In a recent blog, “Hagar The Horrible’s perpetration of an incorrect Myth.” I mentioned that I was disappointed at the incorrect and misleading information implies in it. And of course that misleading information, which was implied, was what most people already mistakenly believe! And that is, that the Canary Islands were named after the Canary bird.
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Normally one would say that, that information was a load of Bull! But in fact, it is a load of Dogs. Yes the Canary Islands was named not after the Bird, but called this from the Latin term for the ‘Dogs*’ found there. (And yes, Islands! There is a whole chain of them there.)
The following is from Wikipedia and explains it better than I can: “The name Islas Canarias is likely derived from the Latin term Insula Canaria, meaning "Island of the Dogs", a name applied originally only to Gran Canaria. It is speculated that the so-called dogs were actually a species of Monk Seals ("sea dog*" in Latin), critically endangered and no longer present in the Canary Islands. The dense population of seals may have been the characteristic that most struck the few ancient Romans who established contact with these islands by sea.
Alternatively, it is said that the original inhabitants of the island, Guanches, used to worship dogs, mummified them and treated dogs generally as holy animals. The ancient Greeks also knew about a people, living far to the west, who are the "dog-headed ones", who worshipped dogs on an island. Some theorize that the Canary Islands dog-worship and the ancient Egyptian cult of the dog-headed god, Anubis are closely connected, but there is no explanation given as to which one was first.
The connection to dogs is retained in their depiction on the islands' coat-of-arms.”
So! We not only see that the name of the Canary Islands has absolutely nothing to do with Canaries at all. (Although some are found there too.) But we also see that a very common and popular conception is both false and wrong, because of the confusion in sounds of words of other languages and our own. Again just warning us all to make sure that what we think we hear, is what the other person actually means.
Also and equally important, we always need to be sure of our facts before we pass them on to others don’t we?
What other incorrect perceptions have crept into English through the misunderstanding of the original language in which it was named? Such as “White Rhino” for instance, which isn’t white at all!