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You have been successfully subscribed to the Grammarly blog. “Panic Attack” vs. “Anxiety Attack”: Which One Have You Had? The first one is from Life of Pi by Yann Martel. The scientific name for Australian possums is Phalangeridae. A Google Ngram search reveals an alternating pattern. However, the main difference between the two is that the opossum has a bald tail, while the possum has a bushy tail full of fur. I’ve always liked possums. Both possum and opossum correctly refer to the Virginia opossum frequently seen in North America. Tina Fey, author of Bossypants, uses the term possum. The possum is primarily gray in color. Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words? Le Clos had gone out strong in the heats and semifinal, but seemed to tire on both occasions. Hey Susie Derkins, is that your face, or is a ‘possum stuck in your collar? But there's more to this story. Both animals are marsupials, but possums are more closely related to kangaroos. Remember that both possum and opossum only have one P. The most common error is to double that letter. Like a lot of wildlife, they are completely misunderstood. Coach Graham Hill said they wanted an outside lane for the final so he could try to shoot away unnoticed. As for the pronunciation, it’s a common misconception that the first o in opossum is silent. In order to protect a fellow possum named Hush, Grandma Poss uses magic to make her invisible. Describe 2020 In Just One Word? This quote is from The Transcriptionist. Yes, there is. The possum and the opossum are both hunted animals and possess an instinct to play dead, or “play possum” when threatened. Possums and Opossums are different animals, even though many people use these words interchangeably. ), The earlier forms, apossoun and opassom, eventually settled into opossum and, in a process known as aphesis—which is the loss of a short unaccented vowel at the beginning of a word—the variation possum. She has quite a few memorable escapades as she steals food from the dog’s bowl, almost gets captured by an owl, and makes friends with other animals and the Green family. He told me that humans cannot outrun a bear — they are great sprinters and climbing a tree is no good. Gary Bogue, the former curator of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, California, wrote a book called There’s an Opossum in My Backyard. The possums were given that name because of the close semblance to the opossums of North America. Wait a minute, did you notice that she used possums and opossums in the same paragraph? In “Possum Come A-Knocking” Nancy Van Laan uses rhymes to tell the story of a grandmother who was sitting in her rocking chair knitting when an opossum knocks at the front door. The Japan Times used the phrase in advice about how to avoid a bear attack: The Times Live reported how an athlete used “playing possum” as a strategy to win: The final example is from a book called With No Steps to Follow by David Allen Barton. If you are writing formally or you are not sure whether your audience will understand which animal you mean, make sure you spell opossum with an O unless you are talking about the marsupial from down under. We Asked, You Answered. Once again, we can use context clues (torpor) to guess that it is the North American variety. Also know that possum and opossum can both refer to some Australasian marsupials that can also be properly called phalangers. In another quote from Terri Irwin, context clues suggest that this time she is talking about the Australian possum species. Possums appear in poetry too. p-, meaning "white," and *-aʔθemw-, meaning "dog, small animal." What does that expression mean? Possums belong to the Diprotodontia order. Playing possum works OK, he said, if one is willing to endure a certain amount of roughing up. Whether the sharp-toothed furry critter who rustles around outside your garbage cans at night is a possum or an opossum may simply come down to where you are in the world. Opossums are native to the Americas. How To Congratulate Yourself Without Bragging. In North America, the animal officially called an opossum is a white and gray marsupial of the order Didelphimorphia. Delivered to your inbox! Opossum was on top as recently as the 1970s, but possum has the lead now. Garner’s Modern American Usage points out that possum, pronounced poss-uhm, is actually the more common of the two spellings for North Americans. People in this region do not usually pronounce the “ O”. The possum is primarily gray in color. When confronted, the animal involuntarily faints in shock for anywhere from several minutes to four hours. This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged. Fly steals focus during debate. Literally, the word means “white dog or beast” in Powhatan. Set your young readers up for lifelong success. While it’s not widely known, there is a difference between possum vs. opossum. Heidi has made headlines across the globe and has over 200,000 fans on Facebook. (And it's always the choice