All God?s Creatures—Including Mormos, the Other Mormons

By July 15, 2009

Fraternity with monkeys was (and remains) a standard trope of racializing discourse. So, in my ongoing efforts to (a) understand late nineteenth-century Mormon identity construction and (b) graduate, I poked around for comparisons between Mormons and animals in the 19th century. I was pretty excited when I found a baboon labeled “mormon.” I thought that, together with Mormon crickets, I had a high-protein entrée for my thesis. I mean, if I were manufacturing monstrosities for 19th-century anti-Mormons, it would be hard to beat the prolific, ravenous, cannibalistic Mormon cricket and a certified Mormon, polygamous baboon. [1]

The animal we know and love as “mandrill” (Mandrillus sphinx) first ran into white guys with notepads in the mid-1700s and went away labeled Simia mormon. According to a subsequent observer, “the Mormon resembles the dog and bear” (Figure 1). [2]

Figure 1: Simia mormon = Papio mormon
Figure 1: Papio Mormon (Rib-nosed Baboon, Mandrill)

Later it became Cynocephalus mormon and sometimes the Rib-nosed Baboon and then Papio mormon and I know this taxonomy stuff is interesting, but: 1700s. With a “7.” [3] Recall that Joseph Smith was born in 1805. With an “8.” Quoth 19th-century anti-Mormon RF Burton:

…I may compare the two leading interpretations of the word “Mormon,” which…truly convey the widely diverging opinions of the opposers and supporters of Mormonism. Mormon (mormwn) signifies literally a lamia, a maniola, a female spectre; the mandrill, for its ugliness, was called Cynocephalus mormon. …[According to Joseph Smith], the word Mormon…means literally “more good.” [4]

Mormons and ugly monkeys: the anti lit almost writes itself. Or not. Burton is the only one I’ve found who brought in the mandrill and he didn’t push it—even though others had been bringing up the etymology since 1834 (and still do). [5]

The word mormwn is an inflected form of mormw, which was the name of a demon who ate children; it also referred to a generic she-monster with similar tastes used in tales to scare youngsters. The mormo– root signified aspects of fear: to frighten, to be frightened, to be frightening to look at, terrible, and so on. By the seventeenth century, mormo had acquired “mask” and “larva” as meanings while keeping the “hobgoblin” denotation. [6] It even became an English word, “mormo,” meaning “hobgoblin” or “bugbear.” [7]

Figure 2: Mormoops megalophylla (Ghost-faced Bat)
Figure 3: Fratercula cirrhatus (Tufted Puffin)

At any rate, mormo– was a useful word-root for academic Adams/esses heading out into the world to name all God’s creatures great and weird. A pile of species wear/wore nametags with some form of mormo on them. [8] For examples: the Mormoops, Mormon, and Mormosaurus. “Mormoops” means “having the appearance of a hideous monster,” and I think it fits its family of bats very well (Figure 2). [9] The less-monstrous looking puffins were so named because they appear to be wearing masks (Figure 3). [10] Mormosaurus (= Bogeyman Lizard) is my personal favorite (Figure 4); note the similarity to the gatekeeper/keymaster (Figure 5). [11]

Figure 4: Mormosaurus seeleyi
Figure 4: Mormosaurus seeleyi (Mormosaurus)

Figure 5: Zuul, The Gatekeeper, from Ghostbusters.
Figure 5: Zuul, the Gatekeeper (Ghostbusters, Columbia Pictures, 2004)

Many of the Mormos fall in the creepy-crawly-flyey category; for examples: Mormo maura (Old Lady Moth), Mormolyce phylloides (Violin Beetle; Figure 6), and the fossilized Mormolucoides articulatus. [12] Scarabæus mormon (Figure 7) from 1799 is an ugly, poop-eating beetle brute (in my humble opinion; I’m sure their mothers and entomologists love them). [13]

Figure 6: Mormolyce phylloides
Figure 6: Mormolyce phylloides (type of Violin Beetle)

