Archive for the ‘Ethnobiology’ Category.

Polynesian plant names used on Lord Howe Island

Guest post by Jim Smith (PhD, Macquarie University):

In 2001 the discovery of a colony of Lord Howe Island Stick Insects living on Balls Pyramid, near Lord Howe Island, received international publicity. This species, originally very common on Lord Howe Island, had been thought to be extinct until rockclimbers, in 1964 and 1969, found evidence that it was still surviving on Balls Pyramid. In 2001 the Balls Pyramid colony was observed eating the leaves of a Tea-tree Melaleuca howeana which is endemic to Lord Howe and adjacent islands.

The local name of this Melaleuca species was first published in 1869: “A shrubby Melaleuca, inhabiting rocky exposed situations near the coast on the south-western side… locally called kilmogue, is used as a substitute for tea and said to be a pleasant and exhilarating beverage.” (Hill 1869:7; Moore 1870:9).1 When Maiden recorded the local vernacular names of plants and trees on Lord Howe Island in the 1880s, only two had non-English names. These were the Melaleuca, still known as kilmogue and Elaeodendron curtipendulum, a large tree also found on Norfolk Island and New Caledonia, which was known as tumana (Maiden 1898). The Melaleuca was still known as kilmoke in the 1930s (Nicholls 1938:90). Continue reading ‘Polynesian plant names used on Lord Howe Island’ »


Notes

  1. In Australia and New Zealand species of both Melaleuca and Leptospermum can be referred to as Tea-trees. Leptospermum polygalifolium occurs on Lord Howe Island but does not appear to have been made into ‘tea’ or referred to by the Polynesian name.

A fruitful day in Copenhagen

No one likes the term ‘entomophogy’, and perhaps even fewer people know what it means. The title of the journal ‘Insects as food & feed’ is a deliberate move away from it, but even the term ‘edible insect’ is not unproblematic. According to GREEiNSECT researcher Afton Halloran, in many cultures the question ‘Do you eat insects?’ can get a negative response, whereas asking about a particularly species more often yields ‘yes’. Some Kaytetye speakers prefer the word ‘witchetty’ to ‘grub’; coining terms such as ‘whitewood witchetty’ and ‘river red gum witchetty’ as translations of the various edible larvae, a semantic extension also found in Kaytetye.

The pejorative overtones of English ‘grub’ and ‘insect’ reflects a preference in English to use a culinary name for animals as food. Consider ‘meat/animal’, ‘venison/deer’ etc. When the Kangaroo Industry sought a culinary term for skippy, they may have done better had they adopted marlu (Warlpiri) instead of the neologism ‘australus’. For ‘edible insects’ a similarly palatable set of sounds for English speakers might be tjapa (Western Arrarnta).

Continue reading ‘A fruitful day in Copenhagen’ »