This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Thing To do Today: dredge.

The names of a couple of my local rivers, the Gade and the Ver, are said to be two the very few words that survive from the language spoken in this part of England before the Romans came.

The Ver and the Gade are small rivers, but after our very wet winter even they are threatening to flood (size isn't everything: an even smaller local river, the Bourne Gutter, causes more trouble than both the Gade and the Ver put together. The Bourne Gutter is a woe water. It's usually dry, but if it flows then it's said that war is sure to follow. As it happens, though, we're still at war from the last time it flowed in 2003, so I can't see that it can really do any more damage).

Anyway. The authorities have failed to dredge the River Parrett and now a large areas of the Somerset levels are under water. The authorities justify their lack of action by pointing out that an extra couple of feet of depth wouldn't hold that much water.

Hm. They don't really seem to understand the difference between a river and a reservoir, do they?

I hope very much the floods recede soon, but for those of us blessedly dry, what can we dredge?

Well, dredge is another lovely lovely contranym, hurray. It can mean to drag things out, as in a shopping trolley from the bed of a river, or as in an equally buried memory (Where did I leave the car? or What colour is the car? Did I bring the car?  Do I own a car? What exactly is a car? according to how far we are along life's journey).

Or dredge can mean to shake on a topping, as in sugar on fruit or flour on meat.

So, the choice is before you: delve about in a river scooping up mud, or put sugar on your dinner.

Do you know something? I think I may have just invented a quick and simple sanity test.

Thing To Do Today: dredge. The mud-shifting word probably comes from the Old Eglish dragan to draw; the sprinkling word comes from the Old French dragie, perhaps from the Latin tragēmata, spices.

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