Castor fiber.

A reader writes:

Castor fiber, the Eurasian beaver, is an interesting name. This website wants to connect it to Castor. There is a line of vague defeat: “But the animal did not live in Greece in classical times (the closest beavers were north of the Black Sea), and the name probably was borrowed from another language, perhaps influenced by the hero’s name.”

This is in the wiki entry:

In the 4th century BC, Aristotle described this species under the name λάταξ/ (latax). He wrote that it is wider than the otter, with strong teeth, and at night it often uses these teeth to cut down trees on riverbanks. Ιt’s not clear when beavers vanished from Kastoria (which may have been named after the beaver – κάστορας in Greek), but as late as the 18th century they were still hunted for fur. Buffon wrote that they were very rare in Greece at that time. In the 19th century, beavers could still be found in the Alfeios river and in Mesolongi.

Grateful for any thoughts.

So: any thoughts?


  1. J.W. Brewer says

    Aristotle seems to have described the beaver as a different species than whatever he may have thought was a “castor.” The relevant passage from the translation of Book VIII of the Τῶν περὶ τὰ ζῷα ἱστοριῶν (alias “Historia Animalium”):

    “Some wild quadrupeds feed in lakes and rivers; the seal is the only one that gets its living on the sea. To the former class of animals belong the so-called castor, the satyrium, the otter, and the so-called latax, or beaver. The beaver is flatter than the otter and has strong teeth; it often at night-time emerges from the water and goes nibbling at the bark of the aspens that fringe the riversides. The otter will bite a man, and it is said that whenever it bites it will never let go until it hears a bone crack. The hair of the beaver is rough, intermediate in appearance between the hair of the seal and the hair of the deer.”

  2. Beekes’ Etymological Dictionary: “Kretschmer’s idea [beavers were named after the legendary hero] should be abandoned”. The word first occurs in Herodot writing about the North Pontic area, and Beekes seems to think that that is also the origin of the word. Latax (“name of a quadruped that lives in the water”) is probably Pre-Greek.

  3. French Wiktionary claims it relates to being shiny.

  4. Alas, I don’t think I can see the shiners tonight due to the clouds.

  5. David Eddyshaw says

    I was stupidly wondering why it was fiber rather than the surely obvious faber before the penny dropped. (I don’t remember any beavers in the De Bello Gallico …)

  6. David Marjanović says

    Beaver etymology: 1, 2, 3.

  7. We discussed possible etymologies for beaver, including Piotr’s interesting posts, at length here at the Hat. Maybe someone can track that thread down.

    I find none of the suggested etymologies convincing though, based on skepticism about the meanings of the roots. I’m pretty sure I’ve watched more live beavers than 99.9% of people, back when I owned my urban kayak business. It seems likely to be a word whose original meaning dates back so far that it was already just a name when the Core Yamnaya were trying to figure out how to found a language family.

  8. Castor oil may play a role?

  9. Beaver etymologies were in Taboo Deformation and the Bear.

  10. The name Castor is an interesting one; it seems to be formed from the root of κέκασμαι “excel”, which otherwise is mostly found in women’s names: Κασσάνδρα, Κασσιόπη, Ἰοκάστη, Παγκάστη, Μηδεσικάστη, Πολυκάστη, Ἐπικάστη, Ναυσικάα… Not sure what to make of that (or indeed whether all these really contain the same root).

  11. Trond Engen says

    @ Ryan: Also prompted by Etienne in 2013.

  12. Trond Engen says

    I’m pretty sure I’ve seen an etymology of castor relating it to castor oil (or maybe the glands, I don’t remember), but I can’t find it now.

  13. David Eddyshaw says

    “Kretschmer’s idea [beavers were named after the legendary hero] should be abandoned”

    Yes indeed. It’s a load of Pollux.

  14. Trond Engen says

    TR: seems to be formed from the root of κέκασμαι “excel”

    “Be diligent or industrious”? You could argue that that’s a semantic parallel to Piotr’s “beaver” etymology.

  15. I don’t think “be diligent” is really part of the semantic field. It seems to mean “excel, surpass”, often transitively with acc. of person and dat. of means (or rather, respect in which one excels). Apparently there’s also a meaning “be adorned”, which doesn’t seem obviously related; I wonder if two PIE roots (*ḱend- “excel”, based on Skt. pf. śāśad-, and the ­*ḱens- “adorn” posited for κόσμος, though neither seems particularly secure) have gotten mixed up here.

