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Dogs - canaries

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36896.  Sun Dec 04, 2005 9:02 am Reply with quote

This was news to me until yesterday...

Question: After which animals are the Canary Islands named?
Forfeits: Canaries, Norwich Football Association
Answer: Dogs.

The Canary Islands get their name from the Latin name for the largest of the Islands, which they named 'Isle of Dogs' (Insula Canaria) after the large numbers of dogs - both wild and domesticated - that they they found there. Although now a Spanish dependency, the natives of the islands are thought to have been Berbers, who migrated from North Africa to evade the Roman occupation of the area. They were a shepherding people, hence their canine requirements in the rocky and steep lands where sheep and goats can easily get out of reach.

The emblem of The Canaries even shows two dogs rampant:

The Islands have been somewhat tentatively identified in a number of ancient texts: Homer possibly refers to them as The Elysian Fields, where soldiers go when they die, and Pliny the Elder mentiond the The Fortunate Islands, or Heperides, "in the extreme west of the world" where Hera grew her immortality-bestowing apples, although these islands could also be the Madeiras or the Cape Verde Islands. Plato suggests the Canaries may be the remains of Atlantis.

The yellow songbirds are, in fact, named after the island.

It's not clear what 'our' Isle of Dogs is named after, but:
The earliest reference to the area as the Isle of Dogs is on a map of 1588. This makes it possible that one of the attributions for the origin of its name, as the place where Henry VIII kept his hunting dogs, could be true. On the other hand, it could equally well have been a dismissive term.

Although, if those stalwarts of the historical trail, The Millwall Supporters Club, are to be trusted:
It may simply have been a nickname of contempt, the writers Thomas Nashe and Ben Johnson co- wrote a play in 1597 called The Isle of Dogs, Nashe briefly took refuge in Great Yarmouth in the autumn of 1597 as the uproar caused by the play led to a warrant being issued for his arrest. The play is lost because it was instantly and ruthlessly suppressed, but whatever was in it so enraged the Privy Council that all the London theatres were closed in punishment, and Nashe forced to leave town so suddenly he lost all his papers and notebooks, seized at his lodgings.

Nashe works were further suppressed by Archbishop Whitgift and Bishop Bancroft when they decreed that "all Nashe's books and Doctor Harvey's books be taken wheresoever they may be found and that none of their books bee ever printed hereafter."


Last edited by Gray on Tue Feb 21, 2006 9:41 am; edited 2 times in total

Frederick The Monk
37994.  Fri Dec 09, 2005 6:55 pm Reply with quote

Gray wrote:
Pliny the Elder mentiond the The Fortunate Islands, or Heperides, "in the extreme west of the world" where Hera grew her immortality-bestowing apples, although these islands could also be the Madeiras or the Cape Verde Islands.

It was common amongst British 19th century antiquarians to claim that the Isles of Scilly were the Hesperides. They are still often called 'The Fortunate Isles'.

Last edited by Frederick The Monk on Sat Dec 10, 2005 4:11 am; edited 1 time in total

38008.  Fri Dec 09, 2005 7:26 pm Reply with quote

This links to Humphry Davy via his mining lamp and the miners' canaries.

40215.  Sat Dec 17, 2005 11:09 pm Reply with quote

Were the Scillies called 'The Fortunate Isles' because you were extremely fortunate to actually make harbour on them, and not get badly shipwrecked in the process?

Frederick The Monk
40250.  Sun Dec 18, 2005 7:12 am Reply with quote

That would make them the 'Bloody Miracle' islands although, as you know, large vessels have occasionally stumbled in fog unscathed past the Western rocks and into St. Mary's Roads. Many, many more however

I think their adoption of the term 'Fortunate Isles' is a nineteenth century antiquarian conceit derived from Pliny's Natural History Bk VI Chptr 37.

40632.  Mon Dec 19, 2005 1:33 pm Reply with quote

Is there anything The Plinster hasn't touched with his fair tongue?

53935.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 9:09 am Reply with quote

We could jam in, as an afternugget, that Spain is named after an animal as well, but the wrong one.

When the Phonoecians spotted it, they thought they saw hyraxes on the rocky shore (having loads of them at home), and so called the place 'Isle of Hyraxes', or 'Ishaphan'. The Romans later changed this to 'Hispania' from which the Spanish derived their name España.

There are some less amusing alternative etymologies as well, it seems:
The etymology of the name Spain (España) is uncertain. Some derive it from the Punic word tsepan, “rabbit”, basing the opinion on the evidence of a coin of Galba, on which Spain is represented with a rabbit at her feet, and on Strabo, who calls Spain “the land of rabbits”. It is said that the Phoenicians and Carthaginians found the country overrun with these rodents, and so named it after them.

Another derivation is from sphan, “north”, from the circumstance that the country was north of Carthage, just as the Greeks called Italy Hesperia, because it was their western boundary, or the land of sunset (Hespera). Again, some Bascophiles would assert a Basque origin for the name of Spain: Españia, “Land of the Shoulder”, because it formed the western shoulder of ancient Europe. Padre Larramendi has remarked that, in the Basque language, ezpaña means “tongue”, “lip”, or “extremity”, and might thus have been applied to the extreme southwestern region of Europe.

Last edited by Gray on Tue Feb 21, 2006 9:31 am; edited 1 time in total

53951.  Tue Feb 21, 2006 9:26 am Reply with quote

Emperor Hadrian actually had a Roman coin struck there with a picture of a rabbit on it:

60977.  Mon Mar 20, 2006 8:28 am Reply with quote

Flash wrote:
This links to Humphry Davy via his mining lamp and the miners' canaries.

Sir Humphry Davy was so famous in his lifetime that he once received a latter from Italy addressed simply “SIROMFREDEVI/LONDRA”

S: Sandi Toksvig, Sunday Telegraph 19 March 2006.

61017.  Mon Mar 20, 2006 12:17 pm Reply with quote

The very charismatic Master of the Choir at Eton - one Ralph Alwood - had a letter addressed to him from France (which he received too) which just read "Ralph, Eton".


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