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Jun 23, 2014
This week's theme
Words coined after animals

This week's words
squirrelly
canaille
monkeyshine
puce
toady

squirrelly
Photo: Pascale

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

According to my unscientific survey, 52.9% of all videos on YouTube are about cats pulling toilet paper and dogs making funny faces. We take time to record the videos, upload them to the net, watch them, and then forward endlessly. It's a reflection of our close relationships with animals. Our language also mirrors this as so many of the words are derived from animals.

An easel is, literally, an ass (from Dutch ezel: ass), a muscle is a little mouse (from Latin mus: mouse), and bugle is an ox (from Latin buculus: young bullock, whose horn was used by hunters for giving signals).

This week, we'll see five words derived from five animals (squirrel, dog, monkey, flea, and toad), words in which the animal origin sometimes may not be immediately obvious.

squirrelly or squirrely

PRONUNCIATION:
(SKWUR-uh-lee)

MEANING:
adjective: 1. Restless, jumpy, nervy. 2. Odd or crazy.

ETYMOLOGY:
Why do we consider a squirrel squirrelly? Well, it's either their unpredictable running around or we think they are nutty because of their preference for nuts. The word came to us via French and Latin from Greek skiouros (shadow-tailed), from skia (shadow) + oura (tail). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ors- (buttocks) which also gave us ass, dodo, and cynosure. Earliest documented use: 1925.

USAGE:
"'It's indicative of how squirrelly the market is,' Christopher Dixo said, adding that investors are skittish about any degree of negative news."
Sallie Hofmeister; Diller's Internet Empire Takes a Hit; Los Angeles Times; Jan 7, 2003.

See more usage examples of squirrelly in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

A THOUGHT FOR TODAY:
A note of music gains significance from the silence on either side. -Anne Morrow Lindbergh, writer (1906-2001)

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