  16. It is interesting that the Romans managed to erode the inherited names for the hero-twins down to two Latin words, neither of which seem heroic. Children let me tell you the glorious deeds of the warriors Beaver and Thumb!

  17. Wait, what?

    >Pollux took part in a boxing contest and defeated King Amycus of the Bebryces

    >Sergent suggests that the name Bebryces could be related to the Celtic tribes Bebruces, living in the Pyrenees, and Briboci, dwelling in Britain,[8] all ultimately stemming from Proto-Celtic *brebu (‘beaver’; see Gaulish bebros, bebrus, Old Irish Bibar, ‘beaver’).

  18. Michael Hendry says

    There are two other Latin words that look as if they might be related to castor, ‘beaver’:

    1. castrare, ‘to castrate’. Beavers were thought to castrate themselves to evade hunters. Might the verb be derived from the noun, or vice versa? In Juvenal 12.33-35, a rich man caught in a storm at sea throws some of his valuable goods overboard to lighten the ship, imitatus castora, qui se / eunuchum ipse facit cupiens euadere damno, “imitating the beaver, who makes himself a eunuch, desiring to escape with a loss”. The idea is that the hunter will stop to pick up the testicle, which is what he wanted, and let the beaver escape. Might castor have originally meant “eunuch-beast”, as if castrator, or castrare meant ‘to act like a beaver’? Objection: humans usually did it to someone else – a handsome boy or talented boy-soprano – while beavers (supposedly) do it to themselves.

    Here’s E. Courtney’s comment on Juvenal with some of the abbreviations expanded: “For this fable about the beaver cf. Phaedrus, Appendix 28, Pauly-Wissowa s.v. Biber 400.58, Dioscorides 2.24. This animal was hunted for the medicinal castoreum (Pliny Natural History 8.109), which in fact did not come from the testicles; Aelian On the Nature of Animals 6.34 explains that the fable arose because the beaver can retract its testicles to make them invisible.”

    2. castrum, ‘fort’, much commoner in the plural (castra) as (singular) ‘army base, camp’. What animals build fortifications? Lots of birds make elaborate nests, and hornets and other wasps make nests very useful for defense against those trying to kill them. But I can’t think of another mammal that builds something more like a military fortification than a beaver dam. Have I forgotten something obvious? So, might a fort be a metaphorical beaver dam, or a beaver dam a metaphorical fort?

    Could all three words be etymologically connected? If so, which comes first? Presumably castor, since Greek κάστωρ goes back to Herodotus.

  19. PlasticPaddy says

    Must one of them come first? They could be all parallel formations.

  20. As the reader who asked Stephen for some insights, thanks for all these ideas. The fort idea is very engaging – and if it were carrying a moniker like that from earliest latin times, seen throughout the empire, no doubt consumed over the fire – it would slip straight into the Linnaean. The fort animal feels more plausible than the hero Gemini twin healer. The website I referred to in my query has Castor as something of a healer – but I found little else to back that up. Unless I have missed something??

    Hildegard von Bingen’s physica – confirm the error made in Aesop’s fable (Perry Index 118); the testicles, drunk in warm wine, will check fever.  Besides the wrong body part, she is correct.  Castoreum contains significant salicylic acid.  Possibly the Mycenaeans were warming up the glands in wine to deal with headaches and period pains in 1200BC and Castor was then stuck on the beaver, but it feels odd.

    The connection to castor oil – that being a plant extract – ‘apparently’, it has some properties in common with the castoreum from the beaver’s glands. Naming an animal after a plant extract also feels a little back-to-front.

    One would think an animal hunted for meat / fur / some oil that has medicinal uses, would have found a ready-to-use name and the outstanding character – it builds stuff, with wood, brilliantly – will have found its way into the earliest common name – so fort looks good. But the root – One who excels – can someone share that source ? It clearly does excel- at building forts.

    I have just opened the last post… thank you plasticpaddy. Gosh – its all in there.. But being entirely a novice – is the scholarship for this rock solid? It is impressive.. and gets us to fort too.

  21. Stu Clayton says

    This discussion about Castor and Pollux reminded me of Cain and Abel. In the DNB I read this about Jessie White Mario: “she hated [her father’s] biblical humbug (noting, for instance, in her diary that Abel was preferred to Cain only because God liked roast lamb better than greens)”. Perhaps the etymology of castor has been obscured by a dietary idiosyncrasy ?

