Saturday, 1 December 2012

silurid, dodo, arse

In an earlier version of this post, I wrote that silurid and Silurian were related. They're not!

Silurus lithophilus

Silurus is a genus of sheatfish, and silurid is a term for a kind of catfish.
Silurus and silurid are from Greek σῐλουρος "river fish, sheatfish", probably from οὐρά "tail" with an obscure first element. οὐρά is from PIE *ors- "buttocks, backside".

*ors- became English arse and ass. According to the American Heritage Dictionary it also became Dutch dodors (from dot "tuft of feathers" plus ors "tail"), borrowed into Portuguese as dodó, and English dodo.

Silurian has a completely different origin. It's borrowed from Latin Silures "an ancient British tribe which inhabited the south-eastern part of Wales". The OED provides this citation, which helps explain the word's connection to a geological period:
1835 Murchison in London & Edinb. Philos. Mag. July 48, I venture to suggest that..the term ‘Silurian System’ should be adopted as expressive of the deposits which lie between the old red sandstone and the slaty rocks of Wales.
I wonder what this "ancient British tribe" looked like. Could they perhaps have looked something like THIS??

No comments :