Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A New Coney Island For Me

This really has nothing to do with the place called Coney Island.

I don't think the word 'coney' is familiar to your average American, even though Coney Island is a household name. It probably has more currency in our hobby since Sam Gamgee traps and cooks some coneys somewhere in The Lord of the Rings. Seems it's time I read LoTR again, if I can't remember where, exactly--if only I could get my brother to return the treasured copies from my chidhood. . .

In the office this morning I said "You don't want the Easter Bunny hanging around out of season--it's getting to be barbecue weather, and coney is probably pretty good on the grill," prompting a colleague to look up this unfamiliar alleged "word."

She discovered that it's sometimes preferred to pronounce it to rhyme with "bunny," but we office mates agreed that perhaps "cunny" isn't the sort of word to bandy about the workplace.

So I head to the dictionary (that's what I do here at this blog, at least once a year) and discover a few interesting things about the humble "coney." The first is that the name can be used for both pikas and hyraxes. Anything that gives me an excuse to type "pikas and hyraxes" is self-evidently raditudinous.

The second is that on its way to English "coney" passed through French as "conis/conil" and started out from Latin as "cuninculus" which the American Hertiage 4th ed. suggests might could be from "cunus" or "the female pudenda."

Well, I guess "cunny" was on the mark after all.

I looked up "pudenda" too because, well, show me a pudenda and I'm going to look. Turns out it's a plural, so you could talk about a single pudendum, but usually two will do. But what interested me was that the word is a form of "pudere" (the neuter gerundive, if you really want to conjugate your pudenda) which means "to make or be ashamed." So, it's your shameful bits.

And that's why you will henceforth often find me on holiday in the Coney Island of my mind.

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