One of the aspects about language that makes it so amazing is how we can recombine new words to mean the same thing, but we can choose to be serious or lighthearted in our communication. Introducing someone as your sister is straightforward. But introducing her as your parents’ other daughter will cause people to blink rapidly.
When it comes to animals, colorful nicknames often seem more appropriate than their proper designations. Since we’re playing around with language this week, I thought I’d share a few metaphorical monikers often spouted in the locale around here:
Mini Bears – Known as chipmunks to the uninitiated, campers and backpackers are more apprehending (Or would that be apprehensive?) about the dark side of these furry marauders. Looking cute is their method of distracting you while their brethren run off with your Cheetos.
Trash Panda – More well-known for their dumpster diving habits, raccoons don’t waste time trying to look cute. Outright assault and battery is more to their liking, and I’m going to stay away from the mask jokes.
Ditch Crickets – That term for crayfish (or crawdads) isn’t as common up here as it is farther south, but it has more of a ring than creek crickets. Some folks say water-dwelling crustaceans are just bugs in a different environment, but I say they’re still good eatin’….
Toe Biter – No relation to the ankle biter, this giant water bug (certainly a bug in a different environment) has a habit of attacking anything that moves. I don’t think anybody would claim these are good eatin’, but it’s possible it thinks we are.
Tree Rats – Even though squirrels are a pretty large rodent, I’d honestly be fine if they were even bigger. Although they can be a nuisance, they are good eatin’….
Possum on the Half Shell – Once a confirmation that you’d entered the state of Texas, armadillo carcasses now litter the highways in my neck of the woods, too. They didn’t migrate here until the last couple of decades, and I didn’t hear of this designation until then, but I’m pretty sure they brought that nickname with them. But for the love of God don’t eat them….
Danger Noodle – When I first requested some familial input to help me remember these animal names, one of the kids immediately insisted this designated snakes. Honestly, I thought he’d made it up on the spot. But further investigation confirmed this term is out there, although it’s probably more recent in origin. I like it enough to call it a keeper, and we won’t discuss if calling it a noodle makes it edible.
And although this last one has nothing to do with animals, its style of description seemed to fit the topic, so I’m throwing it in for free:
Tornado Bait – Trailer houses. I’m sure you can figure that one out on your own.
These are just the names for my local critters, although I’m sure kangaroos, camels, and capybaras have earned nicknames as well. It might be fun to go visit your parents’ other offspring, sit down at the table to enjoy a tasty animal, and see what appellations you can come up with….