You are on page 1of 10

Weasel-Words, Weasels, Woodpeckers, Et Al.

Author(s): J. D. Sadler
Source: The Classical Journal, Vol. 68, No. 2 (Dec., 1972 - Jan., 1973), pp. 166-174
Published by: The Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc.
Stable URL:
Accessed: 12/02/2010 20:44

Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unless
you have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and you
may use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.

Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained at

Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printed
page of such transmission.

JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of
content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms
of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact

The Classical Association of the Middle West and South, Inc. is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve
and extend access to The Classical Journal.
166 DEC. 1972 / JAN. 1973



THE LATIN PHRASE commanding one to be careful with his tongue may serve as the
introduction to our topic, euphemism. Among the ancients, euphemism served two
purposes. First, it was hoped that by giving something dangerous a good name one
could avoid the danger.
The Greek for "good name" is euonymus, which became the Greek word for "left
hand." Everyone knows that something on the left can be harmful unless it is properly
addressed. The Axine Sea "hostile to strangers" was renamed the Euxine Sea "kind to
strangers" in the hope that it would actually be kind. The Erinyes were rechristened
the Eumenides with the same forlorn hope. The Greek epithets euphrone "kindly" and
ambrote or abrote "immortal," "divine" are applied to nyx "night." Pluto, "the rich
one," may be a euphemism, and the same is true of Hades, if the etymology of his
name as "the unseen one" is correct.
The other function of euphemism was the result of taboo. We are probably more
familiar with taboos of action, which were ubiquitous in antiquity. The Roman priest,
for example, was forbidden a great number and variety of activities. But there could
also be linguistic taboos; many cultures could not name the bear directly but were
forced to use periphrases such as "the brown one" or "the honey eater." The name of
a deity was frequently taboo, and no better example can be given than the Hebrew
origin of Jehovah, which was not a word but a collection of consonants. This type of
euphemism continues into modern times, and our language exhibits "Lord," "Savior,"
"Creator," and "Almighty." The Virgin Mary is paraphrased as "Madonna" or "Our
Oaths are often euphemisms for much stronger words or phrases. "Zounds" was an
abbreviation of "God's wounds" (or "Christ's wounds") and "'sdeath" stood for
"God's death." "God's little body" ended up as "odds bodkins." Modern theistic
euphemisms include "gad," "gosh," "golly," and "my goodness." "Heck" was original-
ly a place, and "drat," "darn," "dang," and "tarnation" have a common Latin origin.
"Dadgummit" employs both metathesis and vowel change to disguise its meaning. For
a term referring to a person and expressing either condemnation or sympathy, the
British use the word "basket." Probably Satan, Old Nick, and Lucifer belong in this
Of all euphemisms, the most common are those for death. This is a word which is
to be avoided at all cost. The Roman dead went to the Isles of the Blessed or to the
Elysian Fields (if they had been good). Latin nouns which could mean "death" are
fatum, finis, and quies, plus others derived from the following list of verbs. The verbs
include dormire, interire, obire, perire, oppetere, occumbere, and desiderari. Most of
the verbs meaning "leave," such as abire, exire, decedere, excedere, migrare, could be
used, with or without e vita. The death was reported, of course, not by "mortuus est,"
but by "vixit." The corpse was carried out on a vitalis lectus.
Modem phrases range from the conventional "passed on" and "passed away" to the
more colorful "kicked the bucket" and "cashed in his chips." The deceased now "rests
in peace" or "belongs to the ages." All the rest may be cast as perfect tenses; he has:

gone to rest been called home

gone to join his father been laid to rest
gone to meet his maker been consigned to mother earth
gone to his great reward crossed the great divide
joined his ancestors given up the ghost
breathed his last laid down his burden

