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Flutter-by, Butter and Fly - a Shattering Story ?

+3 votes
Aug 2 in Fun & Humor ☻ by Marianne (16,681 points)
edited Aug 2 by Marianne
Four linguists were sharing a compartment on a train on their way to an international conference on sound symbolism.

One was English, one Spanish, one French and the fourth German. They got into a discussion on whose language was the most eloquent and euphonious.

The English linguist said: "Why, English is the most eloquent language. Take for instance the word "butterfly". Butterfly, butterfly... doesn't that word so beautifully express the way this delicate insect flies. It's like flutter-by, flutter-by."

"Oh, no!" said the Spanish linguist, "the word for "butterfly" in Spanish is "mariposa". Now, this word expresses so beautifully the vibrant colours on the butterfly's wings. What could be a more apt name for such a brilliant creature? Spanish is the most eloquent language!"

"Papillon!" says the French linguist, "papillon! This word expresses the fragility of the butterfly's wings and body. This is the most fitting name for such a delicate and ethereal insect. French is the most eloquent language!"

At this the German linguist stands up, and demands: "Und vot is rongk mit 'SCHMETTERLING'?"


3 Answers

Virginia Aug 2

Oh Marianne, I love that...I laughed and laughed...the magnificent German language, profound and scientific, but euphonious it is NOT!  :D  <3

Well, except for Goethe, who DID do some marvelous poetry that is very easy on the ear...

"Uber allen gipfeln, ist ruhe; in allen vipfeln,..."

Marianne Virginia Aug 2

Lol - I hope that you will laugh even more, as I am sure that T(h)ink will appreciate the shattering side of the German translation - and there is the Italian word "farfalla" (not papilio, the root for "papillon", while Spaniards favour the Holy Virgin's gentle "landing" - lol).

Virginia Virginia Aug 2

Well then Marianne, we will wait upon the perspicacious observations of our dear Sister O'Tink!  <3

Marianne Virginia Aug 2

Yes, Virginia, and here's some more about Goethe:

and, for you and T(h)ink, the musical version by Schubert:

Virginia Virginia Aug 3

Marianne, I enjoyed a delightful time with your links; I had no idea that Wanderers' Nightsong II is considered one of the finest lyrical poems in the German language! I encountered it as a teenager, maybe 13 or so; I was entranced by the lyrical formation of the verse, and laboriously (this was prolly 1958, LONG before Google) went to the library for a German-English dictionary so I could translate every word, and enjoy the poem in its original form. Ended up memorizing it, and still can recite it (although not spell it correctly).

I actually began learning German because of Goethe's poem, although I did not get very far...not much support as I knew no one who spoke German in my tiny home town.

Anyway, the Schubert adaptation to music is breathtakingly beautiful! I ended up trying to research the portrait, and turns out this is a misattribution; not Schubert at all, but I learned that "This picture is not a portrait of Franz Schubert. It is one of two existing portraits of the Austrian physician Karl Joseph Maria von Hartmann (1793-1876)."

The same source said that 95% of all Schubert scholars do not speak German...well I KNOW that you do...if I recall German is your first language? Then French your second? English third?

* * *

Anyway as you see, I had a lovely time, learning lots! :)  <3

Marianne Virginia Aug 4

Oh, Virginia, sorry here's the picture of Schubert:



Marianne Virginia Aug 4


Maybe that these links can help you to take a pick:


Marianne Virginia Aug 4


Maybe that these links can help you to take a pick:


Virginia Virginia Aug 4

This drawing of Schubert is more familiar, Marianne, I agree!

Marianne Virginia Aug 9

Lol - indeed.

Rooster Aug 2

Outstanding! :D :D

Marianne Rooster Aug 2

Thank you, Rooster - I really couldn't resist, and I can't wait to read T(h)ink's comment about the German definition.

