18 Linguistic (And Literal) Animal Blends

2 Zonkeys

You may have heard of the pizzly, a cross between polar and grizzly bears. Normally, never the twain shall meet: polar bears are marine mammals, says the Washington Post, while grizzlies are landlubbers. However, the twain are meeting now as sea ice shrinks and the tundra expands.

Pizzlies (or grolars if you prefer) got us thinking about other animal mixes. Check out these 18 linguistic and literal beastly blends.

Tigon, liger

These tiger hybrids are perhaps the most well-known of unusual animal fusions. A tigon is a cross between a male tiger and a female lion while a liger is the product of a male lion and a female tiger. Slate warns that while crossbreeding two big cats may seem like a no-brainer, there are downsides. For instance, ligers can “suffer from unsustainable growth.” Often, as a result, “their hearts give out.”

The word tigon first appeared in English in the late 1920s, says the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). The first tigon may have been shown in a touring British circus in the 19th century while one of the most famous early tigons was presented to the Zoological Gardens in Regent’s Park in 1924 or 1928. While the first ligers on record may be from 1824, the word didn’t appear in print until about 1938.

Leopon, jagulep

A leopon is the product of a leopard and a lion, and may have first been bred in the early 20th century. A jagulep is what you get when you cross a jaguar and leopard.

The leopard itself was originally thought to be a hybrid, specifically between a lion and a panther, says Online Etymology Dictionary. The word is from the late 13th century and comes from the Late Latin leopardus, literally “lion-panther.” The word jaguar is from about 1600 and is Portuguese in origin, ultimately coming from the Guarani jaguá, yaguar, “dog.”

Coydog, wolf dog, coywolf

While you won’t find any labradoodles or cockapoos here (check out our classic dog words post for those), you will find these coyote, wolf, and dog concoctions. The coydog isn’t a shy Fido but the result of a coyote and feral dog pairing. A wolf dog, while also a dog trained to hunt wolves, is the lovechild of a wolf and a dog. Finally, a coywolf is the output of a coyote-wolf union.

Wholphin

What do you get when you cross a female bottlenose dolphin and a male false killer whale? A wholphin of course.

The word wholphin is a medley of Old English and Greek parts. The word whale is from the ninth century and comes from the Old English hwæl. Dolphin is from the 14th century and ultimately comes from the Greek delphis, which is related to delphys, “womb,” possibly from the idea “of the animal bearing live young, or from its shape.”

Mule, hinny

A mule may not be exotic, but it is indeed an amalgam, in this case of a male donkey and female horse. Meanwhile, a hinny is a mix between a male horse and a female donkey.

While infertile, mules might be considered a result of hybrid vigor, also known as heterosis, in which “increased vigor or other superior qualities [arise] from the crossbreeding of genetically different plants or animals.” Mules are stronger than horses of similar size yet eat less, and have the endurance and independence of donkeys.

The word mule is from the 12th century and is Latin in origin. Hinny is from the 1680s and comes from the Greek innos, which has the same sense but is of unknown origin.

Zonkey, zorse, zebrinny

A zebra hybrid is known as a zebroid, a term attested to 1899, according to the OED: “The zebroid, or hybrid between the horse and the zebra, ‘will be the mule of the 20th century’.” Zebroids include the zonkey, a cross between a zebra and donkey; the zorse, the offspring of a female horse and male zebra; and the zebrinny, that of a male horse and female zebra. The term zebrinny was coined by one Professor E. C. Ewart. Like mules, zebroids are almost always infertile, says Slate, and sometimes experience dwarfism.

Dzo, zobo, yakalo

The dzo, zobo, and yakalo are, you guessed it, yaks crossed with, respectively, a domesticated cow, a zebu, and the American bison or buffalo.

The dzo is the sterile male while the dzomo is the fertile female. Like the mule, they’re a product of hybrid vigor, and are considered larger and stronger than other yak and cattle in the region. The words dzo, dzomo, zobo, and yak are Tibetan in origin. Yak, which comes from gyag, is thought to be imitative.

Geep

No, not that not that Jeep. A geep is a sheep-goat hybrid. Such successful matings are rare, says Modern Farmer, and “most resulting pregnancies are never carried to term.” Understandably, some experts are suspicious of those claiming to have a real-life geep on their hands. “There are lots of anecdotes floating around about these hybrids,” says a professor from UC Davis, “but there are very few legitimate documented cases.”

