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Posted By: NicholasW echidna - 12/19/00 02:34 PM
Does anyone know why an echidna is so named?

Easy variant: Does anyone know what an echidna looks like? Yes, that was easy, it looks exactly like a hedgehog. Here are some things it looks nothing at all like: a camel, a crab, a viper, a horse.

What is the Greek for 'hedgehog'? It's echinos. What is the word right next to that in a Greek dictionary? It's echidna, which means 'viper'.

What is my theory? That some enthusiastic junior zoologist in the 1820s with small Greek got it wrong and they've been covering up for him ever since.

Posted By: tsuwm Re: echidna - 12/19/00 03:45 PM
you are not alone...

http://www.ris.net/~yarberry/Brett1697/mam4.html

Posted By: NicholasW Re: echidna - 12/19/00 04:00 PM
Aha!! [triumph]

And I always thought the species names Tachyglossus and Zaglossus were shonky attempts to deepen the cover-up: sort of "'tis tongued like a viper" -- "very like a viper".

I once wrote to Stephen Jay Gould about this very matter. When I got to the crucial phrase and they've been covering up ever since I even burst into green biro to let him know I was serious. He must have been very busy at the time. What with not replying and all.
Posted By: Marty Re: echidna - 12/19/00 08:53 PM
>Yes, that was easy, it looks exactly like a hedgehog.

Not to my eye, it don't, especially the front end, although I can't claim to have seen a hedgehog in the flesh.

http://yoyo.cc.monash.edu.au/~tzvi/Echigall.html

I've probably seen a grand total of 15 or so echidnas in my 42 years, so it's always a special moment when it happens. They are quite timid and, if no other refuge is available, tend to burrow into the nearest soil with a few powerful sweeps of their paws, which have long curved claws ideally suited for the task.

And what's the only other monotreme? (Hint on the picture page for those that need it.)

Posted By: of troy Re: echidna - 12/19/00 09:12 PM
I know-- Mr. platypus-- Ozzie's do have some of the most interesting animals. but

we have marsupials here, too. possums (opossums) live in my neighborhood..More down Jackie's way(I suspect)-- but I've seen them out and about late at night.

Posted By: stales Re: echidna - 12/19/00 11:32 PM
(Heard this 25 years ago, so apologies if the truth turns out to be a little different...)

Apparently the first European descriptions of Australia's large flightless bird referred to "an emu-like creature", emu being Portuguese for ostrich!!

With a minimal Portuguese population here (I can't recall ever meeting a Portuguese Australian), I guess the name went without being questioned and it's stuck. If my memory serves me correctly, the original name (well, in the Sydney dialect anyway) is "Marayong" - hence the name of the suburb near Blacktown.

stales

Posted By: Jackie Re: echidna - 12/20/00 01:15 AM
Marty, what a wonderful link! Thank you!
I guess Monash U is in Australia?
Yes, of troy, we have lots of possums here. There's even a secluded street near me called Possum Path.

Posted By: Marty Re: echidna - 12/20/00 01:23 AM
>I guess Monash U is in Australia?

Yes, Jackie, one of several in my home town of Melbourne as it happens. I must admit that I'm getting so blasť with web searches that I just Googled for echidna, found the pics and posted the link without even looking at where it came from!

Posted By: Capital Kiwi Re: echidna - 12/20/00 08:59 AM
I once wrote to Stephen Jay Gould about this very matter ... He must have been very busy at the time. What with not replying and all. (Cut down to please Jazz. What it is to be young and impatient).

Yah, not surprising that you didn't hear back from SJG. He's too busy fighting off the hosts of that force for evil, sociobiology. Must be tough for him too, what with sharing even the cockroaches with his lifelong professional enemy every working day ...

Posted By: NicholasW Re: echidna - 12/20/00 12:04 PM

>Yes, that was easy, it looks exactly like a hedgehog.

Not to my eye, it don't, especially the front end, although I can't claim to have seen a hedgehog in the flesh.


Oh come on, given a choice between a hedgehog and a viper!?

Well I've seen both very close up in the wild... hang on, I've never seen a viper that close... perhaps I'm missing something that becomes blindingly obvious then.

Posted By: TEd Remington Re: echidna - 12/20/00 02:46 PM
It is so named because the first person to see one drew a picture of it and sent it to a friend in New York. The friend was very puzzled and showed the picture to his neighbor, who was perplexed to the point of asking about the artist, "'E kidd'n ya?"

Posted By: tsuwm Re: echidna - 12/20/00 03:16 PM
>"'E kidd'n ya?"

Dinsdale!!
   {MP reference #37}


Posted By: NicholasW Re: echidna - 12/20/00 04:31 PM
And what be 'e doin' when 'e saw it?

Spyin' 'e an' titter.

Posted By: TEd Remington Dinsdale - 12/20/00 06:02 PM
>>"'E kidd'n ya?"

> Dinsdale!!

> {MP reference #37}

tsuwm:

You lost me. Entirely.

TEd

Posted By: TEd Remington Re: echidna - 12/20/00 06:07 PM
>And what be 'e doin' when 'e saw it?

> Spyin' 'e an' titter.

Back in the 30s an English judge visited one of the English colonies in Africa somewhere well south of the equator. The local jurists were quite proud of their justice system, patterned after the Englush system. The judge sat and watched the berobed and bewigged jurists but was somewhat taken aback by two things. First, many of the women in the audience were somewhat underdressed by English standards, wearing nothing from the waist up. Secondly, at random intervals, a man, laughing maniacally, would dash through the courtroom, slapping three or four of the women on their bare breasts.

After the court adjourned, the English fellow inquired about this activity. "But Sir James," he was told, "we've taken this directly from several English novels about court proceedings. Every one of them had the sentence, 'An amused titter ran through the courtroom.'"

Posted By: Marty Re: echidna - 12/20/00 09:52 PM
Oh come on, given a choice between a hedgehog and a viper!?

Yeah, OK, when you put it like that. This thread brings to mind the story of the naming of a little-known Australian snake. In one of his shore trips during Cook's 1770 expedition, Sir Joseph Banks noted a small snake unlike any that had been observed before. Turning to his colleague Dr Green he said, "Vincent, I'm going to name this one after you." And so he did.

The Vince Green Viper.

Posted By: tsuwm Re: Dinsdale - 12/21/00 12:40 AM
in the "Dinsdale" episode of Monty Python's F.C. we hear the fascinating tale of Doug and Dinsdale Piranha, founders of a notoriously violent gang, known as "The Gang". Dinsdale was, well, a bit Dim, and had the notion that he was being followed by a giant hedgehog named Spiny Norman. all we ever saw of Norman was the typical Terry Gilliam cartoon cutout of a hedgehog, in background, yelling "Dinsdale". you had to be there.

http://bau2.uibk.ac.at/sg/python/Scripts/ThePiranhaBrothersStory

Posted By: Faldage Re: Dinsdale - 12/21/00 02:42 PM
Noice boad yer ga' 'ere. Be a shoim if summat was te 'appen to it.

Posted By: Bobyoungbalt Re: echidna - 04/02/01 04:56 PM
the other monotreme
Speaking of platypuses (platypi? platypodes?), I saw a short piece in this morning's newspaper stating that Oz will issue a new 20-cent coin replacing the picture of a platypus with the late cricketeer Sir Donald Bradman.

There's really glory for you!

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