Monday 4 May 2009

Vocabulary: Swine & Scapegoat

I guess everybody is very worried about the spread of the swine /swɑɪn/ flu to Hong Kong. With the World Health Organisation (WHO) announcing the raise of alert signal to "global pandemic could be imminent", meaning 'worldwide existence' of the flu could be 'likely to happen soon', I believe the masks industry is already reaping /ri:p/ huge benefits.

The word "swine" does not only refer to a pig, it is also used when scolding somebody, when you want to say that they are extremely unpleasant or unkind. Examples include the one offered by Cambridge Dictionary, "You filthy (means dirty) swine!" or from my favourite movie, Tropic Thunder, when the head of drug dealer who happens to be a kid said, "Act! Monkey swine!"

Swine also appears in a proverb that I have been teaching in my lesson, "to cast pearls before swine", which means "to offer something valuable or worthy for someone who does not know how to appreciate it".

So the overall impression of swine for human is that they are dirty and stupid, and so we eat them. Now, human has to pay their price for their lack of respect for the animal.

Another animal is also common in the newspapers, they are the goats.

On the 22nd April, I read a news article from the, titled: "Sex photo accused `a scapegoat-'". The content is of course on the Edison Chen again but that is not my concern. I am only interested in the meanings of the words to do with goat.

According to Cambridge, "Billy goat" is a male goat and "Nanny goat" is a female one. A UK slang "to act/play the goat" refers to someone who behaves in a silly way, and another slang "to get sb's goat" refers to greatly annoy someone, and the worst of all, "Scapegoat" which refers to a person who is blamed for something that he didn't do, but somebody else has done.

So looks like goat is just a little better than pig.