My latest article for Visual Thesaurus, "Political Animals," is a little lexicon of zoological language used in politics, from earmarks and maverick to dog-whistle and bellwether. (And yes, I make a brief detour at lipstick on a pig.)
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Worried that your maverick candidate may not have what it takes to represent you? Then you'll want to vet him or her. A relatively recent arrival in American English—it was still unusual enough in 1980 that language columnist William Safire explained it to his New York Times readers—vet is nothing more than a shortening of the Latinate word for animal doctor, veterinarian. The verb form became popular in England in the late nineteenth century, when it meant "to check out an animal," in particular a racehorse; it got its more general meaning of "evaluate" in the early 1900s, and became very popular beginning in the 1930s. As recently as the 1980s it was used mostly in reference to documents: to "vet a manuscript" means to check its facts. It gradually came to apply to humans as well.
One of the very cool things about Visual Thesaurus is that each of the political-animal words in my story is a link to the thesaurus, which displays synonyms in a constellation pattern. You can try out the thesaurus free of charge here or on the home page: just type a word into the search field at the top of the page.