Daily Archives: 3 May, 2010

Perambulation

Post #3 of NaBloPoMo in May 2010. This month’s theme is: Look Up

When I’m reading any kind of text written in English (novel, website, newspaper article) and stumble upon a word or expression I don’t know, I usually try to deduce the meaning from the context in which the word/expression appears. I seldom look up those words in a dictionary. Mostly because I usually don’t carry one around with me, while I’m reading a novel on the train or when I’m lying in my bed ;-)

Sometimes I can’t figure out the meaning on my own though and that’s when online dictionaries or any other kind of online resource are a huge help. How did we actually cope without the internet in the early 1990s or prior to that? I guess I could write quite a few “Look Up” posts about this issue and I actually might do that. Because even though sometimes the unknown word might have been found in a “real” dictionary on my shelf, it still might not make much sense in the special context. Perfect example (and the reason for this post in the first place) is the term “perambulation” in the latest Elizabeth George novel “This Body of Death” from the Inspector Lynley series. I have never read/heard that before and had just a slight idea what it could mean in German. The context is

“He’d been a student of the New Forest since coming to Hampshire, and after a decade he knew the Perambulation, its character and its heritage better than most natives.”

and I deduced something along the line of “area, region”. I was a bit startled by the capital P, but didn’t gave it much thought. So I looked up “perambulation, to perambulate”, with the result

to perambulate: 1. To walk through. 2. To inspect (an area) on foot.
perambulation: a walk around a territory (a parish or manor or forest etc.) in order to officially assert and record its boundaries

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