Axolotl

In our tiny pond today there were red salamanders, by the score - a vision which prompted me to recall a smutty ditty we used to hum at school, about a salamander lookalike: I had a little axolotl, and I kept it IN a bottle. (The poem got worse from that point on, and bears no repeating.) But what a lovely word, axolotl - one of only four words that have found their way into the English language from - wait for it - the Aztec. (The others are weird and wildly unfamiliar: Nahuatl, teguexin and tule.) Axolotl is defined as

a batrachian reptile (Siredon pisciforme, family Proteidae) found in Mexican lakes, resembling a salamander in appearance but, like all the Proteidae,retaining through life the gills of its young state.

 

And why batrachian? Dictionary definitions are not supposed to include words more complex than the one being defined, and I venture to suspect that few will know what batrachian means. Well, your misery is over: it is from the Greek word for frog - and it signifies in this case that the axolotl is froglike and does not, like a salamander, have a tail.

 

 

Line Break
share:
Line Break
  • http://twitter.com/ronmader Ron Mader

    Travel Tip: If you visit Mexico City, check out the axolotl breeding center.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/planeta/143946339

    Xochimilco is a must! 

    I will ask friends about the claim that only four Nahuatl words have entered English. My guess - more than four, less than ten.

  • http://twitter.com/ronmader Ron Mader

    Travel Tip: If you visit Mexico City, check out the axolotl breeding center.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/planeta/143946339

    Xochimilco is a must! 

    I will ask friends about the claim that only four Nahuatl words have entered English. My guess - more than four, less than ten.

  • Psigney

    Tule is a fairly common word in California. The Central Valley in the fall is beset by thick fogs know as "Tule Fogs" that play havoc with traffic. Also, someone who lives in an isolated area is said to "live in the Tules" usually pronounced as "Tooleys".

  • Paula H

    Maybe I'm missing part of the puzzle.
    The language of the Aztecs was Nahuatl. From Nahuatl, we get the words chocolate, tomato, chili, avocado, coyote, mesquite, tamale, mezcal, and more. Being an Aztec must've been delicious!

  • Marehrenberg

    Axolotl is also the name of a god in the Nahuatl cosmogony, They are almost extinguished, beeing it a comon dish for the Aztecs.

  • http://twitter.com/ronmader Ron Mader

    Locals love to eat this salamander. I'd love to visit the conservation center again. I first visited years ago thanks to a tour with Marlene!