Ancient Word of the Day: Maturun / Binturong

Binturong Arctictis binturong

Binturongs, also known in English as bearcats, are long, stocky and heavy tree-dwellers with large bushy tails which they use to communicate. Strangely they have an odd but pleasant scent which people who smell them seem to enjoy – like buttered popcorn. Like all animals large and small they are endangered by palm oil expansion in SE Asia and face imminent extinction unless we act now to stop the ecocide.

Binturong / Maturun: n. ‘the one who descends’ from ancient indigenous languages of Sumatra and Borneo, originating from several millennia ago.

Did you know the heavy-set and stocky forest dweller of SE Asia, the Binturong takes his name from ancient indigenous languages of Sumatra and Borneo? #Boycott4Wildlife

The earliest form of this word we know about is maturun, which probably meant “the one who descends”. It was inherited by many languages of Borneo and Sumatra, undergoing a series of regular sound changes. This is how the Malay form benturong evolved, which was later adopted by English.

The word binturong first appeared in English in the 19th century as a borrowed word from Malay.

The heavy-set and cumbersome binturong/maturun doesn’t glide from tree to tree like the many monkeys and birds that surround them but rather climb down and moves from tree to tree this way. This is why they are known in Malay as ‘the one who descends’.

The binturong is endangered by palm oil deforestation. Join the #Boycott4Wildlife and fight back with your wallet…

Published by Content Catnip

Content Catnip is a quirky internet wunderkammer written by an Intergalactic Space Māori named Content Catnip. Join me as I meander through the quirky and curious aspects of history, indigenous spirituality, the natural world, animals, art, storytelling, books, philosophy, travel, Māori culture and loads more.

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