Dot Wordsworth

How weighing in became wading in 

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The Sun reported that a woman sold a pair of rings which, if worn on two fingers, spelt out NTCU. Or they might be swapped round, with ruder consequences. When someone objected, the maker’s followers on TikTok apparently ‘flocked to the comments to weigh in on the situation’.

In a report on some other matter, the BBC mentioned an Australian who ‘has form for wading into sporting rows’. So do people weigh in or wade in? Have they weighed in or waded in?

The earliest citation given by the OED for wade in, meaning ‘intervene energetically’ is in a poem from 1863 called ‘How are you, Sanitary?’ The title is puzzling until one knows that, during the American Civil War, the wounded were cared for by the US Sanitary Commission. Wagons came to the front to treat and transport them to hospital. The poem pictures the arrival of a wagon being greeted with cries from the soldiers, ‘Such as “Bully!” “Them’s the peach!” / “Wade in, Sanitary!”’ The author was Bret Harte, celebrated for stories about California miners and gamblers. Kipling admired him, and so did Mark Twain until they fell out, after which he wrote: ‘Harte is a liar, a thief, a swindler, a snob, a sot, a sponge, a coward, a Jeremy Diddler, he is brim full of treachery.’

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