Thursday, March 1, 2012

A Word: Ostrich

A fast-running African flightless bird. Largest living bird. Struthio cemelus. “Ostrige” in Anglo-Norman. “Ostruce” in Old French.

I remember when I learned this word.

I read “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Philip K. Dick, the short novel that was the basis for the movie Blade Runner. In this story almost all animals are extinct and owning an animal is a large sign of status and income. The main character wanted to buy an ostrich.

I hadn’t a clue what an “ostrich” was. Normally when I read words I don’t understand, I figure it out from the context. But this time the word was repeated over and over without me understanding what kind of animal it was.

Most people buy a cat or a dog in today’s world. Maybe a rabbit or a guinea pig. In the novel the main character’s neighbour had a horse, and he himself had owned a sheep.

And now an ostrich. . .

I still remember what I saw for my inner eyes: A pet-store with an ostrich in the display window.

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