the word butterfly - reaction from Netherlands

Mark Walker mwalker at
Fri Apr 24 10:59:05 EDT 1998

This is a great thread, with much in the way of thought provoking prose.

Ernst Neering's comments were quite interesting (Oh, by the way, I believe
the vernacular "Stink Bug" should be added to your list).

I'm still pondering the _butterflies in my stomach_.  I suppose it may be
related to the sensation that your stomach is about to take flight.  Still,
the association with nervous anticipation has got me stumped.  We don't use
the phrase for nausea or stomach cramping (reference to butterfly larvae in
the stomach would be more appropriate).  Only when you are about to do
something with a huge personal risk (whether it be diving off a cliff,
undergoing a standardized test, taking your first swimming lesson, or simply
drawing attention to yourself in front of a crowd).  Why this sensation is
attributed to butterflies, I cannot figure.

My anecdotal contribution:  Twenty years ago in the Philippines (during my
salad days), the term butterfly (I wish I could remember what it was in
Tagalog) was applied to any unfaithful lover who is prone to fluttering from
flower to flower.  Interestingly, it was(is) also used to describe a very
popular scissor-like, split blade pocket knife often associated with the
martial arts.  At the time, it was generally understood that a Butterfly
might very well become acquainted with the Butterfly Knife.  The saddest
part of all this, I suppose, is that I was too wrapped up in this to notice
any of the astonishing native insects which so appropriately contributed the

Mark Walker
Castleton, VT

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