Pop culture hits again, this time with head-desking which is exactly what you think it is. Someone faced with a situation that is frustrating and seemingly unsolvable can literally and figuratively lead to head-desking. To head-desk is to reach a perceived impasse that causes the person to experience a level of frustration that is so intense that one feels it must literally be smacked out of one’s head to relieve the pressure.
NaNoWriMo author Zanzibar 7. Schwarznegger published “Veneri Verbum” through Chizzy Press in 2015 where the word head-desk was used as a verb. The novel is listed in the humorous science fiction & fantasy category and tells the story of Christopher Cullum and the problems he experiences as a writer.
“I can hear your thoughts here. Third-person narrative, but thoughts are transparent. Thoughts are pretty much as transparent as glass, clear as a summer day. Why do you have to have so many terrible sayings in your head?” She leaned over to head-desk against the wall a few times.
SIDE NOTE 1: Zanzibar 7. Schwarznegger is the humor/satire writer of the Figment series and The Chronicles of the Bobian, and is said to live in the Pacific Northwest. Little else seems to be known about the author.
The activity was mentioned by Charles J. Muir (who also has ties to NaNoWriMo) in his 2013 book, “Word Ninja” in the chapter titled, “Smashing Writer’s Block: It’s All About The Tools” which is part of the “Write Life” segment of the book.
Writer’s block. It’s pernicious. Its sources are many, as are its manifestations. It may drive you to head desking, to obsessively playing videogames, to cleaning things that have not seen a dust cloth in decades. But the defining characteristic is this – you want to write, you try to write, and you can’t.
Now head-desking should not be mistaken for desking (which is also a thing). In fact, desking was used in the book “The Path That Led To Africa” written by Michael Longford (30 May 1928 – 2005), with a Foreword by Peter Bottomley, and published in 2003. The word desking appears in Chapter 3 titled, “Westminster In The Country (1939 – 1945).”
On another occasion, I can not remember exactly what offence I had committed, but I was sentenced by the Head of House to be ‘desked’ for three days. I do not remember any other boy ever being given this punishment while I was at school. ‘Desking’ consisted of being made to spend the whole of one’s leisure time at one’s desk. No one was allowed to speak to the delinquent boy at his desk, and he was not allowed to speak to anyone else, except at mealtimes, and then only to ask his neighbour to pass some item of food which was not within his own reach. Desking is not a punishment which fills an offender with contrition or a resolve to behave better in future.
SIDE NOTE 2: The author’s father was Captain Terence Ackley Fitzmaurice Longford and his mother was Dr. Geraldine Nora Longford née Geary who married in 1920. Michael Longford attended Westminster School and Oxford University, served in the Royal Signals, and joined the Colonial Administrative Service before moving on to being secretary to Lord Twining, Governor in Tanganyika which gained its independence from Britain in 1961. After his retirement from the British Civil Service, Michael Longford continued to work in various positions including being a member of the UK Committee of UNICEF.
SIDE NOTE 3: Three years after Tanganyika gained its independence from the British Commonwealth, it found itself embroiled in the Zanzibar Revolution of 1964 which overthrew the Sultan and his primarily Arab government. Zanzibar merged with Tanganyika and became the nation of Tanzania. The name was decided on by taking the first three letters of both countries and adding a suffix.
SIDE NOTE 4: Michael Longford’s wife Jennifer May Longford née Stevenson (4 October 1929 – 5 March 2012) also had an interesting childhood. Her mother, Frances Stevenson was the mistress of former British Prime Minister David Lloyd George (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) from 1912 (a year after she became governess to his daughter Megan in 1911) until they married in 1943, two years after the death of his first wife Margaret George née Owen (4 November 1864 – 20 January 1941). Jennifer was 13 years old.
For years, there were rumors that Jennifer was the illegitimate daughter of Lloyd George’s political secretary, Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Tweed (1 January 1890–30 April 1940). However, when her mother died in 1972, Jennifer discovered a note written by her mother to Lloyd George months before her birth wherein her mother stated she suspected she was pregnant with his child. Twice, Jennifer Longford considered DNA testing to confirm her father was Lloyd George, however, she never went through with it. It is generally accepted that Lloyd George was undoubtedly her father.
SIDE NOTE 5: Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas Tweed (1 January 1890–30 April 1940) was
As interesting as all that is, head-desking appears to be a new expression over the last five years. Idiomation was unable to find published versions of head-desk or head-desking earlier than 2012. The repeat NaNoWriMo references and connections found while researching this entry seems to imply it’s because there’s not much more history to track. We therefore peg this to 2010 to allow time for social media to move the word from obscurity to active verb status.