Fitness crazes, like much else, are born of lexical innovation: “spinning” for riding stationary bicycles, or HIIT (high-intensity interval training) for running fast then slow. The latest happy innovation, from Scandinavia by way of France and Thailand, is “plogging”: jogging while picking up litter.
Oxford Dictionaries explains plogging’s Swedish derivation, from “either plocka upp (pick up) or plocka skräp (pick up litter) and jogga (jog)”. Jogging used to mean walking or riding a horse at a slow, jerky pace, until in the 1960s it was repurposed for healthy exercise, but these days it already sounds rather old-fashioned. As part of the general rhetorical professionalisation of leisure activity, people have for years been going “running”, like Olympians, instead of merely jogging.
Still, plogging, with its environmentally conscious public spirit, should be welcomed by governments hoping to save money on official street sweepers. In future, teams of citizen volunteers could surely help in other areas by cogging (caring for old people while jogging) or brogging (planning for Brexit while jogging). We have nothing to lose but our aversion to portmanteau words.
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