Mouse vs rat, sheep vs goat, wasp vs bee, turtle vs tortoise, hare vs rabbit
When learning other languages I often notice that they don't make the same distinctions between certain animals, types of food or other things. Does your native language or target language make a clear distinction between the following animals? I'll give some examples of animals which are distinct in English but not so much in Chinese.
鼠: mouse, rat
羊: sheep, goat
龟: turtle, tortoise
兔: hare, rabbit
蜂: wasp (黄蜂 yellow bee), wasp/hornet (胡蜂 beard bee, 马蜂 horse bee, 蚂蜂 ant bee), bee (蜜蜂 honey bee), bumblebee (熊蜂 = bear bee), hornet/bumblebee (大黄蜂big yellow bee)

Those animals have all very distinctive names in German, apart from turtle and tortoise which are both "Schildkröte" in German. We don't really make a distinction between clam and mussel, both are Muschel in German. In some languages there might not be a distinction between frog and toad, goose and swan, heron and crane.

In German we make a distinction between a one-humped camel / dromedary (Dromedar) and a two-humped camel /Bactrian camel (Trampeltier), whereas in Chinese the character for camel is used for quite different animals:
驼 camel
羊驼 alpaca (sheep camel)
无峰骆驼 llama (no hump camel)
单峰骆驼 dromedary (one hump camel)
双峰骆驼 Bactrian camel (two hump camel)

Interesting are also:
驼鹿: elk, moose (camel deer)
驼鸡: ostrich (camel chicken, alternative spelling to 鸵鸟)

Do you know other examples where your native language and your target language make different distinctions between certain animals? Is it sometimes difficult to explain then what animal you're actually talking about?
Jun 21, 2020 5:16 PM
Comments · 34
Deer, deer...

Sorry, maybe I misread your question(s), Nikola. I'll go back:

<em>I look up "deer" it seems to be the term for the entire family of animals.</em>
Yes, it covers various species

<em>Is roe deer a deer? </em>
Yes. It's one of the types of deer covered by the 'deer' umbrella term. If you saw a bunch of roe deer in a country park, you'd say "Look! There're some deer over there!": it would sound like you were showing off to call them 'roe deer' unless someone specifically asked what kind they were. Likewise if they were fallow deer or sika deer or whatever - you'd just call them deer.

<em>Is roe deer more of a deer than a stag?</em>
Now it's getting confusing. I really can't get my head round that question. I'm beginning to feel like Alice in Wonderland.

Roe deer are deer (most people couldn't tell you whether something's a roe deer or a fallow deer or a red deer - they're just deer).
Stags are also deer (They're the ones with big macho antlers. It's about size, antlers and [assumed] masculine gender - not about species)

Yes, my beginners-guide-to-British-deer handbook tells me that <em>technically </em>the male of roe deer, fallow deer, Chinese water deer and Reeves' muntjac deer are called 'buck', and that 'stag' can only be used for red deer and sika deer, but I'll forget that within seconds. For the average townie, any large deer-like creature with big antlers is a 'stag' (as well as being a deer).

I know that doesn't answer your question, but it's the best I can do.

<em>So what is a deer?</em>
All of the above?
July 19, 2020
Good question, Nikola.

A roe deer is a type of deer - nothing to do with gender. If you want to specify the gender of the roe deer (or any other kind of deer), you'd say that the female is a doe and that the male is a stag or buck. These gendered terms aren't specific to deer, though: we also talk about does and bucks for rabbits, for example.

English has an odd relationship with the relatively few gendered nouns that it possesses and uses them in a strangely illogical way. If at all possible, we avoid specifying gender.

With birds, beast and bugs, you'll find is that there is usually a gendered term that actually serves two purposes: one purpose is to specify gender and the other is to refer to the species in general terms.

For example: ducks and drakes. There are ten adult mallards swimming on the pond: five female and five male. If you want to specify the gender, you'd say that there are five ducks and five drakes; if you don't want to specify the gender, you'd say that there are ten ducks.

This applies to most animals. We are maddenly vague and inconsistent when it comes to gender terms.

July 19, 2020
I think different species have different names in Mandarin. As for the distinctions you mentioned, the main reason is that the user is not strict with the meaning of them or just call them the name they are generally called. For example, sheep is 绵羊 and goat is 山羊; turtle is 海龟, tortoise is 陆龟; rabbit is mostly called as 家兔or a generally name of all the taxa of this species.hare is 野兔...
Ps, ostrich is 鸵鸟.
July 19, 2020
Two city ladies looking out of the window of a train as it passes through the countryside:

"What a cute bunch of cows!" one remarked.
"Not a bunch, herd", her friend replied.
"Heard of what?"
"Herd of cows."
"Of course I've heard of cows."
"No, a cow herd."
"What do I care what a cow heard? I have no secrets to keep from a cow!"

July 21, 2020
We can all blame Julie Andrews for mixing up her Do's and her doe's

July 19, 2020
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Language Skills
Chinese (Mandarin), French, German
Learning Language
Chinese (Mandarin)