Last week, on a trip to London, I passed a man with two ferrets on leads, one of which (I think - though I didn't like to stare) was wearing a Father Christmas hat.
It worried me rather; but as the days since then have passed without hallucinations it now seems safe to report.
Now, one of those ferrets was white and the other brown - or so I thought until my Collins Dictionary (seventh edition 2005) assured me that all ferrets are albino (from the Latin albus, white, via the Portuguese).
So, what sort of creature was the white ferret's friend?
Well, I rushed to The Ferret Trust's website, only to find to my astonishment photographs of ferrets in at least five different colours, including fitch (chocolate and cream), albino, silver, sandy and dew.
And The Ferret Trust must know. I mean, who can you trust about ferrets if not The Ferret Trust?
So...the dictionary is wrong, then.
But...a dictionary, wrong? Is it possible for a dictionary to be wrong??
I must say that further research revealed that the august (and very heavy - which is one reason why I generally use the Collins) OED does not (phew!) specify any particular colour for a ferret.
But still this incident has shaken me. I mean, if you can't trust a dictionary...
Anyway, ferret. Delightful colourful creatures, or so I'm told: into everything. From the Old French word furet, from the Latin fur, which means thief.
Thing to do today: have a ferret around.