Book-of-Mormon Mormons appear more frequently in species and common names—the Mormon cricket (Anabrus simplex) being the most famous, of course, and giving rise to the pejorative appellation, “cricket stomper.” [14] “Mormon Oats” as a name for the invasive grass Anisanthus tectorum might also have arisen with a negative connotation. [15] Some species, such as Coluber mormon (Yellow-Bellied Racer [snake]), became Mormon because Science first recognized them as distinct species using samples collected in Utah. [16] Apocheiridium mormon (type of False Scorpion) and Strategus mormon (type of Ox Beetle) distinguish themselves by association with Mormon-dominated regions of Idaho/Oregon and Texas, respectively, rather than Utah, while Speyeria mormon (Mormon Fritillary [butterfly]) was a mistake. [17]

Figure 7: Dichotomius mormon
Figure 7: Dichotomius mormon (type of Dung Beetle)

Other species names reflect socio-religious content. One description of the Mormon Skipper or Mormon came in 1881 after lepidopterists had “for years…sought [the female Skipper’s] mate in vain, until at last we found him, united, alas! to another wife; …so now we christen this twin-wived species the Mormon.” [18] That is, there is only one form of male while the females are di- or polymorphic. The Mormons of Asia—Common, Great, Yellow, Blue (Figure 9), and Scarlet—were so named for the same reason, while the Jewel Wasp, being polyandrous, received a feminine Mormoniella. [19]

It is possible that Hydroeciodes mormon, a moth specimen collected in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, in January 1917, memorializes the Mormon exodus from northern Mexico that month. [20] How Australia’s Mopsus mormon (Green Jumping Spider) came to hold a membership certificate remains unclear to me, but I bet it’s the “mask” on the female’s cephalothorax (Figure 8.). [21]

Figure 8: Mopsus mormon
Figure 8: Mopsus mormon (Green Jumping Spider)

Like Gulliver, the last Mormo species we’ll discuss is human. In 1650 a character named “Mormon” was the protagonist of a French play entitled “Le Parasite Mormon [The Parasite Mormon].” The authors explained the name choice thus:

…in the history of Mormon, we have taken the idea of a Parasite in general, & have imposed a Greek name, to get away as much as is possible from the particular and from our century. In fact, you may have read that Mormon, or mormon [sic] in Greek, means the same thing as scarecrow in French [English]—a name that seemed to us to indicate a parasite very clearly, because as a scarecrow in a field prevents the birds from eating the grain that is sown, our parasite, when he is at the table, knows very well to ensure that nobody touches the dishes in front of him. [22]

There are dozens and dozens of genus and species names with etymological relations to the waters of Mormon or Mormo, the child-eating demon. There is even an order: Mormonilloida, describing Antarctic copepods. For many of these animals and plants, it is not clear why they received the name. At any rate, most of this information is rather beside the point of my research on Mormon identity construction and assignment. In a subsequent post, “Monkeys and Horses and Lice, O My!” I’ll take up a more focused examination of the relationships among animals, their names and attributes, and Mormon identity.

Figure 9: Papilio polymnestor (Blue Mormon)


Photo credits:
Fig 1: “Papio Mormon” engraved by WH Lizars in W Jardine, The Naturalist’s Library, vol 1 (Edinburgh, 1833) plate 17, p 158; image file: [for sale, £5]
Fig 2: Steve Rossiter,
Fig 3: Wikipedia: Puffin
Fig 4: Wikipedia: Mormosaurus
Fig 5: “Vinz Clortho” from movie Ghostbusters (Columbia Pictures, 1984)
Fig 6:
Fig 7:
Fig 8: Peter Chew, Brisbane Insects and Spiders
Fig 9: Heinz Koloska, TrekNature


[1] Before the pedants squawk, we should be clear that Mormon crickets and baboons are, respectively, neither cricket nor baboon, and, for that matter, not ecclesiastically “Mormon,” either. If some taxonomically-open-minded Elder got baseball-baptismy with some non-naked ape-cousins, don’t tell me; I don’t want to know. I have not seen the name “Mormon Baboon”; I’m extrapolating from the formal taxonomy. The Mormon baboon was reclassified as the mandrill; Mormon crickets are a form of katydid.