Death itself is known as the grim reaper, not too pleasant a

figure. Some would
substitute for it the phrase International Harvester. The word
"cemetery," "a place to
lie down," substitutes for the older "graveyard," and another Greek-derived burial
place is "necropolis." Names of cemeteries, such as Restland and Forest Lawn, are
especially euphemistic. "Undertaker," simply "one who undertakes," has itself turned
bad and been replaced by "mortician." One undertaker from Dixie on a
trip north,
when asked his occupation, described himself as a southern
planter. "Casket" has
supplanted "coffin," and a "funeral parlor" is now generally a "mortuary chapel."
Such words as "accident," "casualty," "suicide,"
"mortality," and "fatality" all
sound somewhat better than the actions they signify. For "kill" the gangsters once
used "rub out," but now, more refined, they use
"liquidate" or "eliminate." When a
man was hanged in the Old West, it was sometimes
necessary to report the event to the
man's family back in Boston. Various periphrases were
employed, such as "He died
while attending a meeting of the Uplift Society," or "He was
attending a public
function and the platform gave way."
Euphemism is very closely tied to another feature of language, the division of
semantics known as degeneration of meaning. We are familiar with the
from "tourist court" to "motel" to "lodge," "inn," etc. Whenever a new euphemism
enters the picture, it tends to drive down the meaning of the former word. Often a
double degradation results; thus, when "palace" replaces "bar," both words
go down
in value. This substitution of a nicer term holds true for all manner of unpleasantness.
"Ill" sounds a little better than "sick," and "disease" originally meant no more than
"uneasiness." "Trouble" is a good all-purpose word for "illness," as in "He has heart
trouble." Still milder is "He has a heart condition."
For specific types of malady, there are adjectives such as "delinquent," "incoher-
ent," "physically unfit," and "visually deficient." Nouns such as "speech handicap"
and "hearing deficiency" are also popular. For the child, there are "slow learner,"
"retarded child," "handicapped child," "disadvantaged child," and
child." The last is so inordinately euphemistic that it borders on the cruel. Two
phrases not exactly concerned with health problems are "unmarried mother" and
"born out of wedlock." Television ads are replete with cures for "halitosis,"
ity," and "acute indigestion." "B.O." was one example of euphemistic initials; a total
listing of this type would include much spicier specimens.
Disease of the mind is "mental disorder"; the patient is "mentally deficient." The
suspected mental case is urged to "get professional help." "Sanitarium," "a place to
cure," has replaced "insane asylum," and both "insane" and "asylum" are much
earlier examples of euphemism. Even "maniac" is an improvement over
person," and there are those who prefer "psychoceramic" for a "crackpot." Note that
"eccentric" is a wealthy word; the poor man is crazy, the rich man is eccentric. Often
a sesquipedalian Greek or Latin derivative is milder than the native
English equivalent;
"dipsomaniac" and "intoxicated" are more high toned than "drunk," but we also have
168 DEC. 1972 / JAN. 1973

such substitutes as "high" and "tight." Other Classical equivalents would include
"misconduct," "misdemeanor," "immorality," "offense," "defaulter," "executer,"
"expectorate," "prevaricate," "perspiration," and "intestinal fortitude." For the
Latin-derived "incarcerate" we have other mild English expressions such as "send up"
or "put away."
Use of the negative sometimes softens the blow. "Inexpensive" is better than
"cheap," and one would prefer "unsafe" over "dangerous," "untidy" over "dirty,"
and "impolite" over "boorish." Others would include "intemperate," "untruthful,"
"insincere," "uneasy," "uncivil," "inaccurate," and "infidelity." We might even men-
tion "unmentionables." On this subject, French derivatives such as "lingerie" and
"decollete" can aid in the avoidance of embarrassment. In Victorian times "nude" was
always substituted for "naked" and "limb" for "leg," even as the "limb of a table."
"Bull" was completely avoided in polite society, and various niceties were employed,
one of the finest being "gentleman cow." But most Victorians were not so prim as the
lady who, at Christmas dinner, demanded for herself a slice of turkey bosom. The
third person forms of address, as "your majesty," "your grace," "your excellency,"
are euphemistic in origin, and a more modern parallel is seen in the military custom of
addressing superior officers in the third person.
A list could be made including "rest room," "powder room," and similar ex-
pressions denoting the same location. Some other random locutions are "concentra-
tion camp," "protective custody," "social security," "senior citizens," and "selective
service." One of the greatest opportunities for hyperbole lies in job description, where
we hear "sanitary engineer" or "superintendent of residue collection" for a garbage
man, and a plumber once labelled himself as a "flushologist." The ladies' hair stylist
may be a "beautician," "cosmetician," or "coiffeuse." Some dthers for which no
translation is necessary:

realtor supervisor of attendance

tree surgeon child monitor
publicist landscape architect
receptionist public relations counsel
aisle manager intelligence agent

