Saturday, January 23, 2010

Fun for biologists and linguists alike

You know that semi-awake state right before you go to sleep or right after you wake up?
The one where you know you aren't asleep, but you aren't really focusing on reality?
 The one where words and images slip by you in your stream of consciousness with little to no link to each other? Y
ou know what i'm talking about here?
I love that place.
 Some of my best ideas come from that place.
Of course, sometimes i get chickens bawking Christmas carols instead.
There is really no rhyme or reason.
I bring this up because this morning i didn't have to set my alarm clock (best day of the week) and slowly woke up on my own. As i was laying curled up in my warm, fuzzy blanket the word equine drifted through my brain.
Who knows.
But, it is kind of a cool sounding word. Say it with me - equine. Sounds like an over-priced drink in a french restaurant, but of course we know it actually means horse-like. As i pondered the word over and over in my barely awake state it was joined by the words canine and feline.
I like it when words rhyme.
They rhyme because of the suffix so i started thinking about other -ine words, like bovine and lupine.
Huh. Those are animal words, too.
So then the half-dozing brain started looking for connections between the words.
 First i thought about feline, canine and lupine all referring to carnivores - what other carnivores are there and did they have -ine adjective forms?
Foxes... goats - wait, they aren't carnivores
... panthers... lions... tigers... bears... Bears! Ursine!
In the happy, drifty place my brain likes playing games and gets really excited when it wins. Maybe the link is that all of the words are adjectives for carnivores.
WAIT - horses and cows aren't carnivores; they are ungulates.
My brain pouts when it doesn't win.
So the link isn't carnivores.
hmmmm... ungulates... hooves... are there any other ungulate examples? Porcine!
This is fun... canine, feline, equine, porcine, bovine, lupine, ursine, quinine...
WAIT... that last one is a chemical that you add to tonic water - it treats malaria and fluoresces under UV light. Strike it from the list!
okay... drifting... canine, feline, bovine, porcine, lupine, ursine, equine...
HEY - those are all mammals... maybe the link is that they are mammals.
Let's check for other mammals.
 hmmmmmm... no rodents... primates... weasels... ermine -no, that's an actual animal- whales... marsupials.... monotremes...
At this point i was interested enough in the thought stream that i had to start actually concentrating on it which made me fully wake up. As i opened my eyes to the sunshine in the room the word serpentine jumped into my head.
Yea to another example, boo to defeating my mammal theory.
So here we are hours later and i am still contemplating this set of words.
I wonder if there are examples i've missed. It isn't just mammals, but i can't think of any insect, fish, amphibian or bird examples. We could probably take the latin/greek root of any animal and slap on -ine, but i am looking for actual words that someone might use in a sentence.
I'm sure i could look it up somewhere, but where is the challenge and fun in that? I prefer mulling it over, cogitating, pick-pick-picking my brain.
And yours.
 So come on, people - can you think of any other -ine animal adjectives besides the one listed below?
canine: dog-like
feline: cat-like
equine: horse-like
bovine: cow-like
porcine: pig-like
lupine: wolf-like
ursine: bear-like
serpentine: snake-like
[and no Frack, porcupine doesn't count]

5:30pm addition: computer locked, jacket on, briefcase on shoulder, keys in hand, heading away from my desk when i suddenly realize that vulpine means fox-like. YEA!


Anonymous said...

leonine = lion-like

And I'm pretty sure I know one for "donkey-like", too...


Niki said...

Well done Frack.
And now that you mention it, asinine does indeed mean donkey-like.

Rea said...


AHH...the joy of working 3rd shift!!

Niki said...

So there IS an upsaide to working while the rest of the world slumbers.

Niki said...

So i realized i threw this comment away because it was from an anonymous commenter that i didn't recognize (yes, i know that is what anonymous means, but most of the "anonymous" comments i get are actually people i know who just aren't signed in to a google account). Upon further inspection it does indeed have to do with this post and not home business oppurtunities. Enjoy:

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