Word of the Week: Vulpine

English: Red Fox (male) (Vulpes vulpes) Quesne...

Red fox, vulpes vulpes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So, avuncular (unclelike), saturnine (sluggish), sybaritic (pleasure-loving), antediluvian (primitive), concomitant (accompanying), uxorious (fawning), lucubrate (laborious studying) and …how about vulpine?

Webster’s Fourth defines vulpine as “of or like a fox or foxes; clever, cunning, etc.”

I like this word, the way it sounds. You pronounce it to rhyme with full-pine, emphasis on the first syllable; it sounds better in a British accent. I like, too, the curt, dismissive tone of the Webster’s definition. Like the dictionary nerds were, just, like a fox, whatever. And I also like that it has some of the same sounds as vituperative, a word I know to be a favorite of yours. There are delicious possibilities, I think, in combining the two.

Not surprisingly, vulpine as a word is itself quite foxlike: The genus name for several species of fox is vulpes, and the scientific name for the common red fox, you know, like in the cartoons, is vulpes vulpes.

This is, however, another word that is not used much. I found only one real example on the Web, and that was in a reader comment. There was, to be fair, this sentence, but it is from an article about a musical group in Chicago named VulpineLupin: “Vulpine means ‘fox-like’ and Lupin means ‘wolf-like’ — both fearless images.”

I also found this: “Ever since Dahl released his classic tale, Fantastic Mr Fox in 1970, the three embittered baddies have been vainly attempting to outsmart its vulpine hero.” But that is far too derivative.

So, here is the only one that counts: “Setting aside his vulpine approach to business and his being a pie-in-the-sky eater, are we really supposed to be happy at the prospect of yet another gung-ho cowboy being elected to the White House?”

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