Monday, March 03, 2008

Wolf At The Door

The title phrase now refers to hunger. It appears in the saying, “to keep the wolf from the door” (to stave off starvation), and it’s been with us since the 15th century. I live in Michigan, known as the Wolverine State, and it turns out that wolverine is based on the Teutonic wolv, a wolf.

Wolf shows up in a number of folk phrases: a wolf in sheep’s clothing, to wolf down your food, to cry wolf, to have a wolf by the ears, lone wolf, to run with the wolves, to throw someone to the wolves, and to be in the wolf’'s mouth.

It is tucked away in a number of words. Loup garou was an early term for a werewolf. The same idea is found in the word lycanthropy; the wolfman is a lycanthrope. The adjective lupine means having the characteristics of a wolf. Lycodont (wolf tooth) is the name given to a particular snake, simply because it has canine-like teeth. Lycoperdon (which came up in an earlier posting) is a fungus puffball; it means wolf fart. The obsolete word lycophosed (wolf light) meant keen-sighted. Lycopodium (wolf foot) is a moss that has a claw shape.

SIDEBAR: International Wolf Center

SIDEBAR: The Chicago Wolves

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