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Meerkat

Meerkats (Suricata suricatta) are a cute etymological mess and now they are even becoming a live-streaming tool for mobile devices. Yuck! You might have noticed that this website (like me) ignores Facebook and despises Twitter so I can only laugh at the thought of a mobile app that allows you to fulfill your loudest exhibitionist instincts in real time in combination with those two above mentioned services. Thus I will not link that app, if you are interested, you will easily find it yourself. I ignore the reason why this app has been named after the cute mongoose, I can only guess. Perhaps it is because the app will be tested on kids first, just like meerkat send their young first when they have to cross a road to see if they get killed by the passing cars. If they do not, then the adults follow to the other side of the road. Not a nice behaviour by human moral standards, but an effective strategy from the point of view of the grown-ups, kudos to them.

Then we have the German Meerkatzen, but those are not mangoose, they are primates (Cercopithecidae). I told you it was a mess, in this case of the faux ami kind. There are 26 different species of real Meerkatzen, which are called "guenon" in English, although not all members of this genus have the word "guenon“ in their common names; also, because of changes in scientific classification, some monkeys in other genera may have common names that include the word "guenon". And to top it all in German there are the „green“ Meerkatzen (grüne Meerkatzen or Chlorocebus), the „dwarf“ Meerkatzen (Zwergmeerkatzen or Miopithecus) and the swamp Meerkatzen (Sumpfmeerkatze or Allenopithecus). None of theese are real Meerkatzen nor guenon, but all are primates. Finally, the meerkat is called Erdmännchen in German, which could be translated with little earth-man. It is a pity David Bowie did never sing about them, they would be my heroes.


Please note that neither the meerkat nor the Meerkatze have anything at all to do with cats (Felidae), it is just a confusing denomination with an interesting etymological background I will not dwell upon here and now for lack of space and time.

So, all this is a nice mess, but what is untranslatable about it? Well, Spanish. Spanish knows mangoose (mangostas), some even live in Spain, but not his particular kind: the place they live in the wild was not colonised by Spain but by Germany and Portugal and Sir David Attenborough's documentaries were never bought by any major Spanish TV channel, although he did obtain the Premio Príncipe de Asturias de Ciencias Sociales in 2009. So in Spanish meerkats are called suricata, which is only the first part of their scientific name and nobody I know knows the meaning of this word. Suricata is not a translation but their Latin first name. But now that there is an app called meerkat that football players use the question will surely arise, so here are the facts. Should anybody ask you, you will now be able to answer. Nice for you.

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