The same upgrading applies to places of business; billiard parlor, tonsorial parlor, and
shoe emporium are only a few among many. Getting jobs for those who have been
discharged is known as "outplacing the dehired."
In New England, codfish is known as "Cape Cod turkey." A menu item probably
known everywhere is "Salisbury steak" for hamburger. Some restaurant menus drape
adjectives over everything in great profusion, leaving us with "farm fresh eggs," "fluffy
whipped potatoes," "tiny green garden peas," and the like. And again (omne ignotum
pro magnifico) putting the menu in French automatically doubles the price of the
food. A product is widely advertised in three varieties, "country chicken," "braised
liver," and "ocean fish." The three are flavors of cat food; it is a certainty that the cats
appreciate the adjectives.
A "Missouri meerschaum" is a high-sounding name for a corncob pipe. Furs have
enjoyed one of the greatest splurges of inventiveness; "Hudson seal" stands for
muskrat and "Alaska sable" for skunk or raccoon. For the lowly rabbit, here is a
collection of expensive disguises which have been employed:

beaver-dyed coney marmotine

coney near seal
ermiline electric seal
erminette polar seal
French beaver seal-dyed coney
French seal sealine
lapin squirreline

In a new subdivision, a street could never bear the indignity of being called a street.
It is always "avenue," "boulevard," "lane," "drive," "road," "circle," or "way." Sub-
divisions themselves make fantastic use of words like "hills," "valley," and "heights."
In cities near to me, Richland Hills and Roosevelt Heights are perennial flood prob-
lems. In another city virtually every subdivision contains the word "heights"; the city
is pancake-flat and there are no highs or lows.
As in our reports of hangings, euphemism may be employed in other phrases as a
disguise. Bernard Shaw's famous comment after seeing a play was "Good isn't the
word for it!" Another which I am often tempted to use in writing a reference for a
student is "I can't praise this person too highly." When the preacher was offered a jug
of wine if he would acknowledge receipt publicly, he said from the pulpit, "I want to
thank Brother Smith for the gift of fruit and the spirit in which it was given." Some
years ago, when George Smathers was running for the Senate in Florida against Claude
Pepper, he made terrible accusations before some of his audiences. "Years ago my
opponent came to our fine state university and he even matriculated. He is a shameless
extravert and he has been known to indulge in nepotism. In the past he has often been
addicted to celibacy. He has a brother who is a practicing homo sapiens and a sister
who is a Thespian." Senator Pepper's political demise was reported as "death by
We close with an example which can be heard every day: when a speaker addresses
his audience as "Ladies and Gentlemen," he is certainly displaying either euphemism
or optimism.


Every animal has a scientific name, and Latin and Greek play a major role in the
nomenclature. The division with which we begin is the order, and these are almost all
neuter plurals of Latin words: Carnivora for flesh-eating mammals, Pinnipedia for seals
and walruses, Insectivora for moles and shrews, and Rodentia for the rodents. A Greek
order is Chiroptera ("hand-wing") for the bats, and the order which abandons the
neuter plural is the Primates, that group which contains the strangest animal of all,
The next lower grouping is the family, and the name here is always the Latin plural
of the Greek patronymic suffix, usually tacked on to a Greek or Latin root. Here are
some Latin families which should be completely obvious to all:

Bovidae Leporidae Talpidae

Canidae Muridae Ursidae
Cervidae Simidae Vespertilionidae
Felidae Soricidae
170 DEC. 1972 / JAN. 1973

