The Advisory Boar (page 2)
What does this mean?, asked Hassath, pointing to «La
Hora de los Hornos» in an article about documentary films.
The hour of the… something.
And just like that, a flood of memories swept me twenty years back in
time to the Argentinian pampas, which I had experienced time and again
through Gerald Durrell's marvellous writings. I remembered the story of
a tough gaucho moved to tears as he recounted how he—in a moment
of uncharacteristic sentimentality—rescued a small bird whose leg was
stuck in the wet clay with which it was building its nest. The bird,
once freed, perched a few feet away and poured its heart out in song, as
if to thank the enraptured cowboy.
The bird's name, Hornero, was what triggered a memory so vivid
that, just for an instant, I could almost smell the clay and feel a
dry, dusty wind stinging my cheek.
Horneros, named for
the resemblance of their round clay nest to a horno, an old
wood-fired oven. Ovenbirds.
Furnaces. That's it. The Hour of the Furnaces.
Hour of the Furnaces is a 1968 documentary by Fernando Solanas
and Octavio Getino about the struggle against neo-colonialism in
Argentina. The title quotes Che Guevara who, in turn, was quoting the
nineteenth-century Cuban revolutionary leader and poet José
Marti: "Now is the time of the furnaces, and only light should be seen."
The film is in three parts, and is 260 minutes long. Hassath, who has
seen it, recommends it highly.
My treasured collection of Gerald Durrell's books is long gone, given
away over the years; and now, I have a film to watch that will teach
me very different things about Argentina. But it will also always remind
me of a small brown bird celebrating its freedom with a song.
My recent comment on
names which mean the same thing in different languages reminded me of
something slightly different: generic and specific names that mean the
same thing; one in Greek, the other in Latin.
The Common Raven Corvus corax, revered in ancient cultures around
the world, bears its own name in both languages, Corvus being the Latin
name for the Raven, and corax likewise the name in Greek (even the name
"Raven" comes from an ancient Proto-Germanic name applied to the bird).
The related Carrion Crow Corvus corone and Hooded Crow Corvus
cornix both take their specific names from Greek words for "crow".
All three names were assigned by Linnaeus in 1758.
The Slender-Billed Scimitar Babbler Xiphirhynchus superciliaris
has always felt somewhat mystical while flipping through the Babblers in
any field guide. I've never seen one, but the photographs posted to the
delhibirdpix list by Sujan Chatterjee in May 2008 and Ramki Sreenivasan
a year later, both taken in Arunachal Pradesh, have stayed in my memory.
Unfortunately, I can find only one of these photographs on Google Groups
now, and I can't figure out any sane way to link to that post here. But
Google Images finds
of the species, including
Anyway, Xiphirhynchus superciliaris was somewhere at the back of
my mind when I recently encountered a casual reference to the unrelated
South American genus of Woodcreepers: Xiphorhynchus. These are
essentially the same word, derived from the Greek xiph- (for "sword")
and -rhynchus ("snout" or "nose", meaning beak)!
A long time ago, I was delighted to notice—by accident—that the
Yellow-Footed Green Pigeon Treron phoenicopterus has, as its
specific name, the same name given to the genus of Flamingos. And what
a name it is! Phoenicopterus, meaning "crimson-wing", from the Greek
φοίνικ- (phoenic-, for "blood red", the
root of Phoenix and
derived from φόνος, fonos, for "slaughter") and
pteron (for wing).
This weekend, armed with a not-terribly-recent checklist of birds and a
little spare time, I wrote a small Perl script to look for other names
given to both a genus and a different species (that is to say, I
ignored the relatively better-known examples of one bird having the same
generic and specific name, such as Coccothraustes coccothraustes
and Pica pica). Here are some of the most interesting results.