I had a rough day yesterday, ending with the scuttling of a project I’ve been pouring hours and hours of my day, night, and weekend time into. Felt a little shell shocked when I first realized we were going to call everything to a halt. This morning was a little better. This afternoon, having to make the announcement to all the partners loomed large and unpleasant over my head, but it was my job to do, and so.
As much as I am a snarky somebody some of the time, I hate being the bearer of bad news. Hate it. Which is silly to say. It’s only the rare person who enjoys bringing other people down.
In the end, the announcing wasn’t a complete misery. I pointed to some of the good things that have come out of this process and to the good-sounding plan we have for moving forward. So, you know, silver linings.
But really why I started writing this is word choice. Every time I talk about the end of this project, I use the word “scuttled.” This isn’t a word I use. I may, in fact, never have said it ever prior to now. Where did it come from to suddenly appear on my tongue? Let’s be clear: I use a lot of words that a lot of other people don’t. I am regularly mocked for this behavior by family, friends, coworkers. But scuttle? No.
And then I wondered if I was even using it correctly. Yes, because even though it seemed correct when it tumbled out of my mouth, the moment I paused over it, all I could think of was a “coal scuttle” (another super-commonly-used term!), and I knew that was wrong.
Happily, my dictionary had more going on than my brain in that moment. I learned that “scuttle” can also mean to scurry, which I’m not sure I care for unless we’re describing the sideways nature of crabs. And then I found my scuttle, which turns out to be an old nautical term for intentionally sinking a ship, meaning to wreck or destroy.
There is some relief in knowing I’ve been using it correctly. There is still, however, the puzzlement over using it at all. When did that word sink into some dark, quiet pocket in the back of my brain? How did it know to rouse itself just now? And what will it do with itself now that it’s here? Is it going to keep turning up in my casual speech? It certainly isn’t a word I’ve felt any need to introduce into wider circulation, so I hope not.
If I’m going to be given the chance to introduce a fallen word back into the day-to-day, I would prefer “swink.” Or, if you prefer, “swinken.” It means to work hard, work to the point of exhaustion. I learned this beauty from Chaucer. I love the sound of it, but I love this next even more:
Swink – third-person singular simple present swinks, present participle swinking, simple past swank or swonk or swinkt or swinked, past participle swunk or swunken or swonken or swinkt or swinked
I’m saying. Go ahead and try it. Say “swunk” a few times and see if it doesn’t make you giggle. That’s handy when you’re working to the point of exhaustion.
Or when your work gets scuttled.
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