Monday, 18 January 2016

Nature's metaphors (or the monkey's devil fingers)

The monkey has the fingers of the devil

When I started learning a little Tajik in preparation for a volunteering trip a few years ago, my bizarre phrase book contained this gem in the section under 'animals'. I'm starting on a bit of a tangent, but it's relevant, I promise.

My question this time is - how much of our language takes its inspiration from the natural world? Where have our animals, plants, trees and skies slipped into our ordinary parlance without us noticing? We have some beautiful idioms - maybe none as strange as the monkey with the devil fingers*, but still...

In the wake of new word hoarders like Robert McFarlane, I'm setting out to make my own list (to be continued):

to weasel
to ferret
have a gander
larking around
beetling away
crow about 
to leapfrog
to be a pig
budding talent
a blossoming young woman
put down roots

*I do have some doubts about this phrase, but I'll never know for sure. My phrase book was written by two people whose only common language was Esperanto, living hemispheres apart from each other.

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