You’re a what??

You’ve all heard it: We ARE what we eat. Or at least there’s a word for HOW we eat. Lots of words, it turns out.

We humans are considered omnivores (animals who are designed to eat both meat and vegetable matter), as opposed to herbivores (animals who feed only on plants) or carnivores (animals who mainly eat meat).


Photo by Grupo panda via Wikimedia Commons

Then, some of us make choices (after all, that’s what being human is all about) in our diets that label us things like vegetarian (no meat) or vegan (no animal products at all—including meat, eggs, dairy, and even honey). The choices are endless and can certainly be confusing. My friend Carol, who’s chosen to eat an organic, gluten-free diet (with no other restrictions), experienced this first-hand recently when her 87-year-old mother commented that it “might be better to stop trying to be a vegan and go back to eating normal things.”


Photo by Scott Bauer via Wikimedia Commons

Good thing Carol wasn’t an ovo-vegetarian (eats eggs, but not dairy), a lacto-vegetarian (eats dairy, but not eggs), or ovo-lacto (or lacto-ovo) vegetarian (eats both eggs and dairy—or is that dairy and eggs?). Try explaining those to Mom!

Or how about a semi-vegetarian (cutting back on meat in general), a pollo vegetarian (avoids red meat and fish, but eats chicken), or a pesco pollo vegetarian (no red meat, but eats chicken and fish)? Speaking of labels, all these vegetarians could also be called phytivorous (feeding on plants) or thalerophagous (feeding on fresh vegetable matter).

Take it a step further, and you could be a fruitarian. That’s not quite what it sounds; a fruitarian usually eats fruits AND vegetables, nuts, and seeds, but no animal products or grains. But some fruitarians only eat what would fall naturally from a plant—never harming or killing a plant.


Or hey, take it all the way, why don’t you? There are people called breatharians—yep, you guessed it—who believe that you can give up food and water altogether and live purely off prana (a Sanskrit word meaning “life force”).


In the animal world, there are even more labels.

How about nectarivorous (feeds on nectar),


frugivorous (fruit-eating),

Orang, Malaysia

Photo by Eleifert via Wikimedia Commons

graminivorous (eats grass or cereals),


granivorous (eats seeds),

Tamias striatus

Photo by Gilles Gonthier via Wikimedia Commons

gumnivorous (feeds on tree saps)


Photo by Carmem A. Busko via Wikimedia Commons

arachnivorous (feeds on spiders),

 or larvivorous (eats larvae).


Photo by Hulivili Pro-Mitglied via Wikimedia Commons

Or how about lignivorous (wood eaters), saprophagous (feeds on decaying material), and even geophagus (dirt-eating)? Somehow, these options don’t sound so appetizing.

All this talk about food is making me hungry! I have a hankerin’ for a steak and scrambled-egg-and-veggie sandwich on a whole-grain English muffin with a side of hash browns and a big glass of fresh milk from my Heritage Jersey cow, Maizy. Does that make me a lacto-ovo, phytivorous, non-breatharian omnivore? But definitely not a fruitarian—I’ll have to kill that poor potato plant in order to harvest the potatoes.

While my dinner’s cooking, I think I’ll read a couple pages of one of my favorite books, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, who gives the best advice I’ve heard so far: “Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”






This post is not for those who are squeamish about …


Photo by Viki via Wikimedia Commons

See what I mean?

If you’re still with me, then you’re a trooper, but you’re probably also wondering why I decided to kick off today with a photo of a tarantula.

Let me give you an obnoxiously obscure hint:

What do tarantulas have in common with the picture below?


Photo by FlyGirl555 via Wikimedia Commons

Tarantulas … dancing … do you dare to hazard a guess?

The answer is a word of which I’d never heard:

Tarantism (TAR-uhn-tiz-uhm).

It refers, says, to “a mania characterized by an uncontrollable impulse to dance, especially as prevalent in southern Italy from the 15th to the 17th century, popularly attributed to the bite of the tarantula.”

Okay, but …

This definition left me even more puzzled than before.

Upon further investigation, I found that the terms “tarantism” and “tarantula” both originated in the city of Taranto, Italy, a picturesque but purportedly polluted seaport where the bites of these spiders were once believed to cause wild spasms of frantic footloosery.

Why not?

Now you have an excuse the next time the desire to dance overcomes you.

Tarantismo,” you can sigh in your best Italian accent. “Blame the spider!”


Verb Quiz

Put on your gab-a-lorious thinking caps, girls …

girl in hat

Photo by Harry Poulsen via Wikimedia Commons

Because it’s time for another wonderful word matching quiz!


(I heard you whooping for joy.)

This week, I pulled a slew of wacky verbs from my trove of terminology and would love to know how many of them you can match to their definitions.

I’ll give you a word and its pronunciation, then I’ll list three definitions—only one choice is correct. Write down your answers as you go, then check them at the end.


1. Honeyfuggle (HUN-ee-fuh-guhl):

A. To deceive or swindle, especially by flattery

B. To wink

C. To distract by means of confusion


2. Lallygag (LAL-ee-gag, LAH-lee-gag):

A. To herd geese

B. To sneeze

C. To fool around, waste time, or spend time lazily


3. Hornswoggle (HAWRN-swog-uhl):

A. To charm one into doing things your way

B. To laugh with gusto

C. To bamboozle, trick, hoodwink, or hoax


4. Nictitate (NIK-ti-teyt):

A. To wink

B. To chew

C. To smoke


5. Blandish (BLAN-dish):

A. To wield a sword

B. To coax with flattery

C. To cover one’s face with a kerchief


6. Bombilate (BOM-bi-layt):

A. To make a humming or buzzing noise

B. To guess

C. To overwhelm with kindness


7. Gam (Gam):

A. To kick one’s leg

B. To spend time talking

C. To chew with one’s mouth open


8. Agglutinate (uh-GLOOT-n-ayt):

A. To become gluten tolerant

B. To describe something thoroughly

C. To join or become joined as if by glue


All done?

Pretty confident?

Gorilla Scratching Head

Photo by Steven Straiton via Wikimedia Commons

If so—if you’re sure you know—then go ahead and check your answers …

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