As we departed Yosemite via Wawona, we passed through Mariposa County. There was a Ping! in my mind’s word bank as I recalled my delight on first discovering that this word means BUTTERFLY in Spanish. I think it is a very showy word, as is butterfly. But years before I learned the Spanish word, I was taken with the French: papillon, pronounced roughly, pap-ee-yón (with that nasaly French on.) How fancy! Schmetterling is the German, pretty much phonetic as it looks, and a happy word that is to say, with its ling at the end. That’s as far as I can go with the comparisons. When I look up the word in other languages, either they are not so flamboyant or I don’t know how to pronounce them.
I find it charming that these several words from different people groups hint at some particular quality of this insect, a creature that should belong in its own category far removed from cockroaches or houseflies–too complicated for just one or two syllables, and worthy of taking a little extra trouble with the tongue, in order to give honor to its glory. Mariposa has a second meaning I just found in my dictionary: night light. Now isn’t that a lovely evolution?
Rather than give you a repeat picture of a butterfly in my garden, I am posting here the Butterfly Nebula. Way out there where the fragile flutterer could not survive, the image of its elusive beauty can still be brought to mind.