Vernacular names for butterflies

Neil Jones Neil at
Fri Apr 24 16:08:59 EDT 1998

In message <01bd6efa$83ed7aa0$a0fd82c1 at gateway-2000> proper at writes:
> This is a multi-part message in MIME format.
> ------=_NextPart_000_000A_01BD6F02.E5B1E2A0
> Content-Type: text/plain;
> 	charset="iso-8859-1"
> Content-Transfer-Encoding: quoted-printable
> 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,

This is a very interesting point.
the theory is correct it does explain one or two thngs.

I have encountered papalotl as an indigenous Mexican name
and pimpilala as the Quechua word. The latter struck me as remarkably
similar to the welsh Pilipala 

> e.g.:-
> Balafenn (Breton)
> Borboleta (Portuguese)
> Butterfly (English)
> Farfalla (Italian)
> Gloyn bew (Welsh)

Actually it is Gloyn Byw which means "living coal"

> Kapellen (Old Dutch)
> Papilio (Latin and Esperanto))
> Papillon (French)
> Pilipala (Welsh)
> Pillang=F3 (Hungarian)
> Pinpilipauxa (Basque)
> Schmetterling (German)
> Skoenlapper (Afrikaans)
> Sommerfugl (Danish)
> Tagfalter (German)
> Words for butterfly without an *l* seem relatively few, e.g.:-
> Mariposa (Spanish)
> Tikkidew (Cornish)

Is the posa in Mariposa related to Posar to place or Posarse to perch?

Dew is the Cornish for God. (It is Duw in Welsh which is pronounced
identically to the English word dew, but of course this is with my accent
which is without the dipthongs of Received Pronounciation.)
The two languages are very close.

I'd be interested to know what the Tikki bit means. From the construction
it seems the word means God's something.

> Clearly this survey is not comprehensive and subscribers might like to =
> add other examples from European, or non-European, languages.

Please let us have more examples.

> 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=92 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*.

Nice but how is it pronounced?

Neil Jones- Neil at
"At some point I had to stand up and be counted. Who speaks for the
butterflies?" Andrew Lees - The quotation on his memorial at Crymlyn Bog
National Nature Reserve

More information about the Leps-l mailing list