The Irish language has the best weird translations of common animal names

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Very cool. One can see the Indo-European in the ladybug name pretty clearly: that’s Bos for cow, something like “-een” to indicate smolness, and obvious cognate of ‘deus.’


I love the Hawaiian name for beaver: ʻĪlio hulu pāpale, literally “hat-hair dog”, because of the use beaver hair for felted hats back in the days of mass beaver-slaughter.


That one has a few oddities, though:


Like the name “right whale”—meaning “that’s the right whale to hunt.”


Spot on.

The word bó, meaning cow, finds it’s way into other words. The word bóthar means road, but the literal translation would be “cow over” , as in the cow would use it to go over the field. Then a small road would be a bóthareen.

When I was young the expression “gods little piggies” was used for a multitude of beetles. A beetle is “ciaróg”.


My family had discussions on whether the correct English name for Oenanthe oenanthe was wheatear or white-arse, and if it should be said in front of young children.


Ah yes… I remember that from Patrick O’Brian’s novels:

"There she blew indeed – a great dark heave in the smooth sea and then the jet – and not only she but her six companions, one after another, heaving up enormous, blowing and smoothly diving each in turn, and each heartily cheered by the Surprises. ‘What kind, Reynolds?’ called Jack.

‘Oh right whales, sir, as right as right could be, ha, ha, ha!’

‘Why do they say right whales?’ asked William Salmon, a master’s mate, when the berth had settled down to dinner – a diminished berth, now that Jack had dispensed with some of the more indifferent midshipmen.

‘Why, because they are right in every respect,’ said Adams, Captain Aubrey’s clerk. ‘They are in the right place – off Greenland or in the Bay – they have the right whale bone, by far the best in the market – and the right amount of oil, six or seven tons of it. And the right temperament: they move slow, not dashing about like your finwhale, or turning spiteful and crushing your boat like a sperm. You cannot say fairer.’"


There’s some good ones in Welsh as well. “iâr fach yr haf” for butterfly meaning little hen of the summer. Also ladybird is “buwch goch gota” - short red cow.


In terms of “Wind Prick”, an old English word for the kestrel is Windfucker because of the way it moves when hovering.

And I do wonder why so many languages (including English- Ladybird as in Our Lady) use religious terminology for ladybirds. The Dutch word is lieveheersbeestje, literally “Our beloved Lord’s small beast”.


That’s a feature, not a fabht.


A ladybug (or “ladybird” to you UKites) is “божья коровка” (God’s little cow) in Russian as well.

Strangely, despite the similarity in sound, it’s reversed in Russian: “Бог” means “God”. And yet both languages ultimately descend from proto-Indo-European. Funny old world.


And I just found out how the Korova Milk Bar got its name…


Yes - Anthony Burgess created a language for the droogs (друг means “friend” in Russian), based largely on twisted Russian, partially on Cockney rhyming slang and partially on cutting-edge London slang of the 60s. He called it “Nadsat” (not a real word, but roughly equivalent to the English suffix “-teen”.

An example of why I call it “twisted” Russian: The Russian word for “head” is “голово”, which I would have transliterated as either “golovo” or “golova”, depending on the speaker’s origin (Muscovites turn nearly all Os into AHs; Russians from outside Moscow tend to leave their Os long.) Either way, how he turned “голово” into “gulliver” is a mystery.
“Korova”, by contrast, is exactly how I would transliterate “корова”.


This is broadly known in my circles, good to share with the lay public. Can expand on this set of cocktail facts to include the corollary that this earned Burgess the enviable position of coming up with the made-up language spoken by the cavemen in the film “Quest for Fire.”


Religious terminology is used because the ladybug eats aphids, and aphids destroy garden edibles. Ladybugs are a blessing and are sold by the hundreds for organic pest control.

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