I am delighted to have book blogger Anachronist on The Omniscient Third Person today. You simply MUST go visit her at her blog, Books as Portable Pieces of Thoughts. She is a voracious and eclectic reader (much like yours truly) and a sharp reviewer. Today she talks about the beast that named itself solely to appear first in the dictionary.
Believe me, English is not a simple language. Ok, the basic-level grammar sounds nice and uncomplicated at first glance but vocabulary is a multi-headed monster and don’t even let me start on pronunciation. Not being a native English speaker I had to learn this beautiful language slowly and painfully, making mistakes, blushing profusely and correcting them over and over again. Gosh, I am still learning with every new book and every new author and despite that fact my knowledge sometimes fails me miserably; however, with every mistake I try to discover something new. Every cloud has a silver lining, right?
Once upon a time I stumbled upon this little cartoon:
I didn’t get it at all - I knew it was supposed to be funny but I didn’t understand the key word: aardvark. I went: ‘Huh? Why is this girl on all fours and why does her Harold have to know she has something foreign inside her?’ To tell you the truth the “aardvark” word sounded like some kind of exotic food or a machine. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Aardvark, also called colloquially antbear or anteater, is a medium-sized, burrowing, nocturnal mammal native to Africa. It is a very strange-looking creature, practically a living fossil, with tough skin, big ears, thin, pale yellowish gray coat, longish snout and sturdy feet with long, strong claws. It eats almost exclusively ants and termites. The only fruit aardvarks feed on is called (no surprises here) aardvark cucumber. One thing about aardvark I guessed correctly, though – the name came to English from a foreign language, more precisely from Afrikaans/Dutch (aarde – earth/ground, varken pig).
Aardvark female with a young, courtesy of Wikipedia. Aren’t they cute?
Ok, so why the girl, presented in the cartoon, called herself aardvark and even claimed she’s got one inside ? Well, the sense of humour is sometimes a difficult thing to catch or to pass around. First I thought the whole joke had only sexual context (have you noticed her tongue? ;)) until I found out that in African folklore the aardvark is much admired because of its diligent quest for food and dauntless response to ants. What’s more, some African magicians allegedly make a charm using this animal’s body parts along with other, undoubtedly secret ingredients which can give its happy owner the ability to pass through walls or roofs at night. As you can imagine such a charm might have many uses; it is undoubtedly very popular among burglars and teens in love who want to visit their sweethearts without the knowledge of their parents/guardians. As aardvarks are nocturnal, the charm works only at night - how very convenient, right? Perhaps I wasn’t so wide of the mark with my first guess after all and, all things considered, poor Harold should think twice before he decides to hang about with that girl…anyway from that time aardvark remained one of my favourite English words.
Thank you so much for being on The Omniscient Third Person, Anachronist!