• prairie-dog •
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, 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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