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Whale, as derived from "hwæl" (old English) eventially derived from the
Nordic hvalr (and as combined with hvalfiskr) lit. "large fish." One might say
that "whale" thus meant "large" as deriving for any animal in the ocean. But
that's just THAT word. Translating the concept from its origin derives us to
various Mediterranean concept, one of which is the _squalus_ and was used for
anything from snake-like to shark-like animals, and probably smaller whales.
It seems fairly easy to assume that the Greek Ketos was conceived from a whale
as seen from the Atlantic or entering the Med, very large, serpentine-seeming
from the surface (elongate, sinuous, with a large mouth). How hard then would
it be to derive a broadly-concepted thing such as the Judaic "fish" (in the
Hebraic portion of this story, "dag") that swallowed Jonah as a great and
monstrous fish ... or whale? In case this hasn't been pointed out before, many
legends of weird creatures are based at some level on a nugget of truth, even
if the idea is ludicrous, such as conceiving of various aquatic "monsters" from
tales of seafarers witnessing narwhals, whales, dugongs, without ever bringing
it out or studying it in any scientific concept (ignoring that first nation
peoples of North America and northern Eurasia regularly hunted and slew these
animals, but their traditions being oral give us little comparison with written
texts such as the Bible or the Eddas).
Jaime A. Headden
"Innocent, unbiased observation is a myth." --- P.B. Medawar (1969)
"Human beings, who are almost unique in having the ability to learn
from the experience of others, are also remarkable for their apparent
disinclination to do so." --- Douglas Adams (Last Chance to See)
"Ever since man first left his cave and met a stranger with a
different language and a new way of looking at things, the human race
has had a dream: to kill him, so we don't have to learn his language or
his new way of looking at things." --- Zapp Brannigan (Beast With a Billion
> Date: Mon, 8 Mar 2010 09:18:08 +0100
> From: firstname.lastname@example.org
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: Krakenology
>> Even into the Christian era, illustrations of Jonah being swallowed
>> by a whale typically feature a long-bodied, serpentine sea creature.
> And it doesn't even say "whale" in the Bible, it just says "fish"...
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