It seems to me that I’m hearing a lot more people arguing with each other these days, and I’m not just talking about the squabbling we hear out of Washington, or those big fights that are going on in places like Pakistan or Iraq. I’m talking about the petty threaps and brabbles (e.g., arguments) between friends and in places like our kids’ schools. Maybe it’s the economy. Maybe it’s the long winter behind us. But spring is upon us now and with it comes an opportunity to set aside our dissimilitudes and enjoy a regenesis from the warm weather.
Today’s common word is bicker, as to quarrel about petty matters. The word itself has an obscure history but probably comes to us from Middle Dutch in the 13th century from the word bicken which means to attack. The word also has some pretty uncommon meanings. The first is the noun form of the common definition above where bicker means a petty dispute or contention. That one makes sense. But bicker can also mean to sprint quickly over a short distance – maybe in reference to the person who is losing a bicker and wants to avoid escalation to a full-out brawl. Closely associated with this last verbal definition is bicker as a verb meaning to quiver or vibrate. Get mad enough during an argument and I’ve seen people begin to quiver all over. These last two related noun definitions both come to us from the Scots and have no apparent connection with the common usage of bicker. In these definitions, bicker is both a wooden dish or bowl, especially one made of wooden staves and used for eating porridge, and a wooden drinking cup. The etymology here is probably from the Middle English word biker which gives us the modern word beaker and can be associated with a cup or eating vessel.
So, let’s put aside our differences, realize that life’s too short as it is, kick back and imbibe your favorite drink, and just enjoy the silence.