Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Aardvark

Aardvark, African, Animal, Afrikaans, Insectivore,

AARDVARK

Noun. Late 18th century.
[Afrikaans aardvark(en) (now erdvark), from aarde earth + varken pig]

A nocturnal, insectivorous, badger-sized mammal, Orycteropus afer, having large ears, a long snout, and a long extensile tongue, native to sub-Saharan Africa. 

I like this word for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it's a distinctly odd looking word in English, with both the double-a and the vark construction being obviously foreign. This oddness suits the animal itself which is most definitely a distinct and peculiar looking creature. 

Also, Aardvark is something of a cliché when it comes to naming businesses as a means to get in ahead of the competition in alphabetised lists. There are a plethora of Aardvark Plumbers, Aardvark Electricals, Aardvark Removals, etc etc, ad nauseam. If you've been trumped in the directory wars by an Aardvarkian competitor, may I suggest the words Aam (a Dutch and German liquid measure) and Aandblom (a sweet scented plant of the Iris family) as possible alternatives. 

Aardvark also has a special place in Lexicolatry (the first place actually) as it is the second word that Blackadder tries to define when attempting to rewrite the whole of Dr Johnson's dictionary that he accidentally destroyed in the classic episode Ink & Incapability. Blackadder defines it as a 'Medium sized insectivore with a protruding nasal implement.' 

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