[2] Clas Alströmer, “Beskrifning på en sällsam babian: Simia mormon,” Kongliga Vetenskaps Akademiens Handlingar 27 no 4-6 (1766):138. Linnaeus made the 1758 identification with the name Simia sphinx; Systema naturae…, 10th ed (1758) p25. Cynocephalus = dog face. AM Redfield, Zoölogical Science, or, Nature in Living Forms…. (New York, 1858) p36-7. “Papio Mormon” engraved by WH Lizars in W Jardine, The Naturalist’s Library, v 1 (Edinburgh, 1833) plate 17, p 158.

[3] On the Mormon’s nomenclature, systematist George Wald had this to say:

Since…1904, these names have undergone the following vagaries: Cynocephalus mormon became Papio mormon, otherwise Papio maimon, which turned to Papio sphinx. This might well have been confused with Cynocephalus sphinx, now become Papio sphinx, had not the latter meanwhile been turned into Papio papio. This danger averted, Papio sphinx now became Mandrillus sphinx, while Papio papio became Papio comatus. All I can say to this is, thank heavens one is called the mandrill and the other the guinea baboon.

(As quoted on a Wikipedia talk-page [2009 Jul 08]).

[4] I haven’t figured out how to get all the Greek characters to appear, so we’re missing a few orthographic marks. RF Burton, The City of the Saints, and Across the Mountains to California (New York, 1862) p361. Burton references JW Gunnison (The Mormons, or Latter-Day Saints (Philadelphia, 1852)), who brings up the “two opinions” idea but not the monkey. Burton’s paragraph was copied, with a few changes in J McClintock, J Strong, “Mormons,” Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Harper, 1880) p618.

The “more good” definition comes under Joseph Smith’s byline: “It has been stated that this word [mormon] was derived from the Greek word mormo. This is not the case. …with the addition of more, or the contraction, mor, we have the word Mormon, which means, literally, more good.” Joseph Smith [probably ghost written], Times and Seasons 12 (May 1843):194. Lamia: “A fabulous monster supposed to have the body of a woman, and to prey upon human beings and suck the blood of children. Also, a witch, she-demon” (OED). In Greek mythology, Lamia was a specific person who became a child-eating demon. I found no definitions for maniola.

[5] The Mormon etymology continues as a part of anti-Mormonism in both environmentalist and occultist incarnations. The earliest instance (to my knowledge) was 1834:

The word Mormon, the name given to his book, is the English termination of the Greek word ‘Mormoo,’ which we find defined in an old, obsolete Dictionary, to mean ‘bug-bear, hob-goblin, raw head, and bloody bones.’ It seems, therefore, that the writer gave his book not only a very appropriate, but classical name. His experiment upon the human mind, he thought, would be more perfect, by giving it a name, in addition to its contents, which would carry upon its very face the nature of its true character—a fiction of hob-goblins and bugbears.

Eber D. Howe, Mormonism Unvailed… (Painesville, OH, 1834) p21, (emphasis in original). “Raw head and bloody bones” refers to a specific Celtic bogeyman. JE Hunt, JH Hunt, and GW Westbrook copied Howe in Mormonism: Embracing the origin, rise and progress of the sect… (1844) p17. JW Gunnison in 1852 gave the “mormonos” etymology but did not mention the mandrill (The Mormons: Or, Latter-day Saints, in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake… (Philadelphia, 1852) p18. “…we presume our readers know that the word ‘Mormon‘ in Greek signifies a ‘bugbear,’ or imposition.” E DeLeon, “The Rise and Progress of the Mormon Faith and People,” The Southern Literary Messenger 10 (1844 Sep):526-538, punctuation modernized.

