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Permanent link for this word: henchman

Sep 26, 2016
This week’s theme
Words coined after animals

This week’s words
duck soup

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with Anu Garg

This summer I went to the zoo.

I love museums and gardens and parks, and visit them often. But there’s one place here in Seattle that I had never been to until recently. The zoo. A zoo is a prison for animals who have done no wrong and I prefer not patronizing such a place.

One of the organizations where I teach had a volunteer appreciation party. They held it in the zoo. So I went. While it was enjoyable to meet other volunteers and chat and eat together, the zoo part of this was not pleasant.

You could see birds caged in tiny spaces, flying around in circles, showing typical neurotic behavior that anyone who is unjustifiably imprisoned for life would show. Bears, three of them, confined in barren concrete and glass enclosures. And much, much more.

Until about a hundred years ago, it was considered just fine to showcase in cages humans captured from faraway places. The same justifications -- education, entertainment, research -- were used that we use today to imprison sentient animals. A time will come when we’ll see imprisoning animals for life with the same horror as we have for the idea of human zoos.

Until then, enjoy this week’s words that have animal origins. In some cases the origin is obvious, in others not, but no animals were mistreated in producing this week’s words.



noun: A supporter or subordinate, especially one who engages in illegal activities for a powerful boss or criminal.

From Old English hengest (a male horse) + man. Earlier a henchman was an attendant who walked or rode beside a prince. Earliest documented use: 1360.

“Baron Bomburst hears of the special car and wants it for his own, sending two henchmen, Boris and Goran, to seize it one way or another.”
Review: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Theatre Royal Newcastle; Northumberland Gazette (Alnwick, UK); Jun 2, 2016.

See more usage examples of henchman in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

Half of the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm but the harm does not interest them. -T.S. Eliot, poet (26 Sep 1888-1965)

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