Cama

The cama is what you get when you cross two long-necked creatures. Size-wise, the infertile cama is between the camel and the llama, says Slate. It doesn’t have a hump but it does “seem to have a thicker bone structure than” a llama. Its coat is “long-haired and llama-y while the tail is more camelicious—which is also the name of a popular camel milk brand, FYI.”

For even more animal hybrids, check out this list.

The Year of the Rooster words

Rooster

Get your firecrackers and red envelopes ready, the Lunar New Year is almost here!

As you may know,  the Chinese zodiac rotates on a 12-year cycle, with an animal representing each year. This time around it’s the hardworking and ostentatious rooster, which got us thinking about the origin of rooster words. Here’s a brief history of those terms that go cock-a-doodle-doo.

Cock versus rooster

The word cock, referring to an adult male chicken, is quite old, originating in the late ninth century, according to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED). It comes from the Old English cocc, “male bird,” and is imitative in origin.

The more salacious meaning of cock arose (ahem) around 1618. Rooster, perhaps a euphemistic shortening of the older roost-cock, is from the 1770s. The OED describes the term as chiefly used in North America, Australia, and New Zealand, while the Online Etymology Dictionary says rooster became “favored in the U.S. originally as a puritan alternative to cock (n.) after it had acquired the secondary sense ‘penis.’”

Chanticleer

Another name for a rooster, chanticleer is a 14th-century term that started as proper name and comes from animal fables. Other such animal names include bruin for bear, grimalkin for cat, and Reynard for fox. Chanticleer comes from the French chanter, “to sing.”

Cockatrice

A cockatrice is mythic serpent that hatches from a cock’s egg, has “the power to kill by its glance,” and has characteristics of both a snake and a rooster. However, the word doesn’t come from the Old English cocc but the Latin calcāre, “to track.”

Cock-a-doodle-doo

This onomatopoetic word for a rooster cry is attested to 1573, says the OED. Other languages have their own versions. In French it’s cocorico; in German, kikeriki; and in Russian, kikareku. Check out this post for a list of cock-a-doodle-doos from around the world.

Cock-and-bull story

This useful phrase referring to “an absurd or highly improbable tale passed off as being true” might be allusion to Aesop’s fables, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, and their “incredible talking animals.”

Want more fowl words? Check out this list. Happy Year of the Rooster!

Shark Week: Sharkings and Loan

Loan Shark

The 25th anniversary of Shark Week starts this Sunday, and we’re taking a bite out of some sharky words. Last year we explored shark types (our favorite is the wobbegong), terms (mermaid’s-purse anyone?), and idioms (careful of that voodoo shark!). This year we’re diving into the predatory human side of the cartilaginous carnivore.

The origin of the word shark, as applied to the animal, is uncertain. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, in the 1560s “the word and the first specimen were brought to London by Capt. John Hawkins’s second expedition.” From a handbill advertising the exhibition: “There is no proper name for it that I knowe, but that sertayne men of Captayne Haukinses doth call it a ‘sharke.'” A possible relation is the German schirk, “sturgeon.”

Shark referring to “a sharper; a cheat; a greedy, dishonest fellow who eagerly preys upon others; a rapacious swindler,” seems to have come about slightly later, around 1599. The origin is also unknown. It may come from the German Schurke, “scoundrel, villain,” or, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the French cherquier or chercher, “to seek,” as in the phrase chercher le broust, “to hunt after feasts, to play the parasite or smell-feast.”

A variation of shark is sharp, as in cardsharp, also known as card shark, “a professional card player who makes a living by cheating at card games.” If you lose all your money to a card shark, you may need a loan shark, “one who lends money at exorbitant interest rates, especially one financed and supported by an organized crime network.” The term is attested to 1900. An older word is usurer, which originated in the late 13th century, while a synonym is shylock, “a ruthless moneylender,” which attests to 1786 and is named for a character in Shakepeare’s The Merchant of Venice. How ruthless? Shylock demanded as payment a pound of flesh, which now refers to any “debt harshly insisted upon.”

