Friday 13 March 2020

Pangolins and Idle Orangutans

Image result for pangolin old printI was sautéing some pangolin the other day, when it occurred to me that there are several Malay animals in the menagerie of etymology. (It also occurred to me that the I was filled with a vast apocalyptic dread as to how to spell sautéing).

Pangolin comes from the Malay pen-goling, which means the roller. This is because of the pangolin's endearing habit of rolling up into a scaly ball when it's frightened, and nothing to do with the delicious twizzlers you can make out of its rump.

Gecko is Malay, and is said to be imitative of that creature's cry. Anybody who has heard the melancholy cry of the distant gecko wandering in moonlit woods, mourning his lost love, will know the sound of true sadness. I have not.

Cockatoo means elder sibling. I don't know why. I have an elder sister, but she is featherless, to my knowledge.

Orangutan is Malay for man of the forest. Orang is man and hutan is forest. The name was recorded by a Dutch explorer called Jacobus Bontius in 1611. The locals told him that the orangutan was actually able to talk, but preferred not to, in case somebody asked it to do some work. This seems perfectly sensible to me, and nobody has proved otherwise.

Some historians even think that the orangutan recorded by Bontius wasn't an ape at all, but a a tribe of unfriendly and idle forest-dwellers. Some historians have no sense of fun.

The important thing about these animals - the pangolin, the gecko, the cockatoo, and the orangutan - is that, when you put them all together, you find that you have a delicious casserole.

I recommend panic-buying tins of all of them.

Incidentally, the Germans have a lovely word for panic-buying: hamsterkauf. Kauf means shopping and hamster means just what you think it does. The idea is that hamsters store food in their little cheeks, and that panic-buyers are doing something equally sweet.

Panic not, though, dear reader. If you're wondering what it's like to sit all alone for weeks at a time with only a tin of soup to tell your troubles to; I can report that it's not that bad. I've been doing it for years. It all depends on the soup.

Image result for orangutan atique print
The Inky Fool hears the call to work.