the word butterfly - reaction from Netherlands

nospam at nospam at
Sun May 3 13:57:43 EDT 1998

Ernst Neering wrote:

> "In the Netherlands only some 60 species of Rhopalocera are known,

I suspect this is not true. Johan Padding's list of butterflies in the
Benelux countries stands at 114 and I would think that many of these would
be found just within the Netherlands. Certainly more than 60.

> one of the  most common species is the 'schoenlapper' also known as
>'atalanta'. This is the Nymphalid Vanessa atalanta L.

This is interesting to hear. I had not heard that it was applied
specifically to Vanessa atalanta.

> 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'?"

I don't think so. Th 'brushfoot' appelation of Nymphalids refers to the
fact that many species in this family have the forelegs greatly reduced
and covered with dense tufts of scales so as to make them resemble a

I'm still wondering where the association of butterfly <--> cobbler might
have arisen. Does anyone have access to a dutch etymological dictionary.

John Irish writes:

> So it seems that the name is known in Dutch. It's adoption for an African
> species, and later all butterflies, by the African colonists parallels
> what happened int he case of some other animals, too. Thus we have
> `eland', the European elk, applied in Afrikaans to a uniquely African
> antelope; `wolf' (the northern wolf) applied to hyaenas in general, etc.

This is a very interesting observation and reflects what sometimes happens
to words when they move from one geographical context to another, which is
to say they are applied either more or less broadly in their new


Christopher Majka

| Christopher Majka - Editor-in-Chief: Chebucto Community Net              |
| Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada  |  also Editor: Culture & Philosophy       |
| URL: EMail <aa051 at  |

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