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Jan 7, 2008
This week's theme
Whose what? (animal edition)

This week's words
mare's nest
dog's letter
sheep's eyes
donkey's years
cat's paw

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A.Word.A.Day
with Anu Garg

mare's nest

Pronunciation Sound Clip RealAudio

A few weeks ago we featured terms in the "x's y" pattern -- descriptive phrases that can be called Whose whats. Going by your comments, it was one of the most popular weeks in AWAD's history. This week we'll reprise the theme with five more such terms, this time from the animal kingdom.

The English language is filled with everyday terms based on animals, from the lion's share (largest part) to the dog's chance (slim chance) and the snail's pace (very slow) but there are many unusual terms too. For this week's parade we have selected five mammals: a mare, a dog, a sheep, a donkey, and a cat.

mare's nest (mairz nest) noun

1. A confused mess.
2. A hoax or an illusory discovery.

[The original sense of the term was a false discovery since clearly a mare doesn't have a nest. Nowadays the term implies a confused situation. A term with a similar origin is the Greek calends meaning a time that doesn't exist.]

See more usage examples of mare's nest in Vocabulary.com's dictionary.

"The previous two sheets of this piece are a mare's nest of scratched out half sentences, words replaced and replaced again and clauses arrowed in or arrowed out."
Gary Covington; Learning to Write; Sun Star (Philippines); Dec 30, 2007.

X-Bonus

Knowing what / Thou knowest not / Is in a sense / Omniscience. -Piet Hein, poet and scientist (1905-1996)

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