Among those from Greek words which occur in Latin are the beavers, Castoridae; the
whales, Balaenidae; the dolphins, Delphinidae; and the seals, Pbocidae. Another is
Sciuridae for the squirrels; the Greek here means "shadow-tail," and the same root
gives our word "squirrel." Some other Greek derivatives and the meaning of the root:
armadillos are Dasypodidae ("rough-foot"), sloths are Bradypodidae ("slow-foot"),
flying foxes are Pteropodidae ("wing-foot"), and porcupines are Erethizontidae
("causing anger"). In Myrmecophagidae, the modern meaning and etymology are the
same, "anteaters." Walruses are Odobenidae, from the Greek for "tooth" and "go";
the origin is in a mistaken belief that walruses use their tusks in walking. One not
Classical is Tapiridae; the word "tapir" comes via Spanish from the Tupi language.
The specific name of the animals is a combination of the generic name and an
adjective. The generic name is often that of the family, but there are many exceptions.
Thus, of the Felidae, the puma is the Felis concolor and the ocelot is the Felis pardalis,
but the bobcat is the Lynx rufus. The gray wolf is the Canis lupus (note the strange
adjective!) and the coyote is the Canis latrans, but the Canidae family also includes a
great many types of Vulpes. And the gray fox is not even a Vulpes; he is the Urocyon
cinereoargenteus. Urocyon is a Greek-derived compound meaning "tail-dog." Some
other generic names which were not mentioned in the families are Lutra for otter, Ovis
for sheep, Alces for elk and moose, and Mustela for mink, ferret, and weasel.
A compound is seen in Antilocapra for the pronghorn, an "antelope-goat," as it
were. Mephitis, the term for a skunk, is not a Classical animal but a Latin word for a
foul smell emanating from the ground. Rangifer for the caribou seems to be a fine
Latin compound until we discover that it comes from the source of our word "rein-
deer." The ribbon seal is a Histriophoca, from the Latin word for "actor." The chip-
munk is Tamias, a Greek word meaning "steward"; seemingly this is laudatory of the
chipmunk's thrifty habits. The beaver is Taxidea, from a Germanic root and a vaguely
Greco-Latin suffix. A few Greek compounds are Oreamnos for a mountain goat
("mountain lamb"), Microtus for a field mouse ("small ear"), and Didelphis for the
opossum ("double womb").
The adjectives which denote the species offer us a full range of meaning. First,
those of location would include such general terms as campestris, palustris, sylvaticus,
and terrestris. Then there are the major adjectives of geography such as borealis and
americanus. Probably every state adjective can be assigned to this list; a few examples
are floridanus, virginianus, carolinensis, pennsylvanicus, texensis, and even alascensis.
Colors are the expected niger, rufus, griseus, argentatus, and a compound such as
flaviventer. Greek colors can appear alone, like melas "black," but they are quite
addicted to compounds, like erythrogaster ("red stomach"), leucopus ("white foot"),
and leucurus ("white tail").
Descriptive adjectives other than colors include foetidus, hispidus, obesus, speci-
osus, and varius, plus many in -atus, such as barbatus, cristatus, decussatus, fasciatus,
jubatus, striatus, and torquatus. Some Latin compounds are brevicauda, latirostris,
angustirostris, tricinctus, sexcinctus, and tridecemlineatus. A few Greek compounds
are megacephalus ("big head"), macrourus ("long tail"), and tetradactylus ("four
toes"). Habits are portrayed in velox, volans, astutus, and deletrix. Greek compounds
are colorful, as orophilus "mountain lover" and cremnobates "cliff walker."
And now for some favorites of mine which have thus far escaped mention. The
Ursus horribilis sounds just right for the grizzly bear. The polar bear, on the other
hand, is Tbalarctus maritimus, in which the thai- stands for thalassa, the Greek word

