A new story from A Way with Words: language, linguistics, and callers from all over


Words the show about language and how we use it. I'm grant Barrett. And I'm Martha Burnett. I just got back from Fairbanks Alaska, where I was doing a talk for the local public radio station. And I had a wonderful time meeting kuac listeners, and I was also able to spend a few extra days in Fairbanks doing a lot of really cool things. One of the things I did was to go multiple times to the university of Alaska's museum of the north. It's an architectural gem in and of itself and has fascinating exhibits, and I also spent some time hanging out with reindeer as one does. Like a pubs and nightclubs. No, there's a place outside Fairbanks called running reindeer ranch, and it's run by a family that shares its home with a small herd of reindeer. So I was able to spend a delightful afternoon with them walking in the Woods with reindeer. And of course, grant, I brought you back some very cool language involving these animals, so are you ready? Yep. Okay, first of all, the word reindeer, what exactly is a reindeer? Well, in North America, these animals are called Caribou if they're wild, and if they're domesticated, they're called reindeer. In The Rain in reindeer comes from an old Norse word that sounds sort of like crane, which means reindeer itself, and you know, in early English, the word deer was used much more generally than it is today deer applied to lots of different little animals with four legs. And it was only later that the word deer became specialized and applied to the animal that we think of as a deer today. So literally reindeer means something like reindeer animal. It's a little bit redundant. And this was also a surprise. Did you know that reindeer's feet click when they walk? Like they're wearing tap shoes. That's what it sounds like.

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