Pictured species:



TheOtherTink Aug 2

Everything you ever wanted to know about butterflies. :D

It seems that (at least in English and in German) the words 'butterfly' and 'Schmetterling' were coined by people noticing that butterflies were attracted to butter churns (and took a sip or two of cream, if the churns weren't covered). 'Schmetter' seems to have come from a Middle German word 'Schmetten' meaning cream (cognate with the Czech 'smetana' with the same meaning). So 'Schmetterling' could be literally translated into English as 'creamling', i.e., a little creature that hangs around cream; cf Earthling. :)

So, nothing to do with shattering. :D

O'Tink, what a delightful article you found! I especially enjoyed the renderings "Swedish Jungfru Marias nyckelpiga (‘Our Lady’s servant in charge of the keys’), and Russian bozhia korovka (‘God's little cow’)."

Then at first I thought the author did not follow up on her promise to explore the idea of "Why do butterflies generate such diversity? Do they have a particular impact on our basic cognitive creative processes...?"

...but she rather did! Saying, "It was suggested that butterflies are distinguished as 'unique aesthetic creations of language,' as opposed to, e.g., cats and dogs, because their singularly inspirational poetic nature demands special linguistic treatment. In other words, 'the concept/image of butterfly is a uniquely powerful one in the group minds of the world's cultures, with its somewhat unpromising start as a caterpillar followed by its dazzling finish of visual symmetry, coupled with the motional unforgettability of the butterfly's flipzagging path through our consciousnesses; butterflies are such perfect symbols of transformation that almost no culture is content to accept another's poetry for this mythic creature.' This is why 'each language finds its own verbal beauty to celebrate the stunning salience of the butterfly's being.' "

However, then she proceeds to bring the whole thing down a bit; "As romantic as this explanation sounds, it does seem far-fetched: there are many other prominent poetic images the generic terms of which are perfectly recognizable, even in unrelated languages. The butterfly’s unicity in our linguistic cognition thus remains as 'mysterious as the creature itself'."

Anyhow, thoroughly delightful, thank you!!!

Perfectly explained, T(h)ink - lol ! :D:D:D

Yes, the insect has nothing to do with shattering - or rather smashing - except for jokes and pranks, if citing a certain game ("ball" instead of the suffix "ling"), and the verb itself (adding the conjugated ending):


T(h)ink, your link is precious - and great to read!


Marianne, where else could we learn all this kind of stuff, except right here on IHAVESOLVED?  :P  :silly:  :D

I mean, one name for butterflies being known as "Our lady's servant in charge of the keys"...!!! Not to mention the Russians calling butterflies "God's little cow" .... 

@ Marianne and Virginia,

:) :) :)

Lol - Virginia, butterflies are indeed part of many myths and tales - they are friends with elves and fairies.


@ Marianne,





Oh and Marianne, don't forget the undines...I am really sure the butterflies are friends with the undines also, even though I don't have a spectacular gif to post like O'Tink just did! 

Actually, maybe I will go look for one...O'Tink's gif is inspiring, that is stunning! (Adding an image) Well here is an actual photo of an undine with dragonflies, and EVERYBODY knows that dragonflies are really fairies in disguise...


Lol, Virginia - how could I forget about nymphs, fauns and various other spirits and fairies - there's also Mélusine, there are the mermaids, necks or nixies, naiades, limnads, oreads, nereids, hesperids, pleiades, muses, etc., etc. (the list is long) ... :):angel::D


A beautiful list of the various sprites and such, Marianne!

Virginia, it's too bad that Havelock Ellis gave undines a bad name by coining the word undinism, meaning golden showers. :O :blush: :O

Undines don't do such things:ermm:

Well I had to look it all up, O'Tink...including Havelock Ellis personal history...  :blush:  but I know now and of course undines do no such things as that!  :wassat:  :O  ;)

Yes, Virginia, Ellis was a strange one, and I think I read Kinsey was too. :ermm:

Oh yes, the world of the fairies and other sprites is very far reaching and universal - a world of wonderful stories, tales and fantasy - though often with more or less tragic issues, if remembering the great masterpieces in literature, theatre, opera, ballet, music, movies, etc.


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