An olifant, besides being an ancient name for elephant, was also an ivory hunting horn used in the Middle Ages. It was used by Roland in the Song of Roland, an epic poem BASED ON Charlemagne, the King of the Franks. (I stress based on because although it took inspiration from actual historical events, it was a fictional account. I would highly recommend reading this if you like epic battles, heroes, and such. Also, it's a classic nearly a millennium old. :) )
Sorry if you think this is irrelevant; it's just something I found interesting. :)
(And of course, one mustn't forget middle-earth's Oliphaunts...)
Is it a turtle or a tortoise? It lets me use either but presumably there is a word for each?
I think that's right. All turtle sort, including tortoises, are schildpadden. Tortoises, which are a sub-group, are landschildpadden. Rarely do people use the word tortoise and probably less often do they use it correctly.
Dutch is a much more descriptive language in many ways than English. If you didn't know the difference between turtle and tortoise before, it is much easier to discern the difference between schildpad and landschildpad.
By the way, the word aardvark means 'earth pig,' so named because of its pig-like snout. Apparently there was no English word for this creature, so it was borrowed from the Dutch (or Afrikaans) aardvarken: aard = earth; varken = pig.
It's definitely an American thing to use 'turtle' to refer to both tortoises and turtles. In the UK people tend not to mix this up as much. I think it's starting to change over here too, because of American media's influence.
Een 'snapping turtle' is trouwens een bijtschildpad ("biting turtle"). Andere soorten schildpadden die in Nederland zijn aangetroffen hebben meer specifieke namen in het Engels, zoals bijvoorbeeld: Cumberland slider; red-eared slider.
I'm not sure about dutch but in german we use 'Schildkröte' for both, turtle and tortoise
Nope. Een landschildpad is a (dry land) tortoise. Een zeeschildpad is a sea turtle.
Schildpad is the generic word that refers to all species, namely extant species, of Testudines (anatomically described by their 'schild' or shell), whether they take to dry land, deep water or wetlands. A Dutch person would not refer to a semi-aquatic Testudines that lives in the wetlands as een zeeschildpad, but as een moerasschildpad or simply as een schildpad.
There is not a consensus between different parts of the English speaking world as to what certain Testudines are called. However, the word 'turtle' is the only accepted English word that includes all species, even though the term 'turtle' is more narrowly applied in the UK to Testudines that are not (dry land) tortoises. Meanwhile, freshwater turtles are called tortoises in Australia. But the species that take to dry land are called landschildpadden in the Dutch speaking world. So the more inclusive term 'turtle' wins out as a translation for 'schildpad,' although I believe Duo will accept 'turtle' or 'tortoise,' since the confusion does not lie with Dutch but with English.
Personally I want a hippopotamus for Christmas, only a hippopotamus will do!