A bird's name

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: A bird's name
From: jilldening <>
Date: Wed, 27 Aug 2003 11:36:57 +1000
Hi All,

An article I read in the Weekend Australian Aug 23/24 ("Jungle Fever",
Review liftout) caused me to ponder the importance to us of the name of a

Asked why he does what he does (he's a birder amongst other things), Redmond
O'Hanlon replied, "...........It's partly recreating childhood and that
feeling of wonder [for] something big and inexplicable. You are a ridiculous
figure in the jungle. And you are deeply troubled because you don't
understand it. The one thing you do understand is the picture of the
birdies; they have a name - it's wonderful what language does."

I can really relate to this. Three years ago James and I were holidaying in
Europe. In Italy, we took a birding tour on a lake, and we were grafted to
our field guide to make sense of the strange birds. That night, by then in
France, James discovered that he had left the field guide on the boat. He
was beside himself, inconsolable. I told him not to worry, I had a field
guide in German. This seemed quite acceptable to me. I am a German speaker
(fluid rather than fluent), and  the situation presented me with no great
dramas. We would manage.

Over the next few days James struggled with the German field guide. It
showed the names of the birds, the distribution maps, and I told him to ask
for any translations he needed. In the end he threw it away in temper (angry
at himself no doubt), because he claimed that if he didn't know the names of
the birds in English, they held so much less meaning for him, that it wasn't
worth bothering. It really took the pleasure out of birding for him.

Now I am trying to imagine how I would feel if I had to, for instance, bird
in China, and learn the names in Chinese. I would manage, I would probably
enjoy it, but something would be missing. It would be really difficult to
relate to the Chinese names, I conclude.

So the name of a bird is pretty important, don't you think?


Jill Dening
Sunshine Coast, Qld
26º 51'  152º 56'
Ph (07) 5494 0994

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