Sunday, January 30, 2011


Language is something that fascinates me.  Not to the extent that machines do, mind, but still a lot.

I like words.  I like finding out what they mean, and from whence they came.  I like seeing the cross-pollination of other languages into English, and being able to recognize something in English that's obviously French (or otherwise Latin) or German in origin.  I don't much have the patience for learning new languages, but wish my French and Italian were better.  I like playing Scrabble, and thanks to one of the most important people in my life, I always seem to have a game of its clone (Words on the iPhone) moving slowly forward.

I have a friend on Facebook (old colleague) who posts a daily word, pronunciation and definition on his wall.  It's possibly a Facebook app, but whatever the source, it's very cool.  And thanks to EJ, today I have a new favorite word:  Vulpine.

Vulpes means fox in Latin, and it's clear that we didn't get fox in our version of English from the Latin.  Vixen, though (and that's a fox word you'll all recognize), is Middle English for a female fox.  Vix, in the same tongue, is a male fox.  Fuchs is fox in German.  Pretend you're really drunk on mead or scotch and that you speak both Middle English and German and sometimes get confused about what language to use, from all the drinking and being oppressed, and you can see where our word fox came from.  That's hardly a scientific analysis, but the linkages are obvious, whatever the actual evolutionary flow.

Just as a gratuitous cycling tie-in:  Volpe means fox in Italian, and you have to say it with an Italian accent or you're missing out one of life's small pleasures.  Not with a silent e, like volt with a p on the end.  Rather with a stretched out and full-mouthed first syllable, and a definitely-not-silent Italian e at the end -- vohl-peh.  Bianchi has or had a bike called the Volpe.  Nothing fancy, really -- just a welded steel road bike with basic components.

So back to my new favorite word:  From vulpes springs vulpine, meaning cunning or fox-like.  Say it with me (this time in English):  Vool-peen.  Fills the mouth like a sip of red wine, I think.  Something sharp and Tuscan.  Vulpine...  Not far from lupine, which might describe my friend snoozing on the rug over there -- though more in the genetic sense than in temperament.

Vulpine...  Fabulous!  Anyway, I like words.

All for now,


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