Sometimes, I’m so productive I amaze myself! It’s half past eight now and already, I’ve cleaned up the kitchen, put on the dishwasher, walked the dogs, put out the waste paper and compost bin for collection, voted (there are elections today in the Netherlands) and written this blog. Yoga class in twenty minutes. Other times, hours can pass before I do anything useful!
Last week, I translated a huge annual report. There was much mention of ‘hedging’ which when I was small simply described the privet that bordered the front garden. It took me a while to realise that it must originate from the expression ‘to hedge your bets’ which basically means to avoid making a definite commitment. The term is very old, first recorded in 1672 in the play The Rehearsal by George Villiers – ‘Now, Criticks, do your worst, that here are met; For, like a Rook, I have hedg’d in my Bet.’ And if someone asks you an awkward question you might hedge, by not giving a straight answer.
Privet – probably derived from the Latin privatus meaning ‘not open to the public,’ alluding to their long use as hedge plants. The 12th-century French word privy – which means private place – is from the same root. You can be privy to information and in the UK, people used to call the outside toilet the privy.