dot and carry one Gunda Din

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

  1. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    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. Loob

    Loob Senior 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

    panjandrum Occasional 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
    "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. Loob

    Loob Senior 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:D.
  5. Harry Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    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. pwmeek

    pwmeek Senior 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. ewie

    ewie Senior Member

    Another Country
    English English
    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 Batt

    Harry Batt Senior Member

    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. Mimiberk New 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.

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