Nick Nicholas over at Ἡλληνιστεύκοντος (it’s in English, honest!) has a post on a great piece of detective work he did to track down the meaning of λαγόγηρως, a Greek word used in Suda and in a gloss to Lucian; it literally means ‘old man hare’ and apparently refers to some kind of rodent, but Nick, using the mighty powers of the internet, finds not only the word, still in use, but a photo of the creature itself, taken near Edessa in Greek Macedonia. Furthermore, it turns out that the Bulgarian word for it is лалугер (laluɡer), which looks like it’s borrowed from Greek but (as gbaloglou points out in the comment thread) could be the source of the Greek word, which would then be a hypercorrection based on folk etymology. Fascinating stuff!


  1. John Emerson says

    By the pose in the photo it looks to me like a kind of gopher, a burrowing creature, rather than a mouse of any kind. The gopher stands by its burrow and dives back in when it sees danger, and hawks are its main predator. (A “gopher” is apparently just a ground squirrel in most but not all cases. But around here we call them all gophers.)
    The European ground squirrel, found in Greece, is also called a souslik, from the Russian.

  2. For the sake of precision; hares (and rabbits) are not actually rodents. They are lagomorphs, a different taxonomic order.
    However ‘old man hare’, if it is a Ground Squirrel, is a rodent.

  3. Right, I didn’t say it “apparently refers to some kind of rodent” because of the name but because of how it’s glossed in the sources.

  4. I wouldn’t call all ground squirrels gophers. The chipmunk is a species of ground squirrel. I think only the larger, less colorful species of ground squirrel are gophers.

  5. David Marjanović says

    If it’s in Europe, it’s not a gopher. Very easy. 🙂
    Rodentia and Lagomorpha (or rather the groups that contain them and their fossil relatives: Simplicidentata and Duplicidentata) have turned out to be sister-groups after all, so taking the lagomorphs out of Rodentia wasn’t actually necessary… but tradition has got a hold in all those decades… “Order” is not defined.

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