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Month: October 2017

No ticking time bomb: why words are redundant

TimeBomb

In recent weeks I became curious about the metaphor ‘a ticking time bomb’.

There’s something about it that does not ring true. Not true, in that sense but not grammatically correct.

There are too many words in the phrase. The offending word here is ‘ticking’.

Rats in the language

 

Rats! If you’ve ever had the problem of rats in your home, you may identify with strongly negative feelings about the small annoying creatures.

Thanks to my compulsive TV watching habits, I learnt that the collective noun for rats is mischief – a mischief of rats.

Collective nouns for animals, such as a congress of baboons are very interesting and often surprising – too many to mention here.

Thinking back to last year when the rats came to eat the dog food that was carelessly left around the home, their trails of mischief were abundant. From the holes in the packaging of the sturdy dog food bags, to little poo droppings all over the place, it was plain to see we had a rat problem.

We could hear them running in the roof, and saw a couple run across the lounge floor, but at such a speed, we could not catch them. We would shriek,  “there goes a rat” but be frozen to inaction as the rat scuttled to safety under the cupboard. And who wants to touch a rat with bare hands and no trapping device? (not that I would use one of those).

It wasn’t long before the rats were breeding faster than rabbits. We had to call the exterminator to get rid of the multiple mischiefs.

Other meanings

Rats are associated with dirt, disease and disgust, so when you refer to someone as a rat, you imply that they are not trustworthy.

To rat on someone means to give the game away, in other words, to tell the boss that your colleague is not at work because he is applying for another job, and not at the doctor with a near fatal tumor.

Rats in the language give expression to displeasure or distaste but their close cousin the mouse, has a much friendlier reputation. They are considered cute and considerate – as quiet as a mouse – and many a character has been animated to be a larger than life rodent. Perhaps we have Mickey Mouse to thank for that.

Any famous rats of Walt Disney fame? None that I know of, but thousands upon thousands used in medical experiments for the health of human kind.

Feedback welcome.

How big is your appetite for words?

Five word pairs to increase your word power

A deadly blutterance: How words are formed

Fartlek, among the funniest words in the English language

Christian has a whiff up his nose
Have these men done their fartlek?

Yesterday as I was cursing the spinning instructor for insisting I use muscles I didn’t know I had to save energy, I thought she had lost the plot.

Saving energy seemed the most unlikely outcome for all the effort it took to apply these untrained muscles to a cycling routine. Raised heart rate and an opportunity to confront my fitness or lack thereof were much more on track.

Nonetheless, I was enjoying myself and got to thinking about all the other sweaty pursuits I had participated in with greater or lesser skill.

At school, I played, netball, squash and hockey – even made the athletics team at age 13; at varsity I ventured into badminton and once or twice allowed my roommate to drag me out of bed for a jog around the block.

Post university, I was keen to learn modern dancing, something I had yearned for from a very young age. I loved dancing, first modern, cotemporary and later Latin and Ballroom with a skill rating of average in all instances.

Mid-career I bought a fitness franchise to supplement my income. The franchise provided members with a running or walking programme tailored to fitness levels.

I had to learn how to instruct the programme and all the terminology that went along with it.

It was the first time I came across the word fartlek. It sounded like a way to release flatulence on a long run, and then blaming the person behind you. I laughed as I visualised thousands of runners in an athletics heat trying to surge ahead to escape the foul air.

But fartlek is a programme that includes interval training. Alpha dictionary describes it as an athletic training regime. Fartlek is also listed as one of the funniest words in the English language, ranking in the top 50.  https://www.alphadictionary.com/articles/100_funniest_words.html

I am always delighted to find new words and explore their meanings, but I must admit that an athletics training manual was the last place I expected to find a word to add to my vocabulary.

 

Somnolent: Word use and origin

How to deal with your Grammar Gremlins