  22. Trond Engen says

    @MH, @PP: I was going to say that all these words could be united in something like “cut”. The semantics of Latin castrare is much more general than just “castrate”. Greek κάστωρ looks like a straightforward agent noun. If Greek κάστον “tree, wood” primarily means “timber”, the noun might also have taken a secondary meaning of “builder” parallel to German Zimmermann/Zimmerer.

    Sanskrit kastūrī “musk” (mentioned by Wiktionary) smells of a trade word, e.g < Greek καστόριον.

  23. I think this feels right – above – castrare.

    Also – the link from plasticpaddy gives us a latin adjective Castus. Both coming from the kes root.

    castus looks so relevant to the Beaver’s appearance in Aesop’s fables (Perry Index 118) where it will cut off its testicles and throw them at the hunter, to give him what he seeks. This naming would have happened once Latin was up and running – but well inside the early Christian context – the animal that Aesop has self-castrating…

    castus (feminine casta, neuter castum, comparative castior, superlative castissimus, adverb castē); first/second-declension adjective
    1. morally pure, guiltless, spotless synonyms, antonyms ▲Synonyms: innoxius, īnsōns, innocēns
Antonyms: reus, obnoxius, noxius, cōnscius

    2. especially in regard to sexual morality: pure, chaste, unpolluted, virtuous, continent quotations ▼
    3. pure, free from barbarisms
    4. in a religious context: religious, pious, holy, sacred

    the link to the Gemini Castor doesn’t feel so plausible. He’s not much referred to as a healer – which is one part of that claim. Also the medicinal properties of castoreum – would they have been so well understood to have dubbed this animal a healer after a Greek divinity.

    The Aberdeen Bestiary and other medieval manuscripts have lots of imagery of beaver’s self-castrating.

    But those are not testicles, and Aesop is confusing gonads with the oil secreting glands that produce the castoreum – giving a raspberry scent when diluted with alcohol. Apparently still in use in whiskey making.

    Castor. Castrate. Castus. Chaste.

    Does this look plausible?

  24. J.W. Brewer says

    Aristotle’s “latax” does not seem to be in current scientific use. Apparently there were various proposals in the 19th-century to use “Latax” as the official name for a genus of otters (perhaps sea otters?), with different proponents maybe not all having the same genus in mind, but it didn’t stick and rival taxonomic nomenclature eventually prevailed.

  25. Trond Engen says

    Latax gloves (for the kinky).

  26. David Marjanović says

    Taboo Deformation and the Bear.

    That thread again! I started reading, then it dawned on me I was going to be stuck there all evening…

  27. Michael Hendry says

    It’s too bad latax is only found in Greek (λάταξ), and only once to mean ‘beaver’ or some similar animal. (Otherwise it means “the drops of wine in the bottom of the cup which were thrown into a basin with a splash” in the game of kottabos. It would take a bold etymologist to even try to connect those two meanings!)

    If it were Latin, the etymology would be transparent, and arguably appropriate to a beaver. Latin adjectives made from a verb stem + -ax (genitive -acis) mean “prone to doing [whatever the verb means]”. Many have come straight into English as ‘-acious’ adjectives: ‘rapacious’ (prone to grab), ‘capacious’ (prone/fitted to contain), ‘tenacious’ (prone to hold), ‘mendacious’ (prone to lie), and so on. (I once told a high-school Latin class I thought all English adjectives ending in ‘-acious’ came from Latin, and a male student said “Even bodacious?”. After that, I always said “almost all”.)

    Anyway, since lateō (infinitive latēre) means ‘hide, lurk’, Latin latax* would well describe an animal that is prone to lurking. (The example of tenax shows that it would not be lateax*, despite the verb being 2nd conjugation.) Some might object that most animals other than some apex predators spend most of their time lurking, and beavers build clearly visible dams. Then again, they do spend a lot of time underwater, and even if you know their dens are under their dams, that still leaves a very large area where a given den might be. Is that enough to make them prototypical ‘lurkers’? It doesnt matter, since latax is not in fact Latin.

  28. It would take a bold etymologist to even try to connect those two meanings!

    Such an etymologist was Otto Keller: “λάταξ bezeichnet sicherlich zunächst die »Flüssigkeit« des Bibergeils, für welches auch der Name μόσχος, Moschus, überliefert ist”. Beaver castor does seem to be a kind of brownish gunk, so not quite entirely unlike wine dregs?