A juice collector works for a loan shark, collecting the money, or juice, owed. Juice is slang for “funds; money.” Around the 16th century, says Cassell’s Dictionary of Slang, juice‘s meaning of “the profits of a profession or office” came about, while in the late 17th century and the 1920s, juice referred especially to money from bribery, corruption, or loan-sharking. These meanings may be due to “money’s ‘lubricant’ properties.” A juice loan is “a loan at usurious interest rates, normally made by organised criminals,” while vigorish, or vig, is “a charge taken on bets, as by a bookie or gambling establishment,” or “interest, especially excessive interest, paid to a moneylender.” Vigorish is Yiddish slang and comes from the Russian vyigrysh, “winnings.”

If you’re a sailor, watch out for land-sharks  those who subsist “by cheating or robbing sailors on shore.” The land-shark is also known as a land-pirate, or “a land-grabber; one who seizes upon land by force or chicanery.” The term seems to have originated in the 19th century. Meanwhile, a sea lawyer, a species of shark, is also “a querulous or captious sailor, disposed to criticize orders rather than to obey them; one who is always arguing about his work, and making trouble.” As says a 1908 piece in The New York Times:

Sea lawyer and pest are synonomous term with every Captain. The sea lawyer is the man with little education and a meddlesome disposition. His mate on land is the fellow who shows up after every accident and advises: “Sue the company.”

Be careful also of shirkers, those who “avoid or get off from unfairly or meanly; slink away from,” or “practise mean or artful tricks; live by one’s wits.” Shirk, like shark, comes from the German Schurke, “scoundrel,” which is related to the Old High German fiurscurgo, “demon,” where fiur means “fire” and scurigen, “to stir up.” Those with shark’s manners are rapacious, “greedy; ravenous,” or “subsisting on live prey,” and may engage in feeding frenzies, periods of “intense or excited feeding, as by sharks,” or figuratively, “excited activity by a group, especially around a focal point.”

The literal meaning feeding frenzy has been in use since the 1950s, says the Online Etymology Dictionary, while the metaphorical meaning came about around 1989. However, we found a couple of earlier citations. The following comparison is from a July 7, 1976 column by Pat Buchanan: “The national press would become as sharks in a feeding frenzy.” The below is from Jim Bishop on August 23, 1978:

Immediately after Watergate there was a silence, as though a bleeding man had slipped into a shark pool. After that, it was a feeding frenzy. The press corps shredded the president and all his men.

What are some of your favorite shark words?

[Photo via Flickr: “Fishes-22-090 – Thrasher, Basking Shark, Brown Shark, Rough Hound,” CC BY 2.0 by artvintage1800s.etsy.com]

How to Speak Rabbit

Raving Rabbids

Raving Rabbids

Easter is right around the corner, and you know what that means: a visit from the Easter Coney.

Don’t know what a coney is? Neither did we, at first. The word rabbit once only referred to rabbit young, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary. An adult rabbit was called a coney, which ultimately coming from the Latin cuniculus, “like a rabbit.” (Cuniculus also refers to “a small underground passage,” similiar to rabbit burrows, and “a genus of lemmings,” so-called because they “somewhat resemble small rabbits.”) Coney got dropped for rabbit in the 19th century after “British slang picked up coney as a punning synonym for cunny,” a word for a certain female body part. You can still see coney in use today in Coney Island, aka “Rabbit Island,” named because of its “many and diverse rabbits.”

Many and diverse also are rabbit idioms. In cricket, a rabbit is “a very poor batsman.” In running, it’s “a runner who intentionally sets a fast pace for a teammate during a long-distance race,” perhaps named for the artificial rabbit in dog racing. A rabbit punch isn’t a punch from a rabbit but “a chopping blow to the back of the neck,” so-called “from resemblance to a gamekeeper’s method of dispatching an injured rabbit.”

Rabbit food refers to “vegetables, especially those that are raw.” To rabbit on is to “talk in a noisy, excited, or declamatory manner,” and is a shortening of Cockney rhyming slang, rabbit and pork. Rabbit rabbit is “a common British superstition,” in which one must say, “Rabbit, rabbit, white rabbit,” or some variation thereof, “upon waking on the first day of each new month,” to receive good luck for that month.

As for bunny, it first came around in the 1580s meaning “squirrel,” then in the 1680s become a pet name for rabbit. The word may ultimately come from the Scottish bun, “tail of a hare.” (Bun meaning a roll or biscuit may come from the Old French buignete, “a fritter,” which originally meant “boil, swelling.”) The bunny hug is “a syncopated ballroom dance” made popular in the U.S. in 1912.

