flash fiction challenge about backing up

What’s got your back up?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has urged writers to have a backup plan in place for their work. She suggested a variety of ways including storage on USBs or external hard drives, in the cloud or as hard copies. She also warned that no method is fail-safe.

flash fiction challenge to back up

The cautionary post preceded, as her posts often do, a flash fiction challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the term backup. You can back up or have a backup, just go where the prompt leads! However, there is no suggestion of caution in her final phrase ‘go where the prompt leads’.

When I began to consider how I might use the term ‘backup’, I was soon faced with the complexity of our language and wondering how we ever learn to make any sense of it at all.

Back up may be used as a two-word-phrase or as a compound word. The words, with their regular short vowel sounds and consonants, are easy to read and pronounce, even for the youngest beginning readers. Individually, their meanings are clear. Back refers to a part of the body or a location behind. Up is the opposite of down. But put them together and the complexity of meaning emerges with possible use as nouns, verbs or adjectives.

Below are some examples of meanings that can be applied to the phrase:

Feeling annoyed

Perhaps the most literal translation is in reference to a feeling of annoyance; for example, He got his back up when they insinuated he was always late for work. This use comes from a cat arching its back when annoyed.

Move backwards

The truck driver was told to back up to avoid blocking the driveway.

He had to reconsider and back up when the others told him he was wrong.

Teachers may need to back up on what they had planned when they realise the children are not understanding their lessons.

Blocked

The backup of traffic was caused by an earlier accident on the narrow bridge.

The water would back up in the gutters and overflow every time it rained due to the leaves from the overhanging trees.

Support

It is important to back up any science report with evidence from research.

The situation was escalating, and the police were relieved when backup arrived.

The backup singer was required to take the lead when the performer got laryngitis.

Alternative strategy

You need a backup plan in case this one doesn’t work.

You need to backup your digital work in case your computer crashes.

Posture support

One birthday, thoughtful Hub gifted me a wearable device for supporting my posture during long hours at my desk. Sadly, it was complicated, and he was the only one to don it, semi-successfully. Those of us less brave to even attempt were in stitches as he manoeuvred himself into it. Having failed to convince me or anyone else to try, it has been relegated to the back of an (unknown) cupboard ever since. Mere mention of the BackUp causes fits of laughter and it remained #1 inappropriate gift for many years – until he presented man perfume on another birthday.

This is a true story. No names have been changed to protect the innocent. I tried to find an image of the device online, but it seems the design has probably improved over the years. The one Hub gave me had straps to go around the knees as well as the back.

You’d think with all the different meanings of ‘back up’ that I’d have no trouble finding a story to write. However, since the description of my birthday surprise is 99 words, no more no less, and for the fact that I have no backup plan, that true story will be my contribution this week. I hope you like it. Perhaps truth is stranger than fiction.

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your comments. Please share your thoughts.

53 thoughts on “What’s got your back up?

  1. robbiesinspiration

    What a lovely post, Norah. A good laugh was just what I need after a week of working 12-hour non-stop days. Poor Terence spent years buying me gifts his mother would love – perfume and jewelry. Now, after all these years, he has stopped adding to the groupings in my cupboard and piles in the safe and I get great gifts like a breadmaker and a Kenwood.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m pleased the post gave you a laugh, Robbie. 🙂 I’ve been working long weeks too and always appreciate a good laugh.
      I’m pleased you’ve got Terence trained to give you the gifts you enjoy. Many others would enjoy the perfume and jewellery. Just shows how important it is to know the person to whom you are giving the gift. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Christy.
      English is complex indeed, but your comment got me thinking about languages that are difficult to learn so I Googled it. English didn’t make the list of the top 25. Chinese and then Arabic were the top two in two of the lists I consulted. I wondered if English wasn’t included because I’m an English speaker but I couldn’t find a suitable answer to that. One source said it’s easy to learn the basics but difficult to learn the complexities. I think I’d agree with that. 🙂

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      1. Christy B

        Oh wow that surprises me about English not making the list. There are a lot of exceptions to the rule in English. Yes true what you say about the complexities of the language 😉

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  2. Susan Scott

    Thanks Norah for all the uses of back up! Well, the imagery was very real – and funny! Laughter is the best medicine. Hope you found a suitable something to keep your back up and straight … important that.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Susan. I’m pleased you enjoyed the post and had a laugh at the same time. I didn’t ever acquire a device to support my posture. I could probably do with one now, but I’d have even less chance of getting into the one that Hub gave me these days! 🙂

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  3. Jacqui Murray

    Your husband’s well-intentioned gift–that’s so funny. I love him for trying! As for the definitions for ‘back up’–I did a similar exercise with ‘turkey’ for Thanksgiving and teaching symbols. I was stunned how many different definitions for that word readers came up with.

