Many have remarked on the poetic names of our butterflies and
moths. Their beauty fires our imaginations. Some are named after
human occupations and social rank: Emperors, footmen, a miller,
quakers, lackeys, `rustics' and chimney-sweeps. Still more are
named after animals: tigers, hawks, goats, sharks, even pug dogs.
There are species named after jewels, musical instruments, fabrics,
letters, carpets, flowers, heraldry and shells. Some names are
downright baffling. Why was one butterfly called an `admiral' and
another, an `argus'? Why, for that matter, are they called
`butterflies'? The scientific names, too, contain many allusions.
One whole subset of moths is named after weddings. Another group is
named after souls. A great many names are cherry-picked from
classical tales and legends, often with relevance to a particular
butterfly or moth. Some names are spooky, even sexy. Or funny, for
Latin names contain word games and jokes. There has never been an
accessible and comprehensive guide to the names of our butterflies
and moths, both English and Latin. This book, written with Peter
Marren's usual wit and insight, takes you on a journey back to a
time before the arts and science were divided. When entomologists
were also poets and painters, and when a gift for vivid language
went hand-in-hand with a deep pre-Darwinian fascination for the
emerging natural world.
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