Phrases

I’ve listed intriguing words several times in this blog, and once or twice (I don’t remember how often), I’ve talked about phrases. Time to do that again.

I’ll start with lower the boom. It means to act suddenly and forcefully to punish someone or force him to adhere to a set of rules. The expression came into use in the United States in the early twentieth century and has an odd etymology. The boom referred to is a is a spar (pole), along the foot of a sail on a ship, that can be raised and lowered. Lowering it so that it would strike someone would be a severe attack.

Done for means sunk in defeat, beaten, mortally stricken, doomed. It derives from the use of the verb “do” to mean to kill, as in “do in.”

Tank as a verb has two meanings. The first is to make no effort to win or lose intentionally, as in “he tanked the match.” The second meaning is to place, store, or treat in a tank. The noun “tank” means a place to store liquid. It is also the name applied to an armored, gun-mounted vehicle moving on continuous articulated tracks. According to the Online Etymological Dictionary, the word “tank” was originally imported by the Portuguese from India, from a Hindi source, such as (1) Gujarati tankh, a cistern, underground reservoir for water; or (2) Marathi tanken, or tanka meaning a reservoir of water. The word may be ultimately from Sanskrit tadaga-m meaning pond, lake, pool, or large artificial container for liquid. Another possible source is the Portuguese tanque “reservoir,” from estancar, meaning to hold back a current of water, from Vulgar Latin stanticare.

Storm category: The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on a hurricane’s maximum sustained wind speed. The ratings range from Category 1, 74-95 miles per hour (MPH) winds, labelled “very dangerous,” to Category 5, 157 or higher MPH winds, considered to be capable of inflicting “catastrophic damage.” To give you a sense of how serious the categories are, Hurricane Ian, which recently hit West Florida, was classified as a Category 4 hurricane, meaning it had wind speeds of up to 150 miles per hour. Only 32 hurricanes have made landfall as a Category 4 storm or higher in the continental U.S. since record keeping began in 1851.

More next time.

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