This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Tuesday 23 August 2011

Thing To Do Today: be pert.

Now, this word is a real puzzle - but let's get the science out of the way first.

PERT is a formula developed during the design of the Polaris submarine. It claims to tell you how long any job will take. The formula is TE = (O+4M+P)

Now, this looks jolly impressive until you find out that means.

It means: add your gloomiest guess at how long something's going to take (P) to your cheeriest guess (O), add on four times your most balanced guess (M), and divide by six.


Anyway, let's forget the "science" and get on to the more interesting stuff, ie, the puzzle of pertPert means impudent or jaunty (as in a pert hat). In the past it's meant clever or brisk, too.

But, hang on, what about a pert bottom? Surely a bottom can't be impudent, clever, or brisk. Jaunty is a bit surprising, too.

A quick survey of the people in this house reveals that a pert bottom is thought to be: a) apple rather than pear-shaped, b) small and c) not at all droopy.

No dictionary I can find even mentions this sense of the word pert.

So, if you have the opportunity, please ask your friends and relations about pert, and let me know what they think.

Go on. In the name of science.

Thing To Do Today: be pert. This word comes from the Middle English word meaning unconcealed, from apert, which means obvious or frank, from the Latin apertus, open.

1 comment:

  1. Fascinating stuff and I must try that nice equation sometime! But as to pert bottoms, I believe that is 'fashionspeak' and has probably not hit the OED yet. I have seen mention of 'pert breasts' in certain kinds of novel. Oh I lowering the tone at the Word Den? Hope not!


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