Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lepidopteran Lexicography

I happen to know the word for "butterfly" in quite a few languages. This is not because of any particularly profound interest in these winged creatures, but rather that they, like hearts and flowers, have a tendency to turn up a lot in popular songs - as symbols of female beauty or of male fickleness, as the case may be.
However, there is another striking thing about these words.

English : Butterfly
Swedish : Fjäril
Danish : Sommerfugl
German : Schmetterling
French : Papillon
Italian : Farfalla
Spanish : Mariposa
Portuguese : Borboleta

They are all totally different! Even in closely related Western European languages, where otherwise most terms tend to derive from a common Romanic or Germanic root.
I have no idea why this is, and don't know any other examples like this.
Apparently, the Dutch word is "vlinder", which once again is completely unrelated to the rest, but this is the only one I had to look up in a dictionary so I cannot really vouch for it. I guess I don't listen to a lot of Dutch popular music.


Anonymous said...

Vad med trollslända...

Kusagauma said...

Den omedelbara skillnaden med trollsländor är att jag inte vet på rak arm vad de heter på så många andra språk (de är inte lika populära i sångtexter). Det går naturligtvis att slå upp, men det är inte riktigt samma sak.
En snabb koll antyder att variationen tyvärr inte verkar vara lika stor. De verkar heta någon variant på "libellule" på ganska många språk, men det är lustigt att konstatera att de heter "guldsmeder" på danska och sinistert nog "øyenstikkere" på norska. Det hade jag faktiskt ingen aning om.

Anonymous said...

Gott Nytt År!

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