MOOSE/ELK II.

A couple of years ago I wrote about the fact that the American moose is the same as the European elk (the American “elk” being an entirely different creature), citing Mallory and Adams’ The Oxford Introduction to Proto-Indo-European and the Proto-Indo-European World (which I really must read now that it’s been published). Now Bill Poser at the Log has posted on the topic, with both English and French etymologies:

English and French have less elaborate terminology for moose [than does Carrier], but interestingly, in both languages, the term used in North America is different from the term used in Europe. The term moose used in North American English is a loan from Eastern Abenaki moz, cognate to the Plains Cree word more familiar here in Western Canada, mōswa. In British English, moose are called elk, a word that goes back to Proto-Indo-European. The animal called elk in North American English is a different species, Cervus canadensis….
The Canadian French term for moose is orignal, which comes from Basque oreina “deer” via orignac, the form that the Basque word took on in the Basque-Micmac pidgin used by the Micmac and visiting Basque fishermen and whalers. The European French term, élan,is a loan from Middle High German elend, which is ultimately related to the English word elk.
The scientific name for moose, Alces alces, contains the Latin term for moose, which is a loan from some Western Germanic language. Moose are not found in Italy, so the Romans only encountered them when their conquests led them well to the North.

There is considerably more information about moose (as well as a dig at the “drunken morons hunters” who confuse them with cows) at Bill’s post, but the squeamish should be warned that there are photos of the innards of a moose being butchered.


By the way, a U.K. commenter, “Puzzled,” writes:

“In British English, moose are called elk.” Huh? I’m hoping that this is just a joke that I fail to get, rather than an assertion (about my native language) for which I cannot think of any evidence. Plenty of British people may not know for sure what an elk looks like, but I’ve never come across one who couldn’t recognise, and name, a moose, if only on the basis of dimly remembered school lessons about Canada.

Bill responds, “I guess this shows the Americanization of British English.” To which Puzzled returns: “Not Americanization so much as Canadianisation, I guess (or suppose),” only to be corrected by Skullturf Q. Beavispants:

That would be “Canadianization”. :)
(We write “colour” and “flavour” but “analyze” and “generalize”.)

(I wrote about Canadian spelling here.)

Comments

  1. I was surprised to learn a few months ago that the birds I (as an American) know as “hawks” are known everywhere else in the world as buzzards (Buteo). The birds I know as “buzzards” are New World vultures, related to condors but not to any Old World birds.
    It’s a bit like the elk/moose thing, except that in this case, both misapplied common names are European in origin. It feels odd to me to hear a word I associate with slow, ungainly carrion feeders applied to a swift, efficient hunter like a red-tail hawk.
    (An aside: The office building where I work plays host to a [collective noun] of turkey vultures, who love to ride the thermals rising off the parking lot. It’s a bit like working in an editorial cartoon about the economy.)

  2. A.J.P. Crown says:

    We do actually have hawks here in Europe, you know, and we don’t call them buzzards. There is a place in England called Leyton Buzzard (and a Kittyhawk in the USA, of course).
    An elk, or elg in Norwegian, is an enormous animal, the size of a carthorse (and with a face like a horse). I only see one about once a year, but I quite often find elgebæsj when I’m walking Topsy the dog. It looks like horse shit but smaller. In some areas here you see chainlink fence on both sides of the road for miles and miles, with once in a while a bridge over the road. This is to stop elk from getting run over, (the bridges are for migration). As usual, no one really cares about the animals but if your car were to hit an elk it would be the same as a head-on collision with another car.

  3. To further complicate things, elk, that is to say C. canadensis, is sometimes called wapiti in Canada also. I’m not certain which plains language that comes from. It’s a fairly easy division though: moose range all over Canada, the elk range largely in the Rockies and a little on the Pacific coast. In most cases, that elk is really a moose, not a wapiti.

