I don’t think I am the only person to have thought once or twice that it would be nice to have a name like the ones you hear in Westerns: Soaring Eagle, say, or Jumping Raccoon. In one film, of which I remember nothing else, one of the characters said that Native American children were given names on the basis of the first noticeable thing spotted after their birth. I don’t know if that is true, but if it is, it means that in Central Rome, where I live, there would be no chance of being called Soaring Eagle, because there are no eagles, not even drooping ones.
But if I were a member of a native tribe here and the criterion used was the one described, the roll-call of our braves would go something like this:
Slice of Pizza
Smell of Frying
Smell of Coffee
Cloud of Starlings
Every time I board an Alitalia plane to fly to Rome, where I live, I wonder who thought it would be a good idea to name the in-flight magazine after Ulysses, a person who took all of ten years to make it home.
Recently, I chanced upon a page in Wikipedia entitled “At sign”. It contains a long list of the names which @ has in various languages. It is quite amazing that one sign can have been interpreted in so many different ways. Here is a selection (some of the names listed are not reported as the most common ones):
In Finnish it is a cat’s tail, kissanhäntä, or a miaow-miaow, miukumauku.
Russians prefer calling it a dog, собака (sobaka).
In Kyrgyz it’s a doggy, собачка (sobachka).
In Armenian a puppy, shnik.
One of various names for it in Ukrainian is little dog, песик (pesyk).
And in Kazakh it is sometimes a dog’s head, ит басы.
In Greek it is a duckling, παπάκι (papaki),
Another name for it in Ukrainian it is an ear, вухо (vukho).
In Kazakh the official name (dog’s head is unofficial) is the beautiful айқұлақ moon’s ear.
In Denmark, Sweden and sometimes in Norway it is snabel-A (elephant trunk A). In Faroese the same but written snápil-a.