• badger •
Pronunciation: bæ-jê(r) • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Noun, Verb
Meaning: 1. (Noun) A carnivorous burrowing mammal of North America with short legs, long claws, a grizzled, gray coat, and a white head with a black mask around the eyes (family Mustelidae). 2. (Verb) To pester with constant nagging for something, to harass continuously with a request or demand.
Notes: Today's Good Word doesn't offer any stable derivatives, though badgerly "badger-like" and badgerer "a badger-hunting dog" have been used sporadically in the past. Like stodgy, this word contains an unnecessary D, but it represents no spelling problem if we remember that badger is based on badge (see Word History).
In Play: "Badger" is a popular name for dachshunds, whose German name means "badger hound" because of this breed's ability to enter badger burrows in pursuit of the animal: "Badger has been out badgering badgers again, I'm afraid". However, these days anyone can badger: "Mom constantly badgers me to get rid of my pet groundhog."
Word History: Today's Good Word first made print in 1523 as bageard "something with a badge", from bage "badge" + -(h)ard "who does X, has X, or is X". This suffix is related to Middle German hart "bold" and Modern English hard and hardy. It is visible in many names like Gerhard, Richard, and Bernhard. This suffix apparently was added to badge for the badge-like white blaze on the animal's forehead (see picture). The verb came along in 1794, reflecting the behavior of dogs hunting badgers or badger-baiting. (Margie Sved did not have to badger us a bit to run today's Good Word, which she very kindly suggested.)