Is It ‘Hurtle’ or ‘Hurdle’?

Indistinguishable in words, words whips And fence can be a confusing pair. Here’s the scoop on both.

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You jump over the ‘barrier’. The planet ‘crosses the line’ through the universe.

Fence has a number of different meanings as a noun. The word primordial — that is, from before the 12th century — refers to one of the sets of movable plates that you place around land or livestock. Here is it fence that the 19th century brought us the kind of hurdles we’re familiar with runners overcome in track events. (In recent years, a more sinister meaning of the word has also been used: from the early 15th century until the mid-19th century, traitors in England were dragged to be executed on a frame or sledge. snow is called fence. Sorry.)

Fence not just a noun, though. It’s a verb with two meanings, one of which is directly related to athletics obstacles: “jump over especially while running”, as in “cross the fence”. From that late 19th century meaning, the figurative use expanded of “to overcome” or “to overcome”, as in “adversity hurdles”. Verb fence always bridging; that is, there is always something that gets in the way, whether it’s a physical or metaphorical obstacle.

Then, in a brilliant display of racing strategy and bravery, [Emma] Coburn took the inner lane past the penultimate barrier and took the lead at the turn. She then sprinted on her way home, gently slamming over the final hurdle and powering home with her arms raised to win a World Championship gold medal. – Mike Sandrock, everyday camera (Boulder, Colorado), December 10, 2017

In 1994, [Ernest Finney Jr.] overcame another racial barrier when the General Assembly elected him chief justice. — Sam Roberts, New York TimesDecember 9, 2017

from whips, on the other hand, can be both a noun (“offensive action”) and a transitive or intransitive verb. The verb has two meanings: “to move quickly or forcefully” as in “a stone hurling through the air” and “to throw or throw” as in “to throw a stone into the air”.

On Christmas Day, astronomers at the Mount Lemmon Survey near Tucson, Arizona, discovered an asteroid rapidly approaching Earth…. The previously unknown rock blasted through space at nearly 21,500 miles per hour. —Katherine Hignett, weekly newsDecember 28, 2017

SpaceShipTwo accommodated six passengers, each of whom paid $250,000 per ticket. The ship was lifted to a high altitude by the aircraft before its rocket fired, sending the ship into space and allowing passengers to hover around weightless before landing on the runway. — Alex Knapp, ForbesJune 18, 2014

To remember which word you want, remember this: if you’re going to hurdle, you need to literally or figuratively jump over something.

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Categories: Usage Notes

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