I love discovering agrarian origins to words!
We were recently watching a movie, and a wealthy rancher referred to an energetic young ranch hand, who wished also to amass a billion dollars, as a “bellwether.”
I had heard that word numerous times before. It is the name of the periodical published by the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine from which I am a graduate, so I have seen the word regularly for the past 20 plus years. But never did I take the time to find out more about the word.
Hearing it used in this context, though, it clicked with me. “Bell” and “wether.” How simple! I pictured a wethered ram with a bell ’round his neck and how he might lead the flock as this young man was a leader amongst his peers. Then I went to Wikipedia:
BellwetherFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaThis article is about bellwethers in general. For Connie Willis‘s book, see Bellwether (novel).
A bellwether is any entity in a given arena that serves to create or influence trends or to presage future happenings.
The term is derived from the Middle English bellewether and refers to the practice of placing a bell around the neck of a castrated ram (a wether) leading his flock of sheep. The movements of the flock could be noted by hearing the bell before the flock was in sight.
How cool is that?! Like I said, I just love how so many expressions in the English language have agrarian roots!
Another one that occurred to me recently was “cooped up.” With temperatures in the single digits recently, we kept the hens locked in their coop for a couple of days straight. They were NOT happy little egg layers those days. And neither are we when we’re feeling all “cooped up!”
So keep your farmer listening skills active, and see how many more of these words and expressions you can notice over the next few months!
If you can’t come up with any, then truly your imagination ain’t worth a hill of beans!