Monday 13 February 2012


Everybody knows the word mow. It's the thing that you can't be bothered to do to grass. If we weren't such inconstant gardeners we might even know the word math, which is defined in the OED thuslywise:

A mowing; the action or work of mowing; that which may be or has been mowed; the portion of a crop that has been mowed

It makes me tired just reading the definition. There are even compounds formed of math. There is a day math, which is the amount of land you can mow in a day. There is an undermath, which is an undergrowth of grass. There is even a latter-math which is the later mowing, it's the grass that has grown after the first math.

There is even a synonym for latter-math: aftermath.

The aftermath of an earthquake, a revolution or a bottle of gin is merely a metaphor derived from mowing. This pleases me.

The first metaphorical use of aftermath seems to have been in a rather extraordinary 1656 poem called To my honoured friend Mr T.C. that asked me how I liked his Mistress being an old Widdow.

The simple answer is that he didn't, and wrote the most extraordinarily ungentlemanly poem containing couplets like:

If thou wilt needs to sea, O must it be
In an old galliasse of sixty three?

He's immensely troubled by the widow's lack of virginity and says:

Rash lover, speak what pleasure hath
Thy spring in such an aftermath?

Those of you who have read The Etymologicon will know that the Rolling Stones are named after an implement for keeping your lawn nice and flat. So, the fact that they did an album called Aftermath is doubly appropriate. In fact, I'm developing a theory that the entire works of Jagger and Richards are coded references to gardening.

P.S. I am scribbling a new book and doing so so furiously that I fear I shall have to bring the blog down to three posts a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, which is still a lot if you think about it. Having said that, there will be a post tomorrow, for my laziness is matched only by my inconsistency.


  1. so, a polymath is a well read gardener?

  2. I always thought that english was after math