Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mademoiselle Sheep

Today, a fact about a cute animal — and then a fact about a far less cute animal. You know, for balance.

First, the pleasant: I learned there is this word chilver that refers specifically to a female lamb. Despite growing up around sheep and having a New Zealander for a father, I’d never heard this word until today. And I only found it because it shows up in Wikipedia’s article on rhymeless English words — specifically as an obscure rhyme for silver. (Sorry, silver, you’re less special now.)

According to a few sources — including a 1976 issue of Nature and a 1912 etymological dictionary of English surnames — the word exists, and I guess that makes sense. But I’m even more surprised that I can’t find any sort of counterpart — an obscure one-word name for a male lamb. Weird, right?

Now, the less pleasant animal fact: The technical term for a group of stinkbugs is intrusion. I feel like etymological research isn’t necessary to figure out why this is.

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