Monday, 27 October 2014

Dinosaur - The Terrible Lizard That Isn't

The T-Rex
(photo by David Monniaux)


Noun. Mid-19th century.
[from modern Latin dinosaurus, from Greek deinos 'terrible' + sauros 'lizard'.]

An extinct terrestrial reptile, frequently of gigantic size, of a group which was dominant in Mesozoic times,
some having pelvic girdles like lizards (order Saurischia) and others like birds (order Ornithischia);
figurative. something that has not adapted to changing circumstances, a clumsy survival from earlier times.

For proof, if ever proof were needed, that neither dictionary definitions nor etymologies provide the definitive facts of a matter, one need look no further than the word dinosaur, a word coined from Latin and Greek meaning 'terrible lizard' by the brilliant but thoroughly objectionable Sir Richard Owen . And, yes, I personally am prone to fall into the well-actually-the-dictionary definition-is or well-originally-such-and-such-a-word-meant way of thinking, but it's very often completely and utterly wrong. In this case, dinosaurs aren't (and never have been) lizards; cupboards are nearly always (and always have been) more than boards that hold cups; and women don't generally retire to their boudoir to sulk.
Sir Richard Own
(I'm reserving his story for the word 'git')
Oh, and just in case anyone cares, my favourite dinosaur is and always has been the triceratops.

Do please leave your most prehistoric comments in the box below.


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