The bunny hop is another type of dance, “created at Balboa High School of San Francisco in 1952.” A Playboy Bunny is a waitress at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club, while a badge bunny is “a woman who is romantically attracted to police officers.” Under most of our beds are dust bunnies, “a mass of fine, dry particles of matter, especially hair and skin particles, that is formed by static electricity,” named presumably for their fluffy, bunny-like appearance. An older term for dust bunny is beggar’s velvet.

If you want to get all scientific, there’s lagomorph, “any of various plant-eating mammals having fully furred feet and two pairs of upper incisors.” The word comes from the Greek lagos, “hare,” literally “with drooping ears.” Lagos also gives us lagotic, “rabbit-eared,” and related is lax, “slack, loose, relaxed.”

Rabbit fur is lapin, “especially when dyed to imitate a more expensive fur,” and is an alteration of the Old French lapriel. Civet is “a stew, usually of rabbit or hare, flavored with onion, cives, garlic, or the like,” and may ultimately come from an Arabic word meaning “cream.” Gibelotte is another type of rabbit stew originating from France, and translates as “fricassee of game.”

A fricassee is “a dish made by cutting chickens, rabbits, or other small animals into pieces, and dressing them with a gravy in a frying-pan.” The word probably comes from the French frire, “to fry,” plus casser, “to break, crack.” Meanwhile, Welsh rabbit, also known as Welsh rarebit, isn’t rabbit at all but a dish of “melted cheese over toasted bread, flavored in various ways, as with ale, beer, milk, or spices.” Welsh was “used disparagingly of inferior or substitute things,” while rabbit, according to World Wide Words, “is here being used in the same way as ‘turtle’ in ‘mock-turtle soup’, which has never been near a turtle, or ‘duck’ in ‘Bombay duck’, which was actually a dried fish called bummalo.”

And in case you’re wondering what the heck rabbits have to do with Easter anyway, Discovery News says the origin of the Easter rabbit “can be traced back to 13th century, pre-Christian Germany, when people worshiped several gods and goddesses,” including Eostra, “the goddess of spring and fertility,” whose symbol “was the rabbit because of the animal’s high reproduction rate.” As for Easter eggs, they “represent Jesus’ resurrection.”

We hope you enjoyed this trip down the rabbit hole of rabbit words. Now excuse us while we revive ourselves with bunnies of the chocolate variety.

[Photo: “Raving Rabbids,” CC BY 2.0 by Ken’s Oven]

 

Behold the Turkey

Turkeys

Turkeys, by Hey Paul

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Hey Paul]

With Thanksgiving just a few days away, we thought we’d take a look at words related to that big dumb bird, the turkey.

Where does the word turkey come from? In short, it’s named for the country Turkey, “from a confusion with the guinea fowl, once believed to have originated in Turkish territory.” According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the “Turkish name for [the bird] is hindi,” literally “Indian,” “based on the common misconception that the New World was eastern Asia.” The Virtual Linguist says “the original full name of the bird was turkey-cock, but this applied to a different bird — the guinea-fowl, a native of Africa,” while Dan Jurafsky at The Language of Food traces the bird’s history, from its domestication in south-central Mexico to its journey to Europe and the U.S.

How about those turkey sounds? Gobble, which also means “to swallow in large pieces” and “to seize upon with greed,” is imitative in origin and comes from the Middle English gobben, “to drink greedily.” Gobben probably comes from gobbe, “lump, mouthful.” Related are gob, “a mouthful; a little mass or collection; the mouth,” gobbet, goblet, and gobsmacked.

Related also is gobbledygook, nonsense or unclear jargon. The word was first used in 1944 by Congressman Maury Maverick (a grandson of Samuel Augustus Maverick, “an American cattleman who left the calves in his herd unbranded,” for whom the word maverick is named) in a memo banning “gobbledygook language.” As for its origin, “Maverick said he made up the word in imitation of turkey noise.”

The word cluck,“to utter the call or cry of a brooding hen or a hen with young chicks,” comes from the Old English cloccian, which is imitative in origin. A Turkish word for turkey is culuk. Jollop is another word for the cry of a turkey, and according to World Wide Words “was at one time a name for the wattles of the bird, probably from dewlap.” Another meaning for jollop is “a strong liquor or medicine,” also spelled jalap and perhaps influenced by the word dollop.

