10 June 2008

Speaking of squirrels

Q: When is a noun not a noun?

A: When it is a verb.

I don't mean to be coy or even cryptic here, but the word "squirrel" is almost always a noun, and it customarily connotes the eastern grey variety, the northern or southern flying type, or one of two varieties of red - and perhaps even a whole population of terrestrial squirrels, including the golden mantled squirrel and the 13-lined ground squirrel.

That is a lot of squirrel! A lot of fast-moving, chittering, tail-flicking, nut-burying squirrel. Perhaps it is that very frenzy of activity that first made "squirrel" a particularly good candidate for doing double duty as a verb.

Look in the dictionary and you'll see that "squirrel" is very much a well-used verb in the English language. Its etymology of course rests in the animal from which the verb takes its name. We "squirrel" things away (usually money or small trinkets). And we can conjugate this verb: I squirrel, you squirrel, he squirrels, she squirrels, WE ALL SQUIRREL TOGETHER!!

While I love the noun - why else would this blog exist? - I am starting to revere the verb as well. Squirreling, let's face it, is the ultimate protector of our solvency when the economy goes sour. Squirreling ensures we will have plenty in times of great need. It is synonymous with hoarding.

Answer these questions honestly: How many squirrels have you seen at the bank applying for loans? Or being harassed by collection agencies for nonpayment of bills? How many squirrels stand on the streetcorner with a tin cup, begging for you to spare a dime for a cup of coffee (hazelnut flavor, of course)?

The squirrel is a model saver because the squirrel practices the art of squirreling. Indeed has perfected that art.

It's an image you might just wish to, uh, squirrel away. You never know when you're going to need some good financial advice.


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Thank you. You are such a positive spokesperson for squirrels. But I wish to point out that squirrels are not equal. Grey squirrels are gentle intelligent creatures where as "red" squirrels are clearly left-wing communist revolutionary terrorists!

my backyard said...

The verb "squirrel" is fine, but I'm not happy with the adjective "squirrelly."

squirrelmama said...

I'm with you on that one, for sure. I think we need to get the Squirrel Anti-Defamation League active on that one and eradicate the word altogether.

My dear LGS, Squirrel politics is such a delicate matter, is it not? With respect to the reds, I think we need to love their "inner squirrel," and hope they will reach some kind of level of enlightenment that perhaps teaches them to shed their militaristic ways.