Given all this, I expect that the answer to the SMH clue is probably “penguin”, rather than “Great Auk”. Because the word penguin is now used for the southern
hemisphere birds, the name penguin is not used for the Great Auk.
About the name.
The Great Auk does (did) not even have a white head. (Neither do any penguins). The Wikipedia article includes this bit:
Although the etymology is debated, the generic name, "penguin", may be derived from the
pen gwyn "white head", either because the birds lived in Newfoundland on White Head Island (Pen Gwyn in Welsh), or, because the great auk had such large white circles on its head. When European explorers discovered what today are known as
penguins in the Southern Hemisphere, they noticed their
similar appearance to the great auk and named them after this bird, although biologically, they are not closely related.
The story and history of the Great Auk is a truly miserable example of human-caused extinction.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_auk tells the story in some detail.
From: Geoffrey Dabb [
Sent: Sunday, 3 December, 2017 12:19 PM To: Subject: FW: FW: [canberrabirds] Something for a rainy day (2)
So there we are then. Not that they are all that common there. Many a Welsh photographer has walked for hours along the golden beaches of Aberystwyth and
come back at the end of the day without a single shot.
Incidentally Fraser/Gray does not mention the Welsh origin.
From: David Rees [
Sent: Sunday, 3 December 2017 10:39 AM
To: Philip Veerman; John Bundock; Geoffrey Dabb
Subject: Re: FW: [canberrabirds] Something for a rainy day (2)
Penguin _ Pen for head, Gwyn for white - the name was probably first used for the extinct Giant auk, which is many ways was an ecological analogue for southern Hemisphere penguins.
'Pen' pops up in a few English place names, like the Pennines - a reminder that Welsh was spoken in these parts prior to its replacement by English. Another classic is are the Three River Avons in England. Afon is Welsh for river (no
letter v in welsh). So the typically culturally insensitive English came up with a name which means River River.
Sent: Saturday, 2 December 2017 4:51 PM
To: Subject: FW: [canberrabirds] Something for a rainy day (2)
From this morning’s SMH quiz:
‘24. Which bird’s name is derived from the Welsh word for “white head” ?’