Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Sexiest Mollusk on the Ocean Floor

When I said last night that etymology trivia and crude sexual humor would resume this morning, you probably thought I was making a joke. Nope. From Boing Boing, deliverer of so much good information, comes the news that there exists a mollusk with an especially unfortunate name. What is it, you ask? (And thanks for asking!)

Volva Volva volva

It sounds like what a Tourette’s-stricken Jan Brady might say, but it’s the actual biological name for a species of sea snail (known less formally and slightly less humorously as the Shuttlecock Egg Cowrie) that looks a lot like what its name implies that it might.

Side by side, laid out with their shame showing, they’re damn near pornographic... if you happen to be a pre-twentieth-century marine biologist who spends all day staring at marine snails. This page, by the way, features a whole list of creatures who at some point in their existence as scientific specimens were known by names that translated to awful things, including but not limited to “misshapen penis,” “stinkiest dung smell,” “modest flasher,” and “pisspot.”

(The original Boing Boing article, by the way, centers around a fish whose scientific name honors Led Zeppelin, which is great and all but I can’t imagine Volva volva volva being mentioned in anything, ever, and not being the center of attention.)

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