Week twenty: SPLAKE (probability 14607), by David Sutton

A SPLAKE is a hybrid of a male brook trout and a female lake trout, the name being formed from speckled trout (another name for the brook trout) and LAKE trout. I have had a special affection for this word ever since I played in my very first Scrabble tournament and it drew forth a challenge. Up to that point I had been naively assuming that serious Scrabble players would know all the words, at least those of eight letters or fewer, and it did my confidence good to realise that with a very few exceptions this was simply not the case; in fact, I soon came to realise, it was very far from the case. But apart from that there is something about fish names that gives me peculiar pleasure. Perhaps it is how they conjure up an image of little-known creatures gliding through their alien aqueous element; perhaps it is the eclectic nature of their origins, being drawn from so many languages of the world. And with fish contributing around fifteen hundred words to our list, the study is well worthwhile. So, for those sharing in my ichthyolatrous tendency, a few more of my favourites.

LUDERICK is a rock fish of Australia, deriving its name from a native Australian language.

BERGYLT is a Norwegian haddock, from Norwegian berggylta, which means 'rock-pig'.

A CHAVENDER, which provides poets with a not terribly useful rhyme for lavender, is another name for the CHUB, which can also be called a CHEVEN or CHEVIN.

The GWINIAD or GWYNIAD is a lake fish of North Wales, taking its name from Welsh gwyn, white.

A GEELBEK is a yellow-jawed marine fish that takes its name from the Afrikaans geel, yellow + bek, mouth.

Another from the Afrikaans is KABELJOU. This is pretty unlikely, but if it does come up remember it has a variant KABELJOUW, and keep that W handy.

LAMPUKI (or LAMPUKA) is one of the very few words that we get from Maltese.

Maori gives us a whole raft of names for fish found in and around New Zealand, though personally I find these the devil to remember: PORAE, KAHAWAI, MAOMAO, INANGA, KANAE, PAUA, MARARI, REREMAI, REPEREPE.

A HOMELYN, which provides a nice -N hook, is a spotted ray; the origin of the name is unknown.

A CORBINA or CORVINA is a bluish-grey whiting of the California coast; this one comes up a lot.

Less useful but rather delightful is the MUMMICHOG, another name for the KILLIFISH, taking its name from a Native American language, as do the NAMAYCUSH, SQUETEAGUE and OUANANICHE. These belong to some dream version of Super Scrabble, but Native American also gives us the somewhat more possible OQUASSA, SCUPPAUG, TAUTOG (or TAUTAUG), TULLIBEE, MENHADEN, TOGUE and ULICON with its multiple variants (ULIKON, EULACHAN, EULACHON, OOLACHAN, OOLAKAN, OULAKAN, OULACHON).


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