As often comes up, my coworkers and I use as odd of language as we can in order to keep ourselves amused. So today the phrase ‘raring to go’ came up. We finished our conversation, then a minute later I pipe up with the question, ‘how do you spell raring?’
Sounds like fodder for a blog post to me!
So when I had a chance, I went a-Googlin’. Actually, first I hit up my handy-dandy dictionary dashboard widget. It took me a few tries to get the spelling right. My natural inclination was something more akin to ‘rearing’ or ‘roaring’, as in the verb ‘to rear’ like raising a child.
It turned out to be ‘raring’, the present participle of the verb ‘to rare’. The definition according to the New Oxford American Dictionary built into my Mac is thus:
raring |?re(?)ri ng |
adjective [with infinitive ] informal
very enthusiastic and eager to do something : she was raring to get back to her work | I’ll be ready and raring to go.
ORIGIN 1920s: present participle of rare, dialect variant of roar or rear.
The definition matched my understanding of the phrase, ‘raring to go’. But the origin was still eluding me. What the heck did someone mean by using a verb form of rare? The origin given in the dictionary definition was leaving me short.
This is where the internet and Google can be argued to make people smarter. With a little bit of searching using the terms ‘etymology’ and ‘raring’, I found a forum discussing this very topic. In parts of Britain and Ireland, ‘rear’ is pronounced the same as ‘rare’, affecting the spelling. Now looking back on the original definition I found, things were making more sense.
So by all reason in American English, one should say ‘rearing to go’. But since the term originated out of a different dialect entirely, its spelling is duly altered.
I have always dug this sort of stuff. Etymology fascinates me, because it is history on the tips of our tongues. And while I know nothing of other languages, really, I find that English is so wonderfully full of idioms and influences and bastardizations and localizations that it is ceaselessly entertaining. It has so many synonyms available and varying definitions, my native language lives up to what I have always deemed it: best suited for law and humor.