Vernacular names for butterflies
proper at dial.pipex.com
Thu Apr 23 16:57:31 EDT 1998
One thing that emerges from the debate on vernacular names for *butterfly* in European languages is the frequency of occurrence of one or more central *l*s,
Gloyn bew (Welsh)
Kapellen (Old Dutch)
Papilio (Latin and Esperanto))
Words for butterfly without an *l* seem relatively few, e.g.:-
Clearly this survey is not comprehensive and subscribers might like to add other examples from European, or non-European, languages.
What seems to be happening (and I do not claim to be much of a linguist) is that words have been coined that make the tongue flap in a rather butterfly-like way. Indeed, words like *flap* and *flutter* do the same. I would go further and say that the strange Cornish word *tikkidew* also has a butterfly-like resonance. These butterfly words reference to some other thing like butter or shoemenders may not have had much significance, or may have been a sort of post hoc rationalisation of attempts by the mouth and tongue to imitate the flight of a butterfly. (I am tempted to say this is all tongue in cheek, but I am not going to).
Whatever lies behind this, I feel the debate has been worth it just to have discovered that splendid Basque butterfly word *pinpilipauxa*.
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