6 ‘run’ phrases you probably don’t know
The word run might mean many different things to you. Personally, it makes me figuratively run for the hills, such is my feeling about exercise. Run might also make a lexicographer blanch; it is a strong contestant for the verb with the most meanings, at over 650 (this of course includes phrases and phrasal verbs). We won’t attempt to start examining all of those, but will run at the opportunity to run through a list of run expressions that run through our minds.
Rather than list phrases you’ll be familiar with, we thought we’d turn our attention to the more unusual examples in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), most of which are now obsolete. Ready, steady… go!
He runs far that never turns
Similar to it’s a long lane that has no turning, this obsolete phrase means ‘it is rare for people to maintain a particular position, practice, etc., indefinitely’. The implication, despite the optimistic sound of these words, is that people inevitably do turn, and so don’t (figuratively and literally) run all that far in a single direction.
He may ill run that cannot go
This obsolete phrase has the current English equivalent walk before you run; it indicates that ‘it is as well to master elementary things before attempting anything more difficult’.
To run one’s country
This sounds like the practice of a dictator, but this rare and now obsolete phrase was actually used in reference to hunting dogs: it meant ‘to run directly forward, rather than following a scent’.
To run the chapter through
If you run the chapter through, you might be reading something over quickly – but previously you’d have been doing something rather more heated: it once meant ‘to go over an old quarrel again’, although again, it is now obsolete.
To run the cutter
A smuggler could be said to run the cutter. This chiefly Scottish phrase, now rare, originated in the idea of a smuggler evading a revenue cutter (cutter in the sense of a coastal patrol boat). This broadened to smuggling more generally, or any comparable activity, such as seeking to obtain drink illegally.
That he who runs may read
This phrase is used to refer to something that may be easily or readily perceived or understood, and relates to the Biblical book of Habakkuk: ‘Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it’; this has been glossed as ‘write it in great letters, that he that runs may read it’.