This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Monday, 3 October 2016

Spot the Frippet: raft.

A raft is a simple thing. Anyone could make one, or extemporise one, and so in theory an adventure down the river on a raft is never far away. 

Perhaps that's why rafts are fascinating.

File:Bamboo raft.jpg
photo by Yuval Haimovits

But where to spot one? Well, I suppose any river or puddle might support a leaf acting as a raft to some small creature. When I was very small the Tropical House at Kew Gardens in London contained (and perhaps still does) giant water lily leaves that were said to support the weight of a five-year-old (though, sadly, I was never allowed to find out if it was true).

A large floating area or collection of anything is a raft, whether it is ice, or weeds, or drifting wood, or water birds. 

A raft can actually be a large collection of anything, though if it's away from water this raft is at root an entirely different word. A cupboard might contain a raft of baking trays, or a government might launch a raft of laws, Books also sometimes come in rafts. But, although this raft is at root entirely different from the boat sort of raft, the meanings have got a bit muddled over the centuries and now even this sort of raft tends to describe the sort of thing that's launched or is flat enough to float. 

I could imagine a raft of sandwiches, for instance, but not a raft of doughnuts...

...unless, I suppose someone had sat on them.

Spot the Frippet: raft. The floating word comes from the Old Norse raptr, which means rafter. The collection word comes from the Old French rafle, a snatching up.

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