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12 Animals Whose Names Etymologically Describe Them

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Now the names for these creatures big and small make total sense.

1. Porpoise, "pig fish"

The word porpoise can be traced to Latin porcopiscis, from the combination of porcus (pig) with piscis (fish). Round body, flat nose—sure, that makes sense.

2. Aardvark, "earth pig"

When you're not sure what it is, go with pig. Afrikaans, the offshoot of Dutch which is spoken in South Africa, gave us aardvark, from Dutch aarde (earth) + varken (pig). Must have been the nose and the pink skin.

3. Porcupine, "thorny pig"

Pig is such a versatile animal. When in doubt, go with pig! Porcupine comes from the Middle French porc (pig) + espin (from Latin spina, thorn). A thorny, spiky, pig. Well, it is round…

4. Hippopotamus, "river horse"

This one can be traced back to the Greek hippos (horse) + potamos (river). It likes to hang out in rivers, and while the Greeks might have been stretching things a bit by calling it a horse, at least they didn't go with porcopotamus.

5. Rhinoceros, "nose horn"

From the Greek rhino- (of or pertaining to the nose) and keras (horn, related to "keratin"). The nose horn certainly is the most noticeable feature of this animal. Let's hear it for sober, blunt description.

6. Octopus, "eight feet"

You already know the Greek octo- means eight from words like octagon. Pus (or pous) means foot, though we're used to seeing it in its combining form pod in words like podiatrist and tripod.

7. Orangutan, "man of the forest"

This comes from the Malay orang (person) + hutan (forest), meaning "person of the forest." Apparently the locals didn't originally call the animals orangutans, but Europeans somehow decided that this phrase referred to the furry orange apes. In any case, now there is a Malay word orang utan, meaning orangutan, alongside the native word mawas.

8. Squirrel, "shade tail"

Squirrel goes back to Medieval Latin scurellus, a diminutive of scurius, which goes back to the Greek skia (shade) + oura (tail). Squirrels use their tails to shade their bodies, and you can often see them holding them up like tiny, fluffy parasols. 

9. Chameleon, "dwarf lion"

Goes back to the Greek chamai (ground) + leon (lion). Chamai could also mean dwarf, or "low to the ground," so a chameleon is a dwarf lion. Not sure if the lion connection was inspired by the chameleon's mane-like head outline or cool, regal disposition. 

10. Armadillo, "little armored one"

The most notable thing about the armadillo is his protective, spiky armor. We took the name from Spanish, where armado means armed. Armadillo is the diminutive of armado—so it means little, bitty armed one.

11. Flamingo, "flaming, flame-colored"

Latin flamma (flame) handed down its flam- to many words in Romance languages having to do with fire. Flamingo was formed in the Provence dialect, which would sometimes combine Latin roots (flam) with Germanic endings (–ing). The flamingo is flaming, or flame-colored. The ending used in Provençal was actually –enc, yielding flamenco, the current Spanish word for flamingo.

12. Ferret, "little thief"

Ferret can be traced back to the Latin fur, for thief. It picked up the diminutive -et in French (or -etto in Italian), giving us this name that means little thief. The name seems pretty appropriate, judging by this video titled "Ferrets Stealing Stuff Compilation 2013." 

All images courtesy of Thinkstock.

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Australia Zoo Is Taking Name Suggestions for Its Newborn White Koala
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A koala with striking white fur was recently born at the Australia Zoo in Queensland, and she already has an adoring fan base. Now all she needs is a name. As Mashable reports, the zoo is calling on the public for suggestions on what to call the exceptional joey.

The baby, who is one of several newborn koalas living at the zoo, climbed out of her mother’s pouch for the first time not too long ago. When she made her public debut, she revealed a coat of white fur rarely seen in her species. According to the zoo, the koala isn’t albino. Rather, she got her pale shade from a recessive gene inherited from her mother known as a “silvering gene.” Though the light coloration is currently the koala’s defining feature, there’s a good chance she’ll eventually grow out of it and take on the gray-and-white look that’s typical for her species.

For now, the Australia Zoo is celebrating the birth of its first-ever white koala joey by getting the public involved in the naming process. On the post announcing the zoo’s new arrival, commenters have so far suggested Pearl, Snowy, Luna, and Kao (from the Thai word for “white”) as names to match the baby’s immaculate appearance. There are also a few pop culture-related proposals, including Olaf after the character in Frozen and Daenerys in honor of Game of Thrones.

Instead of deciding the koala’s name by popular vote, the zoo will select the winner from their favorite submissions. And with nearly 5000 comments on the original Facebook post to choose from, the joey will hopefully have better luck than the animals named by the public before her. (The Koalay McKoala Face does have a certain ring to it.)

[h/t Mashable]

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Why Blue Dogs Have Been Roaming Mumbai
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Residents of Mumbai began noticing a peculiar sight on August 11: roving stray dogs tinted a light shade of blue. No one knew what to make of these canines, which were spotted in the streets seemingly unharmed but otherwise bucking nature.

Concerned observers now have an answer, but it’s not a very reassuring one. According to The Guardian, the 11 Smurf-colored animals were the result of pollution run-off in the nearby Kasadi River. Industrial waste, including dyes, has been identified as coming from a nearby manufacturing plant. Although dogs are known to swim in the river, the blue dye was also found in the air. After complaints, the Maharashtra Pollution Control Board investigated and found the factory, Ducol Organics Pvt Ltd., was not adhering to regulatory guidelines for waste disposal. They shut off water to the facility and issued a notice of closure last Friday.

“There are a set of norms that every industry needs to follow,” MPCB regional officer Anil Mohekar told The Hindustan Times. “After our sub-regional officers confirmed media reports that dogs were indeed turning blue due to air and water pollution, we conducted a detailed survey at the plant … We will ensure that the plant does not function from Monday and the decision sets an example for other polluting industries, which may not be following pollution abatement measures.”

Animal services workers who retrieved five of the dogs were able to wash off the dye. They reported that no other health issues were detected.

[h/t The Guardian]

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