Wednesday, August 4, 2010

On recycling, part two - the squirrel saga

Unless you have heard of any major rescue missions involving trolls and Norwegian mountains, it is probably still safe to assume that I am on vacation, having a good time. In the meantime, I am taking the opportunity to recycle some of my old blog posts, as suggested by DL Hammons. The following was originally posted on October 20th, 2009:

If you haven’t already done so, you need to hear the Llama song. In fact, even if you have heard it, you need to hear it again. And again. And again.

Once it’s properly stuck... Let's change the lyrics! (As has been done, more than once)

Here’s a squirrel

There's a squirrel

And another D.C. squirrel

Hungry squirrel

Ninja squirrel




I have shown you pictures of squirrels before. I have spoken of why I find them interesting (they pose for photographs). I have explained how I have a(t least one) friend who speaks Squirrel. But I have not told you about the etymology behind the word squirrel.

I don’t know the etymology behind the word (so I am not going to tell you either).

I bet you’re really disappointed now.

What I do know, however, is that the Norwegian word for squirrel is ekorn. If your mother tongue isn’t Norwegian (and what are the odds, huh?), you might not have known this (but now you do! Wee!). And thus you might also not have known that it is pronounced almost exactly like “acorn”. Coincidence? I think not! I smell a buried nut somewhere!

My theory is that either the word ekorn was exported from Norwegian to English, but somewhere along the line something got wrong; OR (and let’s face it – Norwegian isn’t exactly a world language – chances are…) it was the other way around. I can picture it clearly: an English (or Irish or American or Welsh or Australian or even Singaporian – is that what people from Singapore is called? I used to know someone from there, I should have asked him) man walks into a Norwegian bar. He is carrying an acorn. He always does this, as an ice-breaker of sorts. (His name is also Mr Acorn, but that’s besides the point.) The man, Mr. Acorn, points to the nut, and says: “acorn”. The people in the bar, the Norwegians, like the word. They actually like it so much that they decide to name the only remaining animal in Norway they hadn’t yet found a name for. Due to a common Norwegian skill of mispronouncing certain English words, however, they named it ekorn. Everyone is happy. (Pehaps except Mr. Acorn, who had to change his name since everyone kept calling him squirrel...)

The third alternative is, of course, that both the Norwegian ekorn and the English acorn are derived from the same original source. Even if this explanation is slightly more boring than the one I envisioned, it might seem like it is also slightly more realistic. From what I could find online (quick tip: what I really, really want for Christmas is a GOOD etymology dictionary. Seriously!), the Norwegian word ekorn apparently comes from the Old Norse ikorni. It also appears that both 'oak' and 'acorn' too have close ties to Old Norse. As does the Norwegian word for oak, eik. Still, they all appear to be related to a different Norse word than ikorni; akarn. If I knew any Old Norse (but I faked my way through that part of high school), I might have been able to tell you if these two words are related at all; if they both come from an even older, Indo-European word; or if these simply are slanderous speculations from my part. Until I get a second opinion from an actual etymologist (as opposed to a wannabe-etymology-geek-but-doesn’t-really-know-enough-about-it-to-qualify), my guess is as good as yours.

What I learned while trying to come up with clever ways of rounding off this post, however, is that the word “squirrel” also is a term in debating jargon. It indicates “a definition from the side of the opening speaker that makes it too easy for his or her side” (according to Wikipedia). I guess that having today’s post touch upon debating jargon is appropriate, since yesterday’s post was about a debate (and it in turn spurred a debate). Today’s post is of a lighter kind (I’m willing to claim it is Delusional Thursday material even if it’s only Tuesday), but by all means – if anyone has strong opinions about squirrels (or acorns) I’m more than happy to hear them…


Ruth said...

My college campus is "blessed" with an abundance of squirrels. There's nothing like trying to take a final exam while there's a squirrel perched right outside the window trying desperatly to crack an acorn...that's much more interesting than Western Civilization!

I can't wait for the semester to start so I can impress my friends with my newfound knowledge of ekorns and acorns! Thanks for nutin'!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

When I moved into the apartment I now live there were a family of squirrels who regulary came to our garden, The the person above us moved out he had an attic apartment and I supsected the squirrels got in under the roof, Th new tennant instead of getting the rood repaired out the council to lay traps for the squirrels, I didn't know they were traps and the look of horror on the squirrels faces will remain with me.
We now have some other squirrels come to the garden which I feed every morining early, I love to watch them run up and down the trees.


Cassandra Jade said...

I love the picture with the caption - ninja squirrel.
Sorry, not really the point of the post but I really got distracted by the squirrels.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I just learned a lot about Norwegian squirrels and acorns.
Good shot of Ninja squirrel - those are so difficult to capture on film.

Jules said...

I liked the "Squirrel" photo at the end. He looks like the photographer found his hiding spot and is contemplating a new location. :)
Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Clarissa Draper said...

I love the squirrel pics. We have lots in Canada and I used to watch them for hours. I didn't know the background behind the word and it was interesting.

Keep enjoying your trip.


Jemi Fraser said...

We used to have tons of cute chipmunks and little brown squirrels around here. We still have a few, but larger, meaner black squirrels moved into the area and scared most of the little cuties away.

Boonsong said...

So now I understand where the saying, "Big squirrels from little acorns grow" comes from. Thanks for that.
By the way, the NUT photo was rather shocking. You really ought to put some kind of warning when you're displaying this kind of very frightening content on your blog.

Another great fun post. Thanks.

All the best from Terrified Boonsong

Rose Cooper said...

Wasn't sure if you got my email--but you won the art giveaway on my blog the other day! If you're still interested I just need you to drop me an email to let me know! Thnx :)

Cheeseboy said...

This is the best squirrel post I have ever read.

I did not realize that there was a llama song. Have you heard the squirrel song?

Cruella Collett said...

Getting to these late, but at least I am catching up with my comments now!

Ruth - they can be VERY hard to ignore, can't they? I'm glad I didn't drive in the neighbourhood I lived in in the US, because I'd lose control over the car with all those little buggars running about!

Yvonne - poor squirrels! Glad your new squirrel neighbours are better off :)

Cassandra - that is my favourite too. Probably one of my luckiest shots ever!

Alex - *snort* Glad to enlighten you!

Jules - even though those squirrels appeared to pose for photographs, I'm fairly sure they indeed felt I was being invasive.. Oh, well...

Clarissa - we don't have as many here. Or maybe Norwegian squirrels are just very shy?

Jemi - I only saw one chipmunk when I was in the US. They are adorable! In the area where I lived, though, there were mainly these grey-brownish ones.

Boonsong - you are right. I will prepare you better when I post a similar nut photo in the future ;)

Rose - I have already replied to your email. Was SO excited to find out! :)

Cheeseboy - and I bet you have read a ton of them! I have NOT heard the squirrel song. Would love to (only if it features nuts, though...)

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