Word twist... leaving lockdown
WE CAN GO OUT AGAIN! The prime minister’s announcement means, from today, Monday 17 May, we can meet for a drink with up to five others as part of England’s third step of the lockdown roadmap.
The news prompted me to write a word twist on:
So, grab a drink (and a few mates if they’re handy) and read on…
Approach another human being. Preferably one you already know. Wrap your arms around that human being. They should automatically reciprocate. If not, just pick up their upper limbs and hurl them around your carcass. Feel good? Damn right it does.
For those of you who’ve forgotten, that physical act is called a hug. That rush of euphoria is caused by your feel-good hormones coursing through your system. We’ll come back to hormones in a sec. As for hugging, well, if you think back, you did that kind of thing on a regular basis before March 2020.
Like many of the best things in life, the word is said to come from our Scandi cousins and is related to the Norwegian ‘hugga’, meaning ‘comfort, console’ according to the Oxford Dictionary. Those of you who bought the bestselling ‘The Little Book of Hygge’ four or five years ago can probably see the connection between the two words. Hygge (say 'hoo-gah'), which is actually Danish, is all about lighting candles, chatting with loved ones and sinking into an ocean of soft furnishings. Or whatever it takes to turn your world into Cocoon Central.
This fantastic article unpicks the science of hugs. It's written by Kulraj, a physiotherapist who explains that the free arm-swapping activity has a ton of benefits that include reducing blood pressure (thanks to a drop in the production of the stress hormone, cortisol); lowering heart rates; and increasing the production of oxytocin.
Oxytocin has been described as the body’s love hormone. According to this Healthline article, its relationship-enhancing effects include:
Positive relationship memories
Processing of bonding cues
Which, I think it’s safe to say, is a big fat bundle of joy.
When two people throw their arms around each other, it's called hugging.
Photo: Marcelo Rangel/ Unsplash
Speaking of joy, you may be thinking about hugging some of your friends INSIDE a pub today. In fact, if you have enough to drink, you can also hug everyone else in the pub. Actually, no, wait. Boris Johnson did not say this: I’m simply recalling what I tend to do when in celebratory mood. The prime minister actually advises 'cautious hugging'. Unfortunately, I have no idea what that looks like.
The word pub is short for public house, which I haven’t heard since we got to such places by horse and carriage. Wikipedia tells us:
‘The term public house first appeared in the late 17th century and was used to differentiate private houses from those which were, quite literally, open to the public as 'alehouses', ‘taverns’ and ‘inns’.’
'Public' comes from Latin publicus, a ‘blend of poplicus ‘of the people’ (from populus ‘people’) and pubes ‘adult’ (Oxford Dictionary).
On the subject of pubs, what is the deal with their names? The Drunken Duck, The Slug And Lettuce, The Butcher's Bollocks. Ok, ok, they're not all actual names. But there are some slightly bonkers ones out there. If you want to know more about pub names, this intriguing British Heritage Travel article is a good starting point. It begins:
‘It was in 1393, during the reign of King Richard II, that pubs were first ordered to hang a sign outside to make them easily visible. Given that the majority of the population could not read, an illustration was often used, and considering their primary trade, many opted for something to do with beer: hops, barley, or barrel. And with it, the name of the pub was born. If you pass a pub called The Hop Pole, the Barley Mow, or the Three Barrels, that is likely to be where the name originated.’
Check it out if you've ever wondered where names like The Royal Oak or The Strugglers come from.
Drinking with friends. Inside a pub. This is what people did pre-lockdown and can do again from today. Photo: Elevate/ Unsplash
This leaves us with the word that describes close vowel sounds that don’t actually rhyme, like ‘pub’ and ‘hug’. Writers use assonance to emphasise the musicality of particular phrases by encouraging us to stress similar-sounding words. Assonance gives a phrase a bit of zhuzh. Like a pub-hug gives a human a bit of zhuzh.
Assonance is just one of many literary tricks writers have up their sleeves to make their messages stickier among readers.
And stickier, in this sense at least (rather than when describing, say, a pub floor), is a very good thing.
Maybe, if you’re going for a drink in The Open Arms this week, you could discuss whether literary devices help messages stick with you. Alternatively, you could just get drunk and hug people.
Thanks for reading.