in the idiom play possum, which means "to pretend to be asleep or dead." It depends on the audience and the writer or speaker. Study Up With Our Official SCRABBLE Dictionary. (A note about those asterisks: they mean that the words are assumed to have existed or have been reconstructed by means of comparative evidence. A small child tries to tell her family that it’s a possum sporting a top hat and vest who is knocking, but they don’t see anything when they open the door. “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ”Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.” I have been blorft every day for the past seven years. This etymology business is no joke. In common use, possum is the usual term; in technical or scientific contexts opossum is preferred. boffo However, Americans might call it a possum, much to the confusion of their friends from the Southern Hemisphere who envision a rather cuddly creature when they hear that word. One news source described an animal that you might see “wobbling across your yard at night” or “scurrying down the pavement with a batch of babies clutching onto its back.” What is the name of this beast? Redefine your inbox with Dictionary.com updates! Legal term spikes during SCOTUS hearings, fly In a book about her life with her late husband Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin talks about her view of opossums. Tone vs. Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free! Possums, on the other hand, live in Australia, New Guinea, Sulawesi, New Zealand, and China. It seems the possum was playing possum! “It nearly worked,” he added. Is there a difference between an opossum and a possum? Writing, grammar, and communication tips for your inbox. Cyclone vs. Typhoon vs. Hurricane: Are They All The Same? Opossum can be pronounced with its first syllable either voiced or silent. In North America, the animal officially called an opossum is a white and gray marsupial of the order Didelphimorphia. 'Nip it in the butt' or 'Nip it in the bud'. There are many varieties of possums, including Gliders and Cuscus, while the opossum is a more limited species. Opossum has an elongated face with a long snout, but possum has a round and flat face. Both the possum and the opossum are nocturnal, nomadic omnivores and live on an expansive diet that includes insects, frogs, birds, snakes and fruits. Possums, on the other hand, are marsupials of Australian origin. However, kangaroos and other Australian marsupials are closer relations than American opossums. The largest order of marsupials in the Western Hemisphere, it comprises 103 or more species in 19 genera. So far, we've only addressed the fact that the Virginia opossum, a marsupial that makes its home in large swaths of North America, is referred to with both possum and opossum. Trump touts rally successes, stare decisis Now your tongue drops dead like an opossum, while your jaw begins to gallop on the spot. Is There A Better Word Than “Quit” When Leaving A Commitment? The journey is full of adventures for the two lovable creatures. Does this cause confusion? Build a city of skyscrapers—one synonym at a time. You will see possum written in two ways. 'All Intensive Purposes' or 'All Intents and Purposes'? “We had snakes and goannas mostly, but also orphaned roo joeys, sugar gliders, and possums,” Steve said about these humble beginnings. ), Textbooks, encyclopedias, and science publications favor opossum, but when it comes to general speech and writing, possum is and has been the far more common choice. John Smith spelled it “opassum,” but William Strachey spelled it “aposoum.” Possums, on the other hand, live in Australia, Ne… The opossum is a marsupial of the order Didelphimorphia (/daɪˌdɛlfɪˈmɔːrfiə/) endemic to the Americas. Your friendly Merriam-Webster dictionary puts the full definition for the American creatures under the word opossum, and the full definition for the Australasian creatures under the word possum, but both entries acknowledge that both words are used for the creatures of both areas. Well, if you are looking for guidance on what to call the cute little tick-eating North American marsupial with the opposable thumbs on its hind feet you can choose either opossum or possum (or opossum pronounced like possum is), and you should know that possum is far more common but that opossum is what the science-types prefer. In this case, getting technical about things can help: the term phalanger accurately refers to these creature of Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea, and islands west to Celebes and east to the Solomons. How to use a word that (literally) drives some pe... Name that government! (Possums are brown.) Playing possum is an idiom that refers to the opossum’s characteristic way of responding to threats. Its fur is bushier and softer. The opossum is a mammal belonging to the family of marsupials located in North America. Mood: How to Use Tone and Mood in Your Writing, 5 Writing "Rules" That Are Really Guidelines, Beware of These Common Consistency Issues in Writing.