  4. Michael Farris says:

    Judging by the pictures accompanying Scandinavian newspaper reports, the Norwegian elg and (Swedish älg) is a moose.
    They’re also found in Poland (łoś). Last year I used an article about a moose in a translation class and suggested that as a general strategy they use the word ‘moose’ (their dictionaries all had łoś as elk) as it refers to the same kind of critter while elk is liable to cause confusion for an international readership.
    Nice to get some confirmation of that.

  5. A.J.P. Crown says:

    In British English, moose are called elk
    that elk is really a moose,
    Stop it.

  6. It’s a wonder that the Australian Alps aren’t overrun by elk/moose – they seem to have made every other daft import that you can imagine. They’d call it “elko”, of course.

  7. A.J.P. Crown says:

    That’s very funny.

  8. A.J.P: I was trying to say that the birds called “hawks” in Europe are taxonomically unrelated to the birds called “hawks” in N. America. Much like the American elk is unrelated to the European elk.
    N. American hawks are closely related to European buzzards. But N. American buzzards are not related to anything in Europe, Asia, or Africa.
    European hawk (Accipiter nisus)
    N. American hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
    European buzzard (Buteo buteo)
    N. American buzzard (Cathartes aura) cf. African vulture.

  9. John Emerson says:

    “Elend”: the largest antelope is the eland (Taurotragus oryx), which gets as big as a ton.
    The European reindeer is called a caribou in the US. In WWII the Finnish snow troops used reindeer as pack animals. Reindeer have been transplanted to to a few islands in the southern hemisphere, but not to Australia, due to the unbearable things the Australians would do.
    Moose seldom come this far south in MN, but one showed up just this summer. We also had a rare bear sighting this year.

  10. John Emerson says:

    “Elend”: the largest antelope is the eland (Taurotragus oryx), which gets as big as a ton.
    The European reindeer is called a caribou in the US. In WWII the Finnish snow troops used reindeer as pack animals. Reindeer have been transplanted to to a few islands in the southern hemisphere, but not to Australia, due to the unbearable things the Australians would do.
    Moose seldom come this far south in MN, but one showed up just this summer. We also had a rare bear sighting this year.

  11. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Thanks, HP.
    I didn’t know caribou were reindeer. They’re herd animals, which elk aren’t. I went into the courtyard by the stables next door to us the other day and there hanging from the front of a huge tractor was a flayed elk split in two. Jolly nasty sight, I thought. Reminded me of a Bacon (Francis), but it had much more oomph than a painted form does.

  12. The North American elk/wapiti very similar to the Eurasian red deer, though it’s looking like they’re separate species now. If you want to put them in the same species, the name Cervus elaphus has priority.

  13. “the largest antelope is the eland”
    Eland of course being an originally dutch word, meaning “moose”.
    The overall tactic is clear: if it’s big and vaguely deer-like, but you don’t know what it is – call it a moose…

  14. American hawks are similar to owls and eat stuff like mice. Vultures eat carrion.
    I’m not sure what a buzzard is. Maybe something in an African travelogue, a little smaller than a vulture, that circles in the air waiting for a creature to die, used as foreshadowing when the Western protagonist is about to encounter danger.

  15. The Scottish moose is rather small.

  16. The Scottish moose is rather small.
    Ogden Nash?

  17. michael farris says:

    “if it’s big and vaguely deer-like, but you don’t know what it is – call it a moose…”
    No. A moose has a specific snout, not horselike, but with a characteristic overbite (for lack of a better term) and flat(tish) horns. Polish łoś and Norwegian elg have both characteristics, so they’re moose.

  18. It’s true that most New World birds with “Hawk” in their formal English-language names are in Buteo rather than in Accipiter or its closely allied genera, but then most accipitrines have trivial names with “Goshawk” or “Sparrowhawk” rather than just “Hawk”. In any case, there are some American accipitrines called “Hawk”, such as the Sharp-shinned Hawk.
    The real difference is that in American English, the lower-case term hawk can be applied informally to any accipitrid, including eagles, buzzards (in the sense “buteonines”), harriers, and even some falcons. Elsewhere it tends to be restricted to accipitrines only.
    Everywhere, vulture tends to refer to carrion-eating birds of prey, whose resemblances are the result of convergent evolution.

