four-footed language

To defeat (someone) by being more clever or cunning than they are; outwit them. You may outfox your opponent with quick thinking, tricky strategies, or sneaky tricks. Outfox has been used in this way since the 1930s, from the old-fashioned verb fox, “to delude or deceive,” which stems from the idea (popular in folklore) of foxes being wily or tricky.

To move in the soft, stealthy manner of a cat. This dates back to 1590-1600. Example: “the butler came cat-footing back along the hall.” (Raymond Chandler)

This means “characteristic of an elephant,” especially in being very large, clumsy, or awkward. It dates from the 1620s, from Latin elephantinus “pertaining to the elephant,” from elephantus. It’s also the name of an island in the Nile River.

To run with great speed, like a hare, a long-eared mammal that resembles a large rabbit. The noun “hare” is a very old word. It first appeared as “hara” in a Latin-Old English glossary around the year 700. The verb was in use by the end of the 19th century, and people have been “haring off” and “haring about” ever since.

To work hard. The word itself arose before the year 1000 CE. Example: “Bridget beavered away to keep things running smoothly.”

Resembling a sheep, as in: meek, timid, shy, docile, or stupid. This use was first recorded in 1150-1200, from the Middle English word “shepisshe.” Sheep aren’t the smartest or the most confident creatures. If you wear a sheepish grin, you’re embarrassed. Similarly, if you’re feeling a bit sheepish, you’re probably wanting to hide away from the world. If you are acting sheepish, you probably don’t want to take responsibility for your actions.

Used to mean a gruff, burly, clumsy, bad-mannered, or rude person. (Me, in the morning, before I’ve had my coffee.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: