The beaver wax puzzle

A little language puzzle based on an event from my childhood.

When I was young, I was a Cub Scout. On my first overnight camp, at the age of eight or so, I was excited to learn that we would be making 'beaver wax' that evening. But what was that? I knew what beavers were, and I knew what what wax was, of course, but I couldn't connect the two in my mind. Baloo and all the older Cubs seemed to know what beaver wax was, so I didn't want to ask and look foolish.

My question to you is: what did we make that evening? (And no, it was nothing inappropriate...)

Forest: a good place for beaver wax?

8 comments:

Gareth said...

Erm, bivouacs?

JD said...

Got it in one! Was that too easy?

Gez said...

Thanks JD,

My Google results for "beaver wax"+boyscouts started a klaxon alarm in the IT department. I am now out of a job.

The Ridger, FCD said...

Curse the British and their bizarre spellings with R! I'm going to guess that "beaver wax" doesn't have an R sound in for you? Because it does for me, and I don't think I could possibly confuse it with "bivouacs".

Even after being caught out like this a hundred times or more, I still can't remember to subtract those Rs.

gareth said...

I guess I do say "beaver" as "beev-a" (with my non-descript southern English accent). A Cockney or Estuary accent would be even more pronounced, more like "beev-ah".

I can't actually imagine anyone putting a pronounced "r" sound in the middle of "beaver wax" though. Doesn't it lead to a pronounced and unnatural gap between the words? I'd only do that if the second word started with a vowel - maybe "beaver armpit" or similar. But that's a whole new topic.

JD said...

I'm the same as you, Gareth (somewhat unsurprisingly): we both have non-rhotic accents. Try putting the 'r' sound in 'beaver wax' and you will probably sound either like someone from the Mid West or the West Country - where people generally have rhotic accents.

Your 'beaver armpit' is a good example of 'linking r'.

The Wikipedia pages on 'rhotic and non-rhotic accents' and 'linking and intrusive R' are good for more info on this stuff.

Sarah said...

I would pronounce it biv-a, so was a little confused when first reading the post! Beaver wax doesn't sound anything like how i'd say bivouacs! Mine would sound more like biv-a-wax.

JD said...

Well I can't say they sound exactly the same even in my southern accent, but I was a kid and unfamiliar with the word 'bivouacs'. My brain just processed it into the closest-sounding words it new...