Many times we forget it, but humans are, above all, animals. And the best linguistic proof of this is the place that other animals occupy in our speech.
Obviously, there are all these expressions, from the time of the pig to the life of the dog, from the ground floor to sticking out the tongue at the cat, there are hundreds of them, which we use a hundred times a day. But today I want to talk about words that refer to animals without us knowing, often because our vocabulary has evolved.
For example, when we walk “in a single file”, In your opinion, friends of words, what is that leu that strangely appears twice in the expression, an expression that, by the way, inspired a song that is one of the pinnacles of twentieth-century French variety?
It’s the old way of saying the wolf. The word comes from the Latin lupus. The usage had removed the end of the word, then medieval clerics decided to give it back, to remember its Latin origin, this deaf final P that we still know today.
Twink, we see what it is, but potron?
But why this tail thing? Wolves, important figures in the medieval imagination, were famous for walking one behind the other: on the tail of the wolf… The next wolf: on the tail one at a time! And look, speaking of tail, it gave birth to another word that we no longer associate with it at all: the cowardA somewhat literary way of designating a “coward” is literally someone with a lowered tail, like a dog that runs away squawking. And that makes me think of another animal story: like every Sunday, Stéphane Carpentier got up as soon as colt-youngster. Twink, we can see what it is, but potron?
I like it this somewhat old-fashioned expression what it means, according to Larousse.fr “since sunrise”. Originally, we said “of the poitron-jacquet”, tells us the Historical dictionary of the French language. Jacquet, “little Jacques”, was the traditional nickname for the squirrel, as was Jeannot for the rabbit. And potron, or poitron, is the “later.” When we get up at dawn, we are lucky to see this adorable early riser, the squirrel, flee. Slowly, we forgot what this backgammon meantand above all, as the French have become more urban, backgammon has been replaced by twink!
And come on, in a few minutes the polls will open, remember that the ancient Greeks also voted. When they did not want to choose but to banish one of their own from the city, they did so by writing his name on a piece of terracotta, the ostrakon, word that designates the “shell” in Greek, and that gave us both ostracism, the fact of banishing someone from a group, as well as oyster farming… and oysters! Beware, friends of words, if you slip an oyster shell at the ballot box, your ballot will be considered invalid.