Sometimes, we need to delve deep into heavy issues and be our best possible selves, especially in the words we use. We need to effect change. Other times, we just need to figure out the difference between “snoot” vs. “snout” because there’s got to be a difference. There wouldn’t be two words if there wasn’t a difference hiding in there somewhere, right?
Right. Definitely. And it’s time to dig into these answers. (Whether you’re digging with your snout or snoot leading the way is up to you.)
Here’s what you need to know:
- A “snout” is an old word, going back to the 1200s, meaning a long projecting nose. Think swine. Or dogs. In modern English, it can also refer to anything that resembles the shape of that long animal nose too. A prow of a ship? The point of a glacier (which of course differs from an ice floe)? They can be “snouts” one and all.
- A “snoot” is a more recent word, only used in English since 1861 as a noun. You could argue that it’s the preferred slang variant of “snout” for the “doggo” crowd. (Note, that’s an unofficial hypothesis). Any nose can be a “snoot,” even a person’s nose too, which is slightly in contrast to “snout,” which is only used for human noses in an extremely derogatory manner.
My favorite, though, is the verb forms of these words.
- “To snout” means to dig or search for something, whether it’s a pig looking for truffles with its snout or a detective snouting out the answer to the mystery.
- “To snoot,” in contrast, means to treat badly, to grimace or make faces at, or to complain loudly.
So these two words aren’t quite the same after all in the verb form. Interesting indeed. Or if you’re not so captivated by these verb forms, here’s some more language trivia for you:
Bonus Writing Tip: “Snooty” comes from this slang-version of snout. Why? Because people put their snoots up into the air. I’m not actually kidding either. When you hear about someone being “snooty,” just like “snobby,” the mental picture is often of someone raising their nose into the air, isn’t it?
Bonus Writing Tip #2: “Snobby” and more directly “snob” is a word with a history of absolute transformation. In the 1700s, “snob” meant “cobbler,” as in one who would make your shoes. Later, in Cambridge, England, it was used to describe a “townie” (there’s a fun modern word for you) rather than a someone associated with the university. From there “snob” shifted to mean anyone not associated with a higher class, and then later it referenced anyone who imitated or sought to closely associate with someone they deemed more powerful or influential. Only in the 1900s did “snob” become the word we know today, as in one who is “snooty,” or one who scoffs at the idea of mingling with someone they see as lesser. Yep, from shoemaker to one who snoots, that’s the history of the word “snobby.”
So, if you know of someone you might consider “snobby,” know that there is hope for them yet. Words can transform. People can evolve too. And isn’t that glorious?
No need to put your snoots or snouts in the air, but isn’t knowing the truth of the language we speak a powerful tool in our arsenal? I think so.
Words. Language. Communication. You’ve got this.
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