However, kangaroos and other Australian marsupials are closer relations than American opossums. Opossums are often referred to colloquially as possums (or ‘possums), but in scientific contexts, possum and opossum refer to different groups of animals. Adults are about the size of an average house cat … “We had snakes and goannas mostly, but also orphaned roo joeys, sugar gliders, and possums,” Steve said about these humble beginnings. In North America, the animal officially called an opossum is a white and gray marsupial of the order Didelphimorphia. Opossums or possums (as they are often called in North America) are small marsupials native to the Americas. Their name does derive from opossum. Gary Bogue, the former curator of the Lindsay Wildlife Museum in Walnut Creek, California, wrote a book called There’s an Opossum in My Backyard. There is a better way to get rid of a trapped possum. One news source described an animal that you might see “wobbling across your yard at night” or “scurrying down the pavement with a batch of babies clutching onto its back.” What is the name of this beast? The face is round and flattened with a tiny snout. The incisors are very small, the canines large, and the molars are tricuspid. These nocturnal creatures also consume plant matter. No one believes the poor child because the possum hides behind a tree when the adults come to answer the knock. (Note that there are other American marsupials, other than the Virginia opossum but also of the Didelphidae family, and they too are called both possums and opossums, with the latter being the prescribed name.). Both the possum and the opossum are nocturnal, nomadic omnivores and live on an expansive diet that includes insects, frogs, birds, snakes and fruits. This quote is from The Transcriptionist. But this term is extremely misleading. Its body goes limp, it drools, and it even emits an odor that imitates the smell of a decaying animal. Also know that possum and opossum can both refer to some Australasian marsupials that can also be properly called phalangers. A lot of the time the only major complaint people have about them is simply that they are there. First, check out the two opossums on my previous post if you haven’t already, see above. This children’s story is about a baby opossum that falls from her mother’s back into the backyard of the Green family, breaking her tail in the process. While sometimes opossums are called possums for short, the two groups live on different continents, are not closely related, and have very different teeth and paws. To make the plural of opossum and possum, just add S to the end. Virginia opossums are the only North American marsupials. Without hesitation, you might exclaim “An opossum!” However, another person might call it a possum. Opossums, sometimes called possum, benefits your garden by ridding it of small insects and pests. An opossum is a type of marsupial but a native animal of America from Didelphimorphia. Possums, on the other hand, are marsupials of Australian origin. They are very adaptable and flexible animals, which makes them able to survive in different habitats and different living conditions. If you are writing formally or you are not sure whether your audience will understand which animal you mean, make sure you spell opossum with an O unless you are talking about the marsupial from down under. The Japan Times used the phrase in advice about how to avoid a bear attack: The Times Live reported how an athlete used “playing possum” as a strategy to win: The final example is from a book called With No Steps to Follow by David Allen Barton. There are more than 70 different species of possum species, and some of them are introduced to New Zealand and China as well. To which animal is she referring? They are entirely different animals. Le Clos had gone out strong in the heats and semifinal, but seemed to tire on both occasions. Garner’s Modern American Usage points out that possum, pronounced poss-uhm, is actually the more common of the two spellings for North Americans. Possum vs Opossum – the only difference between a Possum and Opossum is spelling. They are then carried around on the mother's back for another 1 - 2 months. Possums appear in poetry too. They are characterized by … Playing possum is an idiom that refers to the opossum’s characteristic way of responding to threats. Yes, the chiefly arboreal marsupial mammals of Australia and New Guinea are referred to by those who live there as possums, or sometimes opossums. In a book about her life with her late husband Steve Irwin, Terri Irwin talks about her view of opossums. Wait a minute, did you notice that she used possums and opossums in the same paragraph? Is there a difference between an opossum and a possum? Its fur is bushier and softer. For a split second, he thought about the wisdom of playing possum, but he decided if it were Powderface’s son, he would soon be playing possum with arrows in his back. ), Textbooks, encyclopedias, and science publications favor opossum, but when it comes