Catch


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Ringing terminology is seductive. The more we use it, the less we are aware that to the uninitiated (including those we teach) it can mean something completely different. The worst case is when the intended meaning overlaps the perceived meaning.

A good example is ‘catch’ as in ‘catch the sally’. Experienced ringers use the phrase without thinking about it. It is just a verbal label for the complex, semi-automatic action that starts with our hands on the tail end and ends with them on the sally.

But when we use that phrase as teachers, our pupils don’t hear it as a label for an action they already know, because they haven’t yet learnt it. They hear the phrase as an instruction telling them what to do, and they interpret the words in terms of their everyday meanings.

Outside of ringing, ‘catch’ conjures up images of a coat being snagged on barbed wire, a fish taking the bait, or a cat pouncing on a mouse. None of these convey the desired action where the hands move up at the correct time and speed for them to close smoothly around the sally as they continue to move up with it.

So if we tell our pupils to ‘catch’ the sally, should we be surprised to see hands springing up to grab it, or hovering at chest height motionless ready to snatch it as it passes?

The benefit of introducing the transfer action with a stationary rope is being able to take the pupil through it in slow motion, with time to emphasise the smoothness of the action. It’s a shame to lose that by using conflicting language when the pupil makes the difficult step of doing it at full speed with a live rope. Far better to use language that conveys the intended feel of the action.

The hands should ‘rise towards’ the sally, ‘meet’ the sally, ‘close round’ the sally. If the timing isn’t quite right, the hands need to ‘rise earlier’ and ‘arrive higher on the sally’ (or vice versa).

So let’s leave all talk of ‘catching’ for stories about the riverbank or the mouse hole.

John Harrison