Things I’ve learned working in a museum

Firstly, that minerals all have BRILLIANT names. And that mineralogists have no sense of humour. Otherwise they’d have come up with rather less (one suspects unintentionally) hilarious names for their rocks!

My current top five mineral names are:

5. Grossular
4. Silimanite
3. Phlogopite
2. Cummingtonite
1. Spodumene

Always good for a cheap laugh. Especially Cummingtonite (which, disappointingly and rather boringly, takes its name from the town of Cummington in Massivechewsets (Kenny Everett has a lot to answer for), where it was first found). There is very little imagination in the naming of minerals: most are just named for the place they come from, the elements they’re composed of, or the person who found them. At least biologists have fun with species names…

For example:

Abra cadabra (a bivalve)
Apopyllus now (a spider)
Ba humbugi (a snail)
Brachyanax thelestrephones (a fly. Translated from the Greek, it means “little chief nipple twister”)
Colon rectum (a beetle)
Eubetia bigaulae (a moth. Pronounced ‘youbetcha bygolly’)
Heerz lukenatcha (a wasp)
Pison eu (another wasp)
Villa manillae (a bee fly)

Proving perhaps not that biologists have a sense of humour, but at least that they think they do. And they certainly have a lot more imagination!


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