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Bonking is a popular British pastime, but it's different in America, as we discovered when we read two conflicting stories on the Internet the other day.

The first, on the New Zealand Herald's website, was headed Brits into bonking, brawls and booze.

"Young Britons on holiday shun local culture for booze, casual sex and fist-fighting," it said, quoting the result of the Foreign Office's Project Holiday survey of 1000 tourists aged between 16 and 30, which revealed the unsurprising finding that young Poms went overseas to "party hard and do things to excess."

Just like young people from most western (and possibly other) countries.

"Gone are the days of sun, sea and sangria: bonking, brawls and booze are the visitors' new watchwords," said the report, in an absolute abundance of alliteration. "More than one third of those surveyed reckoned holidays are all about hedonistic behaviour. Of those, 75 per cent were looking forward to excessive drinking, 28 per cent craved a one-night stand, 8 per cent were drug-crazed and 5 per cent wanted a good fight."

After reading that article, we checked the meaning of to bonk with the etymology dictionary , which said it meant "to hit," 1931, probably of imitative origin; 1975 in sense of "have sexual intercourse with."

For good measure, it defined Bonkers as "crazy," 1957, British slang, perhaps from earlier naval slang meaning "slightly drunk" (1948), from notion of a thump on the head.

Imagine our bewilderment when, a few minutes later, we read a story published in the US newspaper The Olympian (Olympia, Washington State), which said: "But you have to eat something when you're on a long bike ride -- such as the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, set for July 9-10. If you don't eat, you bonk."

We had to consult several dictionaries before we found this entry in a US lexicon: Bonking [cycling jargon]: when endurance cyclists have used every ounce of fuel in their bodies and cannot continue.

Just like those young Brits!



Story first posted November 2005

Copyright 2005

Eric Shackle

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