Mrs Moreau’s Warbler: How Birds Got Their Names
We use names so often, and with such little thought, that we often forget to pause and wonder about their origins. What do they mean? Where did they come from? And who originally created them? Since the dawn of mankind we have been driven by a primordial urge to name the birds and beasts of the earth and skies. It is through names that we make sense of the world around us, and through understanding these names, we can arrive at a greater awareness of our world. Many of our most familiar birds are named after people or places, sometimes after their sound or appearance, or perhaps after their quirky little habits. But sometimes a little more detective work is required to find the deeper meanings and stories behind the names. And a familiar face such as the blackbird, may not turn out to be named after its colour after all.
Swallow and starling, puffin and peregrine, blue tit and blackcap. We use these names so often that few of us ever pause to wonder about their origins. What do they mean? Where did they come from? And who created them?
The words we use to name birds are some of the most lyrical and evocative in the English language. They also tell incredible stories: of epic expeditions, fierce battles between rival ornithologists, momentous historical events and touching romantic gestures.
Through fascinating encounters with birds, and the rich cast of characters who came up with their names, in Mrs Moreau’s Warbler Stephen Moss takes us on a remarkable journey through time. From when humans and birds first shared the earth to our fraught present-day coexistence, Moss shows how these names reveal as much about ourselves and our relationship with the natural world as about the creatures they describe.