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Turtle vs. Tortoise

Duolingo uses the the same word (testudo) for two different animals, one a mostly aquatic creature (turtle) and the other entirely land-based (tortoise).


Turtle = kelonio

Tortoise = testudo

Based on “Teach Yourself Esperanto Dictionary” by JC Wells

Should we worry about this? Dankon.

December 1, 2018


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[deactivated user]

    Worry that Esperanto is not English? No.

    If you need to differentiate, "martestudo" and "tertestudo" will do the job.


    Some languages seem to not make this distinction, like in my native German the word "Schildkröte" is fine for both turtles and tortoises. But then, in German (and Esperanto, I believe) monkeys and apes are also the same "simio".


    Exactly. In french (in France) we only say "une tortue" , we can add "terrestre" or "marine" but only if we're a biology scientist or visiting a zoo . The same with apes and pinguins ..


    Interesting, on both accounts. In my experience with English in America, you can safely call an ape a monkey unless there's a nerd about. I'd be comfortable misusing the word in front of my in-laws but not my sister.

    What distinction are you referring to with penguins?


    I don't find the translation in my dictionnary ... penguin and auk ? pingouin et manchot . We know the two exist , also (most of the time) one in the Arctic and the other in Antartica but we really dont know the difference . With two pictures in front of us , we would say it's a "pingouin" ; we really don"t bother with the difference .


    Ah! I do remember you, or someone, mentioning this in the French forum. For a long time I thought “auk” was synonymous with the extinct, flightless Great Auk. For whatever reason they’re one of those animals that doesn’t seem to be on the radar in my country.


    Interesting. My experience is the opposite. Apes are not monkeys.


    And we found the nerd!

    It actually bothers me when people misuse the word, but it’s also something I’d do to my wife to bother her. “Check out that APE!” pointing at a lemur


    The same thing happens in Spanish, "turtle" and "tortoise" is just «tortuga», and "monkey" and "ape" is «mono» (of course, if we don't count the word «mico», which seems to be regional).


    Your profile picture makes me inclined to trust you, Señorita Dash.


    This is what I wrote in this thread when this same question came up then.

    In 20 years of daily Esperanto use, I have never heard the word kelonio. PIV lists it as basically a synonym of martestudo and more specifically as one specific specific species - the green sea turtle. The green sea turtle, according to PIV, is part of the testudo family - so I think you go too far to insist that testudo applies only to land turtles.

    There is indeed some confusion as to what these words mean in English, especially in the US vs UK. While there are many exceptions (especially when I say what I'm about to say), Americans don't tend to distinguish between turtles based on where they live. They're all turtles. "Tortoise" is reserved for fairly tales and animals in the zoo with "tortoise" written on the plaque. We (in the US) do have the word "terrapin" but it's more limited here than in the UK and refers to specific breeds of edible turtle. (And since nobody that I know of actually eats turtles, I only ever hear the word in British nature documentaries and in references to the Greatful Dead.)

    This might also explain the entry in Wells.

    But the Esperanto word is clear. If it's a reptile with a shell and lives on the land, in rivers, lakes, or seas, it's a testudo.



    Dankon por la klarigo!


    That's odd. I'm an American who has lived in several different areas of the country and I thought that the turtle/tortoise distinction was common knowledge and widely used. I also don't believe I've ever heard the word "terrapin" until today, despite a pending graduate degree in ecology. I've added it to my Google Doc of fun words.


    Also American (west coast) and yeah a turtle has a shell and a tortoise is a funny name for a turtle that apparently can be pretty successful running against hares (which are a particular kind of rabbit that only race against tortoises). And terrapins are the things that the Dead sang about.


    Ditto. American, and I grew up with the turtle/tortoise distinction.


    @WitlessBittern the uniformity in your learning is astounding


    I set a goal to reach level 10 in each of the Duo courses, to get a very general feeling for each language. If I'd known the size of the commitment ahead of time, I might not have made it. It's worth noting that with the differences between the courses and languages, each 10 represents a very different level of learning.


    oh believe me I know, I got to level ten Hindi with only Rosetta stone lesson 1 in a work week but have been chafing myself to Chinese 7 for months


    Read the whole thread that I linked above, including the links in that thread. Yes. Many Americans do make this distinction, but it is not universal. (Otherwise "sea turtle" would be redundant.) Ultimately the difference is dialectical.

    As for terrapin, you need to listen to more Grateful Dead and British nature documentaries.

    While there are many exceptions (especially when I say what I'm about to say), Americans don't tend to distinguish between turtles based on where they live


    I read the thread before my response, and I believe I understood what you said. I'm suggesting the alternative, that in the United States, noting the distinction is closer to the rule than the exception. Failing to make the distinction would be something I would include in a novel to indicate a character was comedically city-bound.

    As for terrapin, you need to listen to more Grateful Dead and British nature documentaries.

    Apparently so! I'll get right on that.


    To add to the list of other language examples, Portuguese and Dutch don't make the distinction either (tartaruga & schildpad, respectively)

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