In the fascinating world of animals there is an aspect to them that has puzzled me for years: the names given to their offspring. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t spend hour after hour in deep, solitary contemplation of the subject (I really do have a life!), but it does come to the fore every now and then, especially in the TV quiz show arena.
Who knows the name of the young of an oyster? A pigeon? A turkey? A llama? A hawk? A hare?* (answers at the end of the article) There has got to be a simpler way of naming the young… and I have the solution!
Instead of silly, unrelated, names for animals and birds let’s just attach the suffix ‘-let’ to everything. It’s already in use anyway – owlet, piglet – so why not roll it out across the whole animal kingdom? Instead of pup(py), let’s have a dog-let; a horse-let, a sheep-let, a wolf-let; a dove-let; a snail-let; a rhinoceros-let; a trout-let, an eel-let and so on.
Think how much easier life would be without having to appear a little thick trying to remember that the young of a deer is called a fawn and just have the name ‘deer-let’ immediately come to mind instead? Okay, in this example the name isn’t a cute as ‘fawn’, but it’s a small sacrifice to pay for simplicity, isn’t it?
Also, bear this in mind: what do the following animals have in common: armadillo, bat, coyote, gerbil, guinea-pig, hamster, hedgehog, mole? ALL of their offspring are called a pup! Similarly the offspring of a badger, cheetah, fox, and hyena are called a cub, while the offspring of antelope, buffalo, camel, dolphin, elephant, giraffe and so on are called a calf. Why the sameness?
Surely, it makes some sort of sense to simplify the matter for everyone, especially those who work with animals. As far as I can tell about the only group of people who would be put-out by this idea is quiz-setters, but they are far too clever for their own good anyway, so let’s not concern ourselves with their feelings!
So, my friends, let’s start a revolution today: go home and do away with old conventions. Language is meant to evolve so let us all give it a helping hand. Out with the old and in with the new, right?
* those answers are:
oyster = spat
pigeon = squab or squeaker
turkey = poult
llama = cria
hawk = eyas
hare = leveret