Thursday, April 30, 2009

Word Of The Week: Scrappage

Meanwhile, over on Facebook, my pal Brian Clegg opines that the word scrappage can't possibly be a real word. He refers of course, to the dodgy, and, moreover, desperate scheme whereby Moron McBroon and his fellow donkey-jacketed cronies want to bung us five big ones if we scrap our ol' bangers and buy new cars.

Brian, having indeed and heretofore written a book called Ecologic, is an expert on 'Greenwash' - the efforts by PR spivs to sell us things on the strength that they are 'green' when they really aren't. Therefore he'd probably agree with me that 'scrappage' is more about teaching crows how to fly under water saving the motor industry rather than the planet.

However, I digress. What irks Brian is the word itself - scrappage. I find to my amusement that it does exist, being delicately interposed in the Shorter Oxford between scrapie (a Scots dialect word for lard) and scrapple (colloquialism for the abrasion of the nipple suffered by professional female mud-wrestlers).

What's more, scrappage means what you suppose it to mean - the action of scrapping. This is rather fine, as one might propose, in the absence of the inducements offered by McBroon, that the definition of scrappage might be no more than a gnat's nadgers away from 'the action of estimating as worthless' which happens to be that of one of the longest known English words, floccinaucinihilipilification.

Scrappage - to use this fine word to refer to the decommissioning of superannuated Vauxhall Vectrae seems an awful waste. In an ideal world, I'd assume the powers of Humpty Dumpty (stop sniggering, at the back) and declare by fiat, if not Fiat, that scrappage must refer to some archaic right enshrined in the feudal system, for example, oh, I don't know, that of peasants to grummet their own cordwanglers' scrodes in the manorial demesne every second Wednesday in Lent (in the Town Hall if wet: restrictions may apply). One might think of similar words with faux-Medieval roots, such as

Verbiage - the right of those employed in the transportation of goods or the provision of services to make repeated announcements employing sentence structures, figures of speech and indeed words that are well beyond their educational attainment or indeed capability of utterance;

Foliage - the right of the seventh sons of sextons (try saying it while eating an apple) to hold noisy parties in graveyards between dusk and dawn, without let or hindrance. This right is often claimed in the defence of holders of illegal raves, witches' sabbaths and so on;

Mucilage - The right of the peasantry of Gloucestershire to catch hagfishes with their bare hands, usually a royal prerogative;

Cartilage - A levy or toll on the passage of goods across the land of butchers, tanners and glue-makers;

Spillage - the traditional right of transients and vagabonds to lick beer-stains off the tables of inns after closing-time;

Hillage - the right of thanes or reeves to insist on the immediate cessation of minstrelsy, usually by the striking of a ritual gong.

Stoppage - the right of serfs sent to battle on behalf of their overlords to cease fighting between the hours of one and two o'clock each weekday; to take five-minute breaks every hour; to take time off for sickness or industrial action whenever Norwich City is playing at home; and not to work before 9.30 am or beyond 5.30 pm or all day at weekends in the absence of separately negotiated separate overtime arrangements (see Umbrage);


Borage- the archaic practice in which receivers of alms are entitled to retrieve waterlogged palings, fence posts, gates, rusty gas cookers, brass bedsteads and firewood from mill ponds for drying and recycling, at any time between All Saints Day and Candlemas. This festival is still practiced in the remote Serbian village of Zivkovic along the river Bora, whence the custom gets its name.


  1. Lovely set of definitions there, Henry. I think you missed

    Pillage - the art of selling a homeopathic remedy that contains no active ingredient whatsoever for a large sum of money.

    While I understand why the government wants to encourage our flagging auto industry (here in Swindon the conditions are no joke), there are certainly mixed green messages. With a green hat on (very fetching) we should indeed be encouraging people to get rid of old bangers - but they should ideally be replacing them with newish secondhand cars, which already exist, so don't require 2.5 to 5 tons of carbon dioxide to be produced in their manufacture.

