Thursday, November 20, 2008

Common, leeks, jump or kick

Posted by Picasa Sunshine on the edge of the Common.

When I buy some leeks from the convenience store in Grove Hill Road, I break the tops and bend them over so as to fit them in to my shoulder bag. The owner, who once lectured me on the indiscriminate use of plastic bags, breaks off his telephone conversation in a language I can't identify, to say in English "well done," as he hands me my change.

This morning on the radio I distinctly hear the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson twice speak of "jump starting" the housing market in London. At least, I think to myself, he hasn't said "kick start", which every body else says nowadays; and I feel a ridiculous glow of pleasure. But the glow quickly fades when I read, this evening in the London Evening Standard, a report on the interview, which falsely attributes to him the phrase "kick start". Perhaps it was intended to mean the same thing (though of course it doesn't), but what is so irritating about it is that the forceful image of someone starting a motor bike engine with a stamping motion of his booted foot, has become meaningless. Most often now, you could say start or restart and convey the same thing more effectively. I was glad of "jump start", because it seemed fleetingly to refresh the metaphor. But I defer here to Barrett Bonden, who will know all about jump starts and kick starts and the machines to which they used to apply before you could, as I believe you can now, push-button start them.


Zhoen said...

I suppose a bit better than "Crank-start."

Electronic key start?

Roderick Robinson said...

The kick-starter has disappeared from large capacity bikes, probably from small ones too. You press a button as with cars.

Jump-start involves connecting cables from the battery terminals of an active car to those of a moribund one, borrowing electricity to turn the starter on the latter. To bump-start take the handbrake off, roll down a convenient hill, depress the cluch, select second, and, at about 8 mph, release the clutch. Push-start is a much more laborious version of bump-start where there is no convenient hill and where optimistic (soon to be pessimistic) pushing people strive to achieve the necessary forward motion.

Zhoen's crank-start dates back to the days when cars were supplied with a hand crank which allowed you to turn the crankshaft. Very discouraging and prone to fracture the thumbs of those who held the crank incorrectly.

Given the state of the economy and given his dimensions Boris's gesture probably falls into the push-start variety. Much energy expended and many - now here's a happy turn of phrase! - false starts.

Dave King said...

I have often noticed that politicians et al say things like kick start when they actually mean something like accelerate!