Sunday, 11 September 2011

flaming flamingoes

Tonight as I played games on Lumosity, trying to keep my brain active, I scored a point for 'shooting' a flamingo - with a camera.

I remembered many years ago seeing a flock of these magnificent birds in Munich Zoo,

and I began to wonder about the origin of their name. Flamingo sounds like flaming.

The Flamingo Resource Centre says:
There are two theories on the derivation of flamingo.

The word may come from the Latin word for flame, flamma, via Old Provencal flamenc. This could be based on the notion that when a flamingo takes flight, the flash if its crimson wings is like a burst of flame; or that when in heat haze, a flock of flamingos may resembled a fire.

An alternative theory is that flamingo is derived from the Spanish word flamenca meaning 'of a ruddy complexion, flesh-coloured.' In the 14th century, the Spanish used the word flamenca to describe the Flemings (people of Flanders, Belgium) who impressed the Spanish with their pink complexions. The Spanish word for a 'bird of a hue reminiscent of the Flemings' was flamengo, hence our flamingo.
(Source: Edelstein 2002)
The online Oxford Dictionary has the origin of flamingo as:
mid 16th century: from Spanish flamengo, earlier form of flamenco (see flamenco); associated, because of its colour, with Latin flamma 'a flame'
I followed the Oxford link to flamenco and found this noun defined as:
a style of Spanish music, played especially on the guitar and accompanied by singing and dancing.
a style of spirited, rhythmical dance performed to flamenco music, often with castanets.

late 19th century: Spanish, 'like a Gypsy', literally 'Fleming', from Middle Dutch Vlaminc
Here's what the Online Etymology Dictionary says about the word flamenco:
1896, from Sp. flamenco, first used of Gypsy dancing in Andalusia. The word means "Fleming, native of Flanders" (Du. Vlaming) and also "flamingo." Speculation are varied and colorful about the connection between the bird, the people, and the gypsy dance of Andalusia. Spain ruled Flanders for many years, and King Carlos I brought with him to Madrid an entire Flemish court. One etymology suggests the dance was so called from the bright costumes and energetic movements, which the Spanish associated with Flanders; another is that Spaniards, especially Andalusians, like to name things by their opposites, and since the Flemish were tall and blond and the gypsies short and dark, the gypsies were called "Flemish;" others hold that flamenco was the general Spanish word for all foreigners, gypsies included; or that Flemish noblemen, bored with court life, took to partying with the gypsies.
I probably haven't explained any of this clearly, because I feel as if I've been running in circles. But at least I know that, whatever the roundabout route through European history they took, flamingo and flaming both derive from the Latin word flamma, meaning flame.

And just for a rest I'm going to look at these beautiful photos of flamingoes.

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