How about turkey sayings and slang meanings? Turkey meaning “a failure, especially a failed theatrical production or movie,” attests to 1927 while the meaning “a person considered inept or undesirable,” is from 1951. Both come from the idea of the turkey being a silly and stupid animal. The meaning “three consecutive strikes in bowling,” may come from a 19th century American tradition of awarding a turkey to such a bowler.

Turkey also has the lesser-known meaning of “a bag containing a lumber-jack’s outfit.” The origin is unknown, though perhaps it’s named for the bag’s turkey-like appearance. A blind turkey is a sack “stuffed with rags or waste, “deaconed” with a tattered pair of overalls and of a pair of shoes and designed to deceive those labor agents who decline ship laborers who have not baggage stand hostage for their arrival at the job.” To hoist the turkey means “to take one’s personal belongings and leave camp.”

Talk turkey means “to talk or negotiate plainly, frankly, or seriously.” World Wide Words says the phrase was first recorded in 1824 “but is probably much older,” and originally meant “to speak agreeably, or to say pleasant things.” This meaning may come from “the nature of family conversation around the Thanksgiving dinner table,” or “because the first contacts between Native Americans and settlers often centred on the supply of wild turkeys.” The most complex explanation is:

a story about a colonist and a native who went hunting, agreeing to share their spoils equally. At the end of the day, the bag was four crows and four turkeys. The colonist tried to partition the spoils by saying “here’s a crow for you” to the Indian, then keeping a turkey to himself, giving another crow to the Indian, and so on. At this point the Indian very reasonably protested, saying “you talk all turkey for you. Only talk crow for Indian”.

The meaning changed to “frank talk” in the 19th century when “to ‘talk turkey’ was augmented” to “talk cold turkey,” with no relation to cold turkey’s meaning of “immediate, complete withdrawal from something on which one has become dependent, such as an addictive drug.” This meaning of cold turkey stems from 1910 and came from the idea that “cold turkey is a food that requires little preparation, so ‘to quit like cold turkey’ is to do so suddenly and without preparation.”

A jive turkey is “someone who is jiving, as in behaving in a glib and disingenuous fashion.” The turkey portion of the phrase presumably comes from the word’s meaning of a stupid person while jive’s origin is more complex. The word’s meanings of “to deceive playfully,” “empty, misleading talk,” and “a style of fast, lively jazz and dance music” attest to 1928. Some claim the origin is the language of the Wolof, “West African people primarily inhabiting coastal Senegal.” However, others doubt this claim, saying that:

although the Wolof are relatively prominent to many Americans because of the large number of Senegalese immigrants in this country, and to black Americans because the Goree Island slaving settlement is a popular tourist attraction, the fact is that there is no evidence that Wolof speakers were predominant among slaves in the United States, numerically or culturally.

Other turkey phrases include turkey-shoot, “a rifle-shooting match in which a live turkey is the target and the prize,” which gives us the figurative meaning of “something easy.” A turkeycock is “a pompous or self-important person,” probably from the image of a strutting male turkey. The turkey-trot is “an eccentric ragtime dance, danced with the feet well apart and with a characteristic rise on the ball of the foot, followed by a drop upon the heel,” which was popular in the early 20th century.

Has all this turkey talk gotten you hungry? How about some tofurkey, “a meat substitute resembling turkey, usually made from tofu,” or unturkey, “a vegetarian substitute for turkey, particularly a turkey-shaped ‘bird’ made with wheat gluten, soy, and other vegetarian ingredients”? If meat’s your thing, then you might want a turducken, a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken, or a turbaconducken, a turducken with each bird wrapped in bacon. “It’s a real lardapalooza!” as Fritinancy says.

Or you may want to try the turducken of desserts, the cherpumple, “a three-layer cake with an entire pie baked into each layer—a cherry pie baked inside a white cake, a pumpkin pie baked inside a yellow cake and an apple pie baked inside a spice cake.”

For even more Thanksgivine-related fare, check out Fritinancy’s post on how Butterball got its name, her terrific roundup of fun turkey and Thanksgiving related info, and Cracked’s list of the five most insane versions of Thanksgiving from around the world.

Dog Days

You can blame Sirius (the Dog Star, not Black) for these dog days of summer. It’s when this brightest star of Canis Major rises with the sun that our days turn especially hot, hazy, and lazy.  And what better way to while away the time than to read some more about our four-legged friends?