For an example of present-day environmentalist usage, see Sandra Tanner, “Possible Sources for Book of Mormon Names,” Utah Light Ministery, [2009 Jul 09]: “Here are a few Book of Mormon names and possible sources: …The words ‘mormo’ and ‘Mormon’ are found in Webster’s…Dictionary….” For occultist usage, see E Decker and D Hunt, The God-Makers (Eugene OR: Harvest House, 1984) p72: “Opening a copy of Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible to the page listing ‘Infernal Names,’ Ed says, ‘Look at this. The god of the ghouls is named ‘Mormo,’ His followers would be Mormons.'”

[6] Enid Welsford, The Court Masque: A Study of the Relationship Between Poetry & the Revels (Cambridge University Press, 1927) p94-7. Larva is Latin for “ghost, spectre, hobgoblin”; in medieval Latin it also meant “mask.” The modern definition of “larva”—an insect before it metamorphs—arose in the sense that the early form “masks” the mature form. The Greek mormo followed a similar trail: hobgoblin to mask to (modern) larva. In some 19th-century dictionaries, “mask” was the only definition given for mormon in the etymologies. The word “mormo” in Portuguese identifies the disease Glanders; it derives etymologically from the Latin morbus = disease. OED; John Ogilvie, The Imperial Dictionary of the English Language (London, 1883); John Craig, A New Universal Etymological Technological, and Pronouncing Dictionary of the English Language… (London, 1849).

[7] OED, “mormo”: “an imaginary monster, esp[ecially] one invoked to frighten children; a hobgoblin.” “Mormo” in this sense had mostly, but not entirely, passed out of use by the 19th century. One of the witches in Stardust (N Gaiman; and movie, Paramount, 2007) is named “Mormo.”

[8] Present-day classifications use Mormo, Mormodes, -lucoides, -lyca, -lyce, -lycia, -lycini, -lycites, -munna, -myia, -nia, -niella, -nilla, -nillidae, -nilloida, -nomyia, -opidae, -ops, -ps, -pterus, -saurus, -schema, -scopa, -sintes, -tomyia, -tomyiidae, -tus. I was unable to assign an etymology for genus “Mormia.”

[9] The genus Mormoops is part of the family Mormoopidae. MR Gannon, A Kurta, A Rodríguez-Durán, and MR Willig, Bats of Puerto Rico: An Island Focus and a Caribbean Perspective (Lubbock: Texas Tech University Press, 2005) p61.

[10] Mormon cirrhatus used to be called a Tufted Mormon (or Puffin) but now it goes by Tufted Puffin (Fratercula cirrhatus). The common name survives in Slovenian and Lithuanian as mormon and mormonas, respectively. John J Audubon, The Birds of America… (New York, 1844) v7 p233-243; John Craig, “Mormon,” New Universal Etymological… (London, 1849).

[11] Ghostbusters, movie (Columbia, 1984). Keys and gates find themselves quite at home in Mormondom, though Zuul and Vinz seem unclear on the concepts of agency and chastity. (Is it still fornication if you use someone else’s body?)

[12] The Violin Beetle grows to be about 10 cm (4 in) long and shoots butyric acid strong enough paralyze human fingers for twenty-four hours at its enemies. One interpretation of Mormolyce is terrible wolf. John Ash, Mike Vinson, “Mormolyce phylloides,” 2000; Hitchcock wrote “…but as a name is convenient for reference, I venture to propose that of Mormolucoides articulates, (from mormwlukh a larva, and eidoV an appearance; meaning an articulated animal resembling a larva.” Edward Hitchcock, Ichnology of New England, a Report on the Sandstone of the Connecticut Valley… (Boston, 1858) p7. The Mormyrus genus (Elephant-snout Fish) is not etymologically related to the Mormos, descending rather from a classical name for a (different) fish and related to the English word, “murmur.”

[13] Dichotomius mormon = Scarabæus mormon = Copris mormon = Pinotus mormon is a type of Dung Beetle. Sven Ingemar Ljungh, “Nya Insecter, utur egen Samling,” Kongliga Vetenskaps Akademiens nya Handlingar 20 (Stockholm 1799 Apr-Jun):145-6.

