Word of the Week (230): PELLACH (probability 28853), by David Sutton

PELLACH is a Scots word for a porpoise. It has variants PELLACK and PELLOCK.

Porpoises are small cetaceans related to whales and dolphins. They are distinct from dolphins, the most obvious differences being in the shorter beak and in the shape of the teeth, but sufficiently similar to have been traditionally lumped in with dolphins by sailors and fishermen.

Older names for porpoise are PORPESS (or PORPESSE) and SEAHOG. PORPOISE can also be used as a verb: to move like a porpoise.

As far as dolphins go, associated words are BOTTLENOSE, perhaps the best known kind of dolphin, though the name is also given to a kind of whale, and GRAMPUS, a name for Risso's dolphin, though again this name is also given to the killer whale. You really would think that human beings would not risk a possibly fatal confusion by giving playful, human-friendly creatures the same name as one of the ocean's fiercest predators that no one in their right mind would want to frolic with, but there you go. The name GRAMPUS derives from Latin via Old French, and means 'fat fish'. SNUBFIN is another kind of dolphin: this is adjectival only - no SNUBFINS*.

DOLPHINET is a Spenserian name for a female dolphin.

DELPHIN in CSW12 is an adjective meaning related to the DAUPHIN, a title given to the eldest son of the King of France from 1349 to 1830, deriving from the fact that he had dolphins in his crest. However, in CSW15, courtesy of Collins, it becomes also a noun: 'an archaic word for a dolphin; a fatty substance made from dolphin oil'. So DELPHINS becomes good.

Finally, the flower DELPHINIUM (plural DELPHINIUMS or DELPHINIA) takes its name from a perceived resemblance of its flowers to dolphins.


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