Friday, September 19, 2008

Mayday, Mayday!

It is one of those days. You probably know what I mean. It’s just not that easy to wake up, let alone get out of bed and start your standard routine. To complete the day, it would need to be dark, gray, and rainy; me curled up in bed with a good book and the person I care the most about. Unfortunately, nothing is perfect and there is no fairy godmother. So, we move on and get it done. But what is the downward spiral that we feel? Why does the psyche get into this zone and what is meant when we say that we are ‘down’?

Let’s look at the different forms that ‘down’ can take. As a noun, down means a downward movement, descent, or a turn for the worse. It can also mean a slice of toast at a diner or casual restaurant, or the soft, first plumage of many young birds. And my favorite is a mutation of down: downer. Anyone or anything can be a downer if it invokes the actions or feelings mentioned above; well maybe not the toast or bird references. Note: you don’t want to be this.

As an action in a verb or adverb, down takes on a fuller image. It can signify movement from higher to lower and on or to the ground, floor, or bottom. It is this movement that I sense. Not a hitting of the bottom as being all the way down, but more of a directional shift toward the bottom. The bottom of what is another question for another post another day. It can also mean to be in or moving toward a calmer, less active, or less prominent state; to the point of defeat, submission, and inactivity; in or moving into a fixed or supine position; to fall; to put or knock down; to subdue; to cause to fall from a height, especially from shooting. These are all somewhat negative connotations to the simple word down. But he’s not all that bad. He can also mean in a book or on paper; in an attitude of earnest application, to drink quickly or in one gulp, in cash at the time of purchase, or toward the lee side as to turn a ship windward.

But perhaps as a modifier or adjective is where down does most of its work. It means downward, ailing, downcast, depressed, dejected; behind an opponent in points or games, losing, finished, done, considered, or taken care of; out of order.

Lastly, what would English be without its idioms? Down and out, down cold or pat, down in the mouth, down on, and down with. So just like all the other four letter words that are considered taboo, treat this one with care and use it when you really mean it.

Down but not out.

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