Things that are Misnamed
Catgut is gut of sheep.
Baffin’s Bay is no bay at all.
Arabic figures were invented by the Indians.
Turkish baths are not of Turkish origin.
Blacklead is a compound of carbon and iron.
Slave by derivation should mean noble, illustrious.
Turkeys do not come from Turkey, but North America.
Titmouse is not a mouse, but a little hedge sparrow.
Dutch clocks are of German (Deutsch), not Dutch manufacture.
Salt (that is table salt) is not a salt at all, but “chloride of
Galvanized iron is not galvanized–simply iron coated with zinc.
Ventriloquism is not voice from the stomach, but from the mouth.
Kid gloves are not kid at all, but are made of lambskin or sheepskin.
Pompey’s Pillar, in Alexandria, was erected neither by nor to Pompey.
Tonquin beans come from Tonka, in Guinea, not Tonquin, in Asia.
Fire, air, earth, and water, called the four elements, are not elements
Rice paper is not made from rice, but from the pith of Tungtsau, or
Japan lacquer contains no lac at all, but is made from the resin of a
kind of nut tree.
Pen means a feather. (Latin. “penna,” a wing.) A steel pen is therefore
Jerusalem artichoke has no connection with Jerusalem, but with the
Humble pie, for “umbil pie.” The umbils of venison were served to
inferiors and servants.
Lunar caustic is simply nitrate of silver, and silver is the
astrological symbol of the moon.
Bridegroom has nothing to do with groom. It is the old English “guma,” a
Mother of pearl is the inner layer of several sorts of shell, and in
some cases the matrix of the pearl.
Sealing wax is not wax at all nor does it contain wax. It is made of
shellac, Venice turpentine and cinnabar.
Cleopatra’s Needles were not erected by Cleopatra, nor in honor of that
queen, but by Thothmes III.
German silver is not silver at all, but a metallic mixture which has
been in use in China time out of mind.
Cuttle-bone is not bone, but a structure of pure chalk imbedded loosely
in the substance of a species of cuttlefish.
America was named after Amerigo Vespucci, a naval astronomer of
Florence, but he did not discover the New World.
Prussian blue does not come from Prussia. It is the precipitate of the
salt of protoxide of iron with red prussiate of potass.
Wormwood has nothing to do with worms or wood; it is the Anglo-Saxon
“wer mod,” man-inspiriting, being a strong tonic.
Honeydew is neither honey nor dew, but an animal substance given off by
certain insects, especially when hunted by ants.
Gothic architecture is not that of the Goths, but the ecclesiastical
style employed in England and France before the Renaissance.
Sperm oil properly means “seed oil,” from the notion that it was spawn
or milt of a whale. It is chiefly taken, however, from the head, not the
spawn of the “spermaceti” whale.
Whalebone is not bone, nor does it possess any properties of bone. It is
a substance attached to the upper jaw of the whale, and serves to strain
the water which the creature takes up.