This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Thing To Do Today: scour something.

All the Black Friday stuff may be over (hurray!) but here, nevertheless, are two words for the price of one (and, let's face it, the price of one is, well, nothing, so what sort of a bargain is that?).

Ladies and Gentlemen,* I present to you the word scour.

Now, the oldest meaning of scour is to do with getting rid of muck. Most usually we scour saucepans after they mysteriously go and boil dry (I blame the weather/varying chemical composition of natural gas) but a riverbed can be scoured by the force of flood water, and (I hope you aren't eating) scouring a cow is designed to give its insides a good clear-out.

On a gentler note, washing raw wool for the first time is also called scouring.

But what about when a whole countryside is scoured for an escaped villain? And what about when you're trying to find a dropped earring? Or a baked bean on stripped pine floor? 

It's rather nice to think of someone scraping up every clump if heather on a moor to find the villain (or, even more thrillingly, a completely innocent man-who-knows-too-much). It's satisfying, too, to imagine someone scooping up every fluff of dust in the hope of scooping up the earring/baked bean with it. Sadly, though, this scour is a completely different word.

At least, it started off as a completely different word - but nowadays both sorts of  scour are pretty-much meshed in my mind, at least.

Thing To Do Today: scour something. The cleaning meaning comes to us through the Middle Low German schūren, from the Latin excūrāre, to cleanse, from cūrāre, to attend to or to heal. The searching sort of scour comes from the Old Norse skūr.

*Can one say that nowadays without offending the LGBTTQ+ people? Hope so!

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