Courtesy of Claire Forrest
There is no doubt that swimming, like any sport, has its own specialized vocabulary. But there are also some everyday words that have a completely different meaning to swimmers:
1) Swim Cap
What most people think it means: A silicone cap with flowers and a chin strap on it that your grandmother wears in the pool.
What swimmers think it means: A very trusted and necessary piece of swimming attire, with specific memories associated with each team cap, such as a hard set or incredible race tackled while wearing it.
What most people think it means: A purely fashionable item of summer clothing, the cuter or more colorful the better!
What swimmers think it means: Something worn for much of the waking hours, chosen with complete disregard for pattern, the tighter and more water dynamic the better!
What most people think it means: A short and rare twenty-minute period of sleep, just to refresh.
What swimmers think it means: A sacred time of deep sleep, to be interrupted only when friends and family form a search party because they haven’t seen you all day, and even then, you’ll probably sleep through it.
4) Winter Break
What most people think it means: An awesome few weeks off from school where one is free to do whatever they want!
What swimmers think it means: A dreaded time of torture when swim coaches fill the swimmer’s vacation with strenuous three-hour practices and training trips.
What most people think it means: An act of grooming to remove unwanted hair from your body.
What swimmers think it means: An extremely high risk and meticulous pre-meet ritual to remove every last hair from your body in order to possibly remove .005 seconds from your race time.
What most people think it means: A verb meaning to decrease or thin out over time.
What swimmers think it means: The single most glorious period of time, better than all holidays or birthdays combined, when you swim increasingly less in order to rest for a meet. See also: an excuse to get out of any and every physical activity or personal responsibility.
What most people think it means: A winged creature that is colorful, dainty, and beautiful.
What swimmers think it means: The most difficult, painful, and impressive stroke that causes most swimmers—except a select few—to tremble in fear.
8) Dry land
What most people think it means: Any part of the earth that is not a body of water.
What swimmers think it means: A pre- or post-swim practice exercise regimen created to inflict additional demands of time and physicality on the swimmer.
9) Sleeping in
What most people think it means: Waking up when your body feels naturally rested and revitalized, without the demands of a schedule or an alarm.
What swimmers think it means: When your alarm for morning practice is set to six o’clock in the morning instead of five.
What most people think it means: A rare and fun activity that involves relaxing near a pool or just splashing around in one.
What swimmers think it means: My life.
Claire Forrest is a recent graduate of Grinnell College with a degree in English. She is currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota as a freelance writer. The only competitive swimmer in her family, Claire went to her first swim meet at the age of eleven on a whim without even knowing what a swim cap was. She fell in love with the sport and never looked back. A S6 classified disabled swimmer for US Paralympics, Claire specialized in mid-distance freestyle and backstroke and made national and world rankings throughout her career. She was a 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Trials participant. Claire is passionate about integrating disability swimming into the larger swim community, having swam for able-bodied club teams and her college’s DIII team. She enjoyed both Paralympic and prominent integrated able-bodied meets equally for the many commonalities they share. Over 13 years after her first meet, she’s happy to report she now owns more swim caps than she can count.