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    #1

    putter

    Dear teachers,

    Would you be kind enough to tell me whether I am right with my interpretation of the expressions in bold in the following sentences?

    The old car can't get up steep hills, but it can putter along on the flat all right.
    The doctor says that you are still not fit for heavy work, but you can get up and putter around the house for a few days.

    putter = to work for nothing, wasting time on trivia
    putter along/ around = barely moving, slowly, sluggishly

    Today I'm going to putter about.

    Thanks for your efforts.

    Regards,

    V

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    #2

    Re: putter

    Not a teacher only a native.

    You have the sense right, to putter along means to just work lightly. The car only just works, it might be spluttering, it has trouble going up hills but it can manage flats.

    If you are puttering about, it means you haven't really anything planned, are just taking it easy.

  1. Tullia's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: putter

    It's worth noting that "potter" is an acceptable variant spelling in British English.

  2. BobK's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: putter

    Quote Originally Posted by Tullia View Post
    It's worth noting that "potter" is an acceptable variant spelling in British English.
    I'm not sure it's just a variant; I use both. An old car putters and a person with nothing much to do potters. To my mind the words aren't related at all; 'putter' refers to a noise (I wonder if pétarades have anything to do with it ... ), and one often 'potters' silently - there's certainly no characteristic noise associated with it.

    b

  3. Tullia's Avatar
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    #5

    Re: putter

    Quote Originally Posted by BobK View Post
    I'm not sure it's just a variant; I use both. An old car putters and a person with nothing much to do potters. To my mind the words aren't related at all; 'putter' refers to a noise (I wonder if pétarades have anything to do with it ... ), and one often 'potters' silently - there's certainly no characteristic noise associated with it.

    b

    I'd say in the case of a person "pottering or puttering about in a shed" were interchangeable; possibly which one you tend to use depends on your geographical background?

    When it comes to a car, puttering is perhaps more appealing; while I doubt it's actually etymologically linked to pétarades, they are both wonderfully onomatopoeic aren't they?

    The more I think about it, the more I think I'd actually be inclined to use "putt-putting along" for a car rather than "puttering" if the intent was to convey a sound, and a car struggling. But wasn't the point of the sentence in the OP that the car could cope with gentle journeys on the flat? I was taking the "putter along" as chosen to illustrate the kind of journey rather than the condition of the car.
    Last edited by Tullia; 10-Aug-2010 at 14:54. Reason: epic spelling fail; sigh!

  4. BobK's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: putter

    You'll just have to take it that opinions differ, vil What I do in my garden is potter (and this has nothing to do, by the way, with 'potting' [which some people do in their gardens].

    (Another informal word to throw into the transportation mix is 'pootle'. "She spends most of her time pottering about the house, but once a week she pootles down to the shops in her little car." I don't know how widespread 'pootle' is; it might be Br Eng, or Home Counties, or just Knowles.)

    b

  5. Tullia's Avatar
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    #7

    Re: putter

    I'm from Manchester originally and I use pootle on a regular basis, but given that I spent time as a student in various Southern cities and have worked all over the UK, I'm not sure I could reliably say where I've picked it up from. But it's certainly not confined to Knowles ;)

  6. BobK's Avatar
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    #8

    Re: putter

    Quote Originally Posted by Tullia View Post
    I'm from Manchester originally and I use pootle on a regular basis, but given that I spent time as a student in various Southern cities and have worked all over the UK, I'm not sure I could reliably say where I've picked it up from. But it's certainly not confined to Knowles ;)
    My father was from Lancashire, so it may have come from your neck of the woods. (But the evidence for this is, I grant, not of the most robust )

    b

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