Word of the Day

Have you heard about, “Splooting?”

It is a behavior engaged in by some wild animals. They splay themselves on the ground to stay cool during hot weather.

It’s baking hot in New York, which can only mean one thing for the city’s small mammal population: it’s splooting season.

This week, with temperatures reaching 95F (35C), the city’s parks department urged residents not to worry about the health of squirrels seen sprawling on the ground, legs extended behind them like a person whose arms gave out halfway through a yoga class. “On hot days, squirrels keep cool by splooting (stretching out) on cool surfaces to reduce body heat,” the department tweeted.

Perhaps even more remarkable than the phenomenon itself was the word the government agency used. Splooting? Is that a real thing?

The science certainly is. Squirrels’ bellies have less fur than other parts of their bodies, so splooting helps them cool down, says Dan Blumstein, a professor in the department of ecology and evolutionary biology at UCLA. It’s a popular trick among mammals, including the marmots he studies, which “on hot days will lie on rocks as it gets hot, because the boulders are still cooler”, he says.

………

Grant Barrett, a lexicographer and co-host of the radio show A Way With Words, explains that the term comes from Doggo language, a form of canine-inspired internet-speak that has grown into its own tongue. Typically appearing on social media with pictures of dogs, the language features an array of cutesy words including “bork” (a version of “bark”), “mlem” (a kind of tongue movement) and “pupperino” (self-explanatory).

While I have made a lot of various German compound words, “Backpfeifengesicht,” is a classic, the English language, has its own marvelous idiosyncrasies.

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