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Dr. Goodword
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Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat Feb 18, 2006 11:39 pm

• scrub •

Pronunciation: skrêb • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb

Meaning: 1. To clean by rubbing hard with soap and water. 2. To cleanse, to remove impurities, as to scrub sulfur dioxide from factory smoke. 3. To cancel or call off, as to scrub plans for a weekend at the beach.

Notes: Although the basic sense of this word refers literally to the action of moving a brush or rag back and forth over something dirty, its figurative sense of removing dirt has expanded the most. Today a scrubber is more likely to refer to a device for removing chemical impurities from gasses than someone down on their hands and knees scrubbing the floor. This old English word has created quite a family around it.

In Play: Let's begin with basics, today's word in the meaning of cleaning by applying pressure and motion: "Mom told dad that she would rather scrub our clothes on rocks by the river than continue to use our 20-year-old washing machine." Of course, modern marvels have made that kind of scrubbing passé, so sense (3) above is more popular today: "We had to scrub today's rugby match because none of the players could understand the Scottish referee and he threw them all out of the game for asking him to repeat his calls."

Word History: Today's Good Word originated as scrobben "to curry-comb (a horse)" a close relative of scrape since both go back to Proto-Indo-European (PIE) *sker- "to cut". Sharp and scab are also members of this family. How did we get from the sense of "to cut" to "scrub"? Since curry-combing is a process more like scratching than scrubbing and scratching is a mild form of cutting, we can see the semantic development. There was also an old verb to shrub meaning "to scratch". Since shrubs are much like scrub brush in their scratchiness, they are related, too. (Today we thank Margie Sved for scrubbing up today's Good Word and dropping it off.)
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Postby Maximillian » Sun Feb 19, 2006 8:30 pm

In Australia scrub also refers to native bushland.

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Postby KatyBr » Sun Feb 19, 2006 9:16 pm

it does in Eastern Washington state too, it's called scrub or scab-lands.

high desert

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Postby gailr » Mon Feb 20, 2006 10:09 pm

A "scrub" is also a member of an amateur team who is not really skilled enough to be put into the game, unless victory is overwhelmingly assured.

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