Dot Wordsworth


The kick-start and the first world war arrived in the same year. Despite talk of a ‘big bazooka’, the former is still currently favoured as the model for stimulating the economy. (A bazooka, by the way, was a second world war anti-tank rocket launcher, the name deriving from a sort of homemade trombone of the 1930s, itself dependent on the bazoo or mouth. In Tennessee in the 1870s, the phrase blowin’ his bazoo meant ‘braggadocchio or gasconade’).

The mechanical kick-start got a motorcycle engine going. Yet the metaphor now often sounds as though it meant ‘push-start’, or ‘start a motor-vehicle by sending it downhill’. Kick-start just sounds more dynamic than push-start.

Everyone is at it. In early September we read about David Cameron urging his new Cabinet ‘to focus relentlessly on kick-starting Britain’s economic recovery’. On 29 September Ed Balls advocated a stamp-duty holiday to kick-start the economy. Two days later, he said that revenue from the fourth generation of mobile phones would kick-start the economy. A week after that, Liam Fox said he believed that abolition of capital gains tax would kick-start the economy. By the middle of October, Mr Cameron was saying that planning reforms were necessary ‘not just to kick-start the economy’. At the same time, the Free Enterprise Group urged George Osborne to adopt its policies to kick-start the economy. The notion had grown so universal that an innocent florist told the Mail on Sunday: ‘I know we must spend to kick-start the economy.’

I wrote about kicking in last year, and its fashionable cousin kick off (in the sense of ‘go critical’). I also hear from associates of Veronica’s in media and policy-wonk circles of public figures being given a kicking, meaning ‘publicly criticised’.

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