By now, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the baboons that collaborated on a plan to escape the research facility holding them prisoner, but have you heard about the stoned raccoon? If not, I encourage you to read the story at the link provided. (Go ahead, I’ll wait ….) If you can’t be bothered, I’ll give you the quick version:
A pet raccoon got into its owner’s pot stash. Fearing for its life, the owner (of the masked critter and the pot) brought it to a nearby fire station thinking the firefighters and EMTs within it could help. Unfortunately, they couldn’t. Their advice was simply to let the animal “sleep it off” (or whatever the raccoon equivalent of that is). End of story? Sort of. The article goes on to say how this thing happens more and more often these days as marijuana has become more prevalent and, generally, more acceptable.
So, to recap, the firefighters washed their “hands” of the incident, which is interesting because, etymologically speaking, raccoons and hands go … um … hand in hand. Let me explain ….
I’m going to assume you know what a raccoon is (small mammal, gray body, white face with black circles around the eyes that making the animals look like they’re wearing a mask, paws that look like tiny hands, etc). I will not assume, however, that you know the history of the word raccoon. Here’s the skinny, according to Eric Partridge’s Origins, A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English:
Coon, with adjective coony; raccoon or racoon
Coon, the quadruped, hence the fur, merely shortens raccoon; Raccoon is of Algonquin origin; Webster compares Virginian arakun, raccoon, from arakunem, ‘he scratches with his hands’ (feet).
All the references at my disposal seem to agree on this. Even the online ones that I don’t care to consult (unless I’m away from the BLRL). However, there is one text on the BLRL’s shelves, the Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, that contains this little nugget:
Dr. Johnson said of the clever creature: “The rackoon is a New England animal, like a badger, having a tail like a fox, being clothed in a thick and deep furr: it sleeps in the day time in a hollow tree, and goes out a-nights, when the moon shines, to feed on the sea side, where it is hunted by dogs.”
Maybe. Or maybe they’re out looking for your stash. After all, in dreams, raccoons are said to signify criminal activity (you know, because they “wear a mask”). Also, because they dwell in trees, they’re said to symbolize the feeling of being treed, or having one’s back up against the wall. (Exactly the kind of feeling that might make you want to chill with some Grandaddy Purple.)
I’m aware what the date is and, no, I did not plan to write about this on this smokiest of days.