for "sea." The wolverine is Gulo luscus, and the wolverine is often colloquially called
the glutton. The chimpanzee is Pan troglodytes, a name in which our great Greek god
figures prominently. The raccoon is Procyon lotor; the only Classical Procyon is a
constellation, the one which rises "before the dog-star." Lotor is "the washer," from
lavare; the racoon was thought to wash his food because he took most of it from
water. The musk-ox combines three animal names in Ovibos moschatus; ovibos would
be a "sheep-ox," and moschatus has a Latin suffix attached to the Greek word for
"calf." One might speculate that the word "musk" could have figured in the choice
of moschatus. The mule deer is Odocoileus hemionus; the latter word is the Greek
word for "mule," meaning literally "half a donkey." The noun, meaning "hollow
tooth," uses odo- instead of odont- for "tooth," coil- instead of the expected coel- for
"hollow," and a Latin adjective suffix; otherwise it is properly formed. "Hollow
tooth" itself sounds strange; we would expect a deer to have buck teeth. A real puzzler
is the California sea lion, Zalophus californianus; it comes from a Greek intensive
prefix and a word meaning "hill." The Norway rat is the Rattus norvegicus; rattus is
seemingly no more than a Latinization of "rat." The ordinary house mouse is Mus
musculus, adding to the Latin mouse the diminutive of the same word. Musculus, of
course, is also the source of our derivative "muscle." The Greek mouse is a mys, and
the prairie dog is the Cynomys ("dog-mouse") ludovicianus. The adjective does not
here represent a man named Louis, but the state of Louisiana.
This brief survey is neither thorough nor systematic, but it does demonstrate the
quantity and interest of the Classical element of scientific nomenclature.


Birds are fascinating creatures, and even their names can cause some excitement.
The nomenclature is virtually all Latin and Greek, and it can be a special pleasure to a
classicist to see a particularly apt term applied to one of his feathered favorites.
Generally the words are those of regular usage, but there are also occasional modern
compounds and hybrids to add to the interest.
Bird families are denoted by the Latin form of the Greek plural patronymic, i.e., an
idae suffix. We begin with some from ordinary Latin bird names:

Anatidae ducks Fringillidae sparrows

Ardeidae herons Gaviidae loons
Ciconiidae storks Hirundinidae swallows
Corvidae crows and jays Paridae titmice
Falconidae falcons Turdidae thrushes
It will be quickly noted that some of the equations are not exact; a fringilla, for
instance, is defined by Harper only as "a small bird." Of course, our Classical orni-
thology is far from perfect, and it is often impossible to identify a bird mentioned
once or twice in literature. A few Greek bird names are the following:

Columbidae doves Scolopacidae woodcocks

Laridae gulls Sittidae nuthatches
Pelecanidae pelicans Strigidae owls
Psittacidae parrots Tetraonidae grouse
172 DEC. 1972 / JAN. 1973

As one better read in Latin than in Greek, I was surprised to learn that larus, columba,
and strix were not native Latin words. Greek compounds include Hydrobatidae (water
walkers) for storm petrels, Apodidae (footless ones) for swifts, Troglodytidae (hole
dwellers) for wrens, and Cathartidae (cleaners) for vultures. A few subfamilies employ
the inus suffix; geese are Anserinae, swans are Cygnizae, and terns are Sterninae, from
an English root.
Normally the genus is a Latin or Greek word, and it may be the same name as that
used for the family or something quite different. Thus, some ducks are named Anas,
but the shoveler duck is the Spatula, seemingly an appropriate appellation. The Fringil-
lidae family includes the sparrows, cardinals, buntings, finches, and siskins, but no one
in the family bears the name Fringilla. In the following discussion of genera, please
keep in mind that a genus mentioned may be only one variety among several that bear
the same common name.
Among Latin bird names we can find Accipiter for hawk, Asio for owl, Carduelis
for goldfinch, Grus for crane, Pica for magpie, Sturnus for starling, and Vireo, a rarity
in that the scientific name is also the common name. Latin diminutives are seen in
Sturnella for the meadow-lark and Passerella, Passerculus, and Passerherbula for vari-
ous types of sparrows. Non-avian diminutives are Capella for the snipe and Dumetella,
from dumetum "thicket" for the catbird. The whip-poor-will is a Caprimulgus, from a
Latin bird so named because it was thought to suck the udders of goats. The Spinus,
Latin for "blackthorn," is the siskin, and two Latin adjectives are Pluvialis for the
plover and Riparia for the bank swallow. Two Latin compounds are Vermivora for a
warbler and Rostrhamus (hook-beak) for a kite.
Actual Greek bird names are mostly for owls; among them are the Otus, Tyto,
Aegolius, and Speotyto, the last a compound with the Greek word for "cave" to name
the burrowing owl. Other Greek birds are Chen for a goose, Icterus for an oriole, and
Perdix for a partridge. The tern is Thalasseus, the Greek word for "sea" with a Latin
adjective suffix, and still another owl is Nyctea, the Greek word for "night" with the
feminine of the same ending. The Greek compounds are most interesting; the third
column in the list below contains a literal translation of the Greek roots:

