There’s an interesting post over on Erik Dams’ blog about a trip of his through the Brussels sewers in the company of two rat catchers, who leave a colleague above-ground in case of emergency. Mobiles don’t work in such a damp environment, so how does Mr Fragrant keep in touch with Messrs Smelly?
Does he use other signals?
“If there’s a storm then they have to come up as fast as possible. In that case I keep hitting the cover until I’m sure they’re on their way.”
I imagine this to be a dumbo version of how bats communicate with one another, so it’s pleasing to be able to record that names here for “bat” often reflect the notion–usually untrue–that they hunt rats and mice, rather than the standard Latin -> Castilian Mus muris (mouse) + caecus (blind) = murciélago (bat). The most frequent addition to bat names in Spanish is “ratonero”, which I think means “mouse-hunter” rather than “mouse-like”, and which is sometimes expressed more explicitly as “cat” or (literally) as “mouse-hunter” (translation (cazaratones (PDF)) from Latin in critical edition of Liber contra venena et animalia venenosa, which recommends the same remedies for bats as for cats).
Although Tunisia plays host to at least one mouse hunter, I have never met a rat catcher in Spain or in any other part of the Mediterranean. The environment here is probably too dry to support anything more than mammoth cockroaches, and more interesting examples of these craftsmen at work are to be found in damp, northern Europe (with the exception of Brussels, where nobody does anything).
I’ve already noted that English bats go pork hunting, and here is a rather superior letter from an 18th century rat catcher to one of his clients:
Looking for something else, I just found this grammar, lexicon and corpus of Syldavian, the invented language used in the Tintin
- In praise of virtual travel writing
Nice story here about underpaid author Thomas Kohnstamm, who wrote his Lonely planet guide without going to Columbia. (Or did he
- The Al-Andalusian truth behind April Fool’s
Most unfortunate that Tony Blair’s moderate Muslims mostly turned out to be cartoon psychos. Here’s another burst of frivolity, available in
- Destruction by the EU of pastoralism in the Balkans
This is one reason why large numbers of Romanian shepherds, shearers and others are ending up in Spain. There’s an interesting
- Dubbing American diversity
When Latin American characters appear in an American series or film, in Spain the convention is to transform them into speakers