Daily Archives: May 11, 2015


Do you like quaxing? I like quaxing. I quax all the time. Well, to be precise, I quax regularly every Friday at around 6:30 pm, and I may also quax on other days of the week.

What is quaxing? By context, you may guess it is not related to sounds ducks or Aristophanic frogs make (brekekekex, quax, quax?). No, this word is an eponym. Or perhaps I should call it a contreponym or perhaps a spitonym, because its sense is pointedly in spite of the person whose name it uses.

I don’t know if this word will take off and last. Its sound is sharp and exceptional and suggests things unrelated to its referent. But right now it’s a fun little flash in the pan. And I bet at least one of my regular Sesquiotica readers (hello, Janet!) will know it already, since she’s from New Zealand, which is where this word started.

New Zealand, I should say, is one of only four countries in the world where I have driven a car. When we plan trips, we will plan with trains if possible, buses or planes if necessary, but cars only if unavoidable. Well, to see New Zealand close up we needed to rent a car. But if we were living in a place such as Auckland and needed to go shopping, well, we wouldn’t need a car to do that.

But Dick Quax disagrees.

Dick Quax is an Auckland councillor. And Dick Quax, in a Twitter exchange sparked by a suggestion that a shopping centre ought to have better transit options, declared “no one in the entire western world uses the train for their shopping trips” and followed that with “the very idea that people lug home their weekly supermarket shopping on the train is fanciful.” He was subsequently skeptical about declarations by some that they get their groceries on their bikes.

I live in Toronto. Toronto has a large ring of suburbs full of people who are used to having to drive to get anywhere and do anything. I remember that life: I lived out in the country when I was a kid. I lived in Calgary for a year in grade 5. When we lived in Calgary, even out in the sprawling northwestern suburbs, I would take the bus and walk quite regularly, though not all the time. Now I live in Toronto, I don’t even own a car. I rent when I have to. I seldom have to. Every Friday, after work, I go to the St. Lawrence Market and buy my groceries and carry them home. It’s enough for two people for a week (not including lunches). Many people in central Toronto do the same.

This, according to By the Motorway, is what quaxing is: “to shop, in the western world, by means of walking, cycling or public transit.”

Could you carry home enough for a family or four or more? One person might have trouble, but two might do it more easily. Shopping more than once a week is also an option. The thing is, where I live, the nearest parking to the shopping is also the nearest parking to my residence. Even if I were to shop farther away, I would still have a lot of bag carrying to do to and from the car.

So I’m lucky, right? Because I live two blocks from where I shop? Lucky only in that I can afford my residence here (which did not cost more than a house in drive-to-shop-land). I didn’t roll the dice; we chose to live here. Also, there are many families with children and teens living in the building I live in. Living far from shopping is a choice many people make, and they have their reasons. It’s just not a choice everyone makes. Some of us prefer to quax. I’m not going to be a dick about people driving to shop when they live too far from the store to walk; I know the exigencies of life for many. But I don’t think it’s too much to ask for people who drive to shop not to be dicks to those of us who quax. We’re keeping the streets and air that much clearer. I have to tell you, it’s all that it’s quaxed up to be. It’s quick, too.

Who, by the way, is Dick Quax? Aside from being an Auckland councillor, I mean? He’s an Olympic silver medallist from 1976. In what? The 5000 metres. Running. You know, going places on foot. Physical fitness, et cetera.

Well, he may have won silver in 1976, but I think he’s won irony in 2015.

(By the way, in case you’re curious, Quax is a Dutch name, as are many that end in x. He was born in the Netherlands – where quaxing is the usual way to go shopping – but moved to New Zealand in his childhood.)

Thanks to Tweeters @leoniedoyle and @ladyfleur and to Kirsty Johnston of the NZ Herald for bringing my attention to quaxing.