A little information about an everyday word this week. We are always finding weird and wonderful words, but we have come across the history behind….
We all know the Gorilla as a large, black, hairy primate that lives in zoos and inhabits the wild forests of central Africa, but Gorilla is Greek in origin and was first translated to mean a ‘tribe of hairy women’.
Before the advances of technology, stories from distant lands were simply retold through the generations, often without any proof of existence. History recalls that sometime during the sixth century (BC), an Admiral named Hanno sailed down the western coast of Africa and reported of an encounter with a tribe of ‘aggressive hairy women’. His diaries were engraved on stone and when when the Greeks interpreted the inscriptions, Gorillai was their translation of the name Hanno had nicknamed them. Whilst the original stones are no longer in existence, the Greek translations are.
It has been thought, over time, that maybe he meant a group of long haired black women, but there will never be any clarity. Had he met a Gorilla, as know it today, or was it some ancient tribe of women?
When it came to scientifically naming the primate, Thomas Savage, an American protestant clergyman, missionary, and physician, who was aware of Hanno’s findings, decided on ‘Gorilla’.
I suppose one of the advantages of history and the myths and stories from so long ago, is that to some extent, we can allow our imaginations to decide…… I wonder, who did he meet?
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