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Jul 28, 2008
This week's theme
Words with hidden connections to animals

This week's words
popinjay
croupier
boustrophedon
sommelier
haggard

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

"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: Someone 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.

USAGE:
"We Brits didn't really like the way in which Jose Mourinho introduced himself as the 'Special One' when he joined Chelsea as manager. Being a braggart is so un-British, don't you know -- even if you are gifted with a bit of flair. The 'Special One' ought to have been told we don't go in for flamboyance here. If we act the popinjay we can expect others to despise us behind their smiles."
No Space for 'Special Ones'; Western Morning News (Plymouth, UK); Sep 21, 2007.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
For disappearing acts, it's hard to beat what happens to the eight hours supposedly left after eight of sleep and eight of work. -Doug Larson

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