  19. I’m not sure what a buzzard is.
    I had always assumed that there was a connexion with bustard, whose etymology OED gives like this:

    The form bustard in 15th c. appears to be exclusively English, and looks like a mixture of the two OF. forms bistarde and oustarde, both going back to L. avis tarda, the name given to the bird, according to Pliny, in Spain. This name, if purely Latin, would mean ‘slow bird’, but ‘the application of the epithet is not understood’ (Prof. Newton), as the bird is remarkably swift on foot, and, though averse to flight, capable of great speed when compelled to take wing. Prof. Newton suggests that tarda may have been a n.; perh. avis tarda is a mere etymologizing alteration of a non-Latin name. Hence Pg. abetarda, betarda, Sp. avutarda, It. ottarda, Pr. austarda. The Eng. form bistard was of later appearance, taken directly from Fr.

    But no: buzzard has quite a separate lineage and meaning. OED’s etymology:

    a. OF. busart = Pr. buzart; cf. the synonymous Pr. buzac, It. bozzago, -agro, abuzzago, F. buse (16th c. in Littré). The mutual relation of these words is unknown; they are commonly assumed to be derived from L. buteōn-em of same meaning, but the process of formation is not evident.

    So it’s all a bit obscure. By the way, OED also has a buzzard², reassuring formed from buzz and -ard. Yes, it’s a hinsect:

    1. A name applied to various insects that fly by night, e.g. large moths and cockchafers. (Undoubted instances of its use in earlier times are wanting. Cf. buzzer¹.) [Cf. Shakes. Tam. Shr. ii. 209, where there is perh. a play on this sense. Also, the following among other passages: 1654 Gayton Fest. Notes 188 (N.) O owle! hast thou only kept company with bats, buzzards, and beetles in this long retirement in the desert.]
    1825 Hood Ode to Graham, They are wise that choose the near, A few small buzzards in the ear, To organs ages hence. 1875 Lanc. Gloss. (E.D.S.) 64 He’s olez after buzzerts and things.

    Our host will perhaps indulge me as I point out that OED also has a theism²:

    A morbid condition characterized by headache, sleeplessness, and palpitation of the heart, caused by excessive tea-drinking.

    One lump or three, vicar?

  20. “…reassuringly formed”, I meant.

  21. John Emerson says:

    I’m disappointed that no one in the Hat community has cared to mention Miss A. Elk (in America Miss A. Moose) and her theory of dinosaurs.
    Alternatively, if Miss A. Elk is American and not British, her European name should be Miss A. Red Deer.

  22. John Emerson says:

    I’m disappointed that no one in the Hat community has cared to mention Miss A. Elk (in America Miss A. Moose) and her theory of dinosaurs.
    Alternatively, if Miss A. Elk is American and not British, her European name should be Miss A. Red Deer.

  23. Last year I used an article about a moose in a translation class and suggested that as a general strategy they use the word ‘moose’ (their dictionaries all had łoś as elk) as it refers to the same kind of critter while elk is liable to cause confusion for an international readership.
    Which means the American term would get international precedence…
    I presume that the “elkhorn” should henceforth be known as a “moosehorn”? Or do we just go with “staghorn”?

  24. John Emerson says:

    By and large, the imperial vocabulary should have precedence over the vocabularies of the subject peoples. That’s what empire is all about.

  25. John Emerson says:

    By and large, the imperial vocabulary should have precedence over the vocabularies of the subject peoples. That’s what empire is all about.

  26. marie-lucie says:

    (buzzard, etc)
    There are two French words for buteo type birds, la buse and le busard, the latter derived by the addition of the Germanic origin suffix -ard. The word buzzard seems to be more likely to be from busard than from bustard.

