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.)