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Lab rat

noun; analogy; compounding
A person who has a proclivity for laboratory work and spends most or all of their free time in their laboratory, whether they have work to do in lab or not.
 
This term is an analogy of the compound word ‘gym rat,’ which refers to someone who spends all of his or her leisure time working out in the gym and being active. Similarly, it is most often used to describe an extremely studious laboratory worker who is devoted to perfecting their lab techniques and producing valuable data. It is also a zero derivation of the slang term ‘lab rat,’ which is used to refer to someone who is used as an experimental test subject on whom new laboratory chemicals and drugs are tested. This term was probably coined in a joking manner to make light-hearted fun of people who enjoy laboratory work. While it may be used in a pejorative manner by those that dislike lab work, it could also be used warmly by those who enjoy it to describe themselves.
Etymology : This is a compound of the term ‘lab’ + ‘rat.’ ‘Lab’ is the shortened form of the word ‘laboratory’ which comes from M.L. ‘laboratorium’ which means ‘a place for labor or work.’ It was first used to refer to ‘a building set apart for scientific experiments’ in 1605 and was first shortened to ‘lab’ in 1895. ‘Rat’ comes from O.E. ‘ræt’ meaning ‘to scratch scratch, and gnaw.’ Similar words arise in Celtic ‘radan,’ Romance (It. ‘ratto,’ Sp. ‘rata,’ Fr. ‘rat’) and Germanic (M.L.G ‘rotte,’ Ger. ‘ratte’) languages but connection is uncertain and origin is unknown. Probable that ‘rat’ came from Germanic to Romance language.
Source : Conversation in laboratory “Megan is such a big lab rat; she is in here all of the time” (11/07/2008)
Last modified: 3 December 2008


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