  27. Michael Farris says:

    “Which means the American term would get international precedence…”
    In this particular case, yes. There are other times where I’d advise a British term for maximum international intelligibility (football instead of soccer for example).

  28. One summer back on the farm in Kansas, we had a giant dead oak tree that was populated by up to 30 birds that we (three generations) called “buzzards.” After googling some images, they must have been “turkey vultures”–in any case, it was a pretty creepy sight. A black kitten with 4 hernias showed up at the same time, and we attributed it’s appearance to the buzzards, and henceforth called him Buzzard.

  29. Surely you mean ‘futbol’!
    At any rate, ‘football’ is confusing in countries (many English-speaking) where soccer is not the standard form of football. ‘Soccer’ is preferable because it is unambiguous.

  30. I was surprised to learn a few months ago that the birds I (as an American) know as “hawks” are known everywhere else in the world as buzzards (Buteo)
    When Americans speak of ‘hawks’ and ‘doves’, does this difference in meaning have any implications for the perception of ‘hawks’? In most countries, as you say, the hawk is a “swift, efficient hunter”. Do Americans really see their political hawks as “slow, ungainly carrion feeders”?

  31. michael farris says:

    bathrobe, you’ve got it backwards the NAmerican buzzard is a kind of vulture, an old world buzzard is a raptor and a hawk is a kind of raptor everywhere.
    In general terms for an unknown hypothetical international (native and non-native) readers of English I’d got with football for soccer and American football for the game I think of as football. I’d deal with other games as they came up. IME soccer isn’t as widely dispersed a word as I thought a few years ago.

  32. Marie-Lucie, is a buzzard a kind of papangue? (The only bird of prey in Réunion.)
    Then, the one we have on the next island, the bird that has once been called “the rarest bird in the world” (4 individuals left in the 70s), isn’t it a buzzard as well? The Mauritian kestrel (Falco punctatus) is much smaller than its Reunionese cousin and I wonder if this is the reason why it is called a falcon instead.
    Incidentally, does someone know if there is a difference, in English English, between a hawk and a falcon?
    Furthermore, what some ill-intentioned Ferengis were calling “faux cons” — understand “neocons”, otherwise known as “hawks” — is likely to become an endangered species now, no?

  33. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    Is a buzzard a kind of papangue?
    It looks like a hawk to me. John Cowan is a real bird expert. Hawks and falcons are different, as far as I know (not much), though a falconer does the same job as a hawker (my ‘real’ name). Is the word papangue related to papegoye, the Norwegian for parrot (psittacidae)?

  34. A.J.P. Crown says:

    When I was at school ‘football’ meant Rugby Union football and I think soccer was known as ‘association’, as in Association football. What you call it all depends on which tiny neck of the woods you inhabit, unless you’re one of those who call them all a total waste of time.

  35. Furthermore, what some ill-intentioned Ferengis were calling “faux cons” — understand “neocons”, otherwise known as “hawks”…
    In Australia we use the portmanteau word bastard for that whole congeries, S-Dude.

  36. A.J.P. Crown says:

    In the 70s, Australia had a Prime Minister called Bob Hawke, but I don’t think he was much of one.

  37. There are other times where I’d advise a British term for maximum international intelligibility (football instead of soccer for example).
    This doesn’t make sense. As bathrobe points out, “soccer” is unambiguous; even if it isn’t as widely dispersed a word as you thought a few years ago, it’s still unambiguous. “Football” is quite the reverse.

  38. The Scottish moose is rather small
    Not, in the least, remotely, tall
    It’s meagre served up on a plate
    So that few Noo Yawkahs would ever dream of ordering it when out on the town because it’s quite the wrong mousse for a date.
    Ogden Gnash

  39. John Emerson says:

    In this particular case, yes. There are other times where I’d advise a British term for maximum international intelligibility (football instead of soccer for example).
    My buddies didn’t die face down in the mud so that a bunch of pacifist wimps could steal the name “football”. Football is football, soccer is soccer.

