Rats! If you’ve ever had the problem of rats in your home, you may identify with strongly negative feelings about the small annoying creatures.
Thanks to my compulsive TV watching habits, I learnt that the collective noun for rats is mischief – a mischief of rats.
Collective nouns for animals, such as a congress of baboons are very interesting and often surprising – too many to mention here.
Thinking back to last year when the rats came to eat the dog food that was carelessly left around the home, their trails of mischief were abundant. From the holes in the packaging of the sturdy dog food bags, to little poo droppings all over the place, it was plain to see we had a rat problem.
We could hear them running in the roof, and saw a couple run across the lounge floor, but at such a speed, we could not catch them. We would shriek, “there goes a rat” but be frozen to inaction as the rat scuttled to safety under the cupboard. And who wants to touch a rat with bare hands and no trapping device? (not that I would use one of those).
It wasn’t long before the rats were breeding faster than rabbits. We had to call the exterminator to get rid of the multiple mischiefs.
Rats are associated with dirt, disease and disgust, so when you refer to someone as a rat, you imply that they are not trustworthy.
To rat on someone means to give the game away, in other words, to tell the boss that your colleague is not at work because he is applying for another job, and not at the doctor with a near fatal tumor.
Rats in the language give expression to displeasure or distaste but their close cousin the mouse, has a much friendlier reputation. They are considered cute and considerate – as quiet as a mouse – and many a character has been animated to be a larger than life rodent. Perhaps we have Mickey Mouse to thank for that.
Any famous rats of Walt Disney fame? None that I know of, but thousands upon thousands used in medical experiments for the health of human kind.
Today we are going to have some fun exploring the difference between veracity and voracity. These words if not heard correctly can be interchanged to disastrous effect. The one has to do with truth, the other appetite. Or you could say, veracity concerns one’s appetite for truth, while voracity has to do with a desire to consume.
Last night when I got home after a long day’s work I felt particularly somnolent. This was hardly surprising as I woke up at 4.30am fought with myself to get back to sleep without success, and started work at 10am.
I then proceeded with nine hours of intensive sub-editing at what is arguable the world’s most condemned newspaper, and in South Africa particularly.
During the inordinate nine hours, I attempted to distract myself with internet research and delved into the origins of somnolent, which means sleepy.
Dictionary.com cites its origins as the late 14th century from the Old French somnolence derived from the Latin somnolentia “sleepiness” from somnolentus, from somnus “sleep (from PIE root, swep “to sleep”. A related word is somnolency.
Yourdictionary.com gives us:
Adjective (comparative more somnolent, superlative most somnolent)
Soporific is also an interesting word which I discovered at university and it was apt to describe the nature of my tutorials on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/gawain/). I could never understand why we were made to suffer this belaboured text as part of our first year English syllabus.
Yourdictionary.com dates the first usage of somnolent to 1615, but concurs with the other details that Dictionary.com provides for regional areas, confirming “swep” from Indo-Europe.
Somnolence is not state in which to conduct a day’s worth of subbing but when the copy makes me yawn, due to its total lack of inspiration, I really can’t blame myself.