Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Musings on seashells

Not C shells, seashells. The offline version of the Guardian is giving away wallcharts of flora and fauna and yesterday's was Seashells. Whilst reading it with my son I was struck by the peculiarity, indeed the suggestiveness, of some of the names given to seashells. There are the obviously sniggersome: knobbed whelk, dog cockle, winkle (even Fred found that funny). Then there are the obscure trades from the Victorian underworld: ocean quahog, queen scallop. We have insults from a Hardy novel: common piddock, thick tellin. Finally, the unpleasant medical conditions: warty venus, spiny helmet.

Any of you who think I'm making too much of this are invited to consider the Linnaean name for the grooved razor clam: solens vagina.


Blogger link123 said...

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5 July 2006 at 22:34:00 GMT-7  
Blogger Stephen Booth said...

As I recall the word vagina originally referred to the scabard a Roman soldier kept his sword (Gladius) in. I presume the shell in question looks like a roman scabard

7 July 2006 at 04:09:00 GMT-7  
Anonymous orafad said...

Not being a language expert, I'd say that in general the word refers to a tubular or covering structure. In botany in particular, it means some kind of sheath. In biology or anatomy, e.g. vagina bulbi which covers (internal) the eyeball and nerves.

19 July 2006 at 02:33:00 GMT-7  

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