The Grammarphobia Blog

Stop on it!

Q: A word from France on your post about stop signs. Using the verb stopper to mean stop is considered a barbarism here because we have a perfectly acceptable equivalent, arrêter. But stopper has another meaning that is quite acceptable – to darn or repair small tears and holes in clothing. Stoppage – stopping a hole from getting larger – used to be a common service here, but as the price of labor has risen and the price of clothing has dropped, this painstaking repair service has disappeared. Is there a similar usage in English?

A: One meaning of the verb “stop” in English is to close an opening or a hole (“Her hair stopped the shower drain”). Another meaning is to fill up, repair, or make good (The plumber stopped the leak”).

Indeed, the verb “stop” has been used in English as far back as the 15th century to refer to mending a garment, though I don’t see any modern references for this usage in the Oxford English Dictionary.

Nevertheless, I remember hearing the word “stop” used to refer to interrupting the course of a run in a nylon stocking – this was back in the days when nylon stockings were common.

If a woman saw or (and this was an odd sensation as I recall) felt a run start creeping up or down her leg, she grabbed a bottle of nail polish to “stop” the run.

This really dates me, I know! Microfiber stockings have put a “stop” to that, for the most part.

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