Dog is a small word with a multitude of meanings. It comes from the Old English docga, “a powerful kind of dog, a hound,” which may have come from the Proto-Germanic dukkōn, “power, strength, muscle.” In addition to the latrating (or non-latrating) quadruped, dog may refer to “a dull, unattractive girl or woman; a man; a coward; someone who is morally reprehensible; one’s feet.”

The breeds of man’s best friend are even more varied.  There are 400 and counting, according to National Geographic, from the tiny chihuahua (named for its city of origin, Chihuahua, Mexico) to the massive mastiff (from the Latin mansuetus, “tame, gentle” and influenced by the Old French mestif, “mongrel”). Dog breeds may be purebred, “that (usually an animal) which has genuine parents of the same breed,” or crossbred, “produced by crossbreeding; bred from different species or varieties.”

Crossbred dogs with unknown parentage are known as mutts, mongrels, curs, and tykes, and while their genetic origins may be obscure, their etymological origins are clear. Mutt is short for muttonhead, and a general term of contempt. Mongrel comes from the Old English gemong, “mingling,” and is related to among. Cur originates from the Swedish dialectal kurre, imitative of a dog’s growl. Tyke comes from the Old Norse tik, or bitch, female dog.

Different regions and countries have their own names for these comingled canines as well. In Hawaii, they’re known as poi dogs (not related to the extinct Hawaiian poi dogs), named for poi, the national food of Hawaiians, and perhaps implying the mixing action of making poi or the mixed heritage of many Hawaiians. In Australia they’re known as bitsa, meaning “bitsa this, bitsa that,” and in the U.S., Heinz 57, named for the “57 varities” slogan of the ketchup company.

On the other hand, designer dogs are hybrids by design rather than chance. The names of these fashionable mutts are usually portmanteaus, or a blend of the names of the parental breeds.  For instance, the Labradoodle is both a genetic and linguistic blend between a Labrador retriever and a poodle.  But where did those original breed names come from?

Cover girl

Martin the Labradoodle, by H.L.I.T

Dog breeds are often named for their place of origin, their appearance, or their purpose.  The Labrador retriever was once known as the Lesser Newfoundland, and when brought to England was renamed the Labrador, a geographical location near Newfoundland, Canada, to distinguish it from the Newfoundland dog.  The word poodle comes from the German pudeln, “to splash about,” which comes from pudel, “puddle,” probably because the poodle was originally bred to hunt and retrieve water fowl.

The cockapoo is a mix between a poodle and a cocker spaniel.  The cocker spaniel was so named as it was originally bred to hunt woodcocks, a type of bird, and may have come from Spain (spaniel coming from the Old French espagneul, “Spanish dog”).  The springer of springer spaniel (cross that with a Labrador and you get a labradinger) comes from the dog’s springing motion when hunting.

Moby week 10

Moby the Cockapoo, by kylerconk

The peekapoo is a cross between a poodle and a Pekingese, which was named for its city of origin, Peking, China, an obsolete name for Beijing. The Schnoodle is a poodle-schnauzer mix, with schnauzer coming from the German Schnauze, “snout,” referring to the dog’s blunt nose.  The snorkie is a schnauzer-Yorkshire terrier mix, with Yorkies being named for their place of origin, Yorkshire, England, and terrier coming from the Latin terra, “earth,” as the dogs were originally bred to dig out small prey from the ground.

The baskimo is a cross between the basset hound and American Eskimo dogBasset of basset hound comes from the French basse, “low,” due to the dog’s short stature.  Meanwhile, the American Eskimo dog is neither American nor Eskimo.  Originally called the German spitz, it was renamed during World War I due to anti-German sentiment  (freedom fries anyone?).

The dorgi is a crossbreed of a dachshund and a corgi.  Dachshund comes from the Old German dahs, “badger,” probably because it was originally bred to hunt badgers, while corgi comes from the Welsh cor, “dwarf,” plus ci, “dog.”  Supposedly Queen Elizabeth II was the first to introduce the dorgi breed.

