This week’s word is inspired not by urban pitfalls but by my own mountain clumsiness. I spent last Saturday climbing Lugnaquilla in the Wicklow Mountains and managed to dip first my right foot and later my left foot in the lovely, cold, brown water of the rushing streams we needed to cross during the hike. There appears to be a magnetic attraction between my boots and running water, most annoying. My, more experienced, companion remained dry-shod and laughing.
I may lack her agility in the mountains but at least I built up a good immunity to the Georgian beau traps of Dublin when I frequented the city.
A beau trap is early 19th century slang for a paving stone which is loose enough for rainwater to gather underneath. Dublin city dwellers will know that we get a spot of rain now and then. Stealthy puddles gather under the large Georgian stone footpaths (sidewalks for my US friends) and unless you avoid those slabs or hit them in the exact right spot it “tips up and pumps half a litre of rainwater up your trouser” (as Terry Pratchett points out in “A Slip of the Keyboard”). This rainwater is always a murky grey shade and invariably ice-cold.
Douglas Adams (the reason why all my novels have 42 chapters) once created an alternative word for this – the affpuddle – which I rather like too.
Why is it called a beau trap? The elegant young men of the 1800s (also known as beaus) wore those tight white stockings to show off their well turned ankles and calves and such a sinister pool of city rainwater was a trap for those beaus.
Whether you’re walking in cities or hills beware of wobbly stones and beau traps this week.Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,