the word butterfly - reaction from Netherlands

Ernst.Neering at STAFF.TPE.WAU.NL Ernst.Neering at STAFF.TPE.WAU.NL
Tue Apr 21 10:16:22 EDT 1998

John Irish of Nasional Museum Bloemfontein wrote in a reaction to my earlier 
posting that in South Africa the word 'skoenlapper' is used beside the word 
'vlinder' for 'butterfly'.

In the Netherlands only some 60 species of Rhopalocera are known, one of the 
most common species is the 'schoenlapper' also known as 'atalanta'. This is 
the Nymphalid Vanessa atalanta L. The word 'schoenlapper' means 'mender of 
shoes', which used to be a craft in the old days when recycling of shoes was 
more common. Maybe there is a relation with 'brushfoot'?

In many newly opened areas, pioneers being away from their country of origin 
have sometimes given common names of animals they knew in their native 
country to animals they encountered abroad. (In Suriname, a former dutch 
colony, the common name for agouti (Dasyprocta) is 'konkoni' derived from 
'konijn' (=rabbit) and for the paca (laba in Guyana) is 'haas' (=hare)). So 
in Afrikaans, the word 'schoenlapper' probably stuck to butterflies in 
general. In time, 'schoenlapper' became 'skoenlapper' as the dutch "sch..." 
is notoriously difficult to pronounce.

In the Netherlands 'schoenlapper' is still used almost exclusively for 
Vanessa atalanta, but sometimes it is used as a common name for the 
Nymphalidae in a more general way.

Bernard Landry commented that 'teigne' is used especially for Tineidae. 
Indeed, in the dictionaries I know of, it is the only word mentioned for 
'moth', usually accompanied with a mention of the clothes moth. Noctuelles 
sounds good but indeed refers mainly to Noctuidae, although some other 
families can be included under this term. I agree that the use of 'papillions 
de jour' and 'papillions de nuit' would be much more appropriate, although 
again there are exceptions: dayflying moths, dusk and dawn active 
butterflies, sometimes butterflies come to the lighttrap.
I think that in general, francophone but also italian or spanish speaking 
people usually do not have much problems in using latin names, maybe due to 
the origin in latin of these languages. Bernard, what do you think of using 
'rhopaloceres' and 'heteroceres' for 'butterflies' and 'moths'?

Vriendelijke groet / amitiés / kind regards

Ernst Neering
The Netherlands

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