Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Wordy Wednesday: The Three-Toed Sloth

This sloth has three visible clawed toes. We saw a number of sloths on our trip to the upper Amazon in Peru.
If this were wordless Wednesday, I would say nothing. But it's Wordy Wednesday ...
Our original Scrabble game.
A wonderful Scrabble find is the two-letter word "ai." It means a particular type of sloth that lives in the South American rainforest. I learned this word soon after my family got our first Scrabble game, and my mother wrote "AI" with a little drawing of three toes inside the box. I still have that game and can see her very faint writing. Anyone who has played Scrabble can see how useful it would be to use up a stray letter on this unexpected word.

Inside the box my mother wrote "AI" and drew 3 toes.
I doubt if she had ever seen a picture of a sloth's toes.
According to various dictionaries, the word "ai" has its origin in the Brazilian Portuguese aĆ­, which was borrowed from Old Tupi, the language of the local people in Brazil and Venezuela where the sloth lives. In English, the word "sloth" was applied to the very slow-moving animal because it reminded people of the sin of sloth, one of the seven deadlies.

I was disappointed to realize that the three-toed sloths we have seen in Peru, Panama, and Costa Rica are not ai, but are members of one of the six other species of three-toed sloth. The word "ai" refers to the maned sloth, Bradypus torquatus. I think that the three-toed sloths we have seen are species Bradypus variegatus. We have also seen two-toed sloths, which belong to the Megalonychidae family, rather than the three-toed Bradypodidae family.

It's very amusing to watch these slow-moving tree dwellers. They eat leaves and also eat the algae which grows in their own fur, sometimes making them look greenish. I thought everyone had heard of sloths. But on our first day in Peru, when our guide pointed to a treetop and said "There's a sloth," one of our fellow tourists asked "Is that a kind of bird?"


Kitchen Riffs said...

Whole Foods sold a sloth calendar this year, and Mrs KR got me one for Christmas. She somehow thought it was appropriate. :-) It's hanging in my office right now. We saw a couple of sloths in Panama years ago. Interesting critters!

Jeanie said...

Thanks for this. Rick is a killer Scrabble player but I bet he doesn't know this one -- and when you have a plethora of vowels, this can come in very handy indeed!