Sunday, May 25, 2008

Word of the Week: careen

If you’re like me (and everyone else I informally polled about this) -- any time you’ve heard the word careen, it's followed by “out of control” -- as in: The car careened out of control. Given this usage, my curiosity was piqued by an article in's e-magazine titled: The Delicate Art of Careening, especially given that the photo that accompanied it showed a sail boat lying on its side!

The article starts with an anecdote about when the author accidentally ran his sailboat aground outside Costa Rica. As the tide rolled out, the boat slipped further and further onto its side. Figuring other sailboats nearby probably had their binoculars trained on his little mishap, the author decided to make the best of it by pretending he had intentionally “careened” his boat. When the tide rolled completely out, and with his boat safely resting on its side, he scrambled off and began scraping the barnacles and slime off the keel and touching up the paint on the waterline.

Because I had always associated careening with being out of control, the idea of careening something intentionally just didn’t seem right, so I looked it up. Boy was I surprised when I found that, in fact, his usage was bang on. Here’s’s definition:

careen transitive verb 1: to put (a ship or boat) on a beach especially in order to clean, caulk, or repair the hull 2: to cause to heel over intransitive verb 1 a: to careen a boat b: to undergo this process 2: to heel over 3: to sway from side to side : lurch (a careening carriage being pulled wildly…by a team of runaway horses — J. P. Getty)

I never knew that careening related to boats (nor did anyone in my little straw poll, many of whom are fellow sailors). Well, regardless of the fact that apparently you can intentionally careen, I must say, I still hope no one ever has reason to use my name and careen in the same sentence!!


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