Industrious as ever, Tim Bowen has ferreted out another batch of phrasal verbs, this time related to animals.
A number of phrasal verbs are formed by adding particles to the names of animals or verbs associated with animals. The resultant verbs often reflect an activity associated with a particular animal. For example, if we say that someone is beavering away, it means that they are working hard in a similar way to a beaver, working to build a lodge in a stream or river. Investigative journalists ferret out information by sticking to their task with the same determination as a ferret getting a rabbit out of a hole.
If a person is particularly hungry, they might wolf down their food (eat it very quickly, as in ‘The girls wolfed down the pizza in minutes’). If you eat more food than you need, however, you pig out, as in ‘She felt like pigging out for once’ or ‘The kids pigged out on junk food and soda’. If you fish something out, you pull it out of the water or out of a bag or container, as in ‘A tourist jumped into the canal to fish the boy out’ or ‘She reached into her bag and fished out a pen’.
Other verbs appear to have no association with their animal reference. Someone who rabbits on, for example, talks at length about a particular subject until people feel bored or annoyed – ‘What on earth is she rabbiting on about?’ If you chicken out of doing something, you lack the courage to do it, as in ‘He was going to do a bunjee jump last week but he chickened out at the last minute'.