This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The oak crab: a rant.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

But would it, that's what I want to know. If a rose was called an eumigdeezion, would we be still be rushing to bury our noses in it?

Of course the fact is that a rose isn't called a eumigdeezion, and that's because over the centuries lots of people have been involved in settling on the best name for a rose, and on the whole people know what they're about.

The worst names are nearly always the very new ones (furkid) or the really obscure ones (ludic).

Now. Carcina quercana. Yes, it's a scientific name, but for what? The carcina bit sounds as if it has something to do with the Greek karkinos, which means crab. And the quercana bit will be from quercus, which is to do with oak trees.

So, is there a crab that lives in oak trees?

Or is the crab strong enough or big enough to be like an oak tree?

Even if there isn't, well, Carcina quercana must be something really wonderful. Mustn't it?

Sorry to disappoint you, but this is Carcina quercana:

File:Carcina quercana ill.JPG

Yep. It's a moth. A small moth (its wingspan is about 20mm).

Not a crab.

Not big or strong.



You know what I was saying about people knowing what they're about when it comes to naming things? Well, not long ago a certain Mr Mark Cooper felt so passionately about the unfitness of the name Carcina quercana for this small, rather dull, moth that his friends got fed up with him complaining and gave the thing a new name.

It's now The Flat Cooper (yes, it is flat, even for a moth).

And, because people know a good name when they hear one, the name Flat Cooper has spread throughout Britain. I've even heard a rumour of its being used in an official document in Bulgaria.

So there. A rant with a happy ending.

And so now, if you see Carcina quercana, you'll know what to call it.

Word To Use Today: cooper. A cooper is usually someone who makes or mends barrels. The word comes from the Low German kūper.

PS I met Mark Cooper, once. In a greenhouse. I thought he seemed a nice sort of a chap, but there must have been passions lurking beneath his mild exterior.


  1. Oh well done, Mr. Cooper!

    Now, who's up to having Greenland's name changed?! :) Whiteland?

    Oh, and there is absolutely nothing funny about the funny bone, which isn't even a bone! Ouch nerve?

    1. You're absolutely right, Jingles: ouch nerve sounds jolly good to me. I shall start using it immediately, though I can't promise that it'll be the VERY first word that comes to mind when I whack mine.