Monday, March 17, 2008

Taxonomy and Ursula the Sea Witch

In what can only be the spiritual follow-up to the post expressing my marvelation at Wikipedia's logic in centaur classification, I'm writing this to note that the official term for a half-human, half octopus creature — an entity most would just term "octo-mermaid," I'd imagine — is "Cecaelia." Sucks for girls named "Cecilia," I suppose, but good to know that the term exists, in case I ever need to identify one for a news article. Thankfully, Wikipedia as of now lacks the page "List of notable Cecaelia," but rest assured someone, somewhere is working on it.

Remember: It's not "octo-mermaid." It's "Cecaelia." Even when it's a boy, apparently. "Cecil"?


  1. Cecil. The perfect name for an octo-man, or for a child you want to ensure will be a skipping, dandylion-blowing, plaid-cropped-pant -wearing sissy.

  2. wikipedia doesn't actually explain where the word cecaelia comes from, unless I'm missing it.

  3. Anonymous10:47 AM

    You've repeated a common misconception about Ursula. She's half-squid, not half-octopus. Count her tentacles.

  4. B: I'm sure there's been a few Cecils who have grown up to exhibit appropriately manly qualities.

    Goofy: No clue where the term comes from. If I remember correctly, it was coined from a short story someone and grew in popularity only because it was the first instance of someone calling a half-human, half-octopus monster anything but just that.

    Anonymous: You're right. Damn. Six, not eight. Says Wikipedia: "Ursula is only drawn with six tentacles (in most scenes), due to the studio's budget and difficulty in coordinating eight tentacles." Who wants to be the first to coin a term for a half-human, half-squid, mermaid-like creature. Can I call it a drusilla?

  5. No, Mr Mackie, i am ever so afraid you cannot. According to said Wikipedia article, cecaelia covers both half human/half octopus & half human/squid:
    "A cecaelia (pronounced /sɨˈseɪliə/ sə-SAY-lee-ə; unrelated to Cecilia or caecilian) is a composite mythical being, appearing occasionally in art (notably from Japan), literature, and multimedia; combining the head, arms and torso of a woman (more rarely a man) and, from the lower torso down, the tentacles of an octopus or squid as a form of mermaid or sea demon."

    As for the origin of the term cecaelia, the Wikipedia article offers a hypothesis:
    "The term derives primarily from the distorted mispronounced name of a character/story title from a black-and-white comic in Vampirella Magazine featured in the early 1970s which shows a woman/octopus hybrid character called "Cilia"[citation needed]."

    Said Wikipedia article:

  6. My spelling was off tonight, but your blog reminded me of:
    and also Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent

    1. Dude. That's it. I know I am replying to this more than a year late, but I'm sure that's where the creature got its name. God bless you, Cecil the Seasick Serpent for affecting pop culture long after your heyday.