Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hump This: Squirrel

Hump This is a (quasi-)weekly Friday feature where you, the WordHumper reader, choose which lucky word gets humped back to the stoneage (or at least to Proto-Indo-Europa). Today's request comes from RM in California who writes:
Dear Wordhumper,

Like so many in my close knit family, I have an affinity for rodents and in particular, squirrels. Once, I saw a show on some cable channel I no longer get that said the word 'squirrel' comes from a greek word meaning something along the lines of, 'covers head with his tail for shade'. I could be totally wrong because this was awhile ago. So, where does the word 'squirrel' come from?
RM, thanks for the question--our word squirrel comes to us via the Anglo-Norman esquirel circa 1327. Is it a coincidence that the word appears a mere twenty years before the black death ravaged Europe and just one decade before the launch of the Hundred Years' War? I don't think so. That being said, the squirrel made it into Old French (escurel) via the Latin sciurus, which came from the Greek skiouros, literally meaning "shadow-tailed." The notion is squirrels have large bushy tails which allow them to easily shade themselves. Fascinating.

If you have a word you'd like humped please email it along with your city or state to To paraphrase Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest, the ladies sweat my Wordhump style like the squirrels sweat the nuts.

squirrel [Online Etymology Dictionary]

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:: posted by David, 12:57 PM


Fascinating! Squirrels are awesome.
Blogger Loocite, at 12:23 PM  

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