    Good post, Norah.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I love him for trying too – and for the laughs, and for not minding that we continue laughing even now, years later. 🙂
      I can think of a few meanings of turkey without even trying. I’m sure you came up with a great list!
      I’m pleased you enjoyed the post, Jacqui. Thank you.

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m so pleased you enjoyed the story, Jennie. It is one of our family’s favourites that comes out every so often. When my daughter phoned just as I finished writing, I mentioned that the prompt word was ‘backup’. She immediately laughed and said, “You’ve got your own story about that.” So I read it to her. 🙂

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  4. Charli Mills

    How ironic that a device to improve posture requires a contortionist to access! Funny image you give us all, sharing that memory. Love that the 99-word magic slipped into the story and gave you your response for the prompt. Thank you for breaking down the iterations of back up.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Contortionist! What a great word. I wish I’d thought of it instead of manoeuvre. It is really what he had to do. 🙂
      I was just lucky the story, with a little tweaking, came to 99 words as I had nothing else in mind. 🙂

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  5. Jules

    I once had one of those backless chairs. You had to maneuver into it and wrap your knees over their padded resting place. It was supposed to keep you Back Up – Ha. Maybe like one of those ‘ball’ chairs where you are forced to sit straight? Anyway I feel your pain and humor. Some things, especially when screws get loose and pieces fall apart can only be backed up into the trash 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      “Backed up into the trash”. I like that Jules. Yes, there are many different devices to help us with our posture. A friend at work used to sit on one of those balls. It did keep her back straight but it looked a bit funny. I think I would have just rolled off. That would have been funnier! 🙂

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  6. Hugh's Views and News

    Indeed, it is, Norah, although I would have loved to have seen the posture device. It must have been hilarious watching your husband trying to put it on. Straps around the knees? I guess it’s the thought that counts, though?

    And as for the English language and the different meanings words can have when spelt or said the same; I’m glad that it’s my first language because I would have had great difficulty learning it. I admire all those who learn it as a second or third language.

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    1. Norah Post author

      It was hilarious, Hugh. I don’t think many would have been able to use the device effectively. At least it was good for laughs though. I can just imagine one of those TV talk show hosts trying to ‘wear’ it and having everyone in stitches. Graham Norton would have done particularly well, I think. 🙂 Or Billy Connolly – he wouldn’t even have needed the device to demonstrate. 🙂
      I agree with you about having English as a first language, Hugh. I am constantly amazed that anyone can make sense of anyone else at all.

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  7. TanGental

    The sort of corrective wear you’ve described is exactly the sort sod thing my dad would try, usually with negligible benefits and lots of laughter for the rest of us. A hand support that trapped his middle finger inside, bent hard agaisnt the palm is one, espeically as you need two hands to tak it off..

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    1. Norah Post author

      I think the BackUp and the device you described must have been designed by the same person! That’s hilarious. They probably did okay with those gifts anyway. The gift that gives laughter over and over can’t be all that bad. 🙂

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  8. Nobbinmaug

    I went through the various meanings for mine, too, mostly because I was searching for inspiration.

    I’m trying to picture the BackUp. I imagine it was very awkward and uncomfortable. Sometimes we’re clueless, even when our hearts are in the right place.

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    1. Norah Post author

      You used two of the meanings well.
      The BackUp device seemed to have straps going everywhere – some to go over the knees and some around the shoulders and some I don’t know where. He really had to contort himself to get into it. It’s always been a good source of mirth so perhaps it was a great gift after all. Laughter must be one of the best gifts. 🙂

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  9. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    A lovely post, Norah, both informative and full of fun. I love your examples, and didn’t know about the origins of the first in feline behaviour. I’m still laughing at your flash (at least he tried, even if you told him not to). Mine is also a BOT or is it even memoir, but not as funny as yours.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, Anne. I look forward to reading your post and BOT. I’m pleased my story gave you a smile. I wasn’t sure I’d told it well enough for those not in the know. 🙂

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  10. Bec

    Hi Nor, thanks for the laugh! I remember the back up well 😂. My distinct memory is that Bob came across it at a caravan and camping expo after you had explicitly told him to not buy a birthday present for you from there! Thank you for sharing your lovely story and also your interesting reflections on language.

    Liked by 2 people

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    1. Norah Post author

      I’m pleased you remember the fun event, Bec, and that the memory gave you a laugh. (Otherwise, I wouldn’t have been truthful. 🙂 )
      I don’t remember the camping and caravan expo caution, but am not surprised that he took no notice. 🙂
      Thank you for taking the time in your busy schedule to read and comment. 🙂

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