This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Monday, 9 March 2015

Spot the frippet: donkey.

There aren't as many donkeys about as there used to be. Karl Benz is probably largely to blame.

I rather miss them, though not enough to consider trading in our car for something that needs feeding even more often, if with enchanting ears.

The scarcity of donkeys means that the informal races called donkey derbies have almost disappeared, but if you want to see a load of donkeys racing about you can always go to an English soccer match, where any over-priced and under-skilled player (and one of the chief attraction of the sport, as far as I've observed, seems to be railing at them) is a donkey.

What donkeys are really notable for is working uncomplainingly. Presumably this is why a workman's jacket is a donkey jacket:

and drudgery is donkey-work.

In Australia, if you donkey-lick someone you've defeated him decisively, and if you cast a donkey vote you've listed your preferences 1-2-3 in the order in which they appear on the ballot-sheet.

I suppose this last meaning has its origin in the fact that, most unjustly, a donkey is a term for a stupid person. Still, never mind, it does mean it's not going to take you donkey's years to spot one, doesn't it.

Lastly, even if by some chance you can't spot a whole donkey, then there are very often odd limbs to be found littering the place. 

Because everyone knows someone who can talk the hind leg off a donkey.


Word To Use Today: donkey. This is quite a new word. It appeared in the 1700s and is perhaps from dun, dark, plus -key in imitation of the word monkey.


  1. I have a specific, somewhat random memory of discussing the word 'donkey' with my father when I was a young boy. He was using it to illustrate that some words are just inherently odd, and that the more you say it, the odder it gets:


    Donk - key

    Don ... kee

    And d'you know what? He was right.

  2. Great to hear from you, Eddie, and I know just what you mean.

    My family memory of donkey is of one of my daughters, aged about two, insisting on saying 'donk' on the grounds that 'donkey' must be baby language. She took some convincing, too.