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There is a reason why a great many things are called fixtures: such things are meant to be securely fixed, attached, usually to a surface. Whereas a loose fixture refers to the state of that object, the play is rather possibly the range of motion available to the object in that state:

play n.

[...]

  1. Movement or space for movement, as of mechanical parts.

[ American Heritage Dictionary of the English language ]

That state and the space for movement are conditions where noise may occur when a force sets the object in motion. So if someone comments about hearing a rattle in the wind, couldn't they say that "something is(the fixtures are) playing in the wind", with no reference to music or an animal running around or what not? Could they say that there's a play with some fixtures or do the more casual meanings of play completely upstage the motion sense here? Is "(the sound of) a loose fixture in the wind" the better way to express this; would that be confused with a *fixture (set/let) loose in the wind*, as in completely free from any restraint and not just sort of "hanging"?

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In this usage, play is the movement possible of some object in an area between two fixed surfaces. Here is an example: Bearing (mechanical)

For example, a 10 mm shaft in a 12 mm hole has 2 mm play.

As such, this meaning cannot apply to the wind, as in

something that is playing in the wind

because the wind does not have fixed surfaces.

Actually, play is the ability to move, but it does not imply that the movement is actually happening.

What you are describing seems more like dancing in the wind.

  • Agreed; play is just a noun, and the questioner is trying to verb it. The fixtures have play, but they are just moving or rattling or flapping or shaking or whatever. – stangdon Feb 11 '15 at 17:28
  • @stangdon Thanks! It helps to know things "have play". I have a reflex from another language where I can say both "there is a play" and the object "has a play"; the verb would be weaker. But please do note though that to play carries the sense I was talking about too i.e. sense 11 in AH(play link in Q). – user16335 Feb 11 '15 at 20:27
  • Thank you! Do you think then that "something is playing on the/against the wall" would work? And can we describe a door knocker as having a play (by design)? I didn't know dancing would work here, despite there being nothing playing! Thanks again! – user16335 Feb 11 '15 at 20:28
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    @Amphiteóth - You're right, the dictionary does list it as a verb. I have to say that in all my life I don't think I've ever heard it used as a verb. Usually I'd just use it as a noun, like "There's a lot of play in this worn-out joint." – stangdon Feb 11 '15 at 20:31

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