Pigeons, Doves, and Their Latin Roots.
February 09, 2009
Today, I was delighted to receive an email from a friend that had Wordsmith.org's daily word post. Today's word was "columbarium", and you can read about it here. I was intrigued for many reasons. For one, I had just found a monotype intaglio print that I did on a steel plate of two domestic pigeons with "Columbidae" written across the bottom. Columbidae is the avian family that includes pigeons and doves, and along with corvids (ravens,crows,jays), is one of my favorites. "Columbarium" is defined as a room or wall with niches for funeral urns to be stored. It's origins are 18th century from Latin, literally meaning "pigeon house", the root "columba" meaning "pigeon or dove". The post highlights how bird references in language are so often used to denote negative things: bird brains, sitting duck, dodo etc. To counteract this a bit they posted a link to a couple of videos that demonstrate the extraordinary intelligence of corvids. But what species of bird is more maligned than the pigeon? The "rat with wings" to which they are often referred says it all. It seems like human nature is to revile the creatures that we share the most space with, and to a large degree our existence is the very reason for their flourishing (rats, mice, pigeons, cockroaches). It's as if we don't like to have the mirror held up to our faces, and we certainly don't want the competition. Anyway, bit of a tangent there...Throughout ancient history doves (and doves are a nice name for pigeons) were greatly revered and cherished. It was standard practice for nobility to keep large dovecotes. Last year I read Andrew Blechman's "Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World's Most Revered and Reviled Bird". I was never a pigeon hater, but the book definitely upped my respect and admiration for this family of birds. Check out Columbidae Conservation as well.