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Sunday, 24 June 2012

Odd words (1)

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24 June

I happened to be thinking about Harry Potter, trying to remember the exact name of the listening-devices tellingly used by Hermione, Ron and him, and I ended up thinking about the word 'sneak' and 'to sneak':

As in 'sneaking a look', what the trio of friends do is to eavesdrop (another interesting word, I suspect) on what they should not be hearing. Likewise, creeping in somewhere, in the hope that others will be unaware, is 'sneaking in'*.

All well and good. If we turn to a person who tells others' misdeeds to those in authority, i.e. 'sneak' as a noun (also called a tell-tale), the illicit act is not (necessarily) finding out the information covertly, but in revealing what those people intended to be secret.

Which brings us back to the verb, the Peeping Tom / Lady Godiva aspect, of what was being done or discussed privately (because confidential), though, of course, the lady's act of riding a horse was rather more public. And what a shame that we remember not her civil disobedience at her husband's cruel measures, but this prurient element. In fact, whatever myth there may be, do we even know whether her opposition bore any fruit (other than the unwitting, negative one of Tom's downfall)?


* There is the US past tense 'snuck', for 'sneaked', that t.v. and film have given us.

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