to general speech and writing, possum is and has been the far more common choice. The opossum (pronounced ə- pos -em) is a North American marsupial with a white face and grayish-white body. Possums are marsupials native to Australia and some neighboring countries. In the article mentioned at the beginning, the final clue to the identity of the mysterious backyard visitor was this: “if you so much as say a word to one of them, they freeze in their tracks, bear their teeth, and start hissing and groveling with mouths dripping in spit.” Yes, it’s the opossum. The words opossum and possum are singular, and the plural form is opossums or possums, respectively. Opossum was on top as recently as the 1970s, but possum has the lead now. Cool!). The fact of there being these other Australasian marsupials (which got the name because they resemble the Virginia opossum) means that there are some people who assert that the two terms are only properly applied as distinguishing terms: they will tell you that the Australasian marsupials are only properly called "possums," and that the creature in your American backyard is only properly called an "opossum." She has quite a few memorable escapades as she steals food from the dog’s bowl, almost gets captured by an owl, and makes friends with other animals and the Green family. You will see possum written in two ways. The National Opossum Society is an all-volunteer not-for-profit, tax-exempt charity, founded December 5, 1986. But there's another group of marsupials out there in the world that is also referred to with both terms. English colonists living in Jamestown derived the word from its equivalent in Powhatan, a language spoken by the Virginia Algonquian tribe. Among the … In common use, possum is the usual term; in technical or scientific contexts opossum is preferred. “Possum” or “Opossum,” no matter what way you spell it, most folks have heard the adage “playing Possum.” The term refers to the Possum’s behavior of faking death as a strategy to ward off would-be predators. Already your lungs have flown away like a bird and your guts have slithered away like a snake. This Web Site is for the group most recently led by the late Dr. Henness, the National Opossum Society. Opossum can be pronounced with its first syllable either voiced or silent. You can, indeed, write opossum and say it like "possum" and be using an officially recognized pronunciation. POSSUM FACTS. When confronted, the animal involuntarily faints in shock for anywhere from several minutes to four hours. p-, meaning "white," and *-aʔθemw-, meaning "dog, small animal." For instance, most would assume that an Australian saying “possum” is referring to the animal that lives in his native country. Their introduction to Oregon appears to have been accidental, probably the result of a careless pet owner allowing some to escape into the wild. Like a lot of wildlife, they are completely misunderstood. Australian author Mem Fox features the possum in a picture book called Possum Magic. The opossum (scientific name: Didelphidae) was given its name by the English colonist John Smith of the Jamestown colony. However, possums are more often used these days. It seems the possum was playing possum! Sir Joseph Banks, a British botanist, thought they looked enough like the American opossum to give them a similar name. An opossum would not attack first. The scientific name for Australian possums is Phalangeridae. Playing possum works OK, he said, if one is willing to endure a certain amount of roughing up. Notice how some authors capitalized on the traits of this interesting creature in the following quotes. In another quote from Terri Irwin, context clues suggest that this time she is talking about the Australian possum species. The opossum is a mammal belonging to the family of marsupials located in North America. However, if you are talking to a fellow American, he will likely know exactly what a possum is. Some folks kill possum for its fur or for food. By Staff Writer Last Updated Apr 13, 2020 10:14:19 PM ET. (And it's always the choice in the idiom play possum, which means "to pretend to be asleep or dead." The dental formula is: 5.1.3.44.1.3.4 × 2 = 50 teeth. It depends on the audience and the writer or speaker. Opossums usually don’t tip the trash cans or dig up gardens but they often stop to clean up the mess left by another animal and get all the blame. Possums are found in Australia, while opossums inhabit the US. Stand on the stick with a leg on either side of the possum, then take hold of its tail and pull it up sharply. These are … Well, if you are looking for guidance on what to call the cute little tick-eating North American marsupial with the opposable thumbs on its hind feet you can choose either opossum or possum (or opossum pronounced like possum is), and you should know that possum is far more common but that opossum is what the science-types prefer. The first one is from Life of Pi by Yann Martel. They can be used as an effective method to shoo opossums away. Delivered