"Isabelline" - an interesting name.

To: <>
Subject: "Isabelline" - an interesting name.
From: "Sandra Henderson" <>
Date: Wed, 12 Jul 2006 14:57:15 +1000
There is an interesting article concerning isabellinism in Wildlife
Australia Magazine - Spring 2004 issue, pages 36-38 (Avian ghosts and
royal lingerie, by David Everitt). Apart from occurring in the names of
some species as mentioned in Richard's notes below, isabellinism is also
used to refer to the pigment aberration discussed in Everitt's article,
which is about penguins - there are some images of such plumage in
several penguin species, as well as discussion of the origin of the
word.  Carl Clifford (another of today's posts on this subject) mentions
Isabelle of Castile.  Everitt's recounting of this says Isabel's refusal
to remove or wash her undergarments was a political statement which
lasted 3 years - the time it took for the unification of the various
provinces of the "low countries", which had been given by King Philip of
Spain to Princess Isabel and Archduke Albert on the occasion of their
marriage in 1598. Once this unification into a sovereign state occurred
its presumed she took to washing again!

Sandra Henderson
Manager, Research, Coordination Support Branch
National Library of Australia
Phone: +61 2 6262 1481
Fax: +61 2 6273 2545

-----Original Message-----
 On Behalf Of Dr Richard
Sent: Wednesday, 12 July 2006 12:00 PM
Subject: "Isabelline" - an interesting name.

I had cause recently (while birding in Dubai - lots of fun) to get into
a discussion about the origins of the name "Isabelline" (as of the
now-famous FNQ Wheatear, and also a Palearctic shrike) and did a short
Google search, producing the following interesting item which I
reproduce here for the interest of those who don't already know the
story (I don't recall anything on Birding-Aus about the name at the time
of the FNQ Wheatear, although I
may have missed it).   Richard


Of a greyish-yellow colour.

This is what the dictionaries say, though it has also been used as the
name for a parchment or sand colour. It's clearly one of those
intermediate or indeterminate colours for which the creators of paint
catalogues must search creatively to find a good name. They haven't
borrowed isabelline, however, which went out of use in the nineteenth
century, except in the fixed names of a few animals and plants, such as
the isabelline wheatear, the isabelline shrike, and the isabelline bear,
which is a reddish- or yellowish-brown animal of the Himalayas.

The word clearly comes from the personal name Isabella. There's a folk
tale-mentioned in the Oxford English Dictionary only to deny its
truth-that says the origin was Isabella, Archduchess of Austria,
daughter of Philip II of Spain. Philip laid siege to Ostend in 1601 and
in a moment of filial fervour Isabella vowed not to change her intimate
undergarments until the city was taken. Unfortunately for her (and for
those around her) the siege lasted another three years, leading to this
off-colour word for over-worn underwear.

It is however easy to save the lady's reputation as the name is recorded
in an inventory of the wardrobe of Queen Elizabeth I a year before the
siege began, in 1600: "one rounde gowne of Isabella-colour satten ...
set with silver bangles".

However, subscribers tell me that the word is also known by related
names in French, German, Spanish and Italian. Its sense in French and
German primarily refers to the colour of a horse. These languages have
much the same folk tale about Isabella's underwear. However, the
references in all cases are to the siege of Granada by Ferdinand and
Isabella that ended in January 1492. It seems that some tellers of the
tale may have seized upon the wrong Isabella.

One explanation for the origin of the word is that it derives from
Arabic izah for lion, so roughly "lion-coloured".

World Wide Words is copyright C Michael Quinion, 1996-2006.
All rights reserved.  <>
Contact the author for reproduction requests.
 <> Comments and feedback are
always welcome.
Page created 1 November 2003.


Port Melbourne, Victoria

M: 0438 224456


To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU