• snarl •
Pronunciation: snahrl • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. To growl, baring one's teeth (animals). 2. To snap in an angry voice (people). 3. To snare, catch in a trap. 4. To hopelessly entangle, to become twisted in knots and tangles.
Notes: Today we again have a twofer: two words for the price of one. We have here two words that are unrelated, except for the fact that snared animals tend to snarl. Both words are genuine English words with all the normal forms of English words: the nouns are snarling and snarler, and the adjective, snarling or snarly, as a snarly dog or snarly traffic.
In Play: We all know that dogs snarl when they feel threatened, but then so do people: "I don't hate women!" snarled Miss Ogines, "It's just that I prefer men." The other type of snarling can cause some of us to snarl: "Sorry I'm late: traffic was snarled by the cars going to the Justin Bieber concert and I couldn't get through the gridlock."
Word History: Today's Good Words come from different sources, both Germanic. The word with the first two senses originated in Old English snar "growl" with an obsolete frequentative suffix L (indicating an action that occurs frequently). The other word, with the sense of "entangle", comes from snare; it originally meant "to snare". That word was extended by an old Germanic diminutive suffix, -l, which we still encounter today in southern Germany: Mädel, in northern Germany Mädchen "girl", and bissel for bisschen "a (little) bit". This word itself is related to German Schnur "string, cord". The diminutive suffix -l is no longer available to English, but we see traces of it in sparkle from spark, little from obsolete lite, fizzle from fizz. (Before we get too snarled up, I would like to purr a word of thanks to Ellen Adams for suggesting today's Good if twisty Word.)