Word of the Day: 10/5/15 – 10/9/15

Good morning and happy Monday. This week, Wordsmith will be featuring five words that are derived from birds; or, “bird words.” Have a great week!

gannet (GAN-it)

noun: 1. a large seabird known for catching fish by diving from a height
2. a greedy person

From Old English ganot. Ultimately from the Indo-European root ghans- (goose), which also gave us goose, gosling, gander, and gunsel.
Earliest documented use: before 1000
Gannets’ reputation for being greedy isn’t deserved though. See here

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Michael Buerk — I am afraid there is no delicate way to put this — is a gannet. He steals the very food from your plate. I recall one meal when he had polished off his own steak while I was eating rather more delicately. ‘Don’t you want the rest of that?’ he asked. And before I could answer, it was gone. -Broadcaster John Humphrys.”
The Things They Say…; The Western Morning News (Plymouth, UK); Dec 8, 2014.

“You’re going to have to pace yourself. Nobody likes a gannet, even at a buffet.”
Gareth May; The Ultimate Buffet Etiquette Guide; China Daily (Beijing); July 11, 2015.

snipe (snyp)

noun: 1. any of various long-billed birds inhabiting marshy areas
2. a shot from a concealed position

verb intransitive: 1. to shoot from a concealed position
2. to criticize in a harsh and unfair way, especially anonymously

Probably of Scandinavian origin. The shooting sense comes from the practice of snipe hunting. Earliest documented use: 1325

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“When a Politico reporter asked last month how he endured constant sniping from his own party, Boehner said: ‘Garbage men get used to the smell of bad garbage. Prisoners learn how to become prisoners.’”
Doyle McManus; Boehner’s Happiest Moment; Los Angeles Times; Sep 27, 2015.

“A former Official IRA member described the attack as a reflex action: ‘Anybody who had planned a snipe from that position would have literally been taking his life in his hands.’”
Gary Kelly; Bloody Sunday Tribunal to Delay Legal Action Against McGuinness; Irish Examiner (Cork, Ireland); Nov 7, 2003.

dodo (DO-do)

noun: 1. an extinct, flightless bird from Mauritius, related to the pigeon but of the size of a turkey.
2. someone or something that is old-fashioned, ineffective, or outdated
3. a stupid person

From Portuguese doudo/doido (silly, fool). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ors- (buttocks) which also gave us ass, cynosure, and squirrel. Earliest documented use: 1628

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“When the spotlight fell on Alvaro Morata, it shone on a dandy not a dodo.”
Graham Hunter; Magical Morata Shows He is Seriously Good; Mail on Sunday (London, UK); Sep 20, 2015.

“But the government should have little reason to believe a broadcasting and telecommunications regulator is a dodo.”
Kate Taylor; S ex, Television and Canadian Content Rules; The Globe and Mail (Toronto, Canada); Dec 27, 2014.

magpie (MAG-py)

noun: 1. any of various birds, typically having a long tail and black and white plumage; also various other birds that resemble a magpie
2. a chatterer
3. a person who indiscriminately collects things, especially things of little value

From Mag (a nickname for Margaret) + pie (magpie), from Latin pica (magpie). The use of the name Mag is from the stereotypical association of women with chattering. Magpies have a (rather undeserved) reputation for chattering and hoarding, but they are some of the most intelligent animals. Two other words coined after them are pied and pica. Earliest documented use: 1589

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“Where Forrest is spare with his words, Mayorga is a magpie.”
Steve Hummer; Brash, Swaggering and Hungry ‘El Matador’ is Ready for Forrest Rematch; The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Georgia); Jul 10, 2003.

“I’ve recently started collecting china teacups and teapots. I don’t use them, but just keep them in a cabinet. I’m a bit of a magpie.”
The World of Amanda Abbington, Actress; Telegraph Magazine (London, UK); Sep 19, 2015.

dotterel (DOT-uhr-uhl)

noun: 1. any of various plovers breeding in mountainous areas
2. someone who is easily duped

From dote (to be weak-minded from old age), from Middle English doten (to be foolish) + -rel (diminutive or pejorative suffix), as in doggerel and wastrel. The metaphorical sense of the word derives from the apparently unsuspecting nature of the bird. Earliest documented use: 1440

Usage (from Wordsmith)
“A willowy young creature walked down the stairs from the rooms above, holding on to the arm of some old dotterel who had no doubt been duped into imagined vigour.”
David Ashton; Inspector McLevy Mysteries: Omnibus; Polygon; 2015.

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