New Animal Names (Bishop-shifting)

July 23, 2014


I spoke before about a different way to make Saxon/true English words. Instead of coming up with outlandish new words formed from pure Germanic roots, why not simply anglicise current words? For example, instead of replacing electricity with something odd albeit beautiful like ghostfire or sparkflow, why not merely call it “lecky” (that is, an anglicisation of ‘electricity’)? The advantage? Such words are more familiar, more likely to be adopted, and often already are in use. I call this process “bishop-shifting” on the analogy of what happened in English to the Greek word episkopos (–>bishop). I discuss bishop-shifting in detail here:

One application of this idea is to animals. Here’s a few animal names that I’ve bishop-shifted.

alligator –> gator, gater
This might have the slight smack of the southern United States, but let’s not be prejudiced against Southern Americans. The form gator/gater is so thoroughly English-sounding, I think more people should use it (just as we gladly use chimp and others).

The word “alligator” actually comes from the Spanish el lagarto [de indias] “the lizard [of the indies]”. “Gater” is, therefore, a bishop-shifting exactly analogous to, well, “bishop”. That’s because English words are generally stressed on the first syllable, so the first stressed syllable is taken to be the beginning of the word, and the rest is lopped off: alligator, episkopos (bishop). Note also what is technically known as the “excrescent” r in the English form — we say “alligator”, not “alligarto” which would be closer to the Spanish — just as “potato” and “fellow” have been altered to “tater” and “feller”.

chimpanzee –> chimp
Long-established short-form, this’un.

cockroach –> roach
The word “cockroach” is already somewhat anglicised; it was borrowed from the Spanish cucaracha. But roach is a now commonly heard, even Englishier form.

crocodile –> croc
Ultimately from the Greek krokodilos meaning “pebbles-worm”, apparently from its habit of basking on pebbles. We might wish to fully make this English by spelling it ‘crock‘.

elephant –> elpend
This might seem like a weird one, but I include it for interest’s sake only. You see, elpend was the form in Old English! And ivory was known as elpendban: ‘elephant-bone’.

hippopotamus –> hippo
Note that “hippopotamus” comes from the Greek meaning “river-horse”, and was glossed in Old English as sæhengest* ‘sea-horse’. Hippo is, indeed, what I call this animal: I don’t remember the last time I said or heard hippopotamus when discussing the animal.

kangaroo –> kanga, roo
I’ve heard both “kanga” and “roo” used, although my wordbook here only lists “roo”.

mosquito –> mozzie, skeeter
This Australian English word, mozzie, is a great example of bishop-shifting. I already use this myself; not from affectation, but because my whole family lived down under for years, and so it has always been a part of my wordhoard! The full form, mosquito, comes from the Spanish word meaning ‘little’ fly: mosca ‘fly’ + –ito diminutive suffix.

In the southern United States, they also have skeeter which is also lovely, but takes the other way round: lopping the beginning of the word off. Thanks to Natasha for pointing that one out.

Of course, we also have thoroughly English “midge” and “gnat”.

narwhal –> narwhale
A narwhal is a kind of whale with a long horn on its head. Truly majestic, like something from a middle-ages myth. The word comes from the Norse nahvalr which literally means ‘corpse-whale’ apparently due to the corpse-like colour of the whale’s skin. The spelling has already been made more English (hv->wh), so why not let’s go one step further? So narwhale is a half translation, just like English ‘iceberg’ which is from Dutch ijsberg which means ‘ice-mountain’.

pigeon –> pidge

The word pigeon comes from Old French and replaced the English word culver  (which was culufre in Old English), which itself was borrowed from Latin columbula(!) We do in truth have our own word for it, which is dove. The meaning of dove has now narrowed to a few kinds of pigeon in particular, pigeon being the general term (compare hound, which was formerly the overall word but now is only some kinds, dog being the overall word: altho note that “dog” has a murky birth but is likely homeborn in any case).

I try to use dove, and sometimes, half-jokingly, town-dove, street-dove, and rat-dove and ratty dove for the general greyish pigeons we get. Wood pideons, I always grew up calling woodies, or in Anglish wood doves.

But now to the bishop-shift. I have used, and heard from other people, the nonce/one-off word pidge enough times to put it in this list. It isn’t in the OED, but it is in Urban Dictionary.

rhinoceros –> rhino
This comes from the Greek meaning ‘nose-horned’. Who says the long form nowadays?


