages though if I’m reading about it. Love Karen’s Cushman’s books.

  2. I’m a middle child, so middle suits me fine.