My Word | Allision, a collision

Shipwreaked: So, when a big cruise ship ran aground that could be called an allision, unless, of course, the rocks were moving at the time.
Shipwreaked: So, when a big cruise ship ran aground that could be called an allision, unless, of course, the rocks were moving at the time.

Ron Besdansky asked me about a word he came across recently: Allision.

The word is from Latin "allidere", to strike against something. The distinction between "collision" and "allision" was present in classical Latin, since the former is from "collidere", to strike together. Both contain the root "laedere", to injure, damage or hurt.

When I started work at a newspaper a hundred years ago I was given a list of things a good journalist was expected to remember throughout his or her working life.

On that list was the editor’s edict (he’s still going strongly at Castle Hill in Sydney) that a moving object did not collide with a stationary object. The trouble was, he didn’t say what word the reporter should use on the many occasions when a moving object did hit a stationary object.

How about allision?

You won’t find this word in many dictionaries. Even the 20-volume Oxford says “obs” after the word.

In 1631 came a reference to the allision of clouds.

Did I even tell you about the friend, in tears, who sought out the plane’s pilot and asked if he could fly above clouds, because she felt better if something was between her and the ground?

Anyway, back to allision…

My big dictionary could find very few occasions when allision was used.

It was, and possibly still is, a popular word in the nautical world.

So, when a big cruise ship ran aground that could be called an allision, unless, of course, the rocks were moving at the time.

Maritime law, especially in the United States, seems to have kept the word alive to mean a moving object hitting a stationary object. Those who know Latin might like to check on allidere and collidere.

But I would suggest this is a word that lends itself to use by modern newspapers and radio and television stations. The edict of myold editor was that a car did not collide with a tree. My search of obscure English suggests it allides with a tree.

A free chocolate frog to the first newspaper to use allide instead of collide.

***

By the simple process of cleaning my desk, I have found some letters going back several years.

I heard a television announcer report recently on a motor vehicle pile-up recently. She added: “Despite the carnage, no one was hurt.”

Houston Waring told in 1977 of a big advertiser who paid for a full page ad but wanted his ad to appear in half a page because he didn’t want people to think he was throwing his weight around. I kept the note but didn’t know what to do with it. Could it ever happen today?

Somebody else sent me a copy of the 2003 top mispronunciations by George Bush, headed by “nucular”.

A seven-year-old boy, Marcus McLaurin, from the Ernest Gaullet Elementary School in the USA,

was kept in during 2003 and told to write “I will never use the word gay in school again”.

Another person asked about the Australian tendency to use the word parade when they meant march or procession.

The message for me, however, is that I will need to clean my desk more often.

Read on...

My Word. This book deals with columns published in Australian newspapers since 1995. They deal in a lighthearted way with the words we use. More details from Sid Harta Publishers or Laurie Barber.

Ringo. This followed the successful My Word and contains more columns published in Australian newspapers since 1995. More details from Sid Harta Publishers or Laurie Barber.

Massacre at Myall Creek. This book covers an important part of Australian history. In 1838 horsemen killed 28 aborigines at Myall Creek Station in northern NSW.

Visit www.lauriebarber,com or email lbword@midcoast.com.au.