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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 61.djvu/443

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THE STORY OF A WORD—MAMMAL.

form mammalia was long preferred. The chief translators of the 'Règne Animal' rendered mammifères by mammalia; Blyth alone substituted mammalians in its place. Owen, in the work already cited in which mammals was used on the title-page, employed mammalia in the text more frequently than mammals, and yet he used the English form more than any of his contemporaries. Popular as well as scientific writers avoided the English word as one alien to the genius of the language. Some preferred the word mammifers when they would use an anglicized term.

By reason of the general ignorance of the etymology of the word mammalia, and the dislike of it, on account of the misapprehension that it was an imperfect or clipped word, the early French naturalists devised one of their own—mammiferes—and this early took root and has been universally adopted by French writers. It was to some extent adopted by English writers of the first half of the century under the form mammifers. Robert Chambers, in his anonymous 'Vestiges of Creation' frequently used it and Hugh Miller, in his antidotes to the heresy of the Vestiges, sometimes did. Miller, in his 'Old Red Sandstone' (1841), also accepted the singular form in his statement (Chapter IV.) that 'the mammifer takes precedence of the bird, the bird of the reptile, the reptile of the fish.' The use of the word, nevertheless, was never general. The derivative adjective, however, was much more frequently adopted for a time.

Lyell, in his 'Principles of Geology' almost invariably used the word mammalia, but accepted the adjective mammiferous instead of mammalian and even of mammaliferous. (He admitted mammifers in his 'Glossary' but did not otherwise use it.) This, naturally, was an example which others followed. It was not until the first half of the century had been past for some time that the English word came generally into use.

The science which treats of mammals had to be named. Mammalogy was naturally thought of, but many objected to it. The French, who would not tolerate mammal or mammaux, although they had no objection to the analogous animal and animaux, on the whole took kindly to mammalogie or mammologie. Substitutes, it is true, were offered; Desmarest proposed mastologie and De Blainville mastozoologie and the latter was admitted by Littre in his great dictionary, but they did not secure a permanent foothold and mammalogie is the term now generally used.

The objection to mammalogy was and is that it is a hybrid and also a badly compounded and clipped word. It is formed of the Latin mamma (a breast or teat) and the Greek λόγς; the true meaning is a discourse on breasts rather than breast-bearing animals. Greek nouns also generally have the vowel o rather than a before the second