Canachites spruce grouse clasher, clanger

Chaetura chimney swift mane-tail
Cyanocitta blue jay blue jay
Dolichonyx bobolink long claw
Eremophila horned lark desert lover
Euphagus blackbird good eater
Hylocichla wood thrush wood thrush
Oporornis Kentucky warbler autumn bird
Petrochelidon cliff swallow rock swallow
Phoenicopterus flamingo red wing
Selasphorus hummingbird light bringer
Toxostoma brown thrasher bow-mouth
Tympanuchus prairie hen drum holder
Xanthocephalus yellow-headed blackbird yellow head

The specific name of a bird is the generic name followed by an adjective, and a
further division of the genus can be indicated by the addition of a second adjective.

These adjectives are almost all Latin and Greek, with Latin predominating. Location
adjectives include first those of general direction, such as occidentalis and septentri-
onalis. Then there are large geographical areas represented by atlanticus, canadensis
and americanus, and every state helps identify some bird; only a few adjectives are
illinoiensis, delawarensis, and mississippiensis. There are also general regional designa-
tions such as littoralis, saxatilis, gramineus, and pratensis. There are several -colus
compounds, among them amnicolus, rusticolus, saxicolus, abieticolus, and alticolus.
Some genitive plurals used for adjectives are palmarum, ulmorum, and insularum.
Color words range through the whole spectrum. Many are the ordinary Latin adjec-
tives: albus, niger, ater, luteus, griseus, purpureus, and pullus. Others are perfect parti-
ciples, auratus, atratus, argentatus, or present participles, rufescens, fuscescens,
nigricans. Still other colors are used to form compounds, such as flaviventris, auro-
capillus, fuscicollis, atricapillus, and pallidicinctus. Compounds of -color include bi-
color, discolor, and versicolor. The Greek color adjectives all seem to be compounded;
samples are melanotus (black ear), leucocephalus (white head), cyanopterus (blue
wing), and erythrogaster (red stomach).
Other descriptive adjectives portray a wide variety of characteristics; the size, for
example, can be maior, paulus, pusillus, minor, minimus, minutus, or even minutillus.
It would seem that there are more small birds than large birds. A bird
may be varius,
villosus, maculosus, or squamosus. Perfect participles abound, as in pictus, rostratus,
striatus, lineatus, cristatus, coronatus, pinnatus, auritus, crinitus, ornatus, and in-
ornatus. There is even a togatus, which is rather hard to visualize in a bird.
are observed in bimaculatus, tenuirostris, and serripennis (saw-toothed
wing). Birds can
be described in Greek by tridactylus (three toes),
brachyurus (short tail), and
platyrhynchus (flat snout).
The voices may be melodius or euphonius, but they may also be discors,
garrulus, crepitans, argutulus, and querulus. Two adjectives referring to laughter are
ridibundus and chachinnans (it is hard to account for the initial ch-). Another which
might be included in the voice adjectives is mutus. General complimentary adjectives
are elegans, formosus, regalis, mirabilis, principalis, and
magnificens. Some referring to
habits are velox, pugnax, agilis, migrans, peregrinus, sociabilis, and sedentarius.
some which seem to do nothing at all for the poor bird are stolidus,
perplexus, tristis,
spurius, neglectus, and even ignotus.
Passing now to some names that seem to have a greater degree of interest, we note
first that mythology has played its part in bird naming. The
tropic bird is Phaeton, and
the osprey is Pandion. The belted kingfisher is
Megaceryle alcyon, in which the second
word recalls the story of Ceyx and Alcyone. A martin is
Progne, and a tree swallow is
Iridoprocne, but Tereus and Philomela from the same story do not seem to be repre-
sented in technical names. The Phasis river supplies us with our word
"pheasant," for
which the scientific name is Phasianus Colchicus, with
yet another echo straight out of
Jason. From literature, Archilochus is a hummingbird, but I am not prepared to state
the connection between the bird and the poet. The name of the dovekie is Plautus,
probably from the flat feet and not from the Roman comedian.
The woodpeckers alone have several apt names: Colaptes (pecker), Hylatomus
(wood cutter), Dendrocopus (tree chopper), Sphyrapicus (hammer woodpecker), and
Campephilus (caterpillar lover). Two names in which tautology is outstanding, one
Latin and one Greek word for the same thing
being combined, are Cygnus olor for the
mute swan and Corvus corax for the raven. The
turkey is an especially mixed-up bird;
174 DEC. 1972 / JAN. 1973

