This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Thing To Do Today: beetle.

When Darwin was asked what his studies had taught him about God, he replied that the Creator seemed to have 'an inordinate fondness for beetles'.

Now, I know about that sort of beetle:

File:Asian multicolored lady beetle.jpg
The Asian multicoloured lady beetle (Harmonia axyridis)

But what exactly what are people doing when they beetle off?

And what about people with beetling brows? Are they the ones with stray eyebrow-hairs that spring out like beetle legs?

Well, according to the dictionary, someone who beetles off is scuttling away rather as an alarmed beetle might do.

The beetling brows are nothing to do with beetle legs, though they are, neatly, something to do with Darwin. In this case beetle means to overhang. So beetling brows are bushy or prominent.

Darwin's beetling brows.

Beetle-browed also means sullen or scowling - but that's nothing at all, as far as I know, to do with Darwin.

Lastly, a beetle can be a thing like a blunt hammer, sometimes used for finishing cloth.

I do so hope that Darwin wore a beetled suit when he beetled off on expeditions to peer from under his beetle brows at lots and lots of...

...but you're ahead of me.

Thing To Do Today: beetle. The animal word comes from the Old English bitela, from bītan, to bite. The hammer word comes from the Old English bīetel, from bēatan, to beat, and is related ti the Middle Low German bētel, which means chisel, and the Old Norse beytill, which means...but perhaps I'll let you beetle off to your nearest dictionary and look that one up for yourself.

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