Wednesday, October 29, 2003

What do you call a panda?

Open blog, insert foot. Okay, so I stated rather simply that giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) in Chinese is 大猫熊 (da4 mao1xiong2) or "greater cat-bear." The truth is more complex.

Yes, 大猫熊 is one name for pandas, but, according to the National Zoo, they are also known as 熊猫 (xiong2mao1 "bear-cat"), 猫熊 (mao1xiong2 "cat-bear") and 花熊 (hua1xiong2 "banded bear"). Wikipedia gives a few other alternate names -- 竹熊 (zhu2xiong2 "bamboo bear"), 白熊 (bai2xiong2 "white/snow bear"), 华熊 (hua4xiong2 "bear of the mountain"), 花头熊 (hua1tou2 xiong2 "bear with a fancy head pattern"), 银狗 (yin2gou3 "silver dog") -- and several others I can't puzzle out. According to Zoo Atlanta, there are more than 30 different names in Chinese for pandas (I'm not sure how much of these name differences are language/dialect differences vs. different names for the same animal).

Jeroen Jacobs doesn't have anything about the Chinese names of the bears, but he does have a good overview of the 28 pandas living in captivity outside of China with pictures, biographies and links to the various zoos.

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