[Haskell-cafe] Category Theory woes

Richard O'Keefe ok at cs.otago.ac.nz
Thu Feb 18 18:52:21 EST 2010

On Feb 19, 2010, at 11:22 AM, Hans Aberg wrote:
> As for the naming problem, it is more of a linguistic problem: the  
> names were somehow handed by tradition, and it may be difficult to  
> change them. For example, there is a rumor that "kangaroo" means "I  
> do not understand" in a native language; assuming this to be true,  
> it might be difficult to change it.

OED entry for kangaroo, n; etymology:
[Stated to have been the name in a native Australian language.
  Cook and Banks believed it to be the name given to the animal by
  the natives at Endeavour River, Queensland, and there is later
  affirmation of its use elsewhere.  On the other hand, there are
  express statements to the contrary (see quotations below), showing
  that the word, if ever current in this sense, was merely local, or
  had become obsolete. The common assertion that it really means ‘I  
  understand’ (the supposed reply of the native to his questioner)
  seems to be of recent origin and lacks confirmation. ...]

Turning to the Wikipedia article, we find
"The word kangaroo derives from the Guugu Yimidhirr word gangurru,
  referring to a grey kangaroo"
"A common myth about the kangaroo's English name is that 'kangaroo'
  was a Guugu Yimidhirr phrase for "I don't understand you." According
  to this legend, Captain James Cook and naturalist Sir Joseph Banks
  were exploring the area when they happened upon the animal.  They
  asked a nearby local what the creatures were called.  The local
  responded "Kangaroo", meaning "I don't understand you", which Cook
  took to be the name of the creature.  The Kangaroo myth was debunked
  in the 1970s by linguist John B. Haviland in his research with the
  Guugu Yimidhirr people."
See the wikipedia page for references, especially Haviland's article.

It's time this urban legend was forgotten.

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