Saturday, 6 June 2009

Animal Lore

Rabbity or elephantine?
In the 5th century BC, a Greek slave called Aesop told a lot of fables about animals – sly foxes, dim sheep, proud lions, stubborn mules etc. And we still use animals to describe human behaviour and characteristics. Aesop (who may have come from Africa) was probably passing on the folklore he grew up with. It's still pretty powerful.

We talk about people being capricious, or goat-like – they’re never the same two days running, their moods as unpredictable as a goat leaping from crag to crag.


People can be:
catty
crabby
batty
bitchy
fishy
foxy (sly or sexy)
mousy
rabbity
ratty
snaky
spidery
weaselly


Or they can be:
bullish
doggish
kittenish
mulish
owlish
sheepish
shrewish
sluggish
waspish

(But not cattish or kitteny – why?)


Or they may be:
asinine (idiotic)
bovine (passive)
colubrine (snaky)
corvine (crow-like)
elephantine (huge)
leonine (having a mane)
leporine (rabbity)
ophidian (snaky)
porcine (fat, greedy)
reptilian
saurian (lizardly)
ursine (bear-like, fat)
vulpine (rapacious)


Or a noun can become an adjective for people who are scared, deluded, shame-faced or huge:
chicken
cuckoo
hang-dog
mammoth


Or you can borrow just one characteristic and be:
bird-brained
bird-witted
chicken-hearted
doe-eyed
dog tired
eagle-eyed
hare-brained
hawk-nosed
horse-faced
lion-hearted
mule-headed
pig-headed


Or you can act as a:
bell wether, bete noire, birdbrain, bitch, black sheep
bugbear, busy bee

cat, cat’s paw, church hen, cold fish, copy cat, coxcomb

dog’s body, donkey

eager beaver

fat cat, filthy swine, fink (finch – but why should finches grass on their friends?), fox, fraidy cat

gadfly, gannet, gay dog, goat (staked out to catch a tiger), greedy pig

happy bunny, hawk/dove, judas goat

lab rat, lamb, lame duck, leader of the pack, lone wolf, lounge lizard, love rat, lying hound, lying toad

minnow (minor cricket team/villain as opposed to “big fish”), mole, mother hen

news hound

old goat, old trout

perfect lamb, pig(gy) in the middle, poor fish, poor lamb

queen bee

road hog

scaredy cat, sex kitten, shark, sheep (all we like sheep), silly ass, silly goose, silly old goat, skunk, sly fox, social butterfly, stool-pigeon, stormy petrel, stupid cow/mare

top cat, top dog

vulture

weasel, wet fish, white elephant, wise old owl, worm


Or you may imitate the action of a tiger (Shakespeare) and:
ape your betters (monkey see, monkey do)
badger (somebody)
beaver (away at something)
chicken out
clam up
dog (someone’s footsteps)
duck
egg somebody on
fawn
fox
go to the dogs
hare around
hare off
hog (the limelight)
horse around
make an ass/a pig of yourself
monkey around
monkey with
parrot
pig out
pussyfoot around
rat on (someone)
rook
squirrel (something) away
swan around
weasel (something out of someone)
wolf down your food
worm (your way in, something out of someone)

A Gilbert and Sullivan policeman steals up on his prey with catlike tread.

You can also have a:
birdlike appetite
grasshopper mind


exhibit:
crocodile tears
doglike devotion
horse sense
lemming-like behaviour (legend)
ratlike cunning

You may:
Get up to monkey tricks, repeat something parrot fashion, send a message by snail mail, have a whale of a time, rise like a phoenix from the ashes and then sing your swan song.

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