Syracuse Online


Dr. J. on Running

What's in a Word

Running English's Gammut

Published Februay 7, 2000 in The Post-Standard.

By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer

I typed the word 'run' in my favorite search engine looking for inspiration. Sure enough, I found about 7,854,558 web pages that offered me ideas on the use of the word "run." Runners think of the word when they plan their daily aerobic exercise, but the rest of the world has other uses in mind. Here is a sampler for the literary inclined.

Some of the uses of the word 'run' actually pertain to the utility of running, such as a home run, a watch that runs slow or a running start. I take comfort in noting that some uses of the word 'run' have something to do with my favorite sport. However, most instances of running bear no relation to rapid forward movement.

Hollywood brings us 'Run DMC', 'Born To Run', 'Run Around Sue', 'Band On The Run', 'Logan's Run', 'Shadow Run', 'Blade Runner' and 'Running on Empty'. Some artists have a run of top ten hits, and Broadway plays set records for the number of years they run. Who doesn't check the running time of a movie before sitting down to watch a home video?

Farmers use the word to describe "as is" produce. Chicken farmers sell nest run eggs - those that have not been graded according to size and quality. My father-in-law sells field run vegetables such as asparagus, corn and tomatoes to long-time customers. He saves time sorting and handling the produce and his customers save money. Granted, the thin spears are mixed in with the fat, tender ones, but it all tastes good. My neighbor who is in the construction business tells me that stone quarries also sell gravel and sand "quarry run" which means that my new driveway cost less than the price of a new car.

Other uses of the word "run" deal with manufacturing or business terminology. Examples of these are running a business, run-time error, running a program, a manufacturer's run or running down a lead.

Geographically, many places include the word run in their name. Take Bull Run (Virginia), Deer Run Campground (Missouri), Willow Run Airport (Michigan), Red Run Grist Mill Campground (Pennsylvania), Birch Run (Michigan), Turkey Run State Park (Indiana), and Bluffs Run Greyhound Park (Iowa).

Women have a special kinship to the word "run." Cake recipes warn them that "the batter will run." They hate to get runs in their stockings. They dream of running their own business from home. Advertisers warn that runny mascara can ruin a good relationship. Pregnant women run the risk of damaging the health of their unborn babies if they drink or inhale. Tragically, a woman may discover that her husband has been running round with another woman! This last point excludes men doing speed workouts with faster women.

Some meanings of the word "run" are rather sad. Think of the consequences of a hit and run accident, running over budget or running late for a meeting. Parents fear for their children who run away from home, and nobody likes to run out of luck, milk or gas. We run the risk of making mistakes when we are in a hurry and we run afoul when we don't plan ahead for emergencies. I picked up my pace a bit when I recalled these words. Of course, it didn't help that I sensed a case of the runs coming on!

On the other hand, we like to run into old friends. We long for a visionary leader to run for elected office. We run errands during our lunch breaks or days off. We take it for granted that new appliances are in good running order, and we run ourselves into the ground during long weekends.

With all meanings of the word run, none is richer or more rewarding than rapid forward motion with the resulting sweat and endorphins.

Kamal Jabbour runs and writes on the hills of Pompey, New York. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains, the world leader in live track webcasting, and receives email at

Copyright (c) 2000 The Herald Company. All rights reserved. The material on this site may not be reproduced, except for personal, non-commercial use, and may not be distributed, transmitted or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of Syracuse OnLine.