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December 29, 2017  |  Friday words #101  |  2114 hit(s)

Final Friday Words for this year. I can't wait to see what new terms are lurking out there in 2018.

Just the other day I ran across a seasonally relevant term: porch pirate, which is a name for people who steal packages off your porch. In this era of everything-delivered, it would seem to be both a crime with growth potential and of course a keen problem for the victims.

The term seems to be reasonably new. Most of the cites I found are not just from 2017, but from late in 2017. This latter, however, might just mean that writing articles about porch pirates is a new holiday-season tradition, dunno. The earliest that I can find the term is 2015.

I first ran across the term in a Washington Post article on December 19 about a dude in Tacoma, WA, who invented a booby trap: an empty box with a (blank) explosive device in it. (The videos of startled would-be porch pirates are kind of funny.) When I went looking for earlier uses of the term, I found something called The Original Porch Pirate Bag, a lockable bag that has been sold on Amazon since October 2016.

The aggro of losing a package aside, porch pirate is a good term. There's that nice alliteration, and it harkens to a use of pirate that reminds us that pirates were not jolly, Captain Sparrow-type fellows. Look for another wave of articles about these thieves in, oh, around 11 months.

The most delightful word origin I've heard recently came from Facebook Friend Scott, about canary, the bird. (A species of finch, I also learn, tho that should have been pretty obvious.) A slightly more formal name for the canary in a cage is canary bird. This provides a clue about the name's origins: canary birds are birds from the Canary Islands, which are off the west coast of Africa (but part of Spain). The delightful part is that the name of the archipelago comes from Latin Canariae Insulae or "islands of dogs." Because there were many dogs. See also: canine.

As an aside, the word canary has a number of other meanings, some also associated with the islands or the bird: a type of sugar; a type of wine (compare the origins of port and sherry); a type of dance; the name of a color; a (female) singer; a prisoner ("jailbird"), perhaps due to the color of their togs; and someone who tattles ("sings"). A rich term.

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