As we bumped along in the back of the Landcruiser, trying to scan the horizon for giraffes or elephants at the same time as clinging on for dear life, I couldn't help but notice the huge pockmarked mounds of burnt orange soil dotted around the landscape. When we stopped, and I could be heard above the noise, I asked David, our guide, about them and he explained that they were termite mounds and the holes were made by aardvarks.
At the very mention of this singularly eccentric word, my lexicographer eyes lit up. Forget the cheetahs, forget the black rhino, I wanted to see the weird little creature that supposedly starts every dictionary; an aardvark! A little puzzled by my sudden overenthusiasm, David told me the termites' nemesis carries out his acts of murder and vandalism under cover of darkness. Undeterred, I talked him into taking us on a night drive.
Sadly, our usually attentive guide found the gossip of the friend he'd brought along to hold the spot lamp more interesting than our aardvark hunt and after a couple of hours of bouncing around in the dark trying to pick out shapes in the gloom while the spotlight roamed randomly across the landscape, we'd seen nothing more than a few startled antelope.
My lexico-zoological quest will go on though and I'm sure that on some future African adventure, I will come face-to-snout with this alphabetical oddity. At least, I suppose, I saw plenty of zebra ...
Labels: aardvark, Africa, dictionary, lexicographer, lexicography, safari