Olive the Dorgi by t-dawg

Olive the Dorgi, by t-dawg

The pomchi is a cross between a chihuahua and a Pomeranian, named for Pomerania, a region in Europe and its place of origin. The chug is a a chihuahua-pug mix, while a puggle is a cross between a pug and a beagle (and really freaking cute).

img_2879

Diego the Pomchi, by @cdharrison

The pug’s etymology is a bit of a mystery. While the breed originated in China, where it was known among other names as the fu, or good luck, dog, how the name pug originated is less clear.  Perhaps it came from its pug-nose appearance, in this case pug coming from the Latin pugnus, “fist,” or perhaps due to its mischievous termperment and an alteration of Puck.  The beagle’s etymological origin is far more straightforward: it comes from the Old French bee gueule, or loudmouth.

tora/dexter

Tora and Dexter the Puggles, by xersti

Begging for more? Check out our list of the day, Mix-Breeds, Mutts, and Mongrels by rocksinmypockets, as well as Chained Bear‘s list, Dog Breeds according to Simon & Schuster’s Guide, 1980. In addition, keep your eye out all week for our dog-themed words of the day and lists of the day by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook, or subscribing via email.

The Language of Sharks

Shark

What’s not to love about sharks? First of all, the word. It sounds like what it does: opens with a tear – sh! – growls a bit – ar! (not that sharks growl) – and ends with a chomp in a hard k. The distribution of tall and short letters also resemble a row of jagged teeth.

Like the waters this carnivorous fish swims in, the word’s origins are murky. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the slang sense of a “dishonest person who preys on others” may have been the word’s original meaning, applied to the apex predator later on. Shark possibly comes from the German “Schorck, a variant of Schurke ‘scoundrel, villain.’”

Shark as a sleazy predator has several variations. It could mean an “amoral lawyer, or ambulance chaser,” a relentless person in business (a loan shark would be an extreme example), “a person who feigns ineptitude to win money from others” (like a pool shark or card shark), and a person in general regarded as “ruthless, greedy, or dishonest.”

The different varieties of sharks have cool names too. There’s the swingletail and megamouth. There’s the catshark, the dogfish, the smoothhound, and the porbeagle (which comes from Cornish porbugel, meaning “Port of Bude,” perhaps where this species was first spotted, and has nothing to do with beagle, which possibly comes from the Old French bee gueule, “loudmouth”). There’s the hammerhead, also known as the bonnethead and shovelhead. There’s the cookiecutter, the tiburon, and the stinkard. There’s the sand shark (not to be confused with the Land Shark). Then there’s our favorite, the wobbegong, a New South Wales or Australian Aboriginal name that means shaggy beard, “referring to the growths around the mouth of the shark of the western Pacific.”

What’s a group of sharks? A shiver. How about an aggressive shark separate from the herd? A rogue (the great white in Jaws was a rogue). Feeling chummy? You may feel friendly but you may also feel like shark bait. A megalodon is an extinct shark (with an enormous jaw) and the granddaddy of all sharks. A mermaid’s-purse is a shark egg casing. A pilot fish is small fish that follows sharks, picking up loose bits of food, and is slang for a parasite or moocher. Shagreen is shark skin, and comes from the French chagrin, which comes from the Turkish sağri, “crupper, leather.” (Chagrin meaning “mental disquiet and pain from the failure of aims or plans, want of appreciation, mistakes” may come from the dialectal French chagraigner, “to distress, become gloomy.”)

Let’s not forget those shark idioms. To swim with sharks means “to operate among dangerous people.” Shark repellent is “a measure undertaken by a corporation to discourage unwanted takeover attempts.” Jumping the shark means “to undergo a storyline development which is so exceptional that all content following is disappointing,” and originates from a scene in the TV series Happy Days in which “a water-skiing Fonzie . . . wearing swimming trunks and his leather jacket, jumps over a confined shark, answering a challenge to demonstrate his bravery.”

A voodoo shark is when “writers catch a particularly bad Plot Hole, but they leave it in because it is still critical to the story,” and explain it away with a voodoo shark rather than disrupt the story. The term comes from the Jaws sequel, Jaws: The Revenge (“This time it’s personal!”) in which the “eponymous shark. . .attacks the living relatives and friends of Martin Brody due to a supposed voodoo curse.” (So that’s why it’s personal.)

A Wordnik blog post wouldn’t be complete without lists, but you’ll have to wait for next week’s shark-related lists of the day, as well as our sharky words of the day. For now enjoy today’s, Sharks and megalodon.

We have so much sharkiness, we’re gonna need a bigger boat.

[Photo: CC BY 2.0 by Andrea Esuli]