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Definition 2 of binky at wiktionary is "(rabbit behavior) A high hop that a rabbit may perform when happy." This definition is consistent with that at rabbitspeak, and not inconsistent with "A kind of twisting jump made by a rabbit at play" given in wikipedia. What is the etymology of this term?

The three quotations given in wiktionary date from 1996, 2003, and 2009, while ngrams shows the incidence of binky near zero in the 1970's and rising steadily since ca. 1995. In web searches, I don't know how to disambiguate binky as a high hop from its other common-noun usages or its more-common use as a surname; can one do so?

Note, I found no results for binky at word-origins, at etymonline, at dictionary.reference.com, or at learner's dictionary and other dictionary.cambridge.org sources.

The nicest illustration I've seen of a binky appears in the opening seconds of this video. (The sharpish "Aht!" and "Ech!" sounds (can someone transcribe these more faithfully?) near the end of the video are warnings from the owner to the rabbit, to make it cease chewing the furniture, which -- in the video -- it does.)

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Interesting; I've never heard of a 'binky' referring to a hop - it's always been a pet name for a pacifier for an infant when I've heard it used. –  Darwy Sep 11 '11 at 20:22

2 Answers 2

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Q1. What is the etymology of this term?

According to alt.pets.rabbits community of pet rabbit owners, it seems that Binky became a common name for pet rabbits around the same time it began to gain currency to refer to the jump, around 1996.

Binky is also the name of the rabbit protaganist in Matt Groening's Life in Hell comics, the first issue was in 1978. From Simpson Crazy:

So, for relief, he decided to send a message to his friends back home. It wasn't a boring letter telling about his unhappiness. Instead, it was a comic book about life in Los Angeles. He called it "Life in Hell". The comic strip starred Binky, the lonely buck-toothed rabbit (In 1985, he told Los Angeles magazine that Binky was the "stupidest" name he could think of) and it soon became an underground success in L.A. Matt found himself making 500 copies instead of 20. In 1980, the strip started to appear in the Los Angeles Reader, a weekly paper where Matt worked as an editor/delivery man.

Wiktionary links to a Feb 27 1996 post in alt.pets.rabbits where Amy says:

He can have his litterbox, his carpet, his toys, and space to do a little binky in there even.

There's nothing before 1996, so let's check the other 1996 alt.pets.rabbits uses. Here's a May 17 1996 signature:

Lynn
&
Plink (Yeah, she's a real safety nut! But you should've seen her jump
when she was putting in a new phone jack and the phone rang! Human binky!)

Amy Christine Lewis on Jul 11 1996:

Anyway, she's happier, healthier, and harder to supervise, but she does pull some major binkies. But calmer....no.

Here's a Jul 26 1996 reference in alt.pets.rabbits to the buck-toothed Binky from Life in Hell:

Put out plenty of bunny chow and water, lotsa litter and a few tiny, tiny baby bottles and buck toothed binkies.

On Sep 3 1996 Robert Benner said:

... He even gets the energy up to do a binky once or so a week!

And Troy Denkinger replied:

... I'm not sure what a binky is, but I suspect it's a good thing.

On Dec 7 1996, Lisa Masterman replies:

My pet bunny jumps in the air and snaps his neck from side to side. What is this?

My bun Peter does this and more. He lives with a guinea pig, and seems to have adopted some of her behavioral habits. The funniest thing they do is what my vet called "stampeding". They trot around, then suddenly jump straight up (pretty high), and then shake vigorously in mid-air. At first we were worried about this (thinking it wasn't normal), but our vet assured us it was only a sign of youthful exhuberance (sp?).

Dana Krempels of the Miami HRS calls this a 'binky,' which is just the perfect word.
--lisa, mom of Ben the Binky King and Eve

In the same thread Robert Benner confirms:

Both our bunnies do the jumping and flying thing, we call them Binkies!

Other rabbit owners refer to it as "the bunny dance", "Bunnie Dancing" and report a vet using "stampeding".

Lisa Masterman on Dec 9 1996:

He's in a stage of life where he's much more laid back (though he still loves his evening races and plenty of joyful binkies).

Janis on Dec 15 1996:

BUT, neutering is an option for those of us who do want a house-rabbit who will use his litterbox, snuggle instead of hump, & binky instead of spray.

There are more examples in 1997, including this definition from Busbybun on Aug 18 1997:

Twiglet wrote:
ps What is 'binkying'? I'm sure I've observed it and just call it by a different name but I'd love to dazzle my local bun-friends with a brilliant display of lagomorphinian terminology.

Well, I'm not sure it is proper "lagomorphian terminology," but what we seem to call the "binky" is a shake- your- ears, and- leap- into- the- air- with- joy- and- maybe- even- with- a- flip- that-a- gymnast- would- be- proud- of- type- of- maneuver. Whew!! What fun to see!! :)


Q2. In web searches, I don't know how to disambiguate binky as a high hop from its other common-noun usages or its more-common use as a surname; can one do so?

The best advice I have for this is including one or more extra terms such as +jump, +rabbit, +bunny or +hop; the plus gives it extra weight and stops it being ignored by Google.


Q3. The sharpish "Aht!" and "Ech!" sounds (can someone transcribe these more faithfully?)

Not really! How about "Ah-!" and "Eh-!"?


Edit: Here's some more research with the help from the PetBunny and EtherBun mailing lists.

Binky was coined by Dana Krempels (or her sister) in 1994 (or 1995) on the PetBunny mailing list (started in 1994 and still going strong). The term was included in Ken Albin's "UNOFFICIAL PETBUNNY DICTIONARY", reposted on 12th July 1995:

Binky - A leap in the air, usually with a 180 degrees turn while in the
air, and a bewildered expression upon landing.(Dana)

According to Ken Albin:

During that era a lot of us would simply make up words that somehow sounded like the actions our bunnies would make. I had 5 editions and would ask for new words each time. That is how most of the words originated on PB, from our strange imaginations rather than from rational derivations.

...

I stand by my original statement in the other email that many of the words had no real etymology. They sprang (excuse the pun) from PB'ers fertile imaginations and in most cases had some link in the mind of the creator to what the bunny was doing or how it sounded or looked.

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+1 and I hope you get the bounty for your effort. I think this is the best answer this question is gonna get. –  Daniel Oct 22 '11 at 20:45
    
My first bounty! I've added some extra research as a thank you! –  Hugo Oct 26 '11 at 20:05
    
Hugo, the best is yet to come. :) –  Daniel Oct 26 '11 at 20:10

This might help:

The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) lists “binky” as a folk term used in western Indiana as of 1912 to mean “any little mechanical contrivance,” and the word seems to have been in use for many years as a name for anything small and either inconsequential or cute.

Now, a binky is a little kind of dance done by the rabbit:

When a rabbit binkies, it jumps into the air and twists its head and body in opposite directions (sometimes twice) before falling back to the ground.

It could be that because rabbit owners thought this kind of jump rather cute, they just called it "binky", and over time, the jump became known just as a "binky" (as a result of metonymy).

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