[14] I am curious when the “Mormon Cricket” got its name. An 1856 article uses that name, but I wonder how soon after the cricket/seagull incidents people began referring to the beasts as “Mormon.” Leidy, J. 1856. “A Synopsis of Entozoa and Some of Their Ectocongeners Observed by the Author.” Proceedings of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia 8:42-58.

[15] Anisanthus tectorum = Bromus tectorum is also known as Drooping Brome and several other names. It first reached the Columbia Plain in the 1880s and Utah later; it’s a noxious weed for wheat farmers and a significant boon to ranchers. It is possible that Mormon Oats reflect merely geography. However, I conjecture a negative connotation on the grounds that the grass did not first appear in the MCR and, as a common name, it is unlikely that the Mormons, who tended to be farmers rather than ranchers, would identify a serious pest with their own name. Richard N Mack, “Invasion of Bromus tectorum L. into Western North America: An Ecological Chronicle. Agro-Ecosystems 7 (1981):145-165.

[16] Examples include: Apodemia mormo (Mormon Metalmark [butterfly]), Methia mormona (type of Longhorned Beetle), Euhagena mormoni (a type of Clearwing Moth), Apantesis mormonica = Notarctia proxima mormonica (Tiger Moth), Ambrysus mormon montandon (Creeping Water Bug), Platandria mormonica (type of Rove Beetle), and Perdita mormonica (type of Mining Bee).

[17] Ellen M. Benedict, “False Scorpions of the Genus Apocheiridium Chamberlin from Western North America (Pseudoscorpionida, Cheiridiidae),” Journal of Arachnology 5 no 3 (1977 Autumn):231-41. They etymology of Strategus mormon is conjectural: the collection was in Texas and published in 1847, suggesting association with the Lyman Wight group in central Texas. Hermann Burmeister, Handbuch der Entomologie (Berlin, 1847) v5 p130-1. Speyeria mormonia = Argynnis mormonia; the systematist incorrectly thought the samples were from Utah. Crispin Spencer Guppy, Jon Shepard, Butterflies of British Columbia… (University of British Columbia Press, 2001) p281. On the other hand, the Little Goblin (Botrychium mormo) follows the Greek antecedent.

[18] Samuel Hubbard Scudder, Butterflies: their structure, changes and life-histories, with special reference to American forms… (New York, 1881), p182-3. The Mormon Skipper = Zabulon Skipper or Southern Dimorphic Skipper (Atrytone zabulon = Poanes zabulon).

[19] Harish Gaonkar, as quoted in Mary Harris, “Asian Mormon Butterflies,” Extension News (Iowa State University Extension, 2003 Nov 26). The Mormons are: Papilio polytes (Common), Papilio memnon (Great), Papilio lowii (Great Yellow), Papilio rumanzovia (Scarlet). Mormanity wrote about the Scarlet Mormon 2007 May 04. The etymology of the Jewel (or Chalcid) Wasp’s classification is conjectural (Mormoniella vitripennis = Nasonia vitripennis). JA Zeh and DW Zeh, “The Evolution of Polyandry I: Intragenomic Conflict and Genetic Incompatibility,” Biological Sciences 263 no 1377 (1996 Dec 22):1711-7; AR Whiting, “The Biology of the Parasitic Wasp Mormoniella vitripennis [=Nasonia brevicornis] (Walker),” The Quarterly Review of Biology 42 no 3 (1967 Sep):333-406.

[20] As historical evidence goes, it’s weak-sauce, but mormo doesn’t seem to fit and, as far as I know, there was nothing like a Mormon colony nearby. In January 1917 some 1,500 Mormons fled northern Mexico to escape Pancho Villa. Harrison G. Dyar, “New Moths from Mexico and Cuba (Lepidoptera),” Insecutor Inscitiæ Menstruus 6 no 7-9 (1918 Jul-Sep):130-40; Thomas G Alexander, Mormonism in Transition… (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996) p208; Thomas Cottam Romney, The Mormon Colonies in Mexico (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2005) p243-5.

