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Today's Word



May 7, 2018
This week’s theme
Words derived from animals

This week’s words
black dog
pork barrel

black dog
I had a black dog, his name was depression (video, 4 min.)

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with Anu Garg

Earthworms, dogs, monkeys, and humans. We are all cousins in the great journey of evolution. Chimps share 99% of our DNA. Our language shows our close relationship with our evolutionary mates, the non-human animals, in a vocabulary that’s filled with words derived from animals.

Some of these words are obvious, others not. A constable is, literally speaking, a count of the stable. A canopy is a mosquito curtain (from Greek konops: mosquito) and a pavilion (from Latin papilion: butterfly) is a butterfly with his wings spread out.

This week we’ll see five terms that have animals peeking from them. We’ll meet dog, fly, calf, pig, and bird.

black dog

(blak dog)

noun: Depression.

In the beginning, a black dog was a canine of dark complexion. Then it started to be used metaphorically to refer to a counterfeit coin, perhaps because such a coin was made of base metals (instead of silver or gold) that turn black over time. Eventually, the term began to be applied to depression. The lexicographer Samuel Johnson used the term in the 1780s for his own depression: “When I rise my breakfast is solitary, the black dog waits to share it, from breakfast to dinner he continues barking.” In modern times, Winston Churchill popularized the term when he used it to describe his own depression. Earliest documented use: 1665.

“Ed reacted without thinking. ‘I’m not that depressed,’ he said, and regretted it. He wanted to talk about the damn black dog, didn’t he?”
Bill Percy; Climbing the Coliseum; Xlibris; 2014.

Convulsions in nature, disorders, prodigies, miracles, though the most opposite to the plan of a wise superintendent, impress mankind with the strongest sentiments of religion. -David Hume, philosopher, economist, and historian (7 May 1711-1776)

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