Different uses of the words 'crash' and 'crush'

Disturbing events keep coming up, here and in Somalia that put a dampener on any hope citizens of both countries have that the menace posed by the ragtag Al Shabaab will be overcome. So, while the Al Shabaab crash explosive laden vehicles into buildings, our spirits get crushed.

A few days ago, Al Shabaab laid siege to a hotel in Mogadishu; a siege that was only crushed several hours later with a lot of deaths reported. Locally, despite being assailed by the stench of corruption perpetrated by individuals in the innermost sanctums of power, there is no hope either. Kenyans feel crushed between the forces of evil conspiring to circumvent the law as the plunder of public resources continues on a stupefying scale.

This narrative, but specifically the words ‘crash’ and ‘crush’ inform our discussion today. They are some of the most common words in the English language, yet among the most challenging to use contextually. Often times, they are used interchangeably despite each standing for a meaning completely different from the other.

Ideally, both words are employable either as noun, verb or adjective. The noun ‘crash’ refers to automobile or plane accidents.

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For those who live or work along the shores in some countries in the West, the phenomenon of hurricanes; giant waves finding their way onto the shores with devastating results; mostly death and property destruction, is not new. In such situations, water crashes into cliffs, homes and towns. That causes the collision and finally the compression that buildings and human beings caught in the path of the waves cannot withstand.

Axed tree

There are other meanings attached to the word ‘crash’, particularly when used as an idiom. When people show up at a party to which they were not invited, they are said to have ‘crashed the party’. If the event where such a person turns up is a concert, party or sports game, the appropriate idiom is ‘crash the gate’. Where, for instance, one finds free accommodation on a temporary basis, he or she is said to have found a ‘crash pad’.

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To ‘crash around’ means to make noise while the act of falling down, of an axed tree for instance, is called ‘crash(ing) down’.  No doubt, most of us know, or have had ‘crash courses’ at some time. This simply means studying a lot of things in a very short period of time. If a criminal escapes legal custody, he or she is said to have ‘crashed out’.  As a verb, ‘crash’ means a violent collision. For example, ‘the crash between the Lorry and saloon car caused a number of deaths’.

Enjoying control

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As a noun, ‘crush’ makes reference to romantic feelings, especially, but also means other things. As a verb, ‘crush’ means to press between two bodies with the intention to destroy. We crush lice between two fingers or a finger and a hard surface in the case of fleas, bedbugs or roaches. Where a vehicle fatally hits a human being or animal, the latter are said to have been ‘crushed’ to death. ‘Crush’ has other meanings.

For instance, whenever we have our episodic political tiffs around election time, an upstaged government, but one enjoying control of the instruments of coercion, namely, the police, resorts to use of force to get respect. When that happens as we saw in Kisumu after the 2017 disputed elections, the government is deemed to have ‘crushed’ the opposition.

Crush is also used to refer to a group of people squeezed into a tiny space, hence:  the crush of bodies suffocated the little kids within. To have a ‘crush on’ someone is to have strong romantic feelings towards that person. For example, ‘the lawyer had such a crush on the legislator, not many were surprised when they secretly wedded last month’. ‘John has such a crush on Mary; he follows her wherever she goes, to her chagrin”.

And like crash, there are idiomatic expressions that incorporate the word’ crush’ to mean different things. For instance, ‘to get a crush on’, ‘have a crush on’ means to become romantically infatuated. ‘Girl crush’ refers to the admiration a female has for another; non sexual though.

To ‘crush down’ means to push someone or something down physically while to ‘crush in’ means to push something inward. ‘Crush up’ means to pulverize or break into tiny pieces. For instance, a certain type of rock can be crushed up to make concrete, ideal for building.

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Mr Chagema is a correspondent at The [email protected]

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