The Naming of Things: Whales

I’ve a whale of a tale to tell you folks this month about the wonderful word “Whale.”

The modern English word to describe the animals we all know and love so well hasn’t changed that much in thousands of years.

It’s most recent variation is from the Old English hwæl “whale,” which is also where we get the modern “walrus”. Hwæl derives from the Proto-Germanic *hwalaz which would also eventually give rise to the Swedish val, German Wal, andDutch walvis – all still modern words for “whale” in those languages. 

*Hwalaz comes to us from theProto Indo European *(s)kwal-o-, meaning “large sea fish” which makes sense since there was a time when everything in the ocean was thought the be a fish, or a monster…

So that’s the short story of the word “whale.” A whale of a tale and it’s all true, I swear by my tattoo!

Graphic: Peppermint Narwhal Creative

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