I Now Know Gnu

Present continuing past

Following on from my initial post regarding animalisine words, below as promised is the list of the animals and their corresponding animalisine word:

Toucan - passerine
Lion - leonine
Zebra - zebrine
Panda - ursine
Penguin - avian
Ostrich - ratite
Peacock - pavonine
Mouse - murine
Camel - cameline
Dog - canine
Salamander - salamandrine
Tortoise - chelonian
Deer - cervine
Monkey - simian
Bee - apian
Bird - avian
Rabbit - leporine/lapine
Owl - strigine
Cow - bovine
Porcupine - hystricine
Chicken - galline
Goose - anatine
Bat - pteropine
Gecko - lacertilian
Ostrich - ratite
Peacock - pavonine
Mouse - murine
Camel - cameline
Dog - canine
Salamander - salamandrine
Tortoise - chelonian
Deer - cervine
Monkey - simian
Bee - apian
Bird - avian
Rabbit - leporine/lapine
Owl - strigine
Cow - bovine
Porcupine - hystricine
Chicken - galline
Goose - anatine
Bat - pteropine
Gecko - lacertilian

From the foregoing, the keen-eyed will have noticed that my ‘they mainly end in -ine’ rule has a few exceptions. Well, this is English (and any other language for that matter) for you. Rules broken by exceptions prove that rule. That paradoxical idiom will be investigated at length in a future post.

Of further note:

  1. A panda is a bear and thus ursine (i.e. bear-like). I know it’s a bear as the Chinese characters for panda - 熊貓 - contain the character for bear. Pandas come from China: Q.E.D. Breaking the characters down a little further based upon my limited study of Japanese (they originally borrowed their kanji from the Chinese and some of those characters retain their original Chinese meanings upon some readings), the first character is the character for bear. The second character is the character for cat. So a panda is literally a cat-bear or a bear-cat. Either way, it is very apt.

  2. Not being able to find the animalisine word for camels, this is the closest I have. It actually relates to any material made from camel hair.

  3. The much more interesting testudine can also be used. A testudo formation was a Roman military tactic whereby soldiers used shields to form a tortoise-shell-like protective barrier against arrows. Testudo being Latin for tortoise from testa meaning a shell.

  4. I have many animalisine words for birds. Avian being the generic term and the one I picked for penguins until I discover the more accurate one.

The caption to the coo picture in the post got me thinking of the famous 1950s novelty song by Flanders and Swann:

Our friendly Muppets have a rendition for you too:

This all ties back well to the previously posted limerick. There are many (many) words in English that are not pronounced as written. However, gnu is not native English but comes from Africa. In these cases of borrowed words you really need to resort to the original language to understand how to pronounce them. For as long as I have known the gnu song - a long, long time as I recollect listening to an original Parlophone pressing back in the 1970s at my grandparents' house - I always assumed that gnu was pronounced as in the song: a hard spoken g to start. The rest of the mispronounced words being the comedy element. So it came as somewhat of a surprise to find out that I have been wrong for so long with this assumption. Having done some research for gnus for this post I finally understand how to pronounce the word: the g is silent and it rhymes with new.

I’m a ker-oo, how are you!