By one who thinks etymology is all about insectsThis month's guest word is cross-country [ME from L crux and contrata - literally 'contrary crotch', and we've all come across one of those]. The expression has been twisted and abused by cyclists in more ways than they have brain cells. It can be used as a proper noun, for example:
Cross Country (n): Belgium
Or, on second thoughts, perhaps that should read:
Cross Country (n): Malta.
Properly describes a cyclist who rides across country (that is all mountain bikers) but has been expropriated by a group of (usually) failed roadies who dress in frightfully gay coloured lycra and are in mountain biking purely to race. They bring a single-minded pursuit of pots into mountain biking which is resented by some. Hence:
Cross-country racer: Crapey jeyboy nobe(tm).
To go cross-country (adv): To proceed to ones objective as directly as possibly without following roads. Although some insist it means:
Ride cross-country: To ride from East to West (or vice versa). Those who ride North to South are said to be riding 'along country'.
Often abbreviated to XC, which gives it an entirely different meaning:
XC (roman numerals) = 90
The answer to life, the universe and everything: 42
Conclusion: Cross country riders aren't even close.