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Complete your New Naturalist collection with Harper Collins's facsimile versions, which are printed on demand. Pedigree: Words from Nature was first published in 1973.
Pedigree traces the origins of speech itself and the evolution of language, particularly English which, based on several dozen different languages, has by far the richest vocabulary of all modern languages.
This richness is reflected in the varied bases of the names of plants, birds and animals. There are plants named according to their characteristics; animals according to their movements, habits, physique and colour; and birds according to their songs, sex, scent and size.
Conversely, much of our daily vocabulary incorporates words from nature, both obvious – porcupine, and not so obvious – London cab; from the names and characteristics of animals familiar, and legendary; from primitive agriculture, astrology and astronomy, from seafaring and hunting. There are measurements derived from anatomy, diseases from astrology and remedies from plants.
Pedigree itself is from pied de grue – a crane's foot, of which the three wide spread toes suggest a genealogical tree; while the crane's pointed bill is seen in the seed-pods of Geranium species such as our Meadow Cranesbill.