Saturday, August 04, 2012

Moose, elk, robins: names

Alces alces
Cervus canadensiselk

Alces alces is what we in North America call "a moose". In Europe, they call it "an elk" (although in Britain, at least, they tend say "moose" if they're talking about American animals and "elk" otherwise - or at least they did; check Monty Python and the credits to the Holy Grail: Wi not trei a holiday in Sweeden this yer ? See the loveli lakes The wonderful telephone system And mani interesting furry animals Including the majestic moose). Anyway. Elk was the European word, and Alces alces was the animal it was attached to.

But when the Europeans got to North America, they attached the name to a vaguely similar animal, probably since they didn't see the familiar one around anywhere, at least at first . This is just as a robin is in Europe Erithacus rubecula, a tiny flycatcher, but in North America Turdus migratorius, a much larger thrush, while in Australia it's several birds of the genus Petroica, utterly unrelated passerines. (See below). What we call "an elk" is Cervus canadensis, a deer that doesn't exist in Europe, though there are some in Asia. And then when the 'real thing' put in an appearance, the name "elk" was taken and we had to borrow "moose" from Algonquian, creating confusion everywhere.

Turdus migratorius

American robin Turdus migratorius
Erithacus rubecula

European robin Erithacus rubecula
Petroica boodang

scarlet robin Petroica boodang

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post

Links to this post:

Create a Link

     <-- Older Post                     ^ Home                    Newer Post -->