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The true name of bears and wolves

I have no idea if this is true or not [1], but we don’t have the real name for bears and wolves. Like actors can only talk about the Scottish play, and some religions can’t say the names of their gods, our linguistic forebears didn’t say the actual true name of the animal, but described it by its color or habit [2] so as not to invoke the feared animal being discussed.

Okay, IANALinguist, so I’ll stop rehashing grad student linguist late night bull sessions.


[1] or if in any real sense, the difference makes a difference

[2] I’m not sure what the difference is (ThorAllWordsAreMadeUp.gif) between calling an animal a brown (baer, brun, bruin – color) or arcturus (destroyer – habit) and having that be its name instead of some other name which isn’t used so as not to invoke the animal if the other name isn’t used and no one now knows what it was. The name of a thing is what it’s called after all.