Saturday, March 21, 2009

But where are the batteries?? from Khoa

Dear Word Spy,

My school just went on an excursion to Tasmania. It was pretty good except when we got to Battery Point I was really disappointed because there weren't any batteries anywhere, and my camera was all out of power. The teacher said it wasn't that kind of battery.

Now what's THAT supposed to mean?

from Khoa

Dear Khoa,

Yes, I wonder how many other people have been sadly disappointed on arrival at Battery Point, just like you were... (But it is quite a pleasant place otherwise.)

The confusion comes about like this. The word "battery" is related to the word "to batter" - you know, to hit someone or something. "Battery" was used in the army as far back as 500 years ago, to mean a storage place where the soldiers kept things that battered the enemy - guns and cannons and all that.

Then in the eighteenth century, it started to be used to mean a storage place for electricity. I suppose you could think of all those little electrical charges coming out of a battery as a kind of weapon (!).

But when Battery Point in Tasmania was settled at the beginning of the 19th century, the main use of the word "battery" was still the army meaning. Battery Point itself was a place where soldiers at the time stored weapons to fight off any enemies that might appear. (Not sure if any did, but I guess they thought it was better to be on the safe side.)

Nowadays of course there are no weapons being stored in Battery Point. And alas, apparently no triple A batteries either!

yours, fully charged, in sympathy, The Word Spy

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