lapine element

Discussion in 'English Only' started by panjabigator, Sep 6, 2008.

  1. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    San Francisco
    Am. English
    Greetings all.

    I am unable to locate the term "lapine" in any dictionary. Here is the context culled from this article in The Economist:
    I appreciate any assistance.
  2. chat9998 Senior Member

    English, US
    Hi panja,

    This is not a common word at all (I've never even heard it), and apparently it was invented in 1972 for a novel. But it refers to the rabbit, so the article is saying that Russia would be the rabbit in the race.
  3. Orange Blossom Senior Member

    U.S.A. English
    I'd try one that specializes in animal science terms. Here's why:

    The alliance between Russia and China is compared with an alliance between a rabbit and a boa constrictor (a kind of snake). So, one country is the rabbit and the other the boa constrictor in the comparison. The lapine element, therefore, must refer to either the boa constrictor or the rabbit. Once we know which one, then we know which animal Russia is compared to in the alliance comparison.

    Orange Blossom
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2008
  4. chat9998 Senior Member

    English, US
    Thanks Bodyholic, I'm sure that is the relation!
  5. lablady

    lablady Senior Member

    Central California
    English - USA
    I think the author was trying for a scientific word for "pertaining to rabbits", much like the more familiar "feline" for cats or "bovine" for cows, etc. If the author had used the actual word, "leporine", I think there would have been more confused people looking in dictionaries. :)

    As a result, I suspect the author chose "lapine" on the chance that more readers would understand it because of their knowledge of the novel "Watership Down" or possibly the french word for rabbit (lapin). Or it might be another case of someone trying to bring a borrowed foreign word into the English language.

    Yes, I know that "lapin" is French and this is "English Only", but the sticky states that an occasional foreign word is OK if it is necessary to illustrate a point. (post #7) ;)
  6. panjabigator

    panjabigator Senior Member

    San Francisco
    Am. English
    Ah, it all makes sense now! Thank you very much.

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