What does the New Year mean to you? Some people promise themselves they’ll lose those extra kilos, or tackle that pile of junk in the shed…
For thousands of years, it’s been traditional to see the New Year as a chance to start over. To wipe the slate clean, forgive enemies, give back the tools we’ve borrowed, and make new resolutions to be good. Stick to our diets, get up earlier, exercise regularly, quit smoking, get organised or whatever changes we crave in our lives.
We don’t necessarily stick to our new promises but at least we try. And the English language has plenty of expressions to cover this desire to reform. We might turn over a new leaf, and start behaving in a better way, which conjures up an image of a clean new page of a book – probably a diary in which we record our new virtuous achievements.
A new broom sweeps clean refers
to a new leader or boss, who dismantles the old ways and makes changes.
There are new people too – newborns, newlyweds and newcomers. A neophyte is a fancy name for a newcomer, especially to a religion. Another newcomer is a newbie, often an inexperienced worker.
Of course, new ways are not always welcome. Take the word newfangled, which means ‘objectionably new’ or ‘excessively modern’. After all, modern inventions are often unpopular at first. Film producer Darryl Zanuck famously said, about the newly invented television: “People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night”.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks is a saying that has been proven incorrect, as I’ve been told by many puzzlers who have learned to solve crosswords, even cryptic clues, at a very mature age.
Our English word new actually has two meanings, which you may only realise when you try to translate it into French. There are two words in French for ‘new’. Neuf means newly-made, freshly baked or just built. Nouveau, on the other hand, means new in the sense of new to the owner. A new car is not necessarily brand new, just new to you.
Now I’m inspired to go and sort out my cupboards, take my old clothes to the charity shop and write about it in my brand new diary.
Happy Puzzling throughout the New Year!