Etymology of Some Common Names for New Zealand Freshwater Fishes

Date
1996-01
Authors
McDowall, R.M.
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Publisher
University of Hawaii Press
Abstract
Three vernacular names for New Zealand freshwater fishes have phonetic similarities that might suggest related etymologies: "kokopu" (family Galaxiidae), "cockabully" (family Tripterygiidae), and "bully" (family Eleotridae). That "k6kopu" has authentic roots in New Zealand Maori can be shown by its use in traditional Maori myth and legend, and also by the use of the same or similar words for fish elsewhere in Polynesia (e.g., "kokopu" in the Cook Islands and "o'o'pu" in Hawai'i). The etymology of "cockabully" can be traced back through "cockabulla" to an origin in "k6kopu," though the name "cockabully" is now applied to a group of fish that no evidence suggests were ever known to Maori as "kokopu." "Bully," although appealing as a contraction of "cockabully," and thus with origins in "k6kopu," almost certainly had its origins in the English "bullhead," even though the Maori "k6kopu" was probably sometimes used for fish now known as "bully."
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Citation
McDowall RM. 1996. Etymology of some common names for New Zealand freshwater fishes. Pac Sci 50(1): 117-121.
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