  40. John Emerson says:

    In this particular case, yes. There are other times where I’d advise a British term for maximum international intelligibility (football instead of soccer for example).
    My buddies didn’t die face down in the mud so that a bunch of pacifist wimps could steal the name “football”. Football is football, soccer is soccer.

  41. Michael Farris says:

    I understand Emerson’s point, but who among us can argue with cnn international?
    http://edition.cznzn.com/SPORT/football/
    *note, take out the z’s I had to add to get past the spam filter

  42. John Emerson says:

    Ted Turner was a big internationalist married to Jane Fonda. It will take time to root out his influence.

  43. John Emerson says:

    Ted Turner was a big internationalist married to Jane Fonda. It will take time to root out his influence.

  44. A.J.P. Crown says:

    ‘Football’ is unambiguous enough. If it’s good enough for Rugby Union, Rugby League, Australian Rules and Association football then it’s good enough for a bunch of Americans in tights and shoulder pads. Shoulder pads went out in the fucking Eighties. You got your foot and your ball, what more information DO YOU NEED? Why should everyone have to start calling football soccer? Stupid.
    Footie is a good Australian name.

  45. There is only one species that can properly be called a moose.

  46. AJP: Hawks and falcons are different
    Do you know how? (In French there is just one name for the two, faucon, whether Maltese or not — but a seagull can be a mouette (smaller) or a goéland (bigger) like Jonathan Livingston.)
     
     
    Is the word papangue related to papegoye, the Norwegian for parrot (psittacidae)?
    Might be, who knows. But Wikipédia, which incidentally says that the papangue is a busard, suggests a Madagascan origin: papangoet. The English Wikipedia page calls the bird “Reunion Harrier”. Ah, yes, harriers* with their vertical take-off and landing, another one in the already large group of Old World birds of prey. So we have buzzards, harriers, hawks, falcons, eagles, vultures. Anything else?
     
     
    * which mostly belong to the genus Circus — this is not a joke

  47. Doug Sundseth says:

    “I understand Emerson’s point, but who among us can argue with cnn international?”
    Umm, anybody sentient?
    I would argue that “football” is probably too varied in meaning to be used without qualification in an international context. (The same would not apply to “futbol”.) FWIW, MW10C reports that “soccer” was an informal abbrev. of “Assoc. Football”, and gives a date of 1889.
    I would also argue that “hockey” falls into the same category, though it always means “ice hockey” to me when unqualified.

  48. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Do you know how?
    Only from a quick look at Wiki.
    Apparently, in most parts of the world Hawk is a word that is used loosely to mean all sorts of birds of prey. In England it means a group of birds including goshawks, sparrowhawks and others. These are mainly woodland birds with long tails and good eyesight, hunting by sudden dashes from a concealed perch. (In America it means the British ones plus eagles, kites, harriers and buzzards.)
    A falcon is a bird of prey of the Falco genus with tapered wings. Kestrals and hobbies are kinds of falcon. Peregrine falcons are the fastest birds on Earth 114 miles per hour (I don’t know, 200kph?). Apparently falcons are really smart, too (up there with crows). Oh, and they can see 2.6 times as well as humans (ones who don’t need specs). I guess they are smaller than Superman, but the same kind of thing.

  49. michael farris says:

    “I would argue that “football” is probably too varied in meaning to be used without qualification in an international context.”
    In the abstract, but if you’re writing about a Polish or Italian or Portuguese football team, it’s unambiguous enough. Inn International English (including non-native speakers esp in Europe) the word unambiguously refers to the game Americans call soccer.
    Soccer isn’t nearly as widely diffused internationally.

