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Local Sports

January 10, 2014

Tale of coyote word origin a myth

Rick Brockway’s recent column about coyotes begins with: “Cállate translated from Spanish means shut up. That’s where our name for the coyote originates. The early Spanish settlers in the southwest grew tired of hearing the wild dogs yodel and howl all night, so they would yell, ‘cállate, cállate.’”

This etymology is quite the piece of nonsense. The word is simply the Mexican-Spanish variation of the Central-American Nahuatl word “coyotl.” Although the coyote’s taxonomic name, Canis latrans, translates to “barking dog,” the term “coyotl” may be more suggestive of the animal’s slyness than its howling.

I hope the Daily Star prints this correction, as the perpetuation of ridiculous word origins may have some amusement value, but it is nonetheless unfortunate, especially in this era of buying into the fallacious information so readily provided by the “wiki world” of research.

I don’t blame Mr. Brockway for wanting to begin his article with the colorful “cállate” anecdote, but hopefully the next time he relates it, he will present it as the urban myth it is, followed by the actual etymology. I have no doubt he was not intentionally misleading his readers, but was himself misled by an inaccurate source. 

Christine Lindberg


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