half goon half god

The Alphabet – 1795 Style!

In Uncategorized on December 16, 2006 at 1:12 am

I went to the State Library on Thursday morning. There’s a reasonably sized room in the old part of the building that has displays about Adelaide and South Australia’s history, with sections about the explorers, city development, the arts, and so on. It’s pretty good for just wandering and exploring. They also have a room with paintings of Adelaide, but that was closed because there was a Uni class in there.

Anyway, one particular display caught my eye. It was in the children’s pastimes section. A children’s animal alphabet, circa 1795. It followed the usual pattern – for each animal, it gave an animal starting with said letter:

A – Ape
B – Bear
C – Cat
D – Dog
E – Elephant
F – Fox
G – Goat
H – Horse
J – (lost this one)
K – Kanguroo (obviously spelling was still an issue)
L – Lion
M – Mouse
O – Otter
P – Porcupine
R – Rabbit
S – Squirrel
T – Tiger
V – (lost this one as well)
W – Wolf
X – oX

Now, first off, the Nyl Ghau. From a quick Google of the name, I’ve come up with this image:
Nyl Ghau
It’s pretty much a skinny cow. It has no wikipedia entry either. It seems to have disappeared after its bizarre inclusion on this alphabet.

Next, the Quagga. quagga
This is a quagga. It looks like one of those horse costumes where one person acts as the head, and another person acts as the arse. Except they got different costumes. One got a zebra, and the other got a donkey. It’s extinct now, and seems to have been officially dead for 12 years before this alphabet was made.

urus This poor bugger is an Urus. Just another cow, you may be thinking. Well, you’re wrong. This cow lived with the cavemen! It evolved two million years ago and travelled from India to Europe! They had massive horns and were always angry. But then humans hunted them for a few thousand years, and the last one died in Poland in 1627. That’s right. 1627. 168 years before this alphabet. Just why were they teaching kids about animals that had not existed for 168 years? What’s the point? ‘C is for cat, d is for dog’ is fine, because kids can recognise a cat. Cats are everywhere. But there were no uruses around in 1795!

The Yellow Macauco is an odd one. It doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry either. But there are illustrations (funnily enough, done by the same guy who drew the Nyl Ghau).
yellow macauco
Searching for ‘yellow macauco’, or even ‘macauco’, on Google brings up more dictionary definitions than facts, so I can’t find out what the hell it did or when it died. I assume it’s dead because everything else seems to be.

And finally, the Zibet.
Apparently this is a zibet. I’m going by a Google-translated German Wikipedia article for this, so I apologise for the misinformation I shall pass unto you. The zibet-cat inhabits soil, and carries patchworks. Their secretions are/were used in perfumes, and are ‘extremely unpleasantly’ smelling. The German media thought that the zibet was responsible for the SARS virus, but they were mistaken – it was actually the larva scooter that was responsible. Similarly, the zibet was thought to be involved in the production of Kopi of Luwak Coffee, but that was actually the fleckenmusang. The zibet is closely related to the small mark broom cat, which, though similar, has a longer head fuselage, and pointedly lips.

To summarise – in 1795, along with the usual suspects, children were taught the alphabet with the aid of extinct cows, zebra-donkeys, small possums, and cats that produce perfume but not coffee or infectious diseases. Makes you wonder, doesn’t it.


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