What’s in a name?

In Pian Upe we frequently encountered the Isabelline Wheatear. This migrates between Europe and Africa, it likes open country where it’s often found sitting on a bit of mud or dung or a low branch from which it chases insects. Less common is the Isabelline Shrike.

Isabelline Wheatear

Isabelline is a colour.

There are similar words in French, German, Italian and Spanish and although the truth is lost in the fog of time there is a folk etymology in all these cases that link the word to Isabella l of Castile and her beloved Ferdinand II of Aragon. They gave siege to Granada in April 1491. Isabella, it is alleged, declared that she would not change her underwear until Granada fell. It took 8 months.

And what, pray, does Wheatear have to do with a cereal crop?

Nothing at all. It comes from 16th century English, a period when everyone spoke like pirates. Wheat = white, Ear is a contraction of Earse = arse. When they take flight the Wheatears show a prominent white rump.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.