And then there were the de Havilland ‘Moths’ (Tiger Moth, Fox Moth, Leopard Moth, Gipsy Moth and so on) said to have obtained their surname because the first one had wings that could be folded back to allow storage
in small spaces, ‘Like a moth’ - ‘said Geoffrey de Havilland, an avid lepidopterist’.
From: John Harris [
Sent: Saturday, 22 July 2017 2:41 PM
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] A musket of lyrebirds?
Muskets and birds. I can’t resist joining the chatline on linguistic matters. I cannot add to the speculation about ‘a musket of lyrebirds’ but only concur with those who suggest a borrowing from a more ancient
usage (unless it is a totally modern fabrication).
But those fascinated, as I am, by both words and birds, may know, as David has discovered, that the musket was in fact a bird. The sparrow hawk, in old French, was known as the ‘mouchet’ or little fly. The
gun acquired the name mouchet at some point and came into English as musket. This forms part of the long tradition of naming weapons, something which began in ancient times and persists today. Followers of game of Thrones will know all about the naming of
swords. The names of mythical creatures, birds, reptiles and so on are still today a common subset of weapon names. The musket has its modern counterpart such as the M57 Dragon, an antitank missile. But the richest source of animal names associated with warfare,
are of course fighter planes – kittyhawk, raptor, viper, hornet and such like. Cheers
From: Steve Read <>
Date: Saturday, 22 July 2017 at 1:48 pm
To: chatline <>
Subject: RE: [canberrabirds] A musket of lyrebirds?
As Kevin hints, the lyrebirds in the musket may not be lyrebirds as we know them. Five minutes on Google (dangerous!) sourced a few links, including
to muskets of lyrebirds in medieval texts, describing presumably peacocks, The communal noun could then have been transferred to our lyrebirds.
Could the Yowie Man have meant 'muster'? Chambers 20th Century Dictionary includes 'a company of peacocks' as one of the senses of 'muster'. This meaning might have been transferred to lyrebirds.
I was interested to see that one of the meanings of 'musket' is 'male sparrowhawk' (also Chambers 20th Cent.)
From: David McDonald (personal) <>
Sent: 22 July 2017 11:08:34
Subject: [canberrabirds] A musket of lyrebirds?
Today's Canberra Times (Panorama p. 7, Tim The Yowie Man) states under 'Fact File' that 'A group of lyrebirds is called a musket'.
I had not heard that before. Neither the Oxford nor Macquarie dictionaries show that meaning of 'musket'.
What's more, both species of lyrebirds tend to be solitary; we don't often see them in groups.
Does anyone have any insights on this usage of 'musket'?
Thanks - David
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