Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

On December 11, 1916, a century ago tomorrow, the articles of incorporation for the San Diego Zoological Society were approved by the city. By the end of the year, the society had 120 members.

Initially the community thought founder Dr. Harry M. Wegeforth was a fool and labeled his quest “Wegeforth’s Folly.” But Harry had a vision from the beginning. “I tried never to lose heart,” Dr. Harry wrote in his diary. “Whenever somebody tried to knock my plans, I just kept right on boosting them. The idea of failure never entered my mind.”

Left over from the Panama-California Exposition of 1915 in Balboa Park was a rag-tag collection of animals trapped in a row of cages along what is now Park Boulevard. Among the abandoned beasts were wolves, coyotes, bears, monkeys, lions and a few other small species, plus groups of bison elk and deer roaming in Balboa Park near Spreckels Pavilion. From this abandoned menagerie Harry Wegeforth created what was to become the most famous, outreaching, conserving zoo in the world.

Celebrating the centennial of our world’s best San Diego Zoo, I have been sharing a column each month about the animals that run and leap and fly and swim and crawl and burrow through our bestial English language. You, gentle reader, are reading the last installment in the series.

Today let’s focus on the formula “(adjective) as a (noun).” Out of hurry or habit many of us press into service this pattern of phrasing without much regard for meaning. We call somebody “happy as a clam,” for example, without having any idea of what’s so happy about clams. Digging into this particular cliché, the whimsical poet Ogden Nash once composed this little ditty:

      The clam, esteemed by gourmets highly

      Is said to live the life of Riley.

      When you are lolling on a piazza,

      It’s what you are as happy as a.

But the question lingers: Why should this helpless bivalve — captive in its shell until pried open and steamed, baked, minced, stuffed, casinoed or Rockefellered by humans — be happy?

Turns out that “happy as a clam” is only half the original saying. The full simile is “happy as a clam at high tide.” A clam at high tide is quite sensibly happy because, at that time, the mud flat in which it buries itself is safe from human invasion.

Here are 40 “_____ as a _____” similes that include members of the animal kingdom. May you be happy as a clam as you to fill in each blank with the name of an animal. Two examples repose in the headline to this column.

1. bald as _____ 2. blind as _____ 3. brave as _____ 4. busy as _____ 5. busy as _____ 6. clean as _____ 7.  crazy as _____ 8. crazy as _____ 9. crazy as _____ 10. cross as _____ 11. cute as _____ 12. drunk as _____ 13. dumb as _____ 14. fat as _____ 15. free as a _____ 16. gentle as _____ 17. hairy as _____ 18. happy as _____ 19. happy as _____ 20. healthy as _____  21. hungry as _____ 22. loose as _____ 23. mad as _____ 24. mad as _____ 25 naked as _____  26. nervous as _____ 27. plump as _____ 28. poor as _____ 29. quiet as _____ 30. red as _____  31. scarce as _____ 32. sick as _____33. silly as _____ 34. slippery as _____ 35. sly as _____ 36. snug as _____37. strong as _____ 38. stubborn as _____ 39. tight as _____ 40. wise as _____


1. a coot 2. a bat 3. a lion 4. a beaver 5. a bee 6. a hound’s tooth 7. a bedbug 8. a coot 9. a loon 10. a bear 11. a bug’s ear 12. a skunk 13. an ox 14. a pig 15. a bird 16. a lamb 17. an ape 18. a lark (or clam) 19. a pig in spit 20. a horse 21. a horse 22. goose 23. a hornet 24. a wet hen 25. a jaybird 26. a kitten 27. a partridge 28. a church mouse 29. a mouse 30. lobster 31. hens’ teeth 32. a dog 33. a goose 34. an eel 35. a fox 36. a bug in a rug 37. an ox (or bull) 38. a mule 39. a tick 40. an owl