What can take a person from avid to pavid in an instant – and not just pavid, but flavid?
I’ll back up for a moment. Avid you know, of course; it comes originally from Latin aveo ‘I crave’ (yes, that’s also the origin of avarice). But add a simple p and you go from being full of piss and vinegar to peeing yourself: pavid means ‘fearful’; it comes from Latin paveo ‘I fear’ (not ‘I hit the pavement’, though that might be a consequence), which is the source of modern Italian pauro and French peur, both nouns meaning ‘fear’. Puff and flutter that p in flusteration and you get flavid, which means ‘yellow’ and comes from Latin flavus (not to be confused with flavius, which means ‘yellower’ or ‘goldener’ and was apparently a good thing in Rome, as it shows up in names of numerous important people, including some emperors).
OK, so what – aside from a wanton p – could take a person from avid to pavid? And what – aside from wayward pee – could make them flavid? Well, how about a gravid nimravid?
Gravid traces to Latin gravis ‘heavy’, which is also the source of grave. But it does not mean that you are in grave danger and will soon be in a grave – you well may be, but not for etymological reasons. You see, from gravis was born gravidus, ‘laden’ or ‘pregnant’. So a gravid nimravid is a nimravid that is pregnant. Which means, probably, that it’s extra hungry, and also that maybe it’s not extinct after all.
A nimravid is – was, until they disappeared about 7 million years ago – a cat-like creature. A whole family of cat-like creatures, in fact. But when I say cat-like I really mean sabre-toothed-tiger-like. So if you were all like “Oooh, a kitty, let me pet” and then this nimravid comes around the corner, you’d find that p to go with avid pretty quickly.
Oh, and do you have any guesses as to the source of nimravid? It doesn’t date to classical Latin; the Romans weren’t around that long ago, and they weren’t serious archaeologists either. The word was invented in 1880 by Edward Drinker Cope (such a name), confected from Nimrod (the great hunter – the term has only become one of ridicule since Bug Bunny used it) plus avus ‘grandfather, ancestor’ plus –id, a standard suffix for a taxonomic family.
So, really, if you see a nimravid, you can stay avid, because it’s just old bones to pick. As to pavid, flavid, and gravid, you can keep those for the more hifalutin discourses – or, I guess, Scrabble.