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.