    But because of the dire state of industry, it's not a trivial decision...

  2. I hadn't thought of the strategy of replacing old bangers with marginally less old bangers. This led me on an entirely new train of thought. Wise man say, when candlemaker sees invention of electric light bulbs, he calls himself 'illumination specialist' and sells both. In the same way it could be that what the auto industry needs is not for us to be buying more new cars, but for them to reposition themselves not as manufacturers of new cars but as recyclers of old cars, and/or as technicians that take old cars and refit them, perhaps introducing greener technological tweaks along the way. For example, I bet some people would take the subsidy to allow them to have their old Volvo (or whatever) fitted for LPG or gasohol or even electricity, or their engine re-tuned, or whatever. Scrappage-and-replacage seems to be such a wasteful way of going about things in this day and age when we're encouraged to re-use, recycle and re-whatever-it-was.

  3. I would love to have my Honda Accord refitted as a hybrid or electric vehicle - apart from a few door dings and scrapes, there's nothing wrong with the body or chassis. Would be even better if the interior and exterior could be steampunked a bit, using scrap materials that added little weight.

    I suspect that many who wear the greener-than-thou compact fluorescent halo really aren't greener than many of us practical folks. For one thing, at least some of them seem to have a pretty big air travel carbon footprint ... oh, but they have to travel to spread the message to the unengreenened, right?

  4. Wouldn't hurt either to have a secondary market manufacturing replacement parts for old cars. My 16-year-old Subaru's been given the pat on the shoulder -- transmission's going -- but I'd be perfectly happy to replace the transmission, if newish ones were available. Turns out that if I want to replace it I'll likely end up with a salvage tranny w/150+K miles on it.

    Actually if my daughter's legs were longer I'd scrap it without replacing. Or just leave it hanging around in the garage till some friend recognized it as gold and carted it away.

    Speaking of legs, M. Gee, I can report that this week I have actually gained half a pound, though for the first time I actually believe that guff about its being muscle. I knew I'd fallen out of shape over the last few years, and that my legs used to have actual muscles in them, but hadn't realized how far gone I was. Two weeks of P90XXXX!!!1!! and I'm beginning to:

    1. understand that I bought a bodybuilding program, not a weight-loss program;
    2. not mind.

    The DVDs have me doing about 60-75 min/day of "don't stop till you collapse gasping on the floor" exercise, most of it weights and calisthenics and pullups. One day a week I ditch the DVDs and go for a 7-mile run (not one of Jenny's insane jackrabbit runs, either), and one day I either rest or dig up half my backyard for a garden. There's also the mile or so walking the child to school and back.

    I'm modifying the 4 jillion g protein/day diet, though -- doesn't feel good at all. I'm guessing that'll mean I look less like Xena and more like my (old) normal self. Even so, I've been eating much better than I have in years. Actual meals -- eggs, fish, steak, chicken, lots and lots of veg and veg soups, fruit, cheese, yogurt. I'm guessing that at the end of the 90 days the scale won't have budged much but I'll be in much better shape.

  5. Why, thank you. How's yours going?

    I've just had a perfectly disgusting dinner of soy burgers. I'm starting to disapprove of vegans on principle.

    Ian will laugh at me, but I'm genuinely surprised to find that diet makes a difference when it comes to turning into Xena. I've done lots & lots of these kinds of exercises before in the last 30 years -- occasionally at this intensity -- and two weeks in I feel like I've put on the Wonder Woman suit. That's never happened before, and I'm guessing it has something to do with the 130g/day or so worth of protein I'm eating. I don't understand how it works, though -- you eat a truly ridiculous amount of various soy/animal protein, and some of it's taken up for muscle tissue building, but how much extra do you need running around in the bloodstream for this to work? And why?

    Anyway, at this rate I'll be able to carry the Subaru around in a backpack, so no more worries about the transmission. Oh, and the concern about new cars over here is something else altogether -- its' still the little blackbox spybot homeland security wants to stick in your care to, you know, make sure you're safe.