to your inbox! Jobs that suit them the best are creative ones where their creative energy can come up to the surface. They are characterized by white faces and sharp teeth. A Google Ngram search reveals an alternating pattern. Coach Graham Hill said they wanted an outside lane for the final so he could try to shoot away unnoticed. How to use possum in a sentence. Literally, the word means “white dog or beast” in Powhatan. On the other hand, Bill Watterson makes it clear that he is dropping the O of opossum by adding an apostrophe in its place. How to Get Rid Of Possums in Your Yard. English colonists living in Jamestown derived the word from its equivalent in Powhatan, a language spoken by the Virginia Algonquian tribe. The possums are sometimes called common brushtail possums. From context, you can conclude that it’s “the only North American marsupial.” In fact, it is quite common for people to drop the O of opossum in speech and in print. How to use a word that (literally) drives some pe... Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words? In North America, opossum and possum describe the same thing, but in Australia the word possum refers to a completely different animal. Possums have the scientific name of Phalangeriformes. However, Americans might call it a possum, much to the confusion of their friends from the Southern Hemisphere who envision a rather cuddly creature when they hear that word. Let’s look at some examples. In English, the phrase is used when someone pretends to be asleep, dead, or ignorant of a situation. These people are also very determined and strong-willed and they born to be great leaders.People born under this totem or protected by it carry a strong dark aura with them. As opposed to the Virginia opossum, the Australian possum has bigger ears. Possums and opossums are both medium-sized marsupials. In general, the opossum prefers fallen or rotting vegetation to fresh. Tina Fey, author of Bossypants, uses the term possum. Possums are a suborder of 70 tree-living marsupial species native to Australia and the Indonesian islands of New Guinea and Sulawesi. What Is the Difference Between a Possum and an Opossum? ), The earlier forms, apossoun and opassom, eventually settled into opossum and, in a process known as aphesis—which is the loss of a short unaccented vowel at the beginning of a word—the variation possum. In order to protect a fellow possum named Hush, Grandma Poss uses magic to make her invisible. People interchangeably use these words just like bison and buffalo. For this reason, the opossum is still commonly referred to as the Virginia North American Opossum. But there's more to this story. According to the Opossum Society, litter size can be up to 13 babies, and the mothers feed their babies in their pouch for 2 - 3 months. You will hear the sound of its neck breaking. Possum or opossum spirit animal is a symbol of recovery and talent. Wherever the opossum settled, you can eliminate it by using our tips. In “Possum Come A-Knocking” Nancy Van Laan uses rhymes to tell the story of a grandmother who was sitting in her rocking chair knitting when an opossum knocks at the front door. This is quick, easy, and relatively painless for the animal. A species native to eastern North America, Opossums (sometimes just called possums) arrived in the Pacific Northwest in the early twentieth century. They enjoy everything that is mystical and forbidden. The journey is full of adventures for the two lovable creatures. Possums or opossums as totems carry a very negative symbolism. Opossum vs. Possum: Difference. Mood: How to Use Tone and Mood in Your Writing, 5 Writing "Rules" That Are Really Guidelines, Beware of These Common Consistency Issues in Writing. You know he is talking about the opossum of North America because he makes reference to its unique tendency to faint as if dead when threatened: Another author, Amy Rowland, makes reference to the grayish-white color of the opossum. Writing, grammar, and communication tips for your inbox. 'Nip it in the butt' or 'Nip it in the bud'. Now your tongue drops dead like an opossum, while your jaw begins to gallop on the spot. If there is no way to escape, it would assume a threatening posture: open its mouth wide, bare its teeth, growl or hiss. This etymology business is no joke. Your friendly Merriam-Webster dictionary puts the full definition for the American creatures under the word opossum, and the full definition for the Australasian creatures under the word possum, but both entries acknowledge that both words are used for the creatures of both areas. The possums were given that name because of the close semblance to the opossums of North America. The opossum is primarily dark gray in color but some resemble cinnamon, and, as in Heidi’s case, white opossums are known to … But here’s where it gets confusing: in North America, people often shorten opossum to possum when talking about the creatures prowling around the backyard at night. Possums and opossums look almost identical, however, they're different