Thursday, November 13, 2008

Fox (part 2)

Last time, we took a look at the phrase sly as a fox. Today, let’s look at how slyly the word fox has insinuated itself into certain words.

alopecia: A medical term for baldness. <1398> [L. alopecia, from Gr. alopekia, fox-mange, from alopeks, a fox.]

salep: A nutritive meal, starch, or jelly made from the dried tubers of various orchidaceous plants, chiefly those of the genus Orchis; formerly also used as a drug. <1736> [Arabic thaleb (pronounced in some parts saleb), taken to be a shortening of khasyu 'tha-thalab orchis, literally “fox's testicles.”]

vixen: the female of the fox. <1410> [OE. fyxen, fem. of fox]

Vulpecula: A small northern constellation lying between Hercules and Pegasus; more fully called Vulpecula et anser (fox and goose) or cum ansere. <1866> [L. vulpecula, diminutive of vulpes, fox.]

vulpicide: One who kills a fox other than by hunting it with hounds. <1826> [L. vulpi-, vulpes, fox + -cide.]

vulpine: Characteristic of a fox; similar to that of a fox. <1628> [L. vulpinus, f. vulpes, fox]

Winnebago: Siouan people of eastern Wisconsin. <1766> [Fox wi·nepye·ko·ha, literally “person of dirty water,” an allusion to the muddy waters of the Fox River below Lake Winnebago, which became clogged with dead fish in the heat of the summer.]

Zorro: fictional black-clad masked outlaw who defends the people of the land against tyrannical officials and other villains. Zorro was created by Johnston McCulley. <1919> [Sp. for fox.]

SIDEBAR: the red fox

Now available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

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