This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Monday, 30 December 2013

Spot the frippet: battery.

A battery can be a dozen different things, but the names for all   of them come from the same source.

I love this. I love the way the meaning of a word can flow in strange directions and take you almost anywhere.

How come a line of hens in cages have ended up with the same name as a chess move and a set of cymbals?

Well, you get a clue if you look at some of the different sorts of batteries there are.

There's the sort that have just given up powering your Christmas presents, for a start; then there's a cunning chess ploy; the percussion instruments of an orchestra; the catcher and pitcher of a baseball game; a series of cages for hens live in; a group of psychological tests, or a group of other things, such as questions, lipsticks or pencils;

File:Colouring pencils.jpg
Photo: MichaelMaggs

 ...then there's touching someone in a hostile manner (that sort of battery is an English legal term); a place to arrange your cannons; and an array of guns or searchlights all operated from the same switchboard.

The thing they have in common? Can you spot it?

Yes, it's power, and often power-in-numbers (yes, lipstick is powerful stuff. And so are pens).

Have a look at what you have arranged in a battery, and ten to one you'll find out what sort of power is important to you.

You might even not need to do all those psychological tests, then.

Spit the frippet: battery. All these words come from the Old French batterie, beating, from the Latin battuere, to beat.


  1. Oooooh ... when I use my mouse wheel to scroll this page up and down, it looks like that battery of pencils are rotating ...

    Oooooh (scrolling again)

    1. I tried that several times before I heard the far-away sound of an Irish Eddie convulsed with laughter.

    2. No, honestly! Just try it again ... you'll see ...

      : o )