01 October 2010

Word of the day - drey

A conversation over dinner

Onion's mum: 'When Felix was cleaning out the gutters yesterday he said, "I think there's a nest up here." So I went up the ladder to look and said, "Oh yes, but I think it's a drey, not a nest." And Felix said, "What's a drey?"...'
Onion: 'What is a drey?'
Onion's mum: 'You've never heard of a drey either? It's a possum's nest.'
Onion: 'Really? Awesome.'
Onion's mum: 'How did you not know that?'
Onion: 'How did you not teach me?'
*We draw a veil over the rest of the conversation*

Specificity in language is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. And the words for animal shelters are almost as good as collective nouns.

Pigs have sties
Birds have nests
Eagles have eyries
Chickens have coops
Cows have byres*
Sheep have folds
Dogs have kennels**
Horses have stables
Bees have hives
Rabbits have warrens
Bunyips have billabongs
Bears and wolves have dens***
And, apparently, possums (and squirrels) have dreys.

A cow does not live in a kennel; a chicken does not roost in a fold; and a horse in a hive would be much like a bull in a china shop.

What others should we add to the list?

* Thank you, Playing Beatie Bow for firmly lodging this one in our memories.
** Or dog houses in the US, but a dog house here is more commonly understood as a shelter to house errant husbands.
*** Daniel bearded the lion in its den. But do lions actually live in dens in the wild? In all those Attenborough films the lions are always lolling about on the savanna. Maybe you need to hibernate to have a den.


Celine said...

Hares sleep in forms :)

Anonymous said...

You're confusing accommodation provided by humans for domestic animals with the habitats they construct for themselves in the wild.

Wchs Library Book Blog said...

Squirrels (in the UK) also live in dreys.

The Alien Onions said...

Celine - Forms? Really? That's an excellent addition. Thanks.

Anon - It's true, our list includes shelters made by humans and shelters made by wild animals. And I think maybe a hive can be either? We weren't making a distinction along those lines. Should we have been - from a linguistic point of view?