What’s in a Name, Part 3: Deeper Down Under

Welcome back to What’s in a Name, where we look at how to translate animal names! Last time, we started translating some deadly infamous Australian animals in a travelogue, and took care of the funnel web spider (Atrax robustus) and box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri). Today, we’re looking at the remaining three species mentioned in the fragment: The blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish. As a reminder, the translation brief for this fragment was that we’re translating a travelogue about Australia from English to Dutch for a general audience. The fragment was as follows:

Five of its creatures—the funnel-web spider, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, paralysis tick, and stonefish—are the most lethal of their type in the world.1

Bryson, B. (2000). Down under. London: Doubleday.

All animals mentioned in this fragment are venomous and can pose a real danger to a person, so it’s important to translate the animal names as accurately as possible within the limitations set to us by the client. As I mentioned in the previous part, this fragment was used in a class assignment, so we don’t have any limitations besides the obvious ones (don’t turn one sentence into a whole paragraph, for example) and the ones given in the translation brief. So lets get started with what might be the easiest animal in this fragment to translate!

Blue-ringed octopus

The blue-ringed octopus (Hapalochlaena genus) is a name that refers to a genus of highly venomous octopuses, all known for their bright blue and black rings. I am not a fan of using general terms or genus names in a translation, as I like to be specific, but this is one of the cases where I believe translating with the general term is best. Blue-ringed octopuses are well known around the world, and finding a specific species to translate can make the text more confusing. Most Dutch people know the Dutch name for this genus, blauwring-octopus, so this is the best translation to use here.

Paralysis tick

The Australian paralysis tick (Ixodes holocyclus) is a species of tick found along the coast of eastern Australia, and is one of the few venomous tick species. This should make translating easier, as we don’t have to worry about the specifics when it comes to name translation, as we’ve seen with the animals I wrote about in the previous article on Down Under. All we have to do is find the proper Dutch name for this animal, and that’s it. Simple, right?

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as you’d expect. There’s no commonly used Dutch name for I. holocyclus, which means we have to do this another way. The method I chose here is to write down every Dutch name for I. holocyclus I can find, then do a Google search for all of them, and see how many results I get for each name.

Dutch nameAmount of search results
Australische verlamming teek9
Australische verlammingsteek75
Australische verlammende teek26

This clearly shows that the name Australische verlammingsteek gives the most results, so that’s the translation we should go with. This way, readers who want to do their own research can find enough information on the animal.


The name stonefish refers to the genus Synanceia, which is a genus of venomous fish found in the Indian and Pacific Ocean. The species most commonly found in Australia is S. horrida, or the estuarine stonefish. After a bit of research, I found out that this fish is known in Dutch as the wrattensteenvis, so there’s not much to think about in regards to this translation. The only thing to consider is whether or not we want to use the Dutch genus name, steenvis, or the species name, wrattensteenvis. Wrattensteenvis is the more specific translation, which I have a preference for, but it might be too specific for the general audience, which means steenvis might be the best option here. In the end, it depends on what the client wants and what you judge as best for the translation.

That’s all for this part of What’s in a Name, and the last article on Down Under and translating Australian animal names! Translating animal names is not something that pops up too often, so it might be while before I can write another article like this, but there are still plenty of topics to write about, so look forward to a new article soon!


1Bryson, B. (2000). Down under. London: Doubleday.
Featured image: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blue-ringed-octopus.jpg

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