potter around

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Silver

Senior Member
Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
Hi,

My student wrote a sentence:

Stop pottering around and get the job done!

I looked up the word and I found it also works as a verb! But I think it's very old-fashioned though since no one uses it here.

May I have your point of view?
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I don't think it's very old-fashioned, Silver, and I hear it now and then when somebody is referring to doing a little light work in a workshop or a garden: I was just pottering around in the garden/in the toolshed. I hear "putter around" more often than "potter around" in my part of the world. Both words tell others that your work wasn't urgent or important.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Whoever wrote the sentence, what did they mean by "pottering around"? Without context I can't tell whether it is being used correctly. I presume the sentence was not a stand-alone sentence and there was some context.
     

    Silver

    Senior Member
    Chinese,Cantonese,Sichuan dialect
    Whoever wrote the sentence, what did they mean by "pottering around"? Without context I can't tell whether it is being used correctly. I presume the sentence was not a stand-alone sentence and there was some context.
    He told me (in Chinese) that he wanted to say "Stop fucking around and get the job done". He asked his cousin to finish the homework first.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    I might find it a bit difficult to tell whether an AE speaker was saying 'potter' or 'putter' because of the similar vowel sound. :) However, I would assume that 'potter' was meant for some reason. I would say it is used correctly here.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    In that case you probably have the wrong expression. Owlman's "pottering around in the garden" is a typical usage. "What did you do this morning?" "Oh, nothing much - just pottered about in the garden". "Pottering about" is not really pejorative enough for the situation,Ii think.

    If you want to say "stop wasting your time doing useless things", you could use "stop messing around/about" if you don't want to say something as strong as "fucking around".
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Of course, it is not as strong as 'f...ing' or 'd...ing' around, but I assumed Silver wanted a more 'refined' expression. :D
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    True boozer, but I would never use "pottering around" to accuse somebody - it isn't derogatory enough. In fact it's a rather affectionate way to describe someone not doing much productive work, but enjoying themselves.
     

    boozer

    Senior Member
    Bulgarian
    Agreed. Then another word that will probably not be seen as strong enough would be 'loafing around'. Although a loafer is definitely associated with laziness...
     

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    I think "loafing around" would be as good as "goofing off", Mr B. "Loafing around" is better if you're talking about laziness. "Goofing off" is better for describing any activity that isn't directed toward getting the task done.
     
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