  29. Stu Clayton says

    I thought all English adjectives ending in ‘-acious’ came from Latin, and a male student said “Even bodacious?”.

    In a sense you were right after all, according to Collins:

    [1835–45; prob. to be identified with dial. (Devon, Cornwall) bo(w)ldacious brazen, impudent, b. bold and audacious]

  30. Trond Engen says

    TR: Beaver castor does seem to be a kind of brownish gunk, so not quite entirely unlike wine dregs?

    The word could be descriptive of the substance rather than the matter. Like gunk.

    (Or, with s-mobile, skunk.)

  31. Michael Hendry says

    Somehow I had never thought of applying the adjective ‘bodacious’ to Otto Keller. Probably because it seems to have changed it’s meaning over the years. It’s been decades since I’ve heard it used, but didn’t some Gomer or Jethro on television refer to a beautiful woman as ‘bodacious’? Presumably the first syllable made him think it had something to do with having an excellent bod(y). High school students always giggle when they hear about Hamlet’s “bare bodkin” and are visibly disappointed when they learn it has nothing to do with mammalian nudity and refers to an unsheathed knife.

  32. λάταξ bezeichnet sicherlich zunächst die »Flüssigkeit« des Bibergeils, für welches auch der Name μόσχος, Moschus, überliefert ist

    Thanks to TR for mentioning this! An interesting topic.

    This etymology for λάταξ ‘beaver’ would be a parallel to one of the etymologies offered for Arabic زباد zabād ‘civet’ (apparently originally designating the substance, not the animal). This etymology takes zabād from the root zbd relating to notions of churning, foaming, frothing, producing a scum, butter, etc., and associates zabād ‘civet’ to زبد zabad ‘foam, froth, dross’, زبد zubd ‘fresh butter (as opposed to ghee)’, زبدة zubda ‘fresh butter (as opposed to ghee); choicest part, cream, flower (metaphorically); essence, essential point’, mizbad ‘butter churn, calabash for storing butter, etc.’, etc. Note the look of high quality civet in commerce here, and the raw stuff halfway down the page here. (And note too the description there of its taste: ‘I know it will be hard to believe, but the paste actually tasted better than it smelt, at least relatively speaking. The first and main sensation was butteriness, something a little like Vaseline in texture, except significantly oilier. There was a leathery taste but, also, to my confusion, a definite floral aroma.’) Raw, concentrated civet, besides being mucky, has an unpleasant fecal smell, and only upon dilution does it become pleasant. It is not hard to find 19th century accounts of civet being heavily adulterated with butter or fat in commerce, either.

    The OED (NED) entry for civet has not been revised since 1889:

    The Arabic lexicographers connect the word with zabada to cream, foam, zubd froth, cream, zubbād cream, etc., as if originally applied to the secretion; but Devic inclines to think that there is a mere accidental coincidence between these words and the name of the quadruped, which was perhaps adopted from some African language.

    Here is Devic’s account, p. 96–97. I suspect Divec gets the word nzimé from Buffon (page 346 here) writing in middle of the 18th century. I looked briefly and tried to figure out what language and what form might be intended. I found one source saying that ‘civet’ in Kikongo is kikodi, but nothing more…

  33. Christopher Culver says

    This post reminds me of my first visit to Kastoria in 2013: the town was a wasteland of boarded-up shops, a victim of the Greek economic crisis. Except for the many fur shops: they seemed to be doing a roaring trade, and I was told that wealthy Russians came to shop there. (Kastoria has since recovered, albeit perhaps only slightly.)

  34. Trond Engen says

    The name of a traded product can replace that of the species it’s made from. It’s mostly known from furs and timber, I think, but why not also secretes? The beaver, then, might have been (re)named for its fur, its tail, and its musk — maybe all of those at different times and places.

  35. As mentioned above, Beekes on Castor and the beaver:

    Since Kretschmer 1909:121-3, it has been assumed that the name Κάστωρ, who was known as σωτήρ of woman, was transferred to the beaver, presumably because of the medicinal effect of castor for women’s diseases. This idea has been uncritically taken over, and in fact Kretschmer gives no specific argument. Gantz 1993: 323-328, who discusses the Dioskouroi rather extensively, mentions nothing about a relation with the beaver, so Kretschmer’s idea should be abandoned.

