perambulation, ramble

My beautiful wife and I went for a little walk yesterday.


We took the train to St. Catharines. Then we walked through St. Catharines (a full variety of neighbourhoods) and along a country road to a winery, where we had a bit of lunch and some wine and then some more wine and we bought some bottles of wine. (I wore a backpack to carry the wine.)

Then we walked to another winery, where we had some wine and also a couple of glasses of wine and a charcuterie platter. And bought another bottle of wine.

Then we walked to another winery and discovered that it was no longer open. It was so closed it didn’t even have a CLOSED sign, but they had let the weeds grow in front of their name sign.

Then we walked to another winery and had some wine, followed by a couple of glasses of wine and some cheese. And we bought another bottle of wine.

And then we walked on a route that included a half kilometre of a noteworthy hill, a long rather boring unurban unrural stretch, and finally a stroll on the road along the edge of the Niagara gorge until we got to the train station in Niagara Falls, where we made the train with 15 minutes to spare.

Our perambulation took us from 10:45 AM to 7:05 PM, including two to three hours of stop time at wineries. The train took about 20 minutes to travel from Niagara Falls back to St. Catharines; we stayed on, of course, and went home to Toronto. The train’s route was more direct, to be sure, and it was moving briskly. When I got home I mapped the route we walked and found that we had covered about 25.4 km. I can tell you that we were reasonably tired by the end. Aina averred that it took longer than she expected.

Well, yes, rambles do go on and on, don’t they.

Ramble is amusingly contradictory in its associations. A ramble can be a rough-and-ready scramble over rocks and slopes and rural routes, and a rambler can be the sort of rugged individual who undertakes such exercise; a “ramblin’ man” is someone whose life is certainly not unexciting, someone who might get in a rumble or ram through things on his way from one adventure to the next; but rambling is also going on and on pointlessly, adding verbal bramble patches to a remembrance. Blathering. Needing to be cut short.

Ramble also looks like perambulation cut short and telescoped a bit. And that would be reasonable, given that they mean about the same thing. The associations are a bit different; perambulation sounds polite and upper-crust, more of a purr than a rumble, and it also has echoes of taking the offspring out for air (pram is shortened from perambulator, as you may know). But perambulation comes from Latin per ‘through, thoroughly’ plus ambulo ‘I walk’, and has exactly the meanings you would expect from that, while ramble comes from Middle English ramen ‘roam’ (from an old Germanic source) plus the frequentative –le suffix (as in cracklenestle, snuggle, etc.) and means, well, keep on keeping on going… for a stroll, or a verbal digression…

Admittedly, neither of these words specifies stops for refreshment or to commune with the spirits, as it were. But I’ve already covered pilgrimage and peregrination and carouse, and I’m not sure cruise is quite the right term for a pedestrian journey. So, as I said stepping off the road and through the door, here we are.

2 responses to “perambulation, ramble

  1. About a couple of words

    You identify your wife as “Aina”. In my lifetime I’ve known only one Aina; she was my (now deceased) sister-in-law. My wife’s family were refugees who came here (to New Zealand) after WW2. The family was Latvian. Since the only Aina I’ve known was of that origin, might I ask whether your wife is of Latvian (or Lettish) origin?

    “Tramps” and “tramping”: in New Zealand the conventional and everyday words for “hiking” or “rambling” or “bushwalking” is tramping. A tramp is a particular hiking route — or more generally — any such bushwalk. So people who say they “are going for a tramp” — do not mean that they intend beating up a beggar, but that they are going “on a hike”.

    Regards — Truby King

    • Yes, in fact, her mother is Latvian, and that’s why she has the name! Her father was Estonian, and so she could have been Aino, which would have led to a lifetime of bad jokes and misunderstandings, so instead she just has a lifetime of misspellings and mispronunciations. But it’s a lovely name!

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