This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011


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.


  1. Dontcha just love the names that colours have, too? I always like to look at the names of a)paints and b) ranges of lipsticks. There used to be one called Cherries in the Snow by Revlon, I can just see it, can't you? But really....silver instead of grey and sandy instead of beige and what colour is dew?? Marvellous stuff. And what about DONTCHA?? That's a good word too, I reckon!

  2. Dontcha? Yes, interesting. I wonder what that sort of word is called? I'll have to research that one.

    And yes, I must have a think about colours. Those ancient Greeks, for example, had an extraordinary system of words that probably weren't actually really colours at all.