Animals have been around for a long time, and humans have been naming them for a long time; their old names are interesting to say the least.
The old names of many of our favorite animals can be quite strange, odd and downright peculiar. At the same time, they’re quite funny and a hearty chuckle is a good way to start the New Year in my opinion!
Old names for land animals
For the sake of organisation, this section will include just about anything that isn’t aquatic; including bugs and birds.
Starting off strong with the ‘candle fly’ which to be honest, is quite a fitting name. Any guesses? If you guessed moth, you’d be right! It’s possible they were nicknamed candle flies because of their tendency towards and attraction to light; of course before electricity was widely used the most widespread light source was candles! So, when people saw little flying creatures hovering above and around candles, they called it as they saw it.
Yet another name fit to the behavior of the animal, next up is the ‘essence peddler’. This one is quite funny if you still find the same things funny as my eight year old niece which, if we’re being honest with ourselves, we all do. Of course, what was once known as an essence peddler is more widely known today as a skunk! In case you can’t figure it out, skunks are well known for spreading a stinky, um, essence when they feel threatened or frightened. So you could say, they peddle their essence!
Please do yourself a favor and look up some more old names for animals on your own. There’s some gems here on Mentalfloss.com which is where i got the inspiration for this article!
Old names for aquatic creatures
Moving onto the ocean, there are plenty of hilarious old names to be found here as well.
Take for instance, the lovely ‘marine tortoise’, more commonly known now-a-days as the sea turtle. You can definitely see where they were coming from with this one. A lot of people today get the two mixed up. The key distinction is that turtles are aquatic whereas tortoises are land animals. So to be fair, turtles are sort of marine tortoises if you think abstractly enough.
Even though ‘sulfur bottom’ sounds like its been pulled straight out of Dark Souls, it refers to quite a surprising animal. The blue whale is a gorgeous and gigantic animal, referred to in Moby Dick as a ‘sulfur bottom’. This name refers to the yellowish color of its belly, resembling a sulfuric hue.
See, even if these old names seem random and nonsensical they often have very rational roots. What does ‘whale’ or ‘skunk’ even mean?! It’s easy to scoff at these old names as stupid and simple, but they do make complete logical sense. They also provide some information about the animal they refer to, which is more than i can say for some of today’s boring, serious names.
Today’s takeaway is that sometimes it’s okay to be a bit silly, it can actually help much more than you might think!
Animal-Club provides animal parties or animal handling workshops. You will be able to see, learn and interact with many wonderful animals with the help of our presenters. Our mobile zoo has many friendly animals such as rabbits, tarantulas, geckos, vinegaroons and more, perfect for an animal party. We can also come over to your school for an animal school visit or arrange for an animal workshop with us where the children can learn about looking after animals and animal behaviour, and have fun too.