Coming down with something

When chatting to people anywhere, if the subject turns to feeling unwell, you will often hear the phrase “I think that I’m coming down with something.” I have said this myself, and hear others using it frequently. Until recently, I gave it little thought, but when I heard someone say it a few days ago, it struck me what a strange phrase it is. It has the feel of an old manner of speech, like the form of words you might find in the novels of Charles Dickens, or perhaps could even be spoken by one of the minor characters in a Shakespeare play. In that respect, it appeals to me greatly, and I am glad is has survived though the ages.

I am guessing that it would be hard to translate into a foreign language. I imagine perplexed German or French students studying English, trying to work out what this could mean. I am also wondering if Americans would get it, and if it has travelled across the Atlantic with the rest of our language, or remains uniquely British. I am trying to try to think of some other phrases like this, not regional, but understood by anyone in the UK. It doesn’t actually suggest illness, yet we all know instinctively what it means. Looked at in isolation, you could be forgiven for thinking that it is nonsensical. In similar uses, you could hear, “I am coming down with a friend”, and presume that the speaker was visiting you, in the company of someone else. If someone said “I am coming down with those things”, you would automatically assume that they are bringing things to the place where you happen to me. But when they say “I am coming down with something”, you never question the immediate idea that they are unwell.

When I woke up yesterday, I wasn’t feeling my best. I couldn’t exactly describe any symptoms, although there was an ache in both my back and shoulders, and I felt cold inside my body. After getting unduly stressed about the leaks above the wood-burner, I went out with Ollie, for a long walk. The weather had changed, and though it was still damp, we walked in bright sunshine, in the company of a regular dog-walking friend. I got back when it was almost dark, feeling inordinately tired and cold. Unusually for me, I put the heating on early, and when Julie got home from work, we had a simple meal, that involved little preparation or cooking. By 8pm, I could feel myself getting sleepy. The backache persisted, and my hips also began to hurt. Walking around was reduced to a shuffle, and I couldn’t get comfortable on any of the furniture. I gave up, and went to bed at the unheard of time of 9.50pm.

I didn’t wake up this morning until almost 10.45. I had slept for over twelve hours. My aches are still there, though not painful enough to warrant pain-killer tablets being taken. I feel a bit shivery, and my head feels fuzzy.

 

I think I must be coming down with something.

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21 thoughts on “Coming down with something

  1. The English language is full of expressions that are vague and/or nonsensical unless you are equipped to understand them by way of experience, or have access to the internet or a good dictionary. New idioms are added to the language rather frequently, and it does take some effort to keep up. It’s nice, though, that we can still cling to the “tried and true” ones. Of course, new words are also being routinely coined because they have “gone viral.” For example, the Oxford Dictionaries just named “vape” the 2014 word of the year. Last year, it was “selfie,” which always makes me think of Kim Kardashian, even though she is no more guilty than many others. Anyway, I suspect that most, if not all, languages, are similarly evolving, or mutating, depending on your point of view.

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    1. That is very true David. There are some that I am pleased to embrace, others that I revile. That is why I love these old ones, and the fact that they endure down the centuries.
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  2. Loosely translated it means “I’m not feeling well” and these sometimes encompass a simple headache to muscle pains. Yesterday, Josef and I just planned of cleaning our window screens but when we removed them, i could see our French windows full of dust so we spent the whole day cleaning windows, changing curtains etc. The ache and pains of getting old because I felt every bit of muscle protesting.

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  3. Poor Pete, although this was a very enjoyable reading as always, we hope you feel better very soon! Wishing you a speedy recovery!
    Best regards from the Four of us in Cley,
    Dina
    and lots of pats for Ollie

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  4. Certainly sounds like you are a bit ‘under the weather’, Pete. Plenty of rest and fluids for you, and hope you ‘shake it off’ soon Best wishes from a rather dull Surrey

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    1. Thanks Sue. ‘Under the Weather’ is another good one. Well spotted! ‘Shake it off’ I can actually relate to, as a good shake sometimes makes you feel that you are helping to cure whatever it is. As for dull, I think that someone painted the Norfolk sky in battleship grey during my long sleep!
      Best wishes, Pete.

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  5. The phrase “I think I’m coming down with something” has traveled across the ocean. I knew exactly what you meant, have heard and used that phrase all my life. Hope the ‘something’ isn’t too bad and that you’re feeling better soon.

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  6. Poor boy . . hope you don’t go down all the way but in a sense you did “come down to bed” last evening.
    Perhaps in the days of the plague a number of people were in bed with the disease and someone who was beginning to feel ill said “I’m coming down with you lot”.
    It seems to me more relevant to say “I’m going down with . . ” but as you say, it is most appealing to hear (not to action).

    Just by the way: as usual massive sunshine and heat here in London town!
    R

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    1. It’s a wonder you don’t expire down there Ro, with the tropical heat. (At least in Crystal Palace, if nowhere else.) Enjoy all that sun mate, and make sure that you’re not coming down with anything…x

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