Wednesday, February 20, 2008
A frog the size of a bowling ball, with heavy armor and teeth, lived among dinosaurs millions of years ago intimidating enough that scientists who unearthed its fossils dubbed the beast Beelzebufo, or Devil Toad....The name comes from the Greek word for devil, Beelzebub, and Latin for toad, bufo (pronounced boo-foe).Of course Beelzebub, although it occurs in Greek, is not a "Greek" word, any more than it is an "English" word merely because it occurs in English. But the clever portmanteau word Beelzebufo is an appropriate name, an aptronym, for a type of frog.
Beelzebub was originally the name of a Philistine deity. I'm out of my league here, but some authorities, e.g. Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich-Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, say that the name means "Lord of Flies." Such a name is appropriate for frogs, which eat flies.
Frogs have also been traditionally associated with devils. "Paddock calls," says one of the witches in Shakespeare's Macbeth. A paddock is a frog or toad.
Hat tip: Jim K.
Other posts on aptronyms: