Friday, March 02, 2007

Puttering around

The word puttering puzzled me (as a non-native speaker of English) for a good decade. I have read emails from many of my Canadian friends, chatted with them over the phone and found the term in conversations all over the place. "Oh, don't worry, I will be at home, puttering around". Or even worse, "We could just putter or chill". For a while I thought they meant "computering" (some sort of abhorrent verb related to working in their computers) but then last month I finally decided I was sick and tired of not understanding what puttering meant. So I looked it up in the dictionary.

This is the definition that I obtained (in my own words): puttering is the act (or series of acts) of basically working but at the same time doing nothing. Puzzled enough? Yeah. Puttering is a leisure activity. You don't clean your house in 20 minutes... you putter around and move this object to there, clean up over there, dust here, etc. That is, you putter when you are working but not working at the same time. You are not supposed to get tired of puttering. has a really clear definition: to waste time idling. In Spanish from a very specific country and region, this would be the definition of "echar la hueva" or "holgazanear". But I prefer my own understanding of the word. I find that, when I wake up from a nap and I plan to work for an extended period of time without interruption, I need to putter before. For example, I know that I am going to pull an all-nighter to try and finish some stuff, and I spent about 15-20 minutes puttering. I put away clothes, dusted my fridge, put dishes in the cupboards, checked email.... and now I am ready to actually work. Thus, there is value to puttering.

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