Verbing compounds: to turkey-peek, to prairie-dog

On ADS-L recently, first a report by Jon Lighter on the verbing to turkey-peek, based on the remarkable compound turkey peek (roughly) ‘peeking by a turkey’ (but understood metaphorically), which led Bill Mullins to note the semantically similar verbing to prairie-dog, based on the compound prairie dog ‘(metaphorical) dog of/from the prairie’. In both cases, what is indexed in the verbing is the characteristic motion of a creature — of a turkey peeking around a corner, of a prairie dog popping its head out of its burrow.

Jon Lighter’s note:

To expose one’s head briefly so as to peer at something.

2005 U.S. Marine in Ramadi, in Michael Ware et al., Only the Dead See the End of War (film, 2015):  About a hundred meters down there were two guys turkey-peeking. So they did it two or three times.

An extraordinary documentary, BTW.

From the Open XCom gaming site, a comment by Clayton Cross on 5/15/13 (given here exactly as posted):

To clarify, In X-com: UFO defense if your standing at the corner of a building you can only see at a 45 degree angle (diagonally) meaning that you have to step out of cover into a direct path to see an alien 2 squares away. In X-com:EU if you are at a corner you can see anyone in a strait line  as if you are standing in the line beside the building, and you can still shoot at any alien in that line from cover. Which allows you to use the cover of corners and assault more tactically. In the real world there is a name for this, its called a “turkey peek” and they actually teach this in the military. You peek out with your rifle long enough to see and maybe shoot then pull back into cover so you don’t get shot in the head.

… Correction: I just played X-com:EU and realized they don’t actually turkey peek.

(There are more straightforward, and better-written, cites from military sources, but this one had an ungainly charm I couldn’t resist.)

The verb to turkey peek is attested in a variety of forms, not just the PRP turkey-peeking: in particular, BSE (as in the passage above), PRS, PST.

Then on to to prairie-dog. From Wiktionary, with an excremental bonus sense:

verb prairie dog to pop up from a hole or similar in a manner that resembles the way a prairie dog pops his head up from his burrow. Veronica in accounting is always prairie dogging from her desk whenever that new hunk from marketing walks by.

(slang, euphemistic) to struggle to hold back an involuntary bowel movement [resulting in feces protruding involuntarily from the anus, then being retracted].

On the non-subsectivity of the compound prairie dog, with information about the creatures, on this blog on 5/23/15: a prairie dog isn’t any kind of dog, but rather a creature whose calls resemble the barking of a dog. Then the compound prairie dog is verbed in a metaphorical sense ‘to move (in a specific way) like a prairie dog’. So to prairie dog has two layers of metaphor built into it.

One Response to “Verbing compounds: to turkey-peek, to prairie-dog”

  1. javava2012 Says:

    What, pray tell, is the “strait line” referred to in Clayton Cross’s comment (above)? While it appears there is a family of tools no doubt patented by Irwin Tools under the name Strait-Line, I suspect Mr. Cross meant to say ‘straight’ line, which isn’t a tool, a stretch of water or a country music singer.

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