Monday, December 29, 2008

Barge Right In

Felicia from Oak Park, IL, writes: “My uncle used a phrase when any of us kids would interrupt a conversation. With annoyance in his voice, he would say, Why don’t you just barge right in? I’m wondering about the origin of the phrase.

In a not-too-convoluted way, it goes back to barge, the boat. The original barge was a light boat furnished with sails. Ultimately, this evolved into the flat-bottomed boat used to convey goods on a river, canal, or ocean port. This freight barge usually couldn’t move on its own power; it had to be pushed or towed by a powered vessel. The word scow (as in garbage scow) is also used.

When the barge broke away, it would free-float until it banged up against something -- a bridge support or the bank of the river, for instance.

The metaphorical sense meant to bump heavily or clumsily into an object or, in your uncle’s use, to burst inconsiderately and rudely into a situation.

SIDEBAR 1: Freight barges being loaded on the Thames

SIDEBAR 2: Runaway barge

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. There is no archive.

Write to Mike with comments or questions:
(substitute @ for AT above)

Check out Mike's program-based books here:
Arbutus Press
or at

Visit the Senior Corner at



Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Dona Sheehan's prints