Anecdote: the eagle in the bushes

Some years ago, at a linguistics conference in a village along the Danube in Austria, a Hungarian colleague announced with great pleasure that he’d come across an eagle in the bushes along the way from our lodgings. This did in fact seem remarkable to the rest of us. Then I got it.

I asked him to describe the creature, and got, not an account of a huge wide-winged bird of prey, but one of a small furry mammal: the hedgehog (naturally found in bushes, underbrush, and hedgerows). In German, Igel (which sounds a lot like eagle in English, and indeed my colleague knew only the German name and not the somewhat fanciful English compound noun hedgehog).

A hedgehog:

From Wikipedia:

A hedgehog is any of the spiny mammals of the subfamily Erinaceinae, which is in order Erinaceomorpha. There are seventeen species of hedgehog in five genera, found through parts of Europe, Asia, Africa and New Zealand (by introduction). There are no hedgehogs native to Australia, and no living species native to the Americas. Hedgehogs share distant ancestry with shrews (family Soricidae), with gymnures possibly being the intermediate link, and have changed little over the last 15 million years. Like many of the first mammals they have adapted to a nocturnal, insectivorous way of life. Hedgehogs’ spiny protection resembles that of the unrelated rodent porcupines and monotreme echidnas.

No doubt someone has looked at the question of why so many people find hedgehogs impossibly adorable.

4 Responses to “Anecdote: the eagle in the bushes”

  1. Paolo Says:

    Are you familiar with Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld? 😉

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky on Facebook:

    Yesterday [in Montreal] I was standing next to two people at a cocktail party. The woman, an English speaker, announced that the meat-on-a-stick was duck. The man, a French speaker, seemed unaccountably surprised by this, questioning it, and finally saying he could never eat it, like horse. Which gave me an idea, and I said “Ce n’est pas chien, c’est canard”. (It’s not dog, it’s duck.) He looked startled and confirmed this with her.

    Somewhere there is a wonderful videotape (from the MLA, I think) of an ESL class in which the students are being drilled on saying, with great earnestness, “It’s a DOG … it’s a DUCK”.

  3. hedgehogs | Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] the creature, with a photo, see this posting, […]

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