This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Nuts and Bolts: caught napping.

"Cats are not dogs!"

So begins PG Wodehouse's short story The Story of Webster from  his collection Mulliner Nights. 

(Webster, by the way, is a cat.)

This story came to mind when it occurred to me that the ideal opportunity to perpetrate a dognap (that is, to steal a dog in order to ransom it) might be to pounce when both the pooch and its owner were having a catnap.

Further research revealed the words Flynap and Wet-Nap, too.

So what, in all these cases, is a nap?

Well, the catnap one is easiest, because in this case the nap just means, well, nap, as in short sleep. Dogs and people have catnaps, too, of course, but cats may be said to have elevated the activity into an art form of extreme elegance.

The word dognap is different. It's based on kidnap (that is, to steal away a child (or anyone else) for the purposes of ransom). The nap here is an extinct version of nab, which still to this day means to steal, or, at least, to seize a brief opportunity to acquire something. 

But what about Flynap? I mean, however you creep up on flies they never seem to be asleep - and, let's face it, kidnapping a fly would be the work of a lunatic.

Well, Flynap is basically a substance called triethylamine, and it's used to anaesthetise fruit flies, presumably for scientific purposes. Cleverly named, I'd say.

And Wet-Nap

Well, Wet-Nap is a moist tissue for cleaning the hands, and this nap is, presumably, from napkin, which comes from Old French nape, tablecloth, from the Latin mappa, which is means small cloth or towel, and is related, surprisingly, to our word map.

By the way, I discovered during the research for this post that the Shetland Islands word for lamb is, rather sweetly, kidi

It's not relevant, just nice to know.


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