Many names are curious because of how they sound, either because they
sound like other words or because they sound funny on their own.
Abra cadabra (Eames & Wilkins) 1957 (clam) Now, alas,
in the genus Theora.
Agra cadabra Erwin (carabid)
Agra dable Erwin, 2002 (carabid) From
Spanish word 'agradable' meaning 'pleasing'.
Agra memnon Erwin, 1987 (carabid)
Agra vation Erwin, 1983 (carabid) Erwin says there is
nothing aggravating about it.
Agra phobia Erwin (carabid)
Apopyllus now Platnick & Shadab, 1984
Arkansaurus Sattler, 1993 (Ornithomimid
dinosaur) from Arkansas; now known as Arkanosaurus.
Atrochus Wierzejski, 1893 (rotifer)
Ba humbugi Solem, 1983 (endodontoid snail) from Mba
Bombylius aureocookae Evenhuis, 1984 (bee
Carmenelectra shechisme Evenhuis, 2002 (fossil
mythicmyiid) from Dominican amber.
Castnia inca dincadu Miller, 1972 (castniid moth)
[Bull. Allyn Mus. 6: 1-13]
Cephise nuspesez Burns (skipper butterfly)
pronounced "new species".
Chrysops balzaphire Philip, 1955 (deer fly)
Cindarella eucalla Chen, Ramsköld, Edgecombe
and Zhou, 1997 (trilobite)
Cyclocephala nodanotherwon Ratcliffe (scarab)
Ratcliffe described several others in this large genus.
Daphoenus demilo Dawson, 1980 (fossil
carnivore) The genus is pronounced da-FEE-nus. It has since been
synonymized with Daphoenus lambei.
Desmatoneura jambalaia Hall & Evenhuis, 1987
Dissup irae (Kovalev, 1989) (a hard-to-see fossil
Eubetia bigaulae Brown (tortricid moth)
pronounced "youbetcha bygolly".
Eurygenius (pedilid beetle)
Gelae baen, Gelae belae, Gelae donut, Gelae
Gelae rol Miller and Wheeler, 2004 (fungus
Gressittia titsadaysi Philip, 1980 (horse
Hebejeebie Heads, 2003 (Plantaginaceae) a
member of the Hebe complex; it has caused taxonomists anxiety
because its classification is problematic. [Botanical Society of
Otago Newsletter 36:10-13]
Ittibittium Houbrick, 1993 (mollusc) These
are smaller than molluscs of the genus Bittium.
Heerz lukenatcha Marsh, 1993 (braconid)
Heerz tooya Marsh, 1993 (braconid)
Hunkydora Fleming, 1948 (clam) (subgenus of
Kamera lens Woodcock, 1917 (protist)
La cucaracha Blesynski, 1966 (pyralid)
La paloma Blesynski, 1966 (pyralid)
Lalapa lusa Pate, 1947 (tiphiid wasp)
Lycodryas cococola Hawlitschek et al.,
2012 (tree snake) The epithet is derived from Cocos,
genus name of the coconut palm, and "-cola", a suffix meaning
"inhabiting." Nothing is said about similarity to the name of a
drink, but it cannot plausibly have gone unnoticed.
Meomyia Evenhuis, 1983 (fly)
Notamacropus Dawson & Flannery, 1985
(genus/subgenus of kangaroo) The Latin word for stripe, nota,
refers to this kangaroo's facial stripe. But, as paleontologist Tim
Flannery later noted in a popular book, the name "is also a joke, for
we wanted to emphasise that these creatures were 'not a Macropus', the
genus in which they were once classified." [Australisan J. of
Zool. 33: 473; Flannery, T., 2006, Country]
Notnops, Taintnops, Tisentnops Platnick, 1994
(caponiid spiders) These Chilean spiders were originally placed in
the genus Nops, but Platnick separated them into these new genera
when he reexamined them.
Notoreas Meyrick, 1886 (lep)
Ochisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (hemiptera)
Dolichisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (hemiptera)
Florichisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (hemiptera)
Marichisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (hemiptera)
Nanichisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (hemiptera)
Peggichisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (hemiptera)
Polychisme Kirkaldy, 1904 (hemiptera) Kirkaldy was
criticized for frivolity by the London Zoological Society in
Oedipus complex Dunn, 1924 (lungless salamander)
Since renamed Oedipina complex.
Ohmyia omya Thompson, 1999 (syrphid
Omyomymar Schauff, 1983 (mymarid parasitic
Pharlapiscus (Australian short-snouted sea
horse) Named for the great Australian Racehorse Phar Lap. Regrettably,
the genus has now been replaced with the older
Phthiria relativitae Evenhuis, 1985 (bombyliid
fly) Since reclassified in the genus Poecilognathus.