species. Whether you’re in the Americas or Australasia, the biological term for a group of opossums or possums is called a “passel.” Finding a passel of adults in the wild is uncommon since opossums and possums are solitary creatures. Possum is a small to medium sized marsupials native to Australia and surrounding islands known as Oceania. Their origins are in South America and after they spread across North America too. He might even think it’s “good eatin’.” And if he is not familiar with the other species, it might be fun to explain the possum-opossum difference. To make things even more confusing, some people say you should spell it opossum but pronounce it without that first syllable play ; our pronunciation guidance at the entry for opossum recognizes this by putting that first syllable in parentheses: (ə-)ˈpä-səm. Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free! (A note about those asterisks: they mean that the words are assumed to have existed or have been reconstructed by means of comparative evidence. They are symbols of fear, death, hiding, lies and secrets. As a result, you should use the official name opossum in formal writing. Object found in Utah desert, recant However, if an American says “possum” to an Australian, it might be unclear which animal is the subject of discussion. Whistleblower changes tune, again, president-elect If threatened, the first reaction of an opossum is to run away. John Smith spelled it “opassum,” but William Strachey spelled it “aposoum.” Possums, on the other hand, live in Australia, Ne… Possums, on the other hand, live in Australia, New Guinea, Sulawesi, New Zealand, and China. So far, we've only addressed the fact that the Virginia opossum, a marsupial that makes its home in large swaths of North America, is referred to with both possum and opossum. Opossums have a bare tail, while possums have bushy hairy tail. In North America, the animal officially called an opossum is a white and gray marsupial of the order Didelphimorphia. Tone vs. Opossum covers over 100 species of marsupials living in the Western Hemisphere. He told me that humans cannot outrun a bear — they are great sprinters and climbing a tree is no good. You have been successfully subscribed to the Grammarly blog. Virginia Opossums Get a Bad Rap People often blame them for things they didn’t do such as tipping garbage cans or killing chickens. 'All Intensive Purposes' or 'All Intents and Purposes'? Opossums are marsupials native to the Americas. Most members of this order have long snouts, a narrow braincase, and a prominent sagittal crest. Both animals are marsupials, but possums are more closely related to kangaroos. A small child tries to tell her family that it’s a possum sporting a top hat and vest who is knocking, but they don’t see anything when they open the door. Our Word of the Year 'pandemic,' plus 11 more, monolith Place a cloth dipped and soaked in vinegar on or near places where the possum might come looking for food. Even though most North Americans don’t pronounce the “ O,” possum is spelled opossum because it is the official name for this American omnivore. If your state permits possum hunting, it is possible to walk around the yard and shoot the animals a couple of times at night. So, in general, you can use opossum when referring to the American marsupial. Opossum, pronounced uh-poss-uhm, is still favored for formal writing. By mammalian standards, this is an unusually full jaw. The National Opossum Society and the Opossum Society of the United States, while both founded by Dr. Henness, are separate groups. John Smith spelled it “opassum,” but William Strachey spelled it “aposoum.”. (Aphesis also gave us lone from alone. It would be hard to believe looking at their photos, but these marsupials are generally disliked and considered pests. (Possums are brown.) It comes from a trick the Virginia opossum does: when it's caught it goes catatonic. Possums have a long and hairy tail, which has a bushy appearance. Read more- https://www.gingersoftware.com/english-online/spelling-book/confusing-words/possum-opossum Voicing that first syllable makes the word sound like this: play . “Blorft” is an adjective I just made up that means ”Completely overwhelmed but proceeding as if everything is fine and reacting to the stress with the torpor of a possum.” I have been blorft every day for the past seven years. Set your young readers up for lifelong success, Study Up With Our Official SCRABBLE Dictionary. People guided by this spirit animal are very talented and can be true artists if they use their talent in the right way. As omnivores, opossums consume a variety of foods. Hey Susie Derkins, is that your face, or is a ‘possum stuck in your collar? Didelphimorphs are small to medium-sized marsupials that grow to the size of a house cat. Possums belong to the Diprotodontia order. Literally, the word means “white dog or beast” in Powhatan. Terri is an American, but she owns a zoo in Queensland, Australia. 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