Tag: birds

Inauguration

On Inauguration Day, not everyone is talking about the inauguration of the next U.S. president; some (like me) are talking about the animals hidden within the word itself. Listen to my radio commentary for NPR below (or on KQED’s website). Here is the transcript for your pleasure. 

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On January 20th, not everyone will be talking about the inauguration of the 46th president of the United States; some of us — well, probably only me — will be talking about the word INAUGURATION itself and the animals hidden within.

An INAUGURATION is the act of starting something new — like a business or a presidency — and its origins go all the way back to the religion of ancient Rome when priests called augurs interpreted the will of the gods by studying the omens aka the auguries to predict whether the undertaking in question was auspicious or inauspicious — a practice referred to as “taking the auspices”

They did this by reading the flight patterns, songs, and eating habits of birds, a practice called “inauguare.”

So, through the root avis meaning “bird,” our feathered friends reside in the words auspices, auspicious, inauspicious, inaugurate, inaugural, and inauguration.

And inauguration became the word we use to elect politicians into office with the hope that their inauguration foreshadows an auspicious tenure.

Today, we know we don’t have to interpret the will of the gods to predict the future; and we don’t need to read the behavior of birds to tell us whether or not an elected official will carry out their duties favorably and with success. (We never really did.)

All we need to do is look at the behavior of the candidate — their experience, reputation, and ability to lead; their honesty, empathy, and vision; their ability to communicate, their commitment to the public good, their allegiance to democracy.

That should tell us everything we need to know.

With a perspective. This is Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Piggyback: Animal Words with No Animal Origins

“Piggyback” has nothing to do with pigs! In fact, there are many seemingly animal-related words and phrases in the English language that have nothing to do with animals at all! In today’s episode, I offer up the backstory to words such as piggyback, monkey wrench, round robin, and spelling bee. 

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No Critters Harmed: Colors Inspired by Living Animals

In a previous episode on words for different colors, an episode called Ingrained: A Crush of Color, I talked about the names we have for colors based on animals who have been crushed to create the color or from whom we’ve extracted their secretions to create colors or pigments. Today, we talk about the names for colors whose histories are a lot easier on animals, because they’re inspired by the colors of living animals. 

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Falconry: Fed Up and Looking Haggard

The practice of hunting wild birds with trained birds — for fun is called falconry. Though it came into its own almost 1,000 years ago in England after the Norman invasion, it continues to have a stronghold in our contemporary English language. I hope I can lure you to join me today as I share all of the words and expressions that come from this blood sport and to hear about the time *I* was roused to try my hand at falconry and why I turned tail by the end of it.

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Coccyx: Please Don’t Sit on the Cuckoo

Coccyx is a small triangle-shaped bone at the base of the spinal column in humans and other apes, such as gibbons, orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees. Representing a vestigial tail and most commonly called the tailbone, coccyx was the name given to this part of our anatomy by ancient Greek physician Galen because of its resemblance to an animal, making the word an “animalogy.” Can you guess the etymology? All is revealed in this episode of Animalogy, a podcast about language and the animal-related words and expressions we use every day.

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Thank you! For the animals,

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