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PRAIRIE-DOG

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PRAIRIE-DOG

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sat May 07, 2005 11:07 am

• prairie-dog •

Pronunciation: pre-ree-dôg • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, intransitive

Meaning: To rubberneck over the wall of an office cubicle to see what a commotion is all about.

Notes: Today's word is interesting because of its metaphorical use in the modern-day office. This setting contrasts starkly with the open prairie, home of the eponym of this usage, the actual prairie dogs. This is probably a nonce word; that is, a word that applies to a particular time and place and is unlikely to stick in the language. However, since it is a new usage, we are free to create our own paronyms. Should we speak of prairie-doggery out on the cubicle farm, or go with the more staid and ordinary prairie-dogging? It's our choice.

In Play: Let's see if we can come up with some appropriate prairie-doggerel to exemplify today's new word: "Bea Heine's new perfume had the whole office prairie-dogging when she came to work this morning." Of course, not everyone in the office has to stand up in order for this new verb to apply, "Farley, if I catch you and Gunnila prairie-dogging during work again, I'll rescind your water cooler privileges for a month! Is that clear?"

Word History: So, what's new? Prairie comes from French, specifically, from Old French praierie, possibly a Late Latin variation of Classical Latin prata "meadows". Now, here is some news: dog is a native Germanic word, from Old English docga which became Middle English dogge. The catch is, until a few hundred years ago, the word referred to a breed of large dogs and the general word for dog was hund, like German Hund today, source of modern day hound. The ultimate irony is, of course, that prairie dogs are not dogs at all but rodents, closely related to squirrels. To learn more about them, click the picture above.
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Postby Stargzer » Sat May 07, 2005 2:46 pm

One of my favorite purveyors of prairie doggerel is Cowboy Curmudgeon Wally McRae, whose "Reincarnation" appears on the Riders In The Sky's 1987 album "[url=http://www.echotunes.com/riders/itemdesc.asp?CartId={853D8E13-CCF2-4F29-8B1A-149B8EVEREST6FE640B}&ic=RS992]The Cowboy Way[/url]." I plan to have it read at my funeral, which, by the way, I am not planning on any time soon.
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Postby gailr » Sun May 08, 2005 11:30 am

Prairie dogs post sentinels to watch for danger; others are inquisitive (or paranoid?) and so join in the constant environment scanning.

In the urban jungle, prairie-dogging is a response to non-threatening stimuli such as: the sound of m&ms being poured stealthily into a bowl; the delivery of flowers; the need for a visual lock to deliver crucial information, "...and then she said..."

I like this term and hope it stays around for awhile.
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Postby Stargzer » Sun May 08, 2005 3:30 pm

I just remembered this anecdote. It wasn't called prairie-dogging back then, but back in the 1975 or '76 we threw a birthday party for one of the women (a sweet, grandmotherly type) at work (the US Social Security Administration, which was a vast urban office plain filled with partitions and cubicles, and no closed offices). Our branch chief ("Ross the Boss") sent her off to another office in the Annex Building while we set up a surprise party for her in the Operations Building. She was summoned back with a "Ross wants you back here NOW!" She came hurrying back up and as she came in through the opening into our office area you should have seen the people popping over partitions as Buzz started playing "The Old Grey Mare" on his accordian!
Regards//Larry

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-- Attributed to Richard Henry Lee
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