Before we talk about anything else, we need to talk about this guy who tried to smuggle $400,000 worth of heroin and meth — one the largest drug busts seen by the Kodiak Police Department — from Anchorage to Kodiak this week.
In a goat intestine.
That’s right. A goat intestine.
This dude attempted to smuggle a whole lot of drugs through the Anchorage airport by wrapping the drugs into duct tape-wrapped balls stuffed inside the intestine of a goat, packaged in a fish box.
First of all, got to give him props for creativity. I mean, I’m mostly impressed with his MacGuyver-like ability to think outside the box. But, man, I feel sorry for that goat and his, now tainted, legacy.
“Goat” is an Old English word, originally spelled “gat,” that more specifically referred to a female goat. The word for male goat was “bucca” or “gatbucca.” “Bucca” is an earlier formation of the word “buck,” used also for male deer and, in case you didn’t know, male hamsters.
It’s an interestingly gendered word construction for an animal, but not too unique. After all, we have cow and bull, sow and boar, and ram and ewe. But goat is most interesting because the default name for the animal itself, like cow, is the female noun: goat.
By the 1400s, the English started using “he-goat” and “she-goat” to refer to goat genders, and by the 19th century, those terms evolved into “nanny goat” and “billy goat.”
“Goat” derives from the Proto-Germanic “gaito,” which is rooted in the Proto-Indo-European “ghaid-o,” which literally means young goat. But that root is also at the essence of words associated with play. In fact, the Latin word for “kid” is the “haedus,” and is why we call baby goats “kids”.
Before the cattle became the staple animal for nutrition in Europe, arguably the most important animal to any family and community was the goat, primarily farmed for its milk. This is important because several idioms connected to goats build on this association.
For instance, there’s a species of bird called nightjars, which are nocturnal birds that live all over the world. Centuries ago, they were nicknamed “goat-milkers” or “goatsuckers” because they were believed to suck the milk from sleeping goats at night, thus suspected of witchery.
In the 17th century, “goat” or “goat-milker,” then, became slang for a prostitute or likewise for her john. It was pretty interchangeable for any licentious person at the time.
In the early 20th century, the phrase “to get someone’s goat” was coined, and is likely a modification of the French cliche “prendra sa chevre”, meaning to take one’s source of milk.
Alternatively, it could refer to the stealing of an organization’s goat mascot, which was popular for schools, military units and even firehouses to have at this time. Sports history enthusiasts may recall the story of the first such mascot, Bill the Goat, who has been the mascot of the U.S. Naval Academy since the 1890s. Navy ships often carried goats along, to eat garbage and produce milk for long voyages, so the mascot makes sense (although, the first official mascot of the Navy was a gorilla, but that’s a whole other story). However, the first recorded case of Bill the Goat being kidnapped didn’t occur until the 1950s, setting off a mascot-kidnapping rivalry between the U.S. Navy and Army.
Also stemming from the PIE “ghaid-o” is the Greek word for male goat: “tragos.” As I mentioned earlier, in these early agrarian societies, the most important animal was the goat.
But, from time to time, the gods would demand a sacrifice, as they were wont to do. And, naturally, they wouldn’t take any sacrifice; they would want the most important thing to your family and village. That would be your goat.
In this sacrificial ritual, as the priest brings out your most prized goat, your family and community would sing a song, a lamentation, grieving for the loss of your goat, your tragos.
The word for this song sung at this most unhappy time? Tragodia. In English: tragedy.
The word “tragedy” literally means “goat song.” As Greek drama developed, actors would dress in goatskins and sing seriously sad songs.
I seriously doubt anyone sang a tragedy for the goat who was sacrificed for this incredibly odd drug trafficking scheme. This story ends more as a comedy as the trafficker was caught, and our Alaskan community is that much safer, nevertheless it reminds us still of the role illicit drugs play in threatening our citizens.
Jared Griffin is associate professor of English at Kodiak College. Contact him at email@example.com.