Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Trivia 9

Etymologies that have multiple steps are extremely interesting and opaque. Some go through several changes in meaning along the way. Colors, for some reason, can be especially tangled.

One of my favorites is cardinal (the bird), which is named after the color, which is named after the robes worn by the clergy rank, which comes from Latin cardo, which originally just meant "door hinge." Chartreuse is named after the liqueur, which is named for the monastery where the liqueur is made, which is named for the mountain range, whose etymology I wasn't able to uncover. Scarlet derives from cloth marked with symbols; purple originally comes from the shellfish used to make dye; blue comes from an Indo-European root which led to terms in various languages for white, yellow, and gray as well as blue. Other colors are interesting because of the number of languages they came through on their way to English, like lilac, which derives from French, from Spanish, from Arabic, from Persian.

Your trivia question today is about colors, and complicated etymologies, and animals, and places. Name a color that derives from an animal that derives from a place that derives from an animal.

(Thanks to my linguistics professor Larry Horn for many of these.)


  1. Canary yellow: from the canary (bird) from the Canary Islands, named after the wild canines that live there.