A seesaw is a perfect plaything, perfectly balanced too at its midpoint.
There seem to be different theories about the name: some sources cite an anglicisation of the French word ci-ca, meaning this-that, suggesting the back-and-forth motion.
The Norwich-born linguist Peter Trudgill points to the Nordic language word tittermatorter – also a dialect word for seesaw in East Anglia, giving us teeter-totter.
Seesaw demonstrates what is known in linguistics as reduplication, where a word or syllable is doubled, often using a different vowel in the variation.
And should you be carried away with thinking that I am remarkably well informed, let me introduce you to Google.
All of this might seem a long way from Donald Trump, so big and lumpen he broke the seesaw. The US President is famously obsessed with his wall on the US border. Last week, his plan to keep out the neighbours was boosted when conservative judges on US Supreme Court cleared the way for his administration to spend billions of Pentagon dollars on building it.
There is nothing cheerful about a racist president’s demented wish to blow billions on a wall designed to repel foreigners. People have died in the shadow of that wall; migrant children have been separated from their parents, possibly forever; concentration camps have been built to house migrants.
Last month, the sombre reality of this wall found a horrid symbol in a photograph of a father and his 23-month-old daughter lying dead and face down in the Rio Grande.
Sometimes it takes an artist to see a different side to the grim divisions of life; sometimes it takes someone whose mind is on a pleasing slant.
That’s what just happened as seesaws were placed either side of the wall (in truth a high slatted fence). Photographs and a video posted on social media show the grey slats of the fence penetrated by pink metal planks. This allows kids on either side of the US-Mexico border to play with each other on these seesaws.
Such a brilliant idea you want to laugh and cry at the same time. A beautifully slanted response to the intransigent cruelties and unfairness of life.
The seesaws may have appeared overnight, but they are the result of a ten-year dream by two professors, Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello.
Rael posted a video on Instagram, explaining that their conceptual drawings of what they call the Teetertotter Wall were made in 2009. He wrote: “The wall became a literal fulcrum for US-Mexico relations and children and adults were connected in meaningful ways on both sides with the recognition that the actions that take place on one side have a direct consequence on the other side.”
While it is depressing the world contains the likes of Trump, it is supremely uplifting to know it also contains two professors capable of coming up with such a notion.
What a zinging idea – one of the best. A perfect riposte to the nasty neighbour. Let’s just pray they don’t send in Trump to sit on one end and break the brilliant pink planks.