Saturday, February 08, 2014

Male and Female He Created Them

Casey from Gaylord asked about animal nomenclature. Specifically, he wanted to know why male and female animals have different names, such as bull/cow, buck/doe, and cock/hen. Felicia from Fife Lake speculated that size might determine the names of animals.

In most cases, species, family, and class seem to be the dominant factors in assigning the names. Some names, however, are one-of-a-kind: chimpanzee (blackjack/empress), ferret (hob/jill), goat (billy/nanny), sheep (ram/ewe), swan (cob/pen). Another complication is that some animals have more than one name. For instance, the male turkey may be called tom, gobbler, stag, or jake (immature).

But if you study the examples below, you’ll discover that animals belonging to the same classification tend to share names.

boar/sow:  aardvark, anteater, armadillo, badger, bear, chinchilla, panda, guinea pig, jellyfish, mink, mole, otter, pig, porcupine, prairie dog, raccoon, salamander, shrew, skunk. [boar: West Germanic, 1,000; sow: L. sus, pig, 725]

bull/cow:  alligator, bison, camel, cattle, crocodile, dinosaur, dolphin, eland, elephant, elk, gazelle, giraffe, gnu, hippopotamus, komodo dragon, manatee, moose, okapi, ox, porpoise, rat, reindeer, rhinoceros, sea lion, seal, tapir, termite, vicuña, walrus, water buffalo, whale, yak. [bull: ON bole, bull, before 1200; cow: OFris , cow, before 1200]

buck/doe:  antelope, deer, gerbil, goat, hamster, hare, kangaroo, mouse, rabbit, rat, squirrel, tarsier, weasel. [bull: OE bucca, stag, 990; doe: L. damma, doe, 1,000]

cock/hen: chicken, dove, finch, guineá fowl, gull, heron, hummingbird, bluejay, Komodo dragon, lark, lobster, lyre bird, magpie, nightingale, ostrich, parrot, partridge, pheasant, pigeon, quail, raven, salmon, squid, trout.  [cock: L. coccus, 897; hen: Old Low Ger. henna, 950]

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Nook edition

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Listen to Mike’s program in real time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to and clicking on Listen Now. You’ll also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.


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