Butterfly flutter by

Padmini Menon
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Who can resist following a butterfly’s trail? The flapping iridescent wings hint at a world whose margins fade forever and ever as you explore. It opens up a universe for both the teacher and the student, and the learning and the teaching straddles the generally water-tight compartments of arts and science.

In the beginning was the word
prjtimage2-oct07What better way to start than with some entomology etymology exploration? How did the term originate? What are the stories and myths behind the word? How are cultures reflected in the way a people seek to name a thing? For instance, the French use the term papillion; the Greek, psyche; the Germans schmetterling (from schmetten, a word first used in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries from Czech smetana, both meaning “cream”, referring to the butterflies’ proclivity to hover around milk pails and butter churns). In English, it can be traced to buttorfleog – folk belief had it that the butterflies were really witches out to steal the cream! And what about the words in the Indian regional languages – why is it called sitakokachilaka in Telugu? Yet another story to explore!

Padmini Menon is a writer & editor based in Hyderabad. She can be reached at [email protected]

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