Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tales From the Perimeter: Ravel and Unravel Mean Exactly the Same Thing...and Ultrarunning

Perimeter meaning the 6 mile patrol road inside the fence of the military installation on which I work, where some half a dozen of us comprise a pool of running “talent” and strive to show up for a noontime run a couple times a week if we can escape our desks. We share a lot and these guys are one of the core pillars of my sanity.

During Wednesday’s run around the perimeter of the military base where I work, the waistband of my shorts began to come apart.  I thought, “Crap, my pants are unraveling!”

Deja vu suddenly occured...I again thought of a dictionary quest for truth from years ago, and nearly veered into a clump of bushes.

See, some time ago I was reading something, I now forget what, and the author used the word ravel to mean that the threads of something were coming undone.

I thought, now that’s strange, he really meant unravel. But this was a careful author and this seemed like it’d be a rookie mistake, so I hauled out the dictionary (at that time that meant literally getting out a by-god thick book, not Googling something) to settle things.

Here’s what I found at the FreeDictionary (and yes, I'm using the online version here) for ravel.  Emphasis mine:

1. To become separated into its component threads; unravel or fray.

2. To become tangled or confused.

And here’s what I found for unravel:

1. To undo or ravel the knitted fabric of.

2. To separate (entangled threads).

Thus, while ravel and unravel are clearly opposites to any normal person, they can mean exactly the same thing.  Maybe it’s like when politicians say “Trust me."

Thinking while running can be hazardous.


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