At a loss for words

One curious feature of the sheep which we have had ample opportunity to observe of late is that they move in a mysterious way. So mysterious, in fact, that even I don’t know a word for it and there’s not a lot of things you can say that of. They walk, of course, or rather amble about by and large, as sheep do. And they also trot quite briskly, especially when someone’s approaching with a bowl of sheep muesli, and they have a scrambling, stiff-legged, disorganised gallop when they’re seriously on the run. But on the flat and in a serious hurry –– as, for instance, when caught red-handed in my garden, they have a sort of fourth gear, they bounce, for want of a better word. That is, all four legs leave the ground simultaneously, and they boing along as if they’re on springs at a very respectable speed; the great advantage of this gait from their point of view is that it enables them to change direction completely without warning. Hence the regrettable episode of Napoleon and the greenhouse. Has anyone any suggestions? Prancing it is not; or at least, not in my view: I would say that a prance was a high-stepping trot, as if the quadruped in question was auditioning as a Drum Majorette.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the animal kingdom, I thought yesterday that Miss Dog had been running herself through the photocopier (as Colman the Rough Cat does from time to time); because all of a sudden there were two skinny birdbrained black labradors rushing about the house with an air of aimless goodwill. It turned out that the Apparitional Gamekeeper has a dog, rather a shy dog of whom I had previousy seen nothing, but she has apparently decided from one day to the next that Miss Dog is her New Best Friend and had simply come down to play. I don’t think the A.G. entirely approves. When Miss Dog and New Best Friend are together, they apparently giggle and push each other and don’t pay attention. He decided to try and mend matters, so he and Dr Biswell took both dogs out a week or so back, and he expected Miss Dog to Come When She Was Called! And Fetch! And Lie Down! Heavens to Betsy. This went on for about half an hour before Miss D. shrugged, said ‘Fetching’s for losers’ and went home on her own. ‘Ere’, said the A.G. sternly, ‘I think your dog’s taking the piss.’

PS. I was in the middle of cooking dinner (pak choi, out of the Good Earth), I heard hysterical barking as of a dog in actual distress. the Northern Professor and Dr Biswell were from home, so I ran round and round outside of the house trying to work out where the barking was coming from (Miss Dog had gone off with her Boys). I had naturally checked that all internal doors were open, but at the point where I thought (3rd circuit of the house) ’she can’t be on the bloody roof’, light dawned. I went up to the attic and there was Miss New Best Friend, quaking at the prospect of horrid diffy frightening stairs so much easier to go up than down. She was so pleased to see me she piddled on the floor out of sheer flooding relief. I think she’s even ditsier than Miss Dog.

4 Responses to “At a loss for words”

  1. Janey Says:

    Our Lexical Consultant informs us that the sheep were ’stotting’. This is a real word, honest, & in the OED (I had only encountered in the sense of ’stot a ball, which is, indeed, a cognate movement: to bounce a ball vertically using the flat of your palm, as in basketball). Well, there’s a thing. So the NEXT time they escape, I can shout ’stop that bloody stotting or I’ll come after you with a meat cleaver’, or some such, secure in the possesion of an enhanced vocabulary.

  2. fjs Says:

    Vigorous shouts of ‘mint sauce’ might help, these sheep need to be cowed (apologies).

  3. The Man From Maryport Says:

    Here in Cumbria my farming neighbour (’Sheep Fighting Man’ as he’s known) pursues them around the field on his quad-bike, a sort of Lone Biker of the Ovine Apocalypse. It’s his standard method of rounding them up when needing to separate one or two & transport them to another field (forget Border Collies, Harley Davidson is the thing - a sort of ‘One Man & His Hog’). So my advice for future sheep-taming would be to get the local Turriff motorcycle gang to terrorise them into immobility . . .that way when they show any sign of rebelling you can simply say ‘What, have you stot?’

  4. janwalla2 Says:

    If they’re antelope, it’s called ‘pronking.’ It is, honest-injun. (Ooh, sorry, culturally insensitive.)

Leave a Reply