Thursday, 16 May 2013

Quiet times

Sorry for another gap; we've been back up north on various errands. It's also been wet and generally inappropriate weather for moths as last night showed. A calm, sunny evening gave way to chilly temperatures and a grass frost this morning. Hence the tally in the trap: just one, this Chocolate Tip, and he or she didn't get further than the metal bulb-holder.

Space, therefore, to pass on an entertaining note from Ray Walton - my invaluable moths advisor in Comments under the name Stokeleymort - from  a piece he wrote about the book You English Words by John Moore, which Ray found at a second-hand bookshop which had obtained it in turn from the library of Dr Neville L. Birkett of Kendal, a former GP whose insect collection is important to Cumbria and is now in Carlisle's Tullie House Museum.  Here's the entomological connection - John Moore's view of the etymology of the word 'butterfly' which I discussed in a recent post about seeing a Brimstone:

Common words as well as rare ones turn out to be etymological mysteries. You might think, perhaps, that so familiar a word as ‘butterfly” must have an obvious and well-known derivation. Far from it. There are three contradictory theories. The likeliest is that the name refers to the colour of some of the commonest and earliest English species, especially the brimstone: “the butter-coloured fly.” A rather far-fetched notion, on the other hand, attributes its name to the look and consistency of its excrement. But Dr. Johnson thought the name came from the time the butterfly’s first appearance in the spring, the season of the year when butter is first made.” That was before the introduction of swedes and turnips, annual rotations, and the winter feeding of cattle. Dr. Johnson’s idea is ingenious, though it is probably wrong. He made, and admitted, a good many mistakes - as when the horsey woman indignantly asked him why he had defined “pastern” as the knee of a horse. The doctor replied cheerfully: “Ignorance, madam, pure ignorance.”

The colour of butter


Bennyboymothman said...

Such an awful year, things are really suffering from last springs drought and then the flooding during the summer months, hardly anything about in my rural garden.
Sad tims and I still here people caching not a single moth.
I have not had one Prominent yet.
All the best.

MartinWainwright said...

It's not good is it, Ben? But check out today's post. You have brought me a Swallow Prominent - a great big one, maybe grown fat on southern comfort...

Better luck!

all warmest wishes as ever