Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Maybe Spring is springing

I saw a robin this afternoon and, as we all know, the robin is the harbinger of spring. Do we all know that? I remember it from vocabulary and/or spelling in high school. The word was harbinger, meaning someone or something that arrives ahead of someone or something else. The sentence in which the word was used was, "The robin is the harbinger of spring." And I don't think I've ever heard harbinger used for anything else--but I do think I've heard robins called "the harbingers of spring" any number of times.

Merriam-Webster says it's descended from an Anglo-French word, herberge, meaning camp or lodging, and that it used to mean someone who went ahead to prepare lodgings. It also gives a meaning I didn't know, that is of initiating a change rather than foretelling it. And the third meaning is the one I learned.

According to Wikipedia, harbinger occurs more than I knew.

Anyway, I saw a robin today.

I can't help but add that when I went to Wikipedia to get a picture of a robin, I saw that the Latin name of the American Robin is turdus migratorius. I thought that must be a joke by someone who doesn't like robins, but apparently turdus is Latin for thrush. Naturally, I hastened back to Merriam-Webster for the English homonym, but it derives from Middle English and possibly Middle Dutch. I am Dutch by descent and English by language, and not Latin in any way, so this name makes me snicker.

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