After two and a half months blogging, I am approaching the all-important 40th post. Today’s is number 39. My nose has been so close to the grindstone, however, that I’ve barely noticed. I’ve got new projects to complete, old bills to write, a daily blog to keep up…in short, I’ve been beavering away.
Have you heard beaver used in this way before? It was new to me when I first heard it at Cambridge.
I’ll let Simon J. James give another example:
One morning last week, I was sitting at my desk, beavering away (building a small dam out of gnawed down pencils)
I found Simon through my BlogRush widget near the bottom of this blog and his extended metaphor was just too adorable to leave out. I also have a sneaking suspicion he’s British, for the following reasons:
- he spells it self aggrandisement and standardise
- he reports a colleague’s utterance of “whilst” in a telephone conversation
- he uses single quotes to explain in an extended riff why his colleague’s use of ‘bye now’ in said conversation was rude
‘Bye now’ suggests immediacy to me, a flagrant disregard for all others in the conversation; it’s the verbal equivalent of hanging up. And also you can’t say, ‘bye earlier’ can you really?
So London Simon (I checked) uses “beavering away.” But what about my U.S. and Canadian readers? Have you used this expression before, or would you call yourself as busy as a bee, instead?
Here’s another explanation from a UK website:
The beaver is remarkable for its industry (and skill) in constructing its habitation and creating dams to preserve its water supply. This gave rise to the verb beaver away for someone who works very hard and to the faintly derogatory eager beaver for a person who is keen to succeed.
The expression is certainly evocative. I wouldn’t dare use it around my American friends, but Simon’s usage is guileless, down to the cute little pencil dam image—or perhaps he’s done that to avoid confusion with that other meaning for beaver:
OK, stop tittering. In British English, to beaver away is to work busily. However, these days you’d have difficulty saying it without a chorus of sniggers from the peanut gallery, as we also all know the American definition. It’s the sort of thing your grandmother might say at Christmas dinner that would make the younger generations choke on their soup.