“Vulpes vulpes,” or foxes have holes. Part 1

The idea of today’s post was inspired by a question from a correspondent. She is the author of a book on foxes and wanted more information on the etymology of fox. I answered her but thought that
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The idea of today’s post was inspired by a question from a correspondent. She is the author of a book on foxes and wanted more information on the etymology of fox. I answered her but thought that our readers might also profit by a short exploration of this theme. Some time later I may even risk an essay on the fully opaque dog. But before coming to the point, I will follow my hero’s habits and spend some time beating about the bush and covering my tracks. The origin of animal names is often hard to discover because many of them are so-called taboo words. People were afraid to call wild and destructive animals by their “real” names and substituted new ones for those in existence. Sometimes we can follow the process of substitution. The Greek word arktós, from which English has Arctic, is related to Latin ursus “bear,” familiar to English speakers from Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and the female name Ursula “little she-bear.” The protoform must have begun with (a)rkt– or something. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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