Friday, 1 August 2008

A.W.A.D. - Words with Animal Ingredients

"If you could be any animal, what would you be?" This question often pops up at parties, in board games, and in general chitchat. Typical answers involve animals we consider magnificent: I'd be a lion; I'd be a peacock; I'd be a penguin... we believe their supposed traits -- pride, beauty, exoticness -- reflect our personality. Just as when we buy a dress like one worn by a celebrity, we think some of their glitter rubs off on us.


When asked this question, I answer: human. Humans are animals too. After protests have died down, I finally respond with an animal animal: a pig.


Eyes widen in disbelief. Why would someone choose to be a pig, after all? Pigs have a major public relations problem -- they're unfairly associated with everything negative: filth, gluttony, obesity, and more. And that's exactly the reason I'm with pigs (they are, in fact, intelligent and very neat). They were made as they are, in the big scheme of things, for their own purpose, and they do their best in whatever they are supposed to be. Who is to say our minds at any moment are any cleaner than a pig's pen?


I recently read this new book, Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals. It's a colorful book in all senses of the word and I highly recommend it. It just might make you look at animals in a different light.


This week we'll feature five words with animal ingredients. Animals are in the origins of all the words, though no animals were harmed in making of this week's AWAD.

popinjay
PRONUNCIATION:(POP-in-jay)
MEANING: noun: Somone who indulges in vain and empty chatter.

ETYMOLOGY: Via French and Spanish from Arabic babbaga (parrot). The last syllable changed to jay because some thought the word referred to that bird instead of a parrot.


croupier
PRONUNCIATION:(KROO-pee-uhr, -pee-ay)
MEANING: noun: An attendant at a gaming table at a casino who collects and pays bets, deals the cards, spins the roulette, etc.

ETYMOLOGY: From French, literally one who sits behind another on horseback, from croup (rump). The term arose because originally such a person stood behind a gambler to offer advice.


boustrophedon
PRONUNCIATION:(boo-struh-FEED-n, -FEE-don)
MEANING: noun: A method of writing in which lines are written alternately in opposite direction, from left to right, and right to left.

ETYMOLOGY: From boustrophedon, literally ox-turning, referring to the movement of an ox while plowing a field, from bous (ox) and strophe (turning). It's the same strophe that shows up in catastrophe (literally, an overturning) and apostrophe (literally, turning away, referring to the omission of a letter).


sommelier
PRONUNCIATION:(sum-uhl-YAY)
MEANING: noun: A wine steward in a restaurant.

ETYMOLOGY: From French sommelier, from somm(er)ier (one charged with transporting supplies), from somier (beast of burden), from somme (burden). From driving a pack animal to drafting wine lists, a sommelier has come a long way. A sommelier is to wine as a cicerone is to beer, though the latter has recently been introduced and is not widespread.


haggard
PRONUNCIATION:(HAG-uhrd)
MEANING: Looking gaunt or exhausted, as from fatigue, suffering, hunger, age, etc.

ETYMOLOGY: Of uncertain origin, apparently from Old French hagard (wild falcon), perhaps influenced by the word hag. The word is still used for a hawk captured as an adult.

1 comment:

CrystalChick said...

I have always loved the word sommelier. But then again, I'm a wino....

HEY, I really like your new color and blog name. Especially since you really enjoy a hot cuppa and I know, with a little milk in it!!