Having taught English overseas as well as to immigrants in the USA, I’ve found that another frustrating characteristic of the English language is doubling up on a word's definitions. So many English words are used in multiple, unrelated ways. Take, for example, the word “fit.” If you want to see for yourself, go to dictionary.com and type in the word “fit.” It can be used as a noun, a verb, in several idiomatic expressions…and it lists distinct uses in American English and British English. Scrolling down the page never seems to come to an end.
So, rather than make you read a dictionary, I’m going to simplify by demonstrating some common usages of the word “fit.”
A couple of months back, I was preparing for a trip to Indonesia where I lived for 26 years. Many Indonesians like to comment on whether I’ve gained weight, and whether I’ve developed a belly in my 40+ years. They tease each other about it, and so they think it’s harmless when they tease me. But it’s NOT harmless. No way. I take no personal offense, understanding they mean no harm, but that doesn’t mean I like it being said. In fact, no American likes to have attention drawn to his or her belly unless it’s six-pack abs.
Anyway, I was working on sliming down that midsection bloat to avoid the inevitable teasing. I had lost eight or nine pounds and was feeling pretty good about it. Then, one Sunday morning, I grabbed a pair of slacks from the closet but struggled to get them buttoned. Should have been easy! I complained to my wife how exasperating it was to be nine pounds lighter but still have to struggle to get those pants buttoned.
They didn’t fit. Which means, they were the wrong size for me (in my case, too small).
Deflated, I took the pants off, but then noticed something…they weren’t mine. They were my nineteen-year-old son’s which were a smaller size. Somehow, they had made it into my closet. Laughing at myself, I grabbed another pair, made sure they were mine, and fit into them easily, which made me feel much better about the weight loss I had achieved--especially considering that I had fit into the smaller size.
Another usage of the word “fit”: One of my sons when he was two years old, was playing with his five-year-old sister. As kids will do, the elder grabbed a toy from the younger’s hand. My wife and I were sitting thirty feet away iand had a complete view of everything that was transpiring. The toddler looked at us and screamed at the top of his lungs.
He had a fit, which means he became very angry.
The elder looked at us in horror, fearing that she was in big trouble. The younger kept howling, fully expecting us to intervene. I glanced at my wife, who glanced at me, and we both chuckled at the toddler's calculated outrage. Seeing we weren’t going to do anything but laugh, the crying stopped almost instantly, and the young grabbed the toy back from his sister. Our chuckles turned into outright laughter at the ridiculous ploy. (Have to keep a sense of humor around kid chaos).
Now, for my third and final usage of the word “fit.” I used to run…a lot…until I tore the meniscus in my right knee. The last year I lived in Indonesia, I floated the idea of doing a “fitness month” at the K-12 school we had started. We scheduled a pushup contest, a situp contest, a 100m race, a 5K race, and a 10K race (basketball and soccer games, too). Pretty much in my prime running years, I challenged the high school student body.
“If anyone can beat me in the 10K race,” I promised, “I’ll treat you and four friends at a nice restaurant.”
The challenge was on. Most everybody knew that I ran, but few had ever actually seen me run.
My wife tied for 1st place in the women’s pushup contest (at 48, she beat all the high school girls and younger teachers), and she came in second in the women’s 10K race. At 49, I didn’t win the pushup contest, even though I tried. But, I did win the 10K by at least five minutes, the timers told me—maybe by as many as ten minutes.
To be fit means to be in good physical condition.
My wife jokes that she won not because she’s so fit, but rather, because the competition wasn’t too serious about winning. And, my race time was nothing to boast about, especially considering that I walked up the last hill. But again, had any of the students or teachers been regular runners, they could have easily beaten me.
Of course, there are other ways to use the word “fit,” too, which only goes to underscore the underlying question, “How does the size of clothes have any connection with getting angry or being in good physical condition?”
English is a frustrating language to learn.
I rest my case.