Pieza deresistans Evenhuis, 2002 (mythicomyiid
Pieza kake Evenhuis, 2002 (mythicomyiid
Pieza pi Evenhuis, 2002 (mythicomyiid
Pieza rhea Evenhuis, 2002 (mythicomyiid
Pison eyvae Menke, 1988 (sphecid)
Ptomaspis, Dikenaspis, Ariaspis
(Devonian armored jawless fish) Remove the "-aspis" to see the
Reissa roni Evenhuis & Baéz, 2001
Rhyacophila tralala Schmid
Serendipidae Evenhuis, 1994 (fossil fly family, for the genus
Serendipa Evenhuis 1994) Dan Brooks also described Serendipidae
in 1994 (for the parasite Serendip), but Evenhuis's name has
priority. The two have since coauthored a paper changing Brooks' family
group name to Serendipeidae, with the same pronunciation.
Strategus longichomperus Ratcliffe (Honduran
scarab) with long mandibles
Tabanus nippontucki Philip, 1942 (horse fly) Described
during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Tabanus rhizonshine Philip, 1954 (horse fly)
Trombicula doremi Brennan & Beck, 1955
Trombicula fasola Brennan & Beck, 1955
Verae peculya Marsh, 1993 (braconid)
Vini vidivici Steadman & Zarriello, 1987
(Conquered lorikeet) This parrot from the Marquesas, Cook, and Society
Islands has been extinct since c. AD 1000. The genus Vini has
been in use since 1831.
Ytu brutus Spangler, 1980 (water beetle) "Ytu" comes
from the local (in Brazil) word for waterfall.
One clause of the ICZN says, "No zoologist should propose a name that, to
his knowledge, gives offense on any grounds." It seems that not all
zoologists are aware of this rule. . . .
It is alleged that Linnaeus retaliated against his enemies by naming weeds
after them, but I know of no such cases.
Siegesbeckia L. was so named before Linnaeus
and Siegesbeck quarrelled.
Bufo L. (toad) is the Latin word for "toad"
and was not named for Comte de Buffon, another of Linnaeus's ardent
Loeflingia L. (a Spanish weed) was named
not after an enemy but after Löfling, a beloved pupil of Linnaeus
who died of fever in the course of a botanical expedition to South
Aphanus rolandri L., 1758 (seed bug)
Rolander was a student of Linnaeus who collected thousands of
specimens in Suriname, but refused to turn them over to Linnaeus,
intending to publish himself. Linnaeus effectively had him
blacklisted and named this bug after him; "aphanus" is from the Greek
for ignoble or obscure.
Anodonta imbicilis Say, 1829 (freshwater
mussel) I wonder how intelligent Say expected mussels to
Dyaria Neumoegen, 1893 (liparid moth) "Honoring"
Mr. Dyar. (Probably no insult was intended.)
Commelina Linnaeus (day-flower) Named after
the three members of the Dutch Commelin family, two of which prospered.
The flower has three petals, one of which is small, pale, and
Mosasaurus copeanus Marsh. Cope and Marsh were
paleontologists engaged in a fossil-hunting "war" in the late 1800's.
"-Anus" is a Latin word root for "ring", but with another obvious
Anisonchus cophater Cope (Miocene mammal) Edward Cope
wrote in a letter to Henry F. Osborn: "Osborn, it's no use looking up
the Greek derivation of cophater, ... for I have named it in honor of
the number of Cope-haters who surround me...." [Jane Pierce Davidson,
1997, The Bone Sharp; the life of Edward Drinker Cope, Academy of
Natural Sciences of Philadelphia Special Publication 17,
Foadia Pakaluk, 1985 (beetle) FOAD is an
acronym for "F*** Off and Die."
Oxyacodon marshater van Valen, 1978 (fossil
Phycomyces blakesleeanus Burgeff (filamentous
fungus) Burgeff disliked Blakesley.
Dinohyus hollandi Peterson (Miocene
entelodont) Named after Carnegie Museum director W. J. Holland, who
insisted that he be listed as senior author on every paper written by
his staff. The name means "Holland's terrible pig." A Pittsburgh paper
announced the discovery with the front-page headline,
"Dinohyus hollandi, The World's Biggest Hog!."
