Reading Notes: The Sea Word

Here is a (partial, no doubt) list of “sea” words in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea:

sea dog, sea frog, sea pig, sea cow, sea fox, sea worm, sea cucumber, sea dragon, sea unicorn, sea turtle, sea vegetable, sea elephant and sea fennel.

I love this early oceanic naming convention. It’s so lazy and so imaginative at the same time. Sea fennel? Really? Is Verne just fucking with us at this point? It’s interesting to encounter names like these in a book that takes pains to provide the genus and species of so many other plants and animals. Like, there’s the Biblical myth/tradition of naming and we can’t really mess with that, so we’ll just add the prefix “sea” onto everything, but then, in the scientific tradition, everything gets a very specific name that describes only it and nothing else. I wish I knew more Latin and more about scientific naming conventions. But I like this tension. It makes strange things familiar and familiar things strange.

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