Spring is here, time to go out and enjoy the garden. The first butterflies are visiting my flowers.
They made me think about their strange name - what do these flying insects (that are by no means flies) have to do with butter? One dictionary mentions it has something to do with the colour yellow (though only few species are yellow, and even those aren't the coloured of butter). My other dictionary informs me of an old believe that butterflies would 'steal milk and butter'. Hm... Ever seen a butterfly be attracted to milk?
There is something else odd about their name: it appears to be completely different in every language.
In German it is 'Schmetterling', not a nice name when you see it in writing, nor when it is properly pronounced, but at least it has something fluttering about it, resembling the way these insects fly.
The Dutch call it 'vlinder' which sounds sweet and elegant, to my ears. In Spanish it is called 'mariposa', a beautiful word but somehow it reminds me more of a ladybird than of a butterfly.
The Italians of course call it 'farfalla', which sounds like dance and music alike, while the French say 'papillon' and the Portugese call it 'borboleta'.
It is the only animal that has so many different names, not related to each other, while these all catch the nature of a butterfly so much better than English does!