Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A Moo-ving Tail



We held a practice session today for the upcoming Traverse City Senior Citizen Spelling Bee. One of the words pulled drew hoots from the participants because of its rarity. The word was the adjective mugient. It is obsolete, but it meant lowing or bellowing. An equally rare word was the noun mugiency, the act of bellowing.

It comes from the Latin mugire, to bellow, and the Latin word may well have been onomatopoeic—an imitation of the sound that a cow or steer makes. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary links it to the English moo.

That same source suggests a vague connection with the word muzzle, the projecting part of an animal’s face. The implication is that the shape of the mouth and lips when pronouncing the first syllable, mu-, resembles bellowing.

That aside, there was also the adjective remugient, signifying a very deep and resonating bellow. It was a booming reverberation, a back and forth exchange between bovines.

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

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