Isbergia planifrons Warburg, 1925
(trilobite) Two Swedish paleontologists, Elsa Warburg and Orvar
Isberg, were on unfriendly terms in the 1920-1930s. Warburg was
Jewish and quite large; Isberg was a national socialist, politically
far to the right. Warburg's name planifrons means "with a flat
forehead", which in Scandanavia means stupid. Isberg retaliated
Warburgia crassa Isberg, 1934 (Ordovician
mussel); crassa means "fat".
Losdolobus Platnick and Brescovit, 1994 (Brazilian
orsolobid spider) Platnick and Brescovit wanted to pay tribute to a
couple of Argentine guys who helped them and asked them to suggest a
name, and they proposed "losdolobus," which loosely translates as
"orsolobid of the two guys". ("Los dos" means "the two," and "-olobus"
is the ending of all genera in the family.) However, the two guys
(Pablo Goloboff and Martín Ramírez) had a double
meaning in mind when they proposed it. Letters or syllables are often
reversed in colloquial Argentine, so the name also refers to "los
boludos," a colloquial term which means "the good-for-nothings."
Rosenblattia robusta Mead & De Falla, 1965 (a
deep-sea fish) and
Sphoeroides rosenblatti Walker & Bussing,
1996 (eastern Pacific puffer fish) These robust fish were named
for Scripps Institution of Oceanography scientist Richard Rosenblatt,
who is pretty robust himself.
Shillingsworthia shillingsworthi Girault 1920
(mymarid wasp). Lambasting J. F. Illingsworth, Girault described this
wasp as a creature with no head, thorax, abdomen, legs, antennae, or
wings (i.e., nonexistent), "blank, vacant, inaneness perfect. . . .
Visible only from certain points of view. Shadowless. An airy species
whose flight cannot be followed except by the winged mind. . . . This so
thin genus is consecrated to Doctor Johann Francis Illingworth, in these
days remarkable for his selfless devotion to Entomology, not only
sacrificing all of the comforts of life, but as well as his health and
reputation to the uncompromising search for truth."
Townesilitus Haeselbarth & Loan, 1983 (braconid) Named
after Henry Townes.
Andropogon gayanus Kunth (Gamba grass)
Aploparaksis turdi (Williamson & Rausch), 1965
Arses (monarch flycatcher)
Batrachuperus longdongensis (salamander)
Botryotinia fuckeliana (de Bary) Whetzel,
(1945) (plant pathogen fungus) and
Didymella fuckeliana (Pass.) Sacc. (1882)
(another); both named after Karl Wilhelm Gottlieb Leopold
Bugeranus Gloger, 1842 (wattled crane)
Clitocybe nuda (Blewit mushroom)
Colon rectum Hatch, 1933 (leiodid beetle)
Also Colon grossum Hatch, 1957,
Colon monstrosum , and others.
Dolichuranus Keyser ,1973 (Triassic
Dorcus titanus Boisduval, 1835 (stag beetle)
Doryctes fartus Provancher, 1880 (braconid)
Enema pan (Fabricius), 1775 (rhinoceros
Eremobates inyoanus Muma and Brookhart, 1988
(solpugid) Inyo is the county where it was first found.
Fartulum Carpenter, 1857 (tiny caecid gastropod) It is
rather like a turd in shape and color, too.
Fukuia Abbott & Hunter, 1949
Fuchsia Plumier, 1703 (flowering shrub)
Pronounced FYOO-sha in English, but since it is named after German
botanist Leonhart Fuchs, it should be pronounced FOOK-sia, which
sounds less innocent. In Dutch, it is pronounced FUK-sia and is
sometimes used to disguise the four-letter word.
Fukuiraptor Azuma & Currie, 2000 (theropod dinosaur)
From the Fukui province of Japan; an alternate pronounciation of the
first two syllables suggests itself.
Fundulus heteroclitus (L., 1766)
Inyoaster Phleger, 1936 (starfish)
Labia minor (L.) (earwig)
Mallotus (Euphorbiaceae tree) In Dutch,
"malloot" means a clownish person.
Narcissus assoanus Dufour. (rushleaf jonquil,
a U.S. lily)
Natica josephine (marine snail)
Innocent-sounding in most of the world, but in Italy, "natica" means
"buttock," and "Josephine" is a derogatory name for the Pope.
Orgia nova Fitch, 1863 (moth)
Peniculus asinus Kabata & Wilkes, 1977
(copepod) "The specific name refers to the remarkably asinine appearance
of the specimen. . . .", but the ass they refer to is Equus
asinus. [Can. J. Zool. 55:1988-1991.]
Pison eu Menke, 1988 (sphecid)
Pinus rigida and Pinus flexilis
Silybum (milk thistle)
Soranus Rafinesque, 1815 (fish)
Turdus (robin and thrush)
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