Daily Archives: January 23, 2009


When this Bradypus (from Greek for “slow foot”) utters the cry that has become its common name, it likely does not suspect that it has given a helping claw to many a Scrabble player. It also likely little imagines that its name may be formed by artificial intelligence, Amnesty International, Adobe Illustrator, artificial insemination, and many more, or (particularly since it is native to Brazil) that it is uttering Mandarin for “love” (or a sigh, an exclamation, “dim,” “cancer,” “white”…). But any of these may well surface for the Canadian anglophone on seeing this word. On hearing it, of course, the same will think first of the first person, or of flamenco perhaps. (Sinophones will most likely hear yah! immediately after it.) This is an easily written word for an animal famously conservative in motion (its best-known name is that of the most indolent deadly sin). If anything in the form of this word might resemble a creature with a foreleg extended in the air, hanging from a tree by one (three-toed) forefoot, then that is appropriate; after all, these edentates are arboreal and, when they move at all, get around almost exclusively by brachiation – they aren’t even built to stand on the ground. They are not big animals, generally around 18 inches long – which, ironically for such lethargic beasts of laconic name, makes them sesquipedalian in size. Ai!