Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I've been re-reading 'Treasure Island' by Stevenson, and, at one point a character says, "... my pulse went dot and carry one" meaning, I think, that his pulse started racing.

Has anyone heard this idiom before? Can anyone tell me specifically to what it refers? The 'carry one' seems mathematical.

share|improve this question
4  
Is this what we call general reference? Googling easily brings up the answer. worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-dot1.htm –  Jeremy Oct 1 '11 at 17:39
2  
@simchona - posting the question here is my research. –  bev Oct 1 '11 at 17:54
3  
@bev: EL&U shouldn't be the first place you go. The reason for downvotes is that a question "does not show any research effort": please Google before asking future questions. –  simchona Oct 1 '11 at 18:00
10  
@bev: EL&U is not meant to be a complicated way of getting other people to google things for you. If you have googled or done other research, but have not found satisfactory results, please explain what you found and why it's unsatisfactory or else this question will be closed. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Oct 1 '11 at 18:16
1  
Folks, Google is not general reference. Really. I certainly don't know of a generally-available reference source specifically designed to answer this type of question - dictionaries don't generally include random phrases. –  Marthaª Nov 7 '12 at 1:06
show 7 more comments

4 Answers 4

According to worldwidewords.org, "dot and carry one" (as used in the book) had implications that the heart skipped a beat. This would coincide with Barrie's answer about what the true meaning is. Referencing a Captain Francis Grose in his Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue from 1785, the site also offers an alternate explanation:

(Grose also mentions hopping-Giles as another slang term of the time for a person with a limp [...])

The notes provided at the end of an online version of the book seems to have come to the same conclusion defining the meaning as,

An irregular "thump, thump."

(An irregular pulse / heartbeat equates to a skipped beat. In other words, the character could have just said he/she felt heart palpitations.)

share|improve this answer
add comment

I too had supposed it to be mathematical, but Brewer gives

An infant just beginning to toddle; one who limps in walking; a person who has one leg longer than the other.

share|improve this answer
1  
While I'm sure OP is grateful for some kind of answer, I'm unsure how this "answer" answers OP's question. It doesn't explain what dot and carry one means in the context given. I find this answer to be incomplete and somewhat unsatisfactory. –  Souta Oct 12 '12 at 4:59
add comment

I think "dot and carry one" is walking up stairs one step at a time. Stepping on the first step then bringing the other foot to join the first, then repeat all the way up.

share|improve this answer
    
It's certainly used in that context; I'm not sure it's the origin. –  TimLymington Nov 6 '12 at 20:44
add comment

Dot and carry one is a technique used when adding numbers in a ledger. In effect you place a dot in the first column and then add a unit to the next column (known as carrying one).
Historically book keepers or accountants using pens would have made a ".1" (dot dash) sound when they updated their accounts, this sounds like a person with a limp or old fashioned prosthetic walking.
The metaphors is therefore likens the sound of a person walking with a limp or prosthetic to the "dot dash" sound a pen makes when a bookmaker adds numbers in a ledger.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.