This blog is for everyone who uses words.

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

Friday, 3 February 2017

Word To Use Today: totem.

Traditionally, totems come on poles:

Totem Pole carved by Canadian First Nations Artist Henry Hunt. (It was commissioned in gratitude to the Kwakiuti community of Vancouver Island for saving timber merchant William John Alsford from starving during a strike. This pole is to be found next to the Grand Union Canal near William Alsford's home in Hertfordshire, England.) 

But you can get totems in all sorts of places and guises. A totem is a bit like a mascot:

File:Zampa the Lion 125 Anniversary.JPG
photo of Millwall Football Club mascot Zampa by NoOneLikesUs (talk

The difference is that while a mascot is a fellow supporter, a totem is to some extent a personification (animalification?) of the group it represents. It's quite likely to be sacred, too.

A totem can be an bird:

File:Raven on top of a totem pole.JPG
photo by Leonard Kaplan

 a plant, an object (like a mountain or river) or even something as unrepresentable as a wind.

I don't know what my own totem is, but I have a feeling there might be one out there somewhere waiting to be discovered.

Have you discovered yours, yet?

Word To Use Today: totem. This word comes from the Ojibwa nintōtēm, which means mark of my family.

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