Annals of hybridity

Passed on by Jonathan Lighter, this story of the 4th from Herald Scotland:, “Meet Farmer Murphy’s geep (or shoat): now what will he call it?”

An Irish farmer who claims to have bred a cross between a sheep and a goat is seeking a name for the rare offspring.

… Similar crossings have been reported before in Chile, Jamaica, Malta and in Botswana, where scientists found a hybrid – known as the Toast of Botswana – had 57 chromosomes, a number in between that of sheep and goats.

In most cases the offspring is stillborn.

A photo:

The genetic status of the creature is still to be determined. (You’ll note the Herald Scotland‘s caution in reporting this part of the story: “claims to have bred a cross…”)

On the linguistic front, one strategy for naming such a hybrid is compounding: a copulative compound like sheep-goat or goat-sheep. Another choice is a portmanteau, essentially a compact version of a copulative compound (reflecting the hybridity of such a creature by a fused linguistic form): geep or shoat.

Shoat would be a bad choice, since the word has an already established use, for ‘a young pig, esp. one that is newly weaned’ (NOAD2). Geep sounds silly to me, but that’s just my personal aesthetic judgment.

6 Responses to “Annals of hybridity”

  1. Stan Says:

    Related to this story, but on a separate linguistic point brought to my attention by Michael Madden on Twitter, the Irish Times report says:

    After the Farmers’ Journal posted a video of the creature on YouTube yesterday, it quickly went viral among customers in Murphy’s pub.

    Which is quite a remarkable use of the word viral.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Nice observation. An extension of viral to something closer to ‘popular’. Though there’s nothing that quite nails this sense, so you can see why viral might have been extended.

  2. Stan Says:

    “Spread” would have served the same purpose as “went viral”, I think, without the latter’s trendy or ironic flavour. Since viral in this sense normally implies something spreading over a wide geographical area (typically by being published and shared online), the idea of something going viral in a pub brings it closer to its earlier implications of immediate physical contagion – be it of an actual virus or something innocuous, like a yawn.

  3. “Going viral” in Murphy’s pub | Sentence first Says:

    […] a comment to his post about the blends geep and shoat, linguist Arnold Zwicky said that nothing quite nails the sense of something spreading this way, “so you can see why […]

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