Thursday, 30 January 2014

Tricky Words and Coal Pudding.

I decided to choose a word that I thought Oxford Dictionaries Online might have difficulty defining. I chose ‘big.’

Of considerable size or extent

OK, predictable enough, but if you don’t know what a simple word like ‘big’ means, what are the chances that you’ll be familiar with terribly academic words like ‘considerable’ and ‘extent?’

If a child asked you what ‘big’ means, you’d sit him down with a ping-pong ball and a basketball, point and say ‘This is a small ball. This is a big ball.’ Or you might try the same thing with cows:

‘These are small, but the ones out there are far away.’

‘So does far away mean the same as big, Ted?’

‘Er, no.’

Tricky, isn’t it?

*  *  *

The only reason I’m bothering to scrape the bottom of the barrel like this is because the coal I’m being sold this winter is rubbish. No matter how much I lift it, separate it, draw it and rake out the grate vents, it still sits there like a black version of the skin on a week-old rice pudding. If it were any deader, I would just bury it in the garden suitably armed with a note to St Peter saying ‘It isn’t my fault, gov. Mrs Thatcher closed down all the good pits and left me to carry the can.’

The upshot of this is that my living room isn’t getting as warm as it should, so I might as well sit in my slightly-less-than-lukewarm office, accepting the cold nose in the knowledge that at least I have the compensation of being able to keep my fingers exercised typing trash.

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