An interesting piece in the current issue of Butterfly magazine, by Peter Marren, who is working on the eagerly awaited Bugs Britannica. Marren explores the origin of the word 'butterfly' - and it is not as simple as I'd always thought. It seems it's not all down to the butter-yellow, early-flying Brimstone, but rather to do with an association between butterflies and - yes - butter, or more precisely buttermilk. The German schmetterling comes from a root meaning cream or sour milk, and there's a German dialect name for butterfly that means milk thief - which links butterflies to the world of witchcraft, and explains those sinister images of demonic butterflies in Bosch and Breughel. There are reports of clouds of butterflies - attracted by the buttermilk smell - forming when butter is churned in the open air... On the other hand, an alternative theory suggests that the word might go back to a very ancient root and be essentially meaningless.
Anyway, it's a sunny day, I have escaped the clutches of NigeCorp for the time being. I intend to go out and look for butterflies.
(By the way, if you join that excellent organisation Butterfly Conservation, you can get your own Butterfly magazine.)