possums & “UH-possums”..

Not too long ago, the kids were watching Over the Hedge, and though I was folding laundry, I was watching, too. That movie is a lot of fun, with some great performances. Especially from Steve Carell as Hammy the Squirrel and William Shatner as Ozzie the Possum.Partway into the movie, I thought Bea would find this interesting, so I told her that the younger possum was played by Avril Lavigne. The immediate response was “there are no possums in this movie”. I was unable to restrain myself from at least one “yes, there are”, before realizing what she meant. I had forgotten (momentarily) that an Aussie possum and an American possum are two different things. My girls didn’t even know which characters I was talking about, and finally decided that I was referring to the ones that looked like “hairy pigs”.Now, I did refrain from pointing out that there were few options for which animals I meant, as they knew all the rest of them. The “Canadian” porcupines, even, they were familiar with. So, the girls aren’t good at the process of elimination (why DOES that phrase always sound wrong?).So, here’s the thing. In Australia, a possum… well, it’s official name really IS possum. While in America, a “possum” is actually an opossum. Don’t ask me why. I read somewhere that Aussie possums were named after American possums, because that’s what Captain Cook’s botanist thought they looked like. Don’t ask me if that’s true.I’d like to know why in the blazes our opossums are even called that. I mean, really, why would you try and pronounce the full name? You can refer to that “OH-possum” or that “UH-possum”. To say it correctly, you would mention that “AN opossum just crossed the street”. But any American will just say that they “hit a possum with their car”, which is so much easier. Come on, half the roadkill in the U.S. is made up of dead possums.Both possums and opossums are marsupials, but the similarities end there. I read somewhere that the main difference is that opossums are scary looking with sharp teeth and Aussie possums are cute. Well, until I googled pictures of American possums, I’d never seen a possum baring it’s teeth at anything. I’d have said they were cute, too, before that. And you can’t think that Ozzie and Heather (in Over the Hedge) are scary-looking.If you prefer the animated variety, though, Aussies have grown up with Mem Fox’s book Possum Magic,which is illustrated by Julie Vivas. I still have to read the book, but the pictures are pretty cute.I vote that the “O” get taken out of the American possum’s name, and everybody just agree that we have both American and Aussie varieties. Besides, if the Aussie version WAS named after ours, then Sir Whatsisface obviously called ours a possum, even back then!

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