This may all seem boring compared to exotic-sounding formations such as riverhorse or pebble-worm (the meaning of ‘hippopotamus’ and crocodile’ in the original Greek). But are you really going to start calling them ‘pebble-worms’…? And ‘riverhorse’? They look more like ‘swamp-whales’, to me. But ‘croc’: that might be a passable, truly English form.

I’ll add to the list in this post periodically. So please, come back in about ten years to see how it’s grown. Or just suggest words yourself!


*That is, hengest as in Hengest and Horsa, the legendary brothers who led the Germanic conquest of Britain after the fall of Rome. Hengest meaning “horse” or “Stallion”, the English equivalent which lives on in Swedish as häst “horse”. Wow, this blog is so informative, eh.

Chimpanzee image taken from


27.08.2014 cockroach –> roach

24.01.2017 mosquito –> skeeter; pigeon –> pidge


© 2014-2017 Bryan A. J. Parry


Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc Et Alia

July 11, 2014


I love the English language in all its rich diversity. And so I do confess I like those little Latin phrases. You know: quid pro quo, exempli gratia, post hoc ergo propter hoc, and so on. I know what these phrases mean, and it makes me feel smart to know that I’m part of this little secret clique, like a nerdier version of the freemasons or something; I know the secret password, the special handshake. It also makes me feel smug when the uninitiated try to use our secret code and fail (that is, when they use the phrases wrongly).

But this is an unhealthy feeling; I laud it over others, when this feeling takes me, because I guess it gives me some validation to be part of the intellectual elite — or something. But I’m a teacher, and it’s in my blood to teach, to help people understand. So when reasonably well-educated people cannot even wield these Latin tools, we know there’s a problem. When I see intelligent people say or write “i.e.” when they clearly mean “e.g.” — something I see and hear a lot, I should say — then we know there’s something seriously wrong. To make matters worse, a lot of these Latin phrases only ever pop up in some obscure abbreviation that nobody seems to know the full form for. So let’s just skip these smug markers of elite cliquedom, and use plainer English forms instead!

Therefore, what follows is a list of a few Latin expressions, the abbreviation to go with them if applicable, their literal meaning in Latin, and what I think you should say instead of the Latinism.

Latin: exemplia gratia (e.g.)
Literally: for the sake of example
Say: for example (f.e.)

Latin: id est (i.e.)
Lit.: that is
Say: that is (t.i.)

Latin: et alia/alii/aliae (et al.)
Lit.: and others
Say: and others (a.o.)

Latin: inter alia
Lit.: among others
Say: among others

Latin: quid pro quo
Lit.: who for who
Say: something for something (s.f.s.)

Latin: ibidem (ibid.)
Lit.: in the same place
Say: same place/page/book/work (s.p.)

Latin: videlicet (viz.)
Lit.: that is to say, to wit, namely
Say: that is to say, to wit, namely

Latin: et cetera (etc.)
Lit.: and the others
Say: and so on (a.s.o.), and so forth (a.s.f.), so on and so forth (s.o.a.s.f.)

Latin: ad hoc
Lit.: for this [specific purpose]
Say: makeshift

Latin (well, Latin by way of French): abbreviation (abbrev.)
Lit.: made short
Say: short-form

Latin: anno domini (a.d.)
Lit.: (in) the year of our lord
Say: after Jesus’/our Lord’s birth (a.J.b./a.o.L.b) [the latter for the more religiously inclined among us]

Latin: post hoc, ergo propter hoc
Literally: after this, therefore because of this
Say: after this, therefore because of this (a.t.t.b.o.t.)

Latin: anno domini
Literally: in the year of (our) lord
Say: in the year of our Lord (i.t.y.o.o.l/ityooL), Lord’s reckoning

Please add your own suggestions. Like all of my posts involving word-lists, I will from time-to-time update this list.

Note: Clearly some of the forms I use (for example, “a.s.o.”) are not standard English; I have made them up or they are in use amongst proponents of a plainer, more Saxon English. And some of these alternatives are already standard, such as “that is” (although my short-form “t.i.” is something I’ve just made up).


featured image from

© 2014 Bryan A. J. Parry

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