Animals and linguistics
Even for people who don’t have pets and learn to love them like their own children, animals play a big part in our lives. No, I don’t mean going to the zoo. I mean the fact that animals permeate our every day speech.
We use the names of animals metaphorically constantly – more than we realize.
Let’s take a linguistic trip through the zoo.
When something is our bête noir (by the way, that means, ‘black beast’), it’s an albatross around our neck. Then there’s that sing-song phrase, ‘see you later alligator, after while crocodile’. When someone is a fool we call him a baboon. When something is very difficult we say it’s a bear. When someone is lucky we say he’s sitting in the cat-bird seat. If someone is odd, he’s a queer duck. If someone is obese, we say that she’s a fat cow. Despicable people are cockroaches. If someone is stupid, he’s a hare brain.
A group of chatting women is a bunch of hens. When someone does something stupid he’s a jackass. When someone is faking it, he’s playing ‘possum. To constantly repeat what someone says we say we are parroting him.
I haven’t seen you in a ‘coons age. A vicious person is a shark. A coward is a chicken.
A shy person is a sheep. A greedy person is a vulture. Someone who takes everyone for whatever he can get is a vampire. A guy who constantly flirts with women is a wolf. A person who is small of stature is a shrimp. There’s the hairy ape, the stupid ass, the cool cat. He lives high on the hog. I’ll be with you in two shakes of a lamb’s tail.
Hot days are dog days. He’s living a dog’s life. She’s one foxy lady. Stop hounding me, will you? Quit bugging me all the time! He’s eagle-eyed. He tried to weasel money out of me. I tried to ferret information out of him. Oh, he is such a ham actor. They’re a bunch of lemmings. He’s a mild as a lamb. What a dumb ox!. He’s as quiet as a mouse.
He’s a pig, a hog. I tried to squirrel away some money.
Doesn’t all this make you squirrelly?