he is the Meleagris gallopavo, a guinea-fowl chicken peacock! Another name in which

the Latin word for chicken appears is the Columbigallina, or ground dove. The Louisi-
ana heron is the Hydranassa tricolor ruficollis, a three-colored red-necked water queen.
As this whole paper has obviously been slanted toward my favorites, either of birds
or of names, I may as well close with the three birds to which I am most partial, all of
which are named in the finest fashion. The road runner, a member of the cuckoo
family, is the Geococcyx californianus, or California ground cuckoo. The name evokes
memories of Nephelococcygia, the Cloudcuckooland of Aristophanes. The scissortail,
or in full the scissortailed flycatcher, is Muscivora forficata, or scissored fly eater. And
then there is the Mimus polyglottos; what else could that possibly be but the mocking-

Austin College


THE FIFTY-FOURTH LINE of Catullus 66 has been a source of controversy for many
decades. Before the corresponding line of Callimachus' Lock of Berenice was estab-
lished with relative certainty by E. Lobel,1 a plethora of alternate readings had been
offered for the final half of the Catullan pentameter. Even now, with the reading itself
elucidated, the meaning of the line eludes commentators. C. J. Fordyce, for example,
accepting the reading abtulit Arsinoes Locridos ales equos, comments in his note to
this line, "This epithet [Locridos] for Arsinoe has not been satisfactorily explained;
there was another Zephyrium in south Italy on or near the territory occupied by
Locrian settlers from Greece, . . . but an allusion to that seems unlikely."2 Likewise K.
Quinn: "Arsinoe's connection with either the Greek or the Southern Italian Locris is
The Callimachean original sheds no light on the matter. The line, as established by
Lobel and accepted by Pfeiffer, reads 'iTrnorio'ovov AoKpt56o 'Apotw6C, and the
commentary in the papyrus is not very helpful: 'Apotvrr e'Xe ev 'AXe~avbpetat
Xwpiov ... AoKpoi 'ETlrteSpPtotLO eio, 6CtaTO7o EKaXelTO AoKp&'. There is, however,
another source which does contribute to our understanding of the line, a source cited
by Bickel many years ago in his mistaken attempt to demonstrate that his reading
AoKptK6? in Callimachus was not an adjective, but rather a substantive, and a source
which has since been ignored:4 Eustathius on Dionysius Periegeta (Georg. Gr. Min. II,
p. 106 Muller).
1 The Oxyrbyncus papyri, Part XX (London 1952).
2 Catullus (Oxford 1961), p. 336.
3 Catullus: the poems (London and Basingstoke 1970), p. 363.
4 E. Bickel, "Der Kallimachospapyrus 'Die Locke der Berenike' und Catull als Ubersetzer,"
RbM 90 (1941), p. 81-146.

Related Interests