• pronk •
prahngk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Verb
Meaning: 1. To stot, to leap straight in the air with the back arched, bringing all four legs off the ground. Gazelles and springboks are most widely known for this behavior, but horses, sheep, and goats (especially playful kids) do it, too. 2. To prance, show off, strut.
Notes: Stot and pronk are not perfect synonyms, though they are used to refer to this peculiar ungulate behavior in different parts of the English-speaking world. Stot is common enough in Scots English, but its basic meaning is "to bounce". Someone stotting down the street in Glasgow is walking with a bounce, but the Scots also speak of rain stotting off the pavement as they stot a ball off a wall. South Africans prefer pronk, but its basic meaning is "to strut, prance, show off".
In Play: The assumption of sociobiologists and Afrikaners both is that pronking is a form of showing off among hoofed animals. Those of us having minimal contact with this kind of pronking are better served by the underlying sense of today's word: "I just saw Sue Persillias pronking down the street with her chauffeur and poodles in tow, glittering in the sun like a Christmas tree." It is very close in meaning to prance, but the connotation of jumping hoofers gives this word a slightly different aroma: "Haifa Lutin pronks all day in her dad's new Beemer, hoping to impress all the guys."
Word History: While the origin of today's Good Word remains wrapped in mystery, we do find a few words like it in the Germanic languages. It seems to have originated in early Germanic languages for we find no evidence of it in other Indo-European languages. It comes to English directly from Afrikaans, the language derived from Dutch spoken in South Africa. The Afrikaans verb came from Dutch pronken "to strut, show off". The English version has been spelled prank, leading some to believe in a connection there. More likely, the same Old Germanic word led to English prance. (We are very grateful to Tony Bowden, Audiendus in the Alpha Agora, for modestly suggesting today's Good Word without any pronking.)