A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

San Antonio elephant.jpg

San Antonio zoo

This summer I went to the zoo.

I love museums and gardens and parks, and visit them often. But there’s one place here in Seattle that I had never been to. The zoo. A zoo is a prison for animals who have done no wrong and I prefer not patronizing such a place.

One of the organizations where I teach had a volunteer appreciation party. They held it in the zoo. So I went. While it was enjoyable to meet other volunteers and chat and eat together, the zoo part of this was not pleasant.

You could see birds caged in tiny spaces, flying around in circles, showing typical neurotic behavior that anyone who is unjustifiably imprisoned for life would show. Bears, three of them, confined in barren concrete and glass enclosures. And much, much more.

Until about a hundred years ago, it was considered just fine to showcase in cages humans captured from faraway places. The same justifications — education, entertainment, research — were used that we use today to imprison sentient animals. A time will come when we’ll see imprisoning animals for life with the same horror as we have for the idea of human zoos.

Until then, enjoy this week’s words that have animal origins. In some cases the origin is obvious, in others not, but no animals were mistreated in producing this week’s words.

 

henchman

PRONUNCIATION:
(HENCH-muhn)

MEANING:
noun: A supporter or subordinate, especially one who engages in illegal activities for a powerful boss or criminal.

ETYMOLOGY:
From Old English hengest (a male horse) + man. Earlier a henchman was an attendant who walked or rode beside a prince. Earliest documented use: 1360.

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