Of late I have been pondering something. The word 'jump
'. That is what I have pondered. We have many words for jumping. Leap
; all of these words describe the action of forcibly breaking contact with the ground, or of maintaining such a lack of contact. I assume this is testament to our inner monkey
. I shall now explore the difference between these different words. Although I have included the word 'fling', I have not considered throw
. Although it is possible to throw and launch onself - "he launched himself at the feet of Scarlett Johansson
" or "he threw himself in front of a bus" are perfectly reasonable sentences - it is nonetheless the case that 'throw' and 'launch' are most often associated with act of propelling an object rather than a person, perhaps because the human race has only recently developed the technology to launch an adult male skwards.
What differentiates a jump from a leap? The answer is that a jump usually contains a vertical component - one can jump up, and one can jump down - but a leap is more definitely a horizontal action. Indiana Jones might leap from one side of a canyon to another, lumberjacks leap from tree to tree, and leaping is in general a more dynamic action that jumping. One might jump up and down on the spot without much enthusiasm, but it is not possible to leap half-heartedly. A half-hearted leap is a jump, or a bound. One can leap onto something or someone - "he lept from the tree onto the horse", perhaps - but this is less common.
How does a fling depart from a leap or a jump? I believe that a fling is akin to a leap, but less precise and with less power. It implies a degree of haphazardness, recklessness. One might fling oneself in front of a train, or a car, but it would be odd to leap in front of a train unless in doing so one was also leaping over a canyon, or if one was leaping into a train carriage, perhaps. One would be more likely to leap past the front of a train, or away from a train. So, therefore, a jump primarily has a vertical component, a leap has a horizontal component - with no more horizontal component that that unavoidably imposed by gravity - and a fling is similar to a leap, but without as much direction or energy. A bound is mid-way between a jump and a leap, in that it describes a 'rainbow-like' trajectory; furthermore, it implies that one is bounding over something else, and therefore a bound is a purposeful action. In my dreams there is a forest canopy, there is jungle, and I can fly through the trees, it is good.
A skip is similar to a bound, but with less urgency and less energy. Skipping is a continuous action composed of several, individually insignificant skip-packets, and indeed to 'skip past' or 'through' something is to imply that either (a) the thing which has been skipped is objectively trivial or (b) the skipper is particularly skilled, to such an extent as to make the skipped thing subjectively trivial. It is not possible to bound over an insignificant thing; the action of bounding makes the bounded thing significant, because it must have been quite large. Although it is a cliché to talk of 'leaps and bounds', I believe that this is more a figure of speech than a reasonable measurement; only in the world of computer games can someone make several consecutive leaps, without tiring.
Hopping is similar to skipping; the sport of 'hop, skip and jump' (aka the 'triple jump', one of the oddest Olympic sports and one which I was absolutely useless at, in both real life and in Konami's Track and Field) implies that hopping is less energetic than skipping, perhaps because it implies repeated use of a single leg rather than an alternation of legs as does skipping. It's possible to both hop and skip on the spot and in a direction, but hopping is usually only used in cases where the hopper is injured, or restrained with soft leather straps, and perhaps made to hop around in a circle for the gratification of a lady.
A dive inevitably implies a downwards motion, although not straight downwards; in fact, outside the world of aviation, a dive implies that the diver has propelled himself along, and is relying on - and expecting - gravity to pull him or her down. In this respect a dive and a fling are very similar, although again a fling is a random act whereas a dive is tightly controlled. It implies a harness, a ball gag, restraints; or a tight, tight swimming costume, worn by a graceful young female swimmer - oh, so young - diving from a board into the hard, harsh water below. Ten points! As she plunges into the pool I feel my heart plunge, too; for the knowledge of being magnetically drawn to something I can never have. Never. I must never speak of this.
A dive... a dive is something one might perform on the football pitch, yes, burly men with knobbly legs, diving to the ground in mock-agony, writhing in the mud, pretending to be in pain... how sweet, pain. The faces of ecstasy and of agony and of death are indivisible. I must never speak of this. Grey squirrels seek to destroy all that is good. They are vermin enemies of the human race.
A fall is always straight down, and is generally unpowered and uncontrolled, although it can also be controlled. A plunge is similar, but uncontrolled; another subtle difference is that 'plunge' is usually used to describe a person or object that is already in the act of falling, whereas 'fall' and most of the above can be used to describe the initial act. One might fall off a building, and whilst one is falling one is plunging - plungeing? - but it is unusual to speak of someone being 'plunged off' a building or to speak of someone 'plunging oneself'. "I watched him plunge from the building" sounds odd, certainly compared to "I watched him plunge to the ground", although it is grammatically correct; albeit that a 'plunger' in the sense of being a rubber sucker designed for unblocking drains, a plunger is a dramatically active thing. At this point in the paragraph, you may have become unable to parse the word 'plunge', as I have; it no longer makes any sense. Plunge. Plung-ee.
A handy list, for cut-out-and-keep reference:
Jump = up and down, powered, controlled
Leap = across, sometimes down, powered, controlled
Fling = across and down, powered, without as much control
Bound = over, with purpose
Skip = similar to bound, but less urgent
Hop = similar to skip, but even less urgent
Dive = powered, down, generally also across
Fall = unpowered, down, controlled or uncontrolled
Plunge = unpowered, down, uncontrolled
I must acknowledge H. W. Fowler and his book of modern English usage - any why not useage? - for inspiration, and I must leave you now.