  50. And the connection between football and hawks? Subbuteo. This popular table game (I don’t know how widely known it’s known outside the UK) consists of tiny models of footballers on rounded bases – by flicking the head of the model, a ball can be ‘kicked’ across the pitch.
    The inventor wanted to call the game Hobby, but the trademark office refused to accept that. So he called it Subbuteo, after the small hawk Falco subbuteo — the Eurasian Hobby.
    R

  51. “Incidentally, does someone know if there is a difference, in English English, between a hawk and a falcon?”
    Do you mean British English? There are more English, many of them black, in America than in Europe.

  52. In the 70s, Australia had a Prime Minister called Bob Hawke, but I don’t think he was much of one.
    Actually he was prime minister from March 1983 to December 1991. For some of that time the opposition leader was Andrew Peacock, which coincidence generated a steady buzz of politico-ornithological commentary – to say nothing of bastardry.
    Hawks and football? Apparently the Hawks are a team in the AFL (or whatever it’s called; Australian Football League?). I gave up any interest in such things at the age of six, so I can’t be sure. Perhaps some more sun-bronzed and sportive Australian will confirm or deny this conjecture.
    Speaking of hawks, falcons, and launching things high into the air, Spanish altanería and Portuguese altanaria mean both “haughtiness, pride” and “hawking, falconry”. The Spanish also means “upper air” in meteorology, according to the big Collins. The word occurs with suitable ambiguity in Gil Vicente’s Rubena:
    Clita: E vos senhor que buscais
    a Cismena,
    se por falcam vos contais
    pelarvos ha pena e pena
    veremos com que voais.
    Cantam: La caça de amor
    es daltanaria
    trabajos de dia
    de noche dolor.
    Halcon caçador
    con garça tan fiera
    peligros espera.
    Finally, we should note that the word marmalade makes a first appearance in Rubena:
    Temos tanta marmelada
    Que minha mãy maa de dar
    Also spracht Wikipedia, at least.

  53. The term ‘football’ is a generic term that covers a variety of codes. If you want to refer to a specific code, you should use the specific name:
    Rugby league
    Rugby union
    Association football (aka soccer)
    American football
    Gaelic football
    Australian rules football
    Where there is only one code, or where one code dominates over the others, the term ‘football’ will default to that code. Since soccer is dominant over many parts of the world, ‘football’ will be understood as ‘soccer’ in those places. But that is no reason for insisting that the general term should be used to refer to only one specific type of football.
    The US dollar is the best known and by far the most dominant type of ‘dollar’ in the world today, and in casual speech in many international contexts the word ‘dollar’ will be understood as ‘dollars US’. But even if the total circulation of US dollars in the world today exceeds the total circulation of all other dollars (Canada, Hongkong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, etc.) by 100:1, that would still not be a good reason for insisting that the term ‘dollar’ should be automatically used to mean ‘US dollar’. It’s a matter of accuracy, not how widespread the shorthand is.

  54. The things I learn here! When I read the reference to “The Australian Alps” I thought it was a typo for “Austrian”. I had no idea that Aussies had such a keen sense of self-mocking humour as to call their little hills “Alps”!

  55. I had no idea that Aussies had such a keen sense of self-mocking humour as to call their little hills “Alps”!
    I think the British foisted it on us.

  56. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I vote that everyone, including John Emerson, start referring to the US game as footie.

  57. “Also spracht Wikipedia, at least.”
    Well no, not really. I’m a revisor (of translations into German), so correcting people is second nature to me. It should be “Also sprach”. Or possibly “Also spricht”, if you want to use the present tense.

  58. John Emerson says:

    In American sports, whenever the referees are missing calls or the teams are playing especially badly, people ask “What is this? Australian rules?”

  59. John Emerson says:

    In American sports, whenever the referees are missing calls or the teams are playing especially badly, people ask “What is this? Australian rules?”

  60. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Damn right, Australia rules. You better believe it!

  61. Sprach, not spracht:
    Excellent! I’m very grateful for this correction.

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