I am a Dove that represents
the opposite of a raven. I stand
for peace, my skin is so white,
girls admire me. What’s the big
fuss about how I look? I always
wonder about that question.
I fly up high, I always
worry someone will shoot me.
I have a lucky life. I am
harmless as can be, because I am
full of peace.
    —Julia Mayhew

This poem reminds me of the ancient Greek “cicada poem” beginning “makarizomen se tettix” (‘we bless you, cicada’), but I can’t find it online, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.

Incidentally, Julia has had her first acceptance, from Spoon River. Congratulations, Julia, and I look forward to reading it!


  1. Ms. Mayhew’s on a roll these days, methinks–that new setina’s great too.

  2. I find it instructive that doves are beloved symbols of peace while pigeons are rats with wings, but in fact they are the same critter.

  3. Yes, that’s always struck me as well. I wonder how old that distinction is.

  4. John Cowan says

    Wuddaya expect? Dove is native and probably an ablaut variant of dive; pigeon is French, from Latin pipio(nem) ‘the chirper’. You can in principle feed doves in the park or release pigeons at your wedding, but most people don’t. In any case there are 308 species (probably more by now) of them, or it. Dinosaurs, on the other hand, sing in the trees rather than chirping, though probably some of them chirped back in the good ol’ Mesozoic.

    Baked dino for dinner tonight or tomorrow, I think. Probably coated with breadcrumbs and accompanied by some sort of rice. Plus John and Gale’s Salad, a staple of our diet nowadays: spinach leaves, random other greens, grape-ish tomatoes (not cherry tomatoes), cucumber slices (on occasion, shredded carrots instead), chopped nuts (pecans at present), diced mozzarella, ranch dressing. We split most of the work, but Gale always does the dressing, as she says I put on too much.

  5. Still no dino, eating mammal. It’s in the portable Ice Age now. We’ll see.

  6. https://et.wiktionary.org/wiki/tuvi

    I like хӀвыхӀв.

  7. Does the dove/pigeon distinction exist in any language besides English? Not in any of the ones I’m familiar with.

  8. PlasticPaddy says

    Presumably the pigeon vs dove distinction was already in French (and hence borrowed into English) if not Latin, unless the use in French of pigeon for the bird drawn to statues has been taken from their English friends.

  9. David Marjanović says

    already in French

    Kinda: fr.wikt: colombe says: “(Poétique) (Littéraire) (Génériquement) Pigeon (en général de couleur blanche).”

    if not Latin

    That made me wonder what’s up with the taxonomic name Columba palumbus. Wiktionary says about palumbus: “Alternative form of palumbēs (“wood pigeon”).”

  10. I like хӀвыхӀв.

    That’s Abaza, if anyone’s wondering.

  11. Does the dove/pigeon distinction exist in any language besides English?

    The page I’ve linked to above says that, in Kazakh, кептер (an Iranian loan) refers to wild birds, while көгершін (a native word), to domestic birds.

  12. PlasticPaddy says

    These dove names look like a Wanderwort
    Columbus MAY be from a Greek word diver which itself seems to have no clear PIE etymology ( *Kel?)
    Golub comes from a proto-slavic root with maybe same PIE etymology but why final b in slavic (mbos is normal ending in greek)? Both Columbus and palumbes look “weird” in Latin, where -mbus and -mba words are often borrowings (e.g., wiktionary “explains” the form of lumbus-compare German lenden-as osco-umbrian).

  13. English also has a word for an unfledged young pigeon: squab. (For a long time, the biggest producer of them in America was the Palmetto Pigeon Plant, which was located not far from where I live.) Unusually for a word with primarily culinary significance, squab is not from French, but is actually of Scandinavian origin, although the details of the development are apparently unclear. Before it referred to young doves, the word was used to mean a “lumpy mass,” such as an uneven pillow. I would guess the connection to pigeons came through the scraggly appearance of partially fledged young birds.

  14. @Paddy: What is your problem with the Slavic /b/? The real deviation is the voiced onset compared to the unvoived onset in columba, which to me is a clear sign that it’s a wanderwort.

  15. PlasticPaddy says

    Final B in proto-slavic:
    Swadesh : words for tooth and sky (nebo ends in vowel but I give you the root)
    Birds: sparrowhawk, dove and vrobl
    Mammals: none
    So ok final b in slavic may not be unusual but the derivation of the word golub = root + suffix is not obvious to me (the other words except sparrowhawk are monosyllabic).

  16. PlasticPaddy says

    I thought the g in golub might be related to gull in English but wiktionary gives that as from Welsh gwylan = Irish faoileán from proto-celtic *wujilano. For gull wikt also mention word for yellow (but not Irish geal from PIE word for shiny). Doves (even newborn ones) are not yellow. I do not know about gulls.

  17. PlasticPaddy says

    Re squab Irish has a word scuab (main meaning broom, but also armful or sheaf) and modern Welsh is ysgubell. But these are themselves borrowings from Latin scopa. I thought swab the deck was related to scuab but experts say no.

  18. David Marjanović says

    /b/ in Slavic “dove” is in any case no weirder than in “tooth”: they both had a nasal in between – Polish gołąb, ząb.

