Sex is an important part of biology. "To tell you that nothing could
equal the gross puruience of Linnaues's mind is perfectly needless. A
literal translation of the first principles of Linnaean botany is enough
to shock female modesty," wrote Rev. Samuel Goodenough in 1808. It is
not surprising that sex should show up in names. How it shows up
is another matter. . . .
Agathidium gallititillo Miller & Wheeler,
2005 (slime mold beetle) The specific name means "French
tickle". (Wheeler considers this his favorite beetle name.)
Amorphophallus (Araceae) The name means
something like "misshapen penis" for the shape of the flowering part, or
spadix. Various species include Amorphophallus elegans, A. elatus,
A. excentricus, A. gigas, A. hottae, A. impressus, A. interruptus,
A. maximus, A. minor, A. odoratus, A. pendulus, A. purpurascens,
A. pygmaeus, A. rugosus, A. spectabilis, and
A. titanum (at heights up to 8 ft., A. titanum
has the world's largest inflorescence, and one of the
Ariolimax dolichophallus Mead, 1943
(slender banana slug) "Dolicho-" means long. This slug is the
mascot of the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Bangiomorpha pubescens Butterfield, 2000
(fossil red alga) The fossil shows the first recorded sex act, 1.2
billion years ago. The "bang" in the name was intended as a euphamism
Brachyphallus (flatworm parasitic on fish)
Cacoxenus pachyphallus Chassagnard & Tsacas,
2003 (fly) "Diseased-stranger thick-phallus". The
pachyphallus epithet also occurs in the fly genera
Antocha, Cryptolabis, and Danomyia, scarabs
Microvalgus and Paediovalgus, and perhaps
Clitoria L. (butterfly pea) Probably named
for the shape of the flowers.
Colymbosathon ecplecticos Siveter et al., 2003 (fossil
ostracod) From "Kolymbos (swimmer) + sathon (with a big
penis); ekplektikos (astounding)." In Greek, "sathon" is used
ironically to toddlers, similar to "big willy" in English. At 425
million years old, the fossil preserves the oldest known instance of a
penis. [Science 302: 1749]
Coprosma foetidissima Forst. & Forst. f. (New
Zealand shrub) Literally, "stinkiest dung smell." Its leaves produce an
offensive odor when rubbed.
Crepidula fornicata (slipper shell) This hermaphroditic
shell forms stacks of individuals; the males on top turn into females
as they grow.
Cuterebra emasculator Fitch, 1856 and
C. sterilator Lugger, 1897 (bot flies) Both
consume the testes of their hosts (rodents).
Cynophallus caninus (Huds.) Fr. 1860 (dog
stinkhorn), "canine dog-phallus", also known as
Ithyphallus inodorus Gray 1821, "non-smelly
tumescent phallus". Its accepted name now is
Mutinus caninus (Huds.) Fr. 1849.
Mutinus was the Roman equivalent of Priapus, preserving the ribaldry,
Cypraecassis testiculus Linnaeus 1758 (sea
shell) There are paired spots around the edges of the shell.
Enchantor modestus Manning A crab whose
restricted carapace constantly exposes its copulatory organ. The name
means "modest flasher."
Eroticoscincus Wells & Wellington, 1984
(subtropical Australian rainforest lizard). Means "sexy skink." A
biologist comments, "I'd say these two need to get out more."
Exetastes fornicator Fabricius, 1781
Hornia (meloid beetle)
Labia minor Linnaeus (earwig)
Mammillaria (cactus) Named for its
resemblance to breasts.
Monochamus titillator Fabricius (southern
whitespotted pine sawyer, a cerambycid beetle)
Orchidaceae (orchids) from Greek "orkhis", testicle,
referring to the appearance of the plants' pseudobulb. It was once
believed that terrestrial orchids sprang from the spilled semen of
Orchis mascula (orchid) "Male testicle"
Penicillus penis Linnaeus, 1758
Penicillus vaginiferous Lamarck, 1818
Phalium Linnaeus 1758 (sea shell) Probably not
after phallus, as the shell is not phallic-shaped. One species is named
Phalium labiatum Perry 1811.
Phallus impudicus Linnaeus (stinkhorn fungus, family
Phallaceae) There is also
Phallus drewesii Desjardin, 2009 (stinkhorn
fungus) Named, with permission, for Robert Drewes, a distingushed
herpetologist with a sense of humor. Quoth he, "The funny thing is
that it is the second smallest known mushroom in this genus and it
grows sideways, almost limp," and "I am utterly delighted."
Poescopia Gray (subgenus of humpback whale) From
"poeskop", a local Dutch name meaning "cunthead" or "pisspot."
[Proc. Zool. Soc. London, 1864, p. 207]
Probarbus labeamajor Roberts 1992 and
Probarbus labeaminor Roberts 1992 (cyprinid
freshwater fish) Referring either to outer genitals of women or size of
lips of the fish. The intended interpretation has not been made
Priapulus (priapulid) Means "little penis".
You need only look at one to see why.
Danionella priapus Bitz 2009 (cyprinid
Scatophagus Bloch, 1788 (Scatophagidae) A
fish that likes to hang around sewage outlets, commonly sold in the pet
trade as the "spotted-scat" or just "scat".
Senecio squalidus L. (Oxford ragwort)
Literally, "dirty old man."
Spinophallus uminskii (snail) "Uminski's
spiny penis." Uminski approved the name.
Thelymitra (orchid) The literal
translation is something like "lady bishop's hood", but this was a
euphemism for "clitoris". The flowers have what appears to be a little
hooded clitoris in their center.
Trypauchen vagina Bloch & Schneider, 1801
(pink mud goby)
Ursus fornicatus magnus Schmerling 1833
(great cave bear) Now synonymized as U. spelaeus.
Venus mercenaria Linnaeus (clam) Means "Venus selling
favors". Now reclassified as Mercenaria mercenaria.
Volva volva volva Linnaeus, 1758 (egg shell
or shuttlecock cowrie) Vulva-shaped.
Note that some names sound more risqué than they actually are,
due to new and shifting meanings of words derived from formerly
innocuous Latin and Greek. The suffix -anus indicates
possession or connection by; for example,
Astragalus goreanus Aitch. & Baker
(legume) probably means, "for Dr. Gore". (The 1888 description does
not give the author's intended etymology.) Vagina is simply
the Latin word for "sheath" and in names can refer to various kinds of
Vaginaria vaginata (Vaucher) Kuntze, a
seaweed, must have multiple sheaths.)
And the root fornica- simply means "arched."
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