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Tag: language

Animal Characteristics in Word Histories: Who They Are in What We Say

Whereas the word veal in English simply means “flesh of a calf” and pork in English means “flesh of a pig used as food,” hidden in many of the Anglo-Saxon/Old English and Proto-Indo-European words for the living animals are clues about the physical, behavioral, or vocal characteristics of the living animals, reflecting a tendency to name animals based on typical attributes or activities. 

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Old English Pigs and Old French Pork: The Linguistic Cleaving of Animals

Roughly 10,000 new words entered the English language during the Norman occupation and assimilation, particularly those having to do with the world of the ruling class.

The effects of the linguistic class division are most apparent in the culinary realm, where words used by the aristocracy have French origins and words used by the commoners have Germanic origins.

This is evident even today in the way we talk about certain animals, particularly those typically eaten by Westerners, with words rooted in Anglo-Saxon / Old English to indicate the living animals and words rooted in Old French to indicate the slaughtered animal as flesh for consumption. 

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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Ingrained: A Crush of Color

When something is ingrained, it’s “deeply rooted” or “firmly fixed,” pertaining to qualities, dispositions, or habits. This figurative use of the word ingrain came into English in the 1850s, but its original sense is from the 1300s and had to do with the dried and pulverized insects used to make a color. 

In this episode, I share all the colors whose names come from the animals whose bodies we crushed or from whom we extracted secretions to make dyes, colors, and pigments.  

Toady: Lick My Boots and Curry My Favor

A toady is a person who flatters and ingratiates himself or herself to another person in a servile way; a toady is a sycophant, a flatterer, especially someone who does distasteful or unprincipled things in order to gain favor. Celebrities and politicians are often accused of toadeating, and toadeating is exactly how we get the name of someone who kowtows. 

Pay close attention to this episode, as several animalogies are hiding within. Submit the ones you hear in the comments below!

Gerrymander hides an animal!

Did you know that the word GERRYMANDER is an animalogy? It’s a combination of Gerry—named after the governor who 1st redrew districts in his favor— and Salamander because of the shape of the newly drawn district on the map.

 

From TheFreeDictionary.com:

Word History: In 1812, as governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry signed a bill authorizing the revision of voting districts in his state. Members of Gerry’s party redrew them in order to secure their representation in the state senate, and out of Gerry’s home county, Essex County, they carved an unlikely-looking district with the shape of a salamander. According to one version of the coining of gerrymander, the shape of the district attracted the eye of the painter Gilbert Stuart, who noticed it on a map in a newspaper editor’s office. Stuart decorated the outline of the district with ahead, wings, and claws and then said to the editor, “That will do fora salamander!” “Gerrymander!” came the reply. The image created by Stuart first appeared in the March 26, 1812, edition of theBoston Gazette, where it was accompanied by the following title: The Gerrymander. A New Species of Monster, which appeared in the Essex South District in Jan. 1812. The new word gerrymander caught on instantly—within the same year gerrymander is also recorded as a verb. (Gerry’s name, incidentally, was pronounced with a hard (g) sound, although the word which has immortalized him is now commonly pronounced with a soft (j) sound.) Gerry ran for reelection in 1812, and popular outrage directed at the flagrant use of the technique we now call gerrymandering doubtless played a role in his defeat.

For more, listen to Animalogy Podcast, which is all about the animal-related words and expressions we use every day. 

[Tweet “GERRYMANDER combines Gerry—governor who 1st redrew districts— and Salamander.”]

Who Owns the Word “Milk”?

For years, the dairy industry has been trying to make it illegal for nondairy milk companies to use the word “milk,” asserting that the word “milk” should be used to refer only to the lacteal secretions of cows. Today, I’m joined by Michele Simon, public health lawyer and director of the first trade group to represent plant-based foods companies, to talk about the history and motives behind this agenda.

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Do you see the bear in ARCTIC?

Did you know that the word ARCTIC is an animalogy? It comes from the root word for “BEAR.”

OTHER BEAR-BASED ANIMALOGIES:

*the constellation Ursa Major — it means “Great Bear

*the constellation Ursa Major — it means “Little Bear

*the constellation Arcturus — it means “Guardian of the Bear

*the names Ursula and Orsa 

*the names Orson and Arthur

*the word ursine pertaining to the characteristics of bears 

For more, listen to Animalogy Podcast, which is all about the animal-related words and expressions we use every day. 

[Tweet “Did you know that the word ARCTIC is an animalogy? It comes from the root word for BEAR.”]

[Tweet “Orson, Arthur, Ursula? They’re all animalogies. They all come from the root word for BEAR.”]

Animals in the Alphabet

Animalogy is all about the animal-related words and phrases in the English language, but did you know there are animals in the very letters that make up our words? If I haven’t blown your mind yet, check out this episode to learn more about this fascinating history.

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Tragedy: A Goat’s Lament

Tragedy n. “goat song” Named for the dramatic plays of the ancient Greeks, characterized by a protagonist whose flaw or error in judgment leads to a series of events that cause his downfall. How it relates to goats, you’ll have to listen.

You’ll also discover yet another bit of our anatomy named after an animal (in this case a goat) and another Greek word for goat, aig, which gives us even more English words. Without being under the aegis of this episode, you might otherwise be tempted to jump into the Aegean sea.