Week thirty-nine: MENOPOME (probability 32785), by David Sutton

A MENOPOME is a large American salamander, better known as the HELLBENDER. The name MENOPOME may seem curious, but is easily explained as deriving from the Greek menein, to remain, and poma, lid, referring to its persistent gill aperture. Similarly the exotic-sounding LEGUAAN can be prosaically explained as a Dutch version of French l'iguane, the iguana.

The names of other lizards are more genuinely exotic. The TEGUEXIN, a large black-and-yellow lizard of South American, gets its name from the Aztec tecoixin; it has a short form TEGU. ANOLE and AGAMA come from the Carib language. NGARARA is a Maori name for a lizard found in New Zealand; PERENTIE or PERENTY, referring to a large lizard found in arid regions of Australia, is from an Aboriginal language. VARAN comes from Arabic waran, and is closely related to WORRAL or WORREL, a fork-tongued lizard found in Egypt, deriving from Arabic waral, lizard.

CHUCKWALLA, a large edible iguana of Mexico and the Southern US, comes from Mexican Spanish chacahuala, from a Native American language, while KABARAGOYA, a large monitor lizard of SE Asia, comes from Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines.

Nobody seems to know how the GALLIWASP, a West Indian lizard, got its name, but as the natives once imagined it to be venomous one can surmise that it is some native word influenced by the Egnlish wasp. And the origin of HATTERIA, the genus to which the TUATARA or TUATERA belongs, is also unknown, though TUATARA itself is a Maori word, but as herpetologically inclined readers will be aware, the TUATARA is not actually a lizard anyway, belonging to its own order Sphenodontia. The two species of tuatara are the only surviving SPHENODONS, and as such are of great interest in the study of the evolution of lizards and snakes. Quite apart from providing Scrabble players with an A-dump that I have been glad of more than once.


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