Recently, I heard some scratching sounds in the wall near my pantry. These sounds were heard later in the cabinets above the stove, and confirmed to be the scratchings of a mouse. My husband wanted to catch the mouse, rather than kill it, and began a search for a “humane mousetrap.”
This phrase began a tangential everyday conversation — one of those wonderful, flowing, witty, linguistic ones that are a major part of my love for my dear husband. If spoken (or written incorrectly) one could understand the phrase as referring to a trap for a humane mouse. This would not do! There should be a word that would denote the kind actions of a human towards an animal, specifically a mouse.
Armed with the OED and a Latin dictionary, I began construction of this neologism. It would need an element for “mouse,” of course. This is mus in Latin, but would probably show up as mur in derivatives. It would also need an element for the kind actions part of the meaning. “Commiserate” and “misericordia” came to mind. Since the Latin word for mouse is all but present already in these words, the linguistic puns abound…
Commuserate – to commiserate with a mouse.
Musericord – mercy shown to a mouse.