    Kretschmer’s publication of his proposal can be found here, p. 122–123. Kretschmer makes reference to Greek and Roman use of castoreum as an emmenagogue and as an expellent of the afterbirth, which is described by Dioscorides(!). And Gantz for his part does not go into Indo-European comparisons involving the Dioskouroi at all. But there is something of interest in such comparisons that may contribute to the question of the relationship between the mythic figure of Castor and the beaver.

    On the etymology of the name Κάστωρ, see now the excellent summary by Laura Massetti here (scroll down and click to open the tab for Κάστωρ).

    In Vedic and Hindu myth, too, there is a pair of Divine Twins, the Ashvins. Again, like Dioskouroi, they are associated with healing. Compare also the following from the entry for Νέστωρ at the same site:

    In the Rig Veda the twin gods are for the most part viewed as an identical pair, and their two dual names thus each designate both twins. But the diction of the Rig Veda contrasts the two names in a way that correlates with distinctions between the twins found in Sanskrit epic in two of the heroes of the Mahabharata. The five heroes of the poem are all sons of different gods, and the two youngest are sons of the twin gods. One son, Nakula, is characterized as a warrior and is associated with horses, the other son, Sahadeva, is characterized as intelligent, and is associated with cattle. In a series of texts in the Rig Veda the two names of the twin gods are differentially associated with cattle and horses, the name Aśvinā ‘horsemen’ being associated with horses, and the name Nāsatyā ‘saviors’ being associated with cattle. The two Vedic names can thus be paired with their two epic sons, such that Aśvinā properly designates the father of Nakula and Nāsatyā properly designates the father of Sahadeva.

    Note especially the Homeric Hymn to the Dioskouroi on this point:

    Τυνδαρίδας, Λήδης καλλισφύρου ἀγλαὰ τέκνα,
    Κάστορά θ᾽ ἱππόδαμον καὶ ἀμώμητον Πολυδεύκεα

    The Tyndarids, splendid sons of Lēdē of beautiful ankles:
    Kastōr, tamer of horses and blameless Poludeúkēs.

    The following are some more facts, interesting in regard to the Greek and Roman conception of the Dioskouroi and their relation to women, and to the Indian conception of the sons of the Ashvins. Note for example, Aulus Gellius 11.6 expressing the feeling of his time about the oath mēcastor:

    In veteribus scriptis neque mulieres Romanae per Herculem deiurant neque viri per Castorem. Sed cur illae non iuraverint Herculem, non obscurum est, nam Herculaneo sacrificio abstinent. Cur autem viri Castorem iurantes non appellaverint, non facile dictu est. Nusquam igitur scriptum invenire est apud idoneos quidem scriptores aut mehercle feminam dicere aut mecastor virum; edepol autem, quod iusiurandum per Pollucem est, et viro et feminae commune est. Sed M. Varro adseverat antiquissimos viros neque per Castorem neque per Pollucem deiurare solitos, sed id iusiurandum fuisse tantum feminarum ex initiis Eleusinis acceptum; paulatim tamen inscitia antiquitatis viros dicere edepol coepisse factumque esse ita dicendi morem, sed mecastor a viro dici in nullo vetere scripto inveniri.

    In our early writings neither do Roman women swear by Hercules nor the men by Castor. But why the women did not swear by Hercules is evident, since they abstain from sacrificing to Hercules. On the other hand, why the men did not name Castor in oaths is not easy to say. Nowhere, then, is it possible to find an instance, among good writers, either of a woman saying “by Hercules” or a man, “by Castor”; but edepol, which is an oath by Pollux, is common to both man and woman. Marcus Varro, however, asserts that the earliest men were wont to swear neither by Castor nor by Pollux, but that this oath was used by women alone and was taken from the Eleusinian initiations; that gradually, however, through ignorance of ancient usage, men began to say edepol, and thus it became a customary expression; but that the use of “by Castor” by a man appears in no ancient writing.

