I now bring us back from the land of the cool names over to the (related) realm of the pretty birds, and focus on the Himalayan Monal, Lophophorus impejanus. Monals are iridescent pheasants living in the Himalayas and the mountains of central China; the Himalayan Monal is the national bird of Nepal and the state bird of Uttarkhand. Look at all the shiny colors!
The species names comes from Lady Mary Impey, a natural historian in the late eighteenth century who made detailed notes on Indian birds, founded a menagerie in what is now Kolkata, and commissioned Indian artists to paint beautiful, detailed portraits of local birds, other animals, and plants. Some of these paintings are now apparently in Oxford’s Radcliffe Science Library, right down the road from my department, go figure, as well as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the V&A in London.
(Lady Mary Impey’s husband, Elijah Impey, was the first Chief Justice of Bengal until was implicated in enough scandals and corruptions charges to force him to return to England, where he served as an MP for a while.)
A portrait of the Impey family, courtesy of Wikipedia.
The genus name “Lophophorus” is Greek for “crest-bearing,” from λοφίο lophio “crest” and φέρω phero “to bear, to bring.”
The word “monal” comes from the Nepali monāl; the name was first applied in English by the Impeys, and then by John Latham (“the grandfather of Australian ornithology”), who ended up with Mary Impey’s ornithological notes.
Finally, the English word “Himalayan” comes from the Sanskrit Himālaya meaning “snow-dwelling” from hima “snow” and ālaya “abode.”
Mount Everest, in the Himalayas: a snow-abode indeed!