# dot and carry one Gunda Din

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Harry Batt, Mar 2, 2012.

1. ### Harry BattSenior Member

Minneapolis
USA English
"dot and carry one" appears in Gunga Din, that Kipling tribute to the Indian water carriers used by the Queen's British infantry. I have researched and cannot pin it down, though my suspiciions run to reference of a tally form used by the Indian water carriers. Does any
well versed Kipling hot shot who knows Injia's sunny clime know "dot and carry one" its meaning?

2. ### LoobSenior Member

English UK
I'm familiar with "dot and carry one" as an expression meaning "[to] limp", Harry, though I don't think I've ever used it myself. I imagine that's what it means in the poem.

EDIT: I found this note about the expression in Michael Quinion's World Wide Words:
Quinion suggests that it derives from a way of doing arithmetic:

Last edited: Mar 2, 2012
3. ### panjandrum<<PongoMod>> EO'Moderator

Belfast, Ireland
English-Ireland (top end)
Here you are:
7. dot and carry n. (also dot and carry one)
a. A schoolboy's expression in some processes of elementary arithmetic (subtraction, division, and addition). Hence, a name for such process; also for one who does calculations or teaches elementary arithmetic.
(From the OED)

There is an interesting discussion of this at http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-dot1.htm
"Dot and carry one is a rather dated British figurative phrase for a person with a limp."

I don't see, there, how the expression came to have the limp association, but I suppose in a world where "dot and carry one" was a common phrase, its use in relation to someone with a limp could occur naturally.

4. ### LoobSenior Member

English UK
I think the clue is in the suggestion that the expression was originally applied to someone with wooden legs ~ the idea being that each leg made an imprint in the ground in the shape of a dot, while the other leg was was being 'carried forward'.

PS Sorry, I was editing my previous post while you were posting - we found the same source.

5. ### Harry BattSenior Member

Minneapolis
USA English
I will be teaching this poem to 9 and 10 year old 4th graders in an American elementary school and would like to be right. In this case I intend to make the pupils aware of both meanings; viz., walking all day with a limp or doing an arithmetic matter. Interesting that Kipling used "til the longest day was done" referring to the full day of battle, a phrase that was obviously picked up to entitle the movie day of the D-Day invasian.

6. ### pwmeekSenior Member

SE Michigan, USA
English - American
In that case, emphasize how the uneven motion of the limp: "dot and carry one" is evoked by the simple action of making a dot over the next-highest column followed by the more time-consuming carrying operation. My feeling is that it is a metaphor for the rhythm of the action of limping, rather than the physical action itself, although the "dot" for the impression of a wooden leg is very powerful. This occurs in the best poetry - making one word or phrase bring to mind several images.

7. ### ewieSenior Member

This sceptic isle!
Northwest Englandish
Hullo Harry. I'm only familiar with the term from a short story by Maupassant (1886), Clochette in the original, Dot-and-carry in the (papery) translation I read: 'someone with a limp'.

8. ### Harry BattSenior Member

Minneapolis
USA English
Well, perhaps Kipling made it easy for us and it was only a matter of reading his poem more carefully. I was trying to arrive at a meaning for slippery hitherao located in just a line below limping lump. In the first chorus:

He was 'Din! Din! Din!
You limping lump o'brick-dust, Gunga Din!

Tousen tak, a thousand thanks for all who contributed to the thread.

9. ### MimiberkNew Member

Indiana USA
English American
I was just reading Parades End and came across dot and carry one. It reminded me of Kipling whose poetry I memorized as a kid. Never knew what that phrase meant, but it makes perfect sense now. Very Victorian. Thanks for the website.