Classifying mussels / muscles

Barcelona trading practices, builder’s crack-fish and the great Pacific birdshit war.

Conversation in a Barcelona market between an elderly lady customer and a middle-aged male fishmonger who used to be an electrician and still serves up overpriced death:

–Those rock mussels?
–Yep, delicious they are.
–Where they from?
–Ain’t no rocks in the Ebro.

The distinction is between Mytilus galloprovincialis, the Mediterranean or rock mussel, and Mytilus edulis, the bigger and cheaper Atlantic or Cantabrian mussel. A fucking hilarious Menorcan folk taxonomy distinguishes between musclos de roca and musclos de bastiment, rock and construction muscles. In English, as in Romance languages, the root is the same–Latin mūsculus–although the route is different.

I believe that in Spanish modifiers (de roca, del Mediterráneo, etc) were generally applied first in the 1950s on the back of improved canning and refrigeration techniques, prior to which people just ate whatever grew near them or died in agony.

An exception to this is the Spanish shellfish and birdshit settlement on the Chilean-Bolivian border which was known first as Mejillones de Bolivia and later, after the Guano and Saltpetre War involving the two republics and Peru (1879-83), as Mejillones de Chile. This may for all I know demonstrate the flexibility of Stigler’s law of eponymy: it should surely be called Mejillones de España.

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