    In one incident in the Mahabharata, the Pandava brothers walk out of their kingdom’s capital to go into exile. Each brother walks out of the city in a way illustrating his character. For instance Arjuna, son of Indra (known as an archer; his bow is the rainbow) walks out while picking up and throwing handfuls of gravel from the road, which suggests how his arrows will rain down upon his enemies after his exile. (This makes a nice picture of steaming frustration when you think about it.) Nakula’s twin Sahadeva streaks his face with mud or the like “so as not to be recognised”. And then Nakula comes:

    नाहं मनांस्याददेयं मार्गे स्त्रीणामिति प्रभो
    पांसूपचितसर्वाङ्गो नकुलस्तेन गच्छति

    nāhaṃ manāṃsy ādadeyaṃ mārge strīṇām iti prabho
    pāṃsūpacitasarvāṅgo nakulas tena gacchati

    Lest on the road he should steal the hearts of the women,
    Nakula has covered his whole body with dust and in this guise goes with him.

    Nakula is the most handsome and attractive man among all the Pandavas and Kauravas. The dossier can be expanded with details like this.

    How do these details relate to the problem of κάστωρ ‘beaver’ and Κάστωρ? It is very odd that the name Nakula literally means ‘mongoose’, another medium-sized mammal whose pelt is valued for certain uses, as making brushes. Mongoose species were familiar animals to the composers and audience of the Mahabharata, while the Eurasian beaver if known at all might perhaps just have been a fur pelt from an unknown animal originating in the far north, and the alleged source of fragrant castoreum, I imagine. In India, the family of English beaver, Avestan baβra-/baβri-, Latin fiber, Russian бобр, etc., is represented by Vedic babhrú-, a color adjective meaning ‘dark brown, reddish brown, tawny’. The derivative babhruká- means ‘brownish’, while its substantivization bábhruka- means not ‘beaver’ but ‘(a species of) mongoose’. Later, in Sanskrit (in the Mahabharata, for instance), babhru- can mean simply ‘mongoose’. Soin the Mahabharata, the instantiation of the Divine Twin especially associated with horses and women in various ways is named ‘Mongoose’, and the similar member of the Twins in Greek is named ‘Beaver’.

    In their respective traditions, there are a few other isolated names like this—names that simply identical to the common word for an animal, with nothing else added (as opposed to the common type of theriophoric names like Hippolyta or Lykourgos). In the Mahabharata, I can think of Śakuni, the crafty maternal uncle of the primary antagonist of the Mahabharata. His name originates as a Vedic word for a certain kind of large bird that also figures in augury (and whose reflex in Hindi is सौन saun ‘favorable omen’). In Greek myth, there is Kyknos, literally ‘Swan’, for example (totally unrelated to śakuni). But it is not a common pattern.

  36. Trond Engen says

    @Xerib: Wow. Thanks!

    In Greek myth, there is Kyknos, literally ‘Swan’, for example (totally unrelated to śakuni).

    Are we sure about that?

    But it is not a common pattern.

    Wiktionary on κύκνος adds ON Hǿnir (about whom I have fantasized before).

  37. Stu Clayton says

    The “about whom” doesn’t whom in. Another vexing case of the Missing Link.

  38. A site search produces “Your search – ‘Hǿnir’ – did not match any documents.”

  39. Well found! Trond fantasized here and here.

  40. Trond Engen says

    Oh yes. I tried to link to the former. The latter should probably not be read without a solid foundation in Scandi-Congo linguistics.

    But that’s just an aside. The real fun here is the Indo-Greek parallels.

    Edit: @MMcM: Oh, there too. Thanks!

  41. David Marjanović says

    Are we sure about that?

    *kokʷn- would do the trick AFAIK, but ironically it would leave out Hœnir.

  42. Trond Engen says

    Yeah, I realize that Hœnir doesn’t fit.

    Wouldn’t the initial have to be palatal?

  43. Whether or not their myth originated that way, the Anglo-Saxon conquerors Hengist and Horsa look like they were later syncretized with the Mediterranean-influenced Dioskouroi during the Viking Age.

  44. David Marjanović says

    Wouldn’t the initial have to be palatal?

    Oops! Palatalized, yes.

  45. Trond Engen says

    The association of Kastor with childbirth reminded me of the idea of the afterbirth as a guardian spirit or spiritual twin. Now David E. reminded us about that in — you know that Kusaal thread. I wonder if the different degree of divinity of the two twins in the Indo-Greek twin myth could be a reminiscence of the birth/afterbirth pair.

    But what has afterbirths got to do with beavers? Could they be homonyms? Birth and beaver could both be from *bher-. Maybe there was more than one way to use reduplication?

    Or just think about the semantics of labour.

  46. Stu Clayton says

    But what has afterbirths got to do with beavers? Could they be homonyms?

    Of course ! Beavering away at parturition.

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