  19. PlasticPaddy says

    I concede (already conceded ☺) point about slavic b ending. Now do you think there is a PIE explanation for golub or for other dove names?
    Status seems
    Greek: kolumbos = diver but no trace to PIE
    Latin: Columba may be borrowing from Greek; palumbes is proposed to derive from PIE root for pale (but with unusual mb- ending?)
    Slavic: golub has g instead of k and no m before b (but maybe the m was only a nasalisation reflex) in proto-slavic but no trace to PIE.

  20. David Marjanović says

    I have no idea. I suspect it was passed around between IE branches, but whether it ultimately has an IE etymology is beyond me.

  21. Slavic: golub has g instead of k and no m before b (but maybe the m was only a nasalisation reflex) in proto-slavic but no trace to PIE.
    The /u/ in Russian golub’ (NB that it’s a palatalised /b/, the genitive is golubya) goes back to a Proto-Slavic nasalised vowel, as can be seen in Polish gołąb. So the PIE transponat would be **g(h)(w)olomb(h)yo- (The bracketed “h” and “w” are meant to be superscript, but the “sup” tag doesn’t seem to work here.) But as I said, I see it as much more likely that the various words from different IE languages discussed here go back to substrate words or a wanderwort that were adapted individually into the IE languages.

  22. the “sup” tag doesn’t seem to work here

    Fortunately, there is an on-screen IPA keyboard, which includes everything needed for PIE, including plain text superscript letters, so **gʷʰolombʰyo-.

  23. Thanks!

  24. By the way, you can type into that keyboard page with your actual keyboard, you don’t have to select g or m or b with the mouse. This makes it much quicker to use, for me at least.

  25. Roberto Batisti says

    In a paper that’s just been accepted for an upcoming conference, I am going suggest a possible PIE derivation for κόλυμβος and related Greek forms, starting from the observation that the range of attested uses point to a primary meaning ‘diving’/’diver’ – the bird-name is just a specialized use of the word, pace the eymological dictionaries. Cf. κολυμβάω ‘to dive, swim’, clearly denominal but, in my opinion, *not* directly from the bird-name as such. Grebes and other aquatic birds are well-nigh universally named after their diving/swimming behavior (cf. also ‘duck’, verb and noun), rather than the opposite.

    The ultimate root etymology is, according to my modest proposal, PIE *ḱel- ‘cover, hide’, also seen in καλύπτω ‘id.’, which is sometimes used from Homer onwards in connection with submerging underwater; starting from there, I discuss a couple of possible derivational paths.

    As for Lat. columba, I think that it can be IE, but I prefer to keep it separate from the Greek word, mainly on semantic grounds. If it has the same etymology as κόλυμβος, the question arises whether doves and pigeons are significantly characterized enough by diving behavior as to justify this naming motif. There is at least the parallel of Germanic, where dove, Taube etc. are probably connected with dive, taufen, from PIE *dʰ eubʰ- ‘sink, submerge’ (cf. LIV Addenda), but it would be great to know of more cases.

  26. Pigeon, dove, squab, columba: the word missing from that list is culver, which is the only word for this bird that has been attested since Old English — the ancestor of dove actually isn’t attested before c1200, even though it has Germanic cognates. Then pigeon arrived from French, and now culver is fading away, found mostly as a surname (hello, Christopher? :), but still persisting in recent mid-sized dictionaries. Most current dictionaries take it from a Latin diminutive of columba, though OED (1893, not yet revised) didn’t:

    Of unknown origin. Old English culfre weak feminine (and ? culfer strong feminine), not known in the other Germanic languages. By Grimm thought to be derived < Latin columba; but even if we take culufre as an earlier form (in which we are hardly justified), it is not easy to connect this phonetically with the Latin word. The thoroughly popular standing of the name is also against its adoption < Latin.

    By “hardly justified”, I guess they mean that given the difficulty of dating Old English texts, it is impossible to be confident that the longer, rarer form culufre was earlier than the shorter, much more commonly attested culfre? I don’t think the dismissal because of “popular standing” holds water: it may be limited to dialectal and “popular” use in modern English — it’s in the English Dialect Dictionary — but that’s at least several hundred years after a possible borrowing, plenty of time for usage to trickle down from educated scribes, if that’s what happened.

    Of course there are plenty of very old and “popular” borrowings from Latin that are common to West Germanic languages — anchor, butter, chalk, kettle, wall, etc. — but culver has no Germanic parallels, whatever that may imply.

    Liberman’s Bibliography has a pile of citations for culver, some considering it together with cushat, a word for wood-pigeon with history since Old English but now limited to Scotland, of uncertain and disputed origin: is the cu- onomatopoeic? Or something to do with cows? Or is it a borrowing from Celtic, distorted by English folk-etymology? Liberman has a full article for that in his Analytic Dictionary; one possible connection with cows is that pigeons secrete “crop milk” that feeds their young, very unusual among birds.

    (The OED is missing “crop milk”, even though that can’t be a very recent coinage; crop is waiting for its full revision, they ought to enter it by then.)

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