Quitting v Giving Up

This sounds like it’s going to be quite a negative post but it’s quite the opposite. I’ve always thought about these two phrases and their connotations. If a person is retirement age and they leave their job are they quitting or are they giving up? I understand the euphemism for what they are doing is ‘retirement’ but which one is it? In sport we are told ‘don’t quit’ but we are also just as likely to be told to ‘never give up’. So if we did happen to do one of those things in the Cup Final which would be easier to live with?

If I had to guess I would say that the word quit has a certain finality to it. For example Brian O’Driscoll has quit international Rugby as of the end of this year’s Six Nations.  I understand it is essentially retirement that we are talking about, as he has no intention of coming back to international rugby (please Brian just one more year?!). However, he is not giving up rugby as he is still playing in the colours of his province – Leinster. When Australian rower Sally Robbins (Lay-down Sally) lay back in the women’s eight at the Athens Olympics in 2004, she was giving up on the race but not yet quitting the sport. There were some in the media who would have dubbed her a ‘quitter’ though ( as well as un-Australian and other adjectives with the word ‘flaming’ nestled in front of them). There are other grey areas when it comes to these terms.

'Lay-down Sally' Robbins. Did she quit or give up?

‘Lay-down Sally’ Robbins. Did she quit or give up?

During my twenties I was a smoker and I watched with interest as other friends the same age stopped and started the habit with differing levels of dependency. One day I commented with a little surprise to a female friend of mine who had stopped smoking ‘You’ve quit?’ I said. She corrected me saying she had ‘given up smoking’. To me, this correction suggested she intended to smoke again but was for all intents taking a break from it. So perhaps it is that finality that is the major distinction.

When it comes to my writing I have no intention of giving up or quitting. But you can be forgiven for thinking I had given up writing for Lent. There was no blog post last week but that was down to me finishing off my latest novel (those last few pages that needed a real focus). Well I say finishing off. In truth it is nowhere near finished. The story is all there and will remain there in perpetuity until it gets rewritten or edited. It’s still an achievement and I always feel a great weight lifted off when I cross that point of completion. So as far as last week is concerned I had not quit writing but well and truly given up on last week’s blog post.

Perhaps it is the idea of sacrifice that also defines the two. As in the period of Lent, it is said that you are giving something up for a personal good. I’m not sure that going without all food for forty days and forty nights is a wise idea but when I was a little fella, I did go forty hours during the 40 Hour Famine. As a kid who loved snacking just as much as my three square meals, it was a real challenge to go that time without anything but water, juice and barley sugars. It was rewarding though. I managed to do it a few times and the money raised went to good causes. With that in mind I genuinely thought about Lent this year and giving something up. When I was about nine or ten we went a year as vegetarians. I didn’t have any meat (except if I was staying with my grandparents…of course). Since Pancake Tuesday (March 4th) I haven’t had any meat at all. No red meat, white meat, seafood. It was only hard for the first couple of days, though I do have lapses where I look at my children’s spaghetti bolognaise longingly. As a runner, I am far too dependent on meat as my main source of protein and it’s been good to come up with a few other ways of generating the same energy and probably giving the body a break at the same time. This is one time I can happily say that giving something up is a good thing. That being said, on Easter Sunday all domesticated animals should be wary of me.

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