Monday, September 07, 2009

On Leather Wings

Yes, I’m celebrating Labor Day with another word-of-the-week. It’s only fair, since I neglected to put one up last week. Today: further proof of the “cellar door” effect of words having a phonaesthetic beauty irrespective of what they actually mean.
vespertilionine (ves-per-TILL-ee-ahn-EEN) — adjective: of or pertaining to the bats of the subfamily Vespertilioninae, common in temperate regions and including most familiar species.
See, because I hate bats. I like Batman and I’m find with bats existing, but the notion of actually having to interact with them makes me rather uncomfortable, what with their little hands and ability to squeeze through small spaces and sense all whatnot in the dark. Vespertilionine, however, sounds beautiful. It flies from the mouth rather melodically, as opposed to the rather unpleasant way bats fly, with the flapping of their fleshy wings. The word comes from the Latin vesper, which means “evening” or “the evening star” in addition to also naming a Bond girl who in turn lent her name to an especially delicious cocktail.

This is not the first occurrence of vespertilionine on this blog. It initially appeared in the big list of fancy words for describing animals. (Herpestine means “of, like or pertaining to mongooses,” don’t forget.) I liked it so much I decided it deserved its own private to-do. I think the two other technical terms for battiness help underscore the beauty of this word: pteropine (“wing wing,” unless I’m mistaken) and Noctilionine (which slides the species timeframe from evening to night). Not nearly the aural honey.


Previous words of the week:
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