My sons’ nicknames for me are either word-nerd or bird-nerd, depending on which conversational topic I’m trying to engage them in. On this occasion, we’re in the centre of that Venn diagram...
Birds' names in other languages
In Spanish, bird names range from the familiar:
Paloma = dove
Flamenco = flamingo
... to the fantastically onomatopoeic:
urraca = magpie. (Try saying it out loud with an enthusiastically rolled ‘rr’ sound)
... via the simply excellent "pájaro carpintero". Yes, woodpeckers are 'carpenter birds'.
In French, everything just sounds so elegant: bergeronnette (pied wagtail) hirondelle (swallow), and rossignol (nightingale) which you might recognise from the brand of ski-gear. Edith Piaf's nickname was le moineau, sparrow.
And in German, the taxonomy can be wonderfully descriptive, and sometimes even give an insight into the origins of birds' English names. Peregrine and 'pilgrim' share the same root, so the German 'Wanderfalke' fits nicely: 'a wandering falcon'. Similarly, if Adler is German for eagle, I'm sure you could work out that Fischadler is an osprey. Can you guess what these birds are from their literal translations?
Zaunkönig (fence king)
Mauersegler (wall sailor)
Eisvogel (ice bird)
Lachmöve (laughing gull)
I won't ask for answers on a postcard. They are:
Wren, swift, kingfisher, black-headed gull.
While we're here, an honourable mention for the chiffchaff's German counterpart, known there as Zilpzalp. Same idea, different accent.
I'd love to hear of interestingly-named birds in other languages...
Andrew Wenger, self confessed nerd of words and birds, is the founder and lead teacher of SameSky Languages. If you would like to find out more about any aspect of learning French, German, Spanish, Italian or Japanese, please make contact here: contact SameSky