Friday, February 16, 2024

Of Discs and Flossing


 The book!  With the dog's front paw for decoration

I’m at that brain dead stage when the book has gone off, cover copy is done, cover is done and all seems to be well with the world. I promise myself I’m not going through that again, I’ll never write another book. 

That stage lasts for approximately 24 hours and then a wee idea pops into my head. 

At time during that edit process, I did begin to wonder if English was my first language. But then spoken English is very different to written English.

Stan once asked on a panel what the word was with the most definitions, and the word was 'set', which got me thinking how words evolve and indeed change their meaning. 

Or their intended meaning, depending on who is receiving it. 

This has obvious consequences when one country might use a word as a term of affection, and another English speaking country it's an extremely abusive term. There's a few words than Eng uk and Eng Am, are definately not interchangable.

As racial abuse in Scotland exists in the person who overhears it, that can be problematic.

A friend of mine’s husband was recently arrested because he called his neighbour an 'English bam'. It was a relatively lighthearted exchange between two friends and neighbours over the fence and about the rugby but somebody walking past reported him. He was arrested. The charges were dropped 24 hours later, but it produced a lot of paperwork and is totally nonsensical.

I blame she who can decide what eye she cries with.

So if beauty is in the eye of the beholder then is the meaning in the ear of the receiver. In Caroline Taggart's New Words for Old she has 200 pages of words that have changed their meaning. 

Cookie being one, spam being another. It meant spiced pork and ham to me? 

But one of the words she looks at is 'disc' and I would always spell it disc whereas the other half always spells it disk. And that’s because one of us is an osteopath and the other one a computer geek. It derives from the ancient Greek word for 'to throw', but the word I could find was 'Ballos' and variations therein....

 And then that has become discus which we are all familiar with as a track and field event. That object referred to by the word disc will be flat and circular, but  the  object itself will change.  Gramaphone records, compact discs, the shell of some small beasties, hard disks, floppy disks and it my case intervertebral discs – annullar fibres of tough fibrous material and inside the ball of compressable rubbery material called the nucleus polposus. The weight bearing and shock absorbing of that structure is incredible, but to patients with a  tear on the annullar bit and with the rubbery bit leaking out- a slipped disc in common parlance- a herniated or prolapsed disc to us depending on the degree - I always say 'the jam is leaking out the doughnut' as they writhe in pain.

The pain from a herniation that's irritating the sciatic nerve is worse than passing a kidney stone.

Any way,  guess the good thing about data disks are they are circular so they spin well round a central point while being flat and therefore easily read.

There’s a very famous book called the Mill on the Floss and the floss in that is a river. George Elliot and lots of restrained passion in the hay.

And then there’s a character is Ulysses who carries dental floss in his pocket. The word floss comes from silk – the rough silk that goes around the cocoon of the silk worm. And original dental floss was made from silk. And the word floss has been swept along even though now all dental floss is synthetic.

However if we speak to a 'young person of today' and ask them what flossing was, they would probably start jiggling around, waving their arms and legs about like a toy windmill with the batteries running down. And that kind of flossing is a good way to disrupt your intervertebral disk.

Floss, as well as dancing can mean the opposite of relax; if somebody is a bit flossed up, they are a tad hyper. Why does that make me think of racehorses getting a sweat on in the paddock?

To floss in the states ( is it true?) is to show off wealth in an ostentatious way. No danger of us crime writers doing that!

Anyway, here's another picture of the book that provoked this blog. This is the dog's rear paw, she was bored and like any good criminal, she quickly left the scene



  1. Actually, in the US, floss is a kind of string for cleaning between one’s teeth. Abs flossing is act of doing so. Here’s one that amuses me. People signing off after a radio interview say thank you for having me on.” I wonder what would happen if a Brit was conducting interview. Would she say, I am not having you. I

    1. Oops! Blogger with its usual nasty habits, posted while I was still typing. The amusement comes from the opposing definitions of “ Having me on” in the US and the UK. From AA

    2. Ah, 'having me on' as are you jesting with me? If I was on the radio, what would I say? "Thank you for asking me" "It's been lovely.' Something like that.

  2. Thanks to you, I just learned that "floss" was a dance movement and watched a flossing tutorial on YouTube! I also found out (thank you, Google) that bam is short for bamstick and means obnoxious. I realize it may actually be considered obscene if someone can get arrested for using it, but Google doesn't make that clear! I'll have to find a Scot here in Bern to ask. In any case, I appreciated being taught these new words.

  3. And there's another one! Bam, to us means Bampot. A Term of endearment. My friend has a wee puppy, it has no brains. It's a wee bam! Probably derived from bamstick but much more daft than obnoxious.

  4. What about Bam-Bam and Pebbles?---Jeff

    1. Bam Bam and Pebbles? That's a nickname given to two of our political leaders you know!