[21] The original published description does not explain the name choice. I am at a loss to suggest a religious connection; the spider does have what could be described as “mask” markings/hairs, so perhaps it alludes to the Greek. F Karsch, “Diagnoses Attoidarum aliquot novarum Novae Hollandiae collectionis Musei Zoologici Berolinensis,” Mitteilungen der Münchener Entomologischen Verein 2 (1878):31 (22-32). For images, see: here and here.

[22] Epouvantail can be “scarecrow” or “bugbear.”

Tu verras par exemple que dans l’histoire de Mormon, nous auons pris l’idée d’vn Parasite en general, & que nous luy auons imposé vn nom Grec, pour nous esloigner le plus qu’il nous a esté possible, du particulier, & de nostre siecle. En effet tu peux auoir leu que Mormon, ou mormon en Grec signifie la mesme chose qu”spouuantail en François; Nom qui nous a semblé tres-propre pour denotet vn Parasite, à cause que comme vn espouuantail dans vn champ, empesche les oyseaux de manger le grain qui y est semé; Nostre Parasite de mesme quand il est vne fois à table, sçait bien faire en sorte que personne ne touche aux plats qui sont deuant luy.

François de la Mothe le Vayer, Jean Le Royer de Prade, Charles Sorel, Savinien de Cyrano de Bergerac, “Le Parasite Mormon: Histoire Comique,” from the preface, [accessed 2009 Jul 09]. The play, which satirizes literary conventions and social/personality types, opens at Mormon’s execution for sodomy and atheism. Later we learn that the other two main characters set him up. A plot summary in English is here (IAR de Smet, Menippean Satire and the Republic of Letters, 1581-1655, p235).

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. This is awesome!

    Comment by TT — July 15, 2009 @ 6:01 am

  2. I wish I hadn’t been trying to eat breakfast and trying to read this at the same time. Otherwise, I don’t have words to say how wonderful this is. Bravo, Edje!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — July 15, 2009 @ 7:59 am

  3. Awesome, Edje! Who new that Zuul could make it into a Mormon history post!?!

    Comment by Jared T — July 15, 2009 @ 9:23 am

  4. Edje, I believe that you are the one mighty and strong.

    However, I can’t believe you didn’t include Mormon Tea!

    Comment by J. Stapley — July 15, 2009 @ 10:33 am

  5. Many thanks, TT, Ardis, Jared, and J.

    J.: Now that you mention it, I can’t believe I didn’t include it either. Doh!

    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 15, 2009 @ 10:42 am

  6. Nicely done, Ed.

    Comment by Christopher — July 15, 2009 @ 10:46 am

  7. Fantastic stuff, Edje.

    Comment by David G. — July 15, 2009 @ 12:10 pm

  8. Further forays into taxonomy and entomology will only delay your desire to b)graduate, Edje. Otherwise, just awesome!

    Comment by kevinf — July 15, 2009 @ 1:06 pm

  9. Absolutely fascinating! Thanks for putting this together.

    Comment by ZD Eve — July 15, 2009 @ 1:53 pm

  10. This was highly entertaining. I am jealous of your genius.

    Comment by Christopher Smith — July 15, 2009 @ 2:04 pm

  11. What a post!

    The mayflies in Nauvoo are often referred to by the locals as “Mormon flies” since both cover the landscape during the summer months. I’m not sure when this naming first began. However, a member of my CofC congregation who guided in Nauvoo in 1941 remembers people referring to the insects as Mormon flies.

    Comment by David Howlett — July 15, 2009 @ 2:17 pm

  12. Thanks, Chris, David G, kevin, Eve, Christopher, and David H.

    David: Mormon flies will be a big part of the follow-up post. The earliest instance I’ve found is 1846. What I find more interesting (and will develop in the NP) is the folk etymologies given to explain the name. With your contribution (may I quote you?) I am up to five explanations for what put the Mormon in Mormon fly. Next up: Mormon lice.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 15, 2009 @ 2:28 pm

  13. If that text is illustrated, Edje, either warn me in advance or don’t put it up at breakfast time. I could handle it by lunch time.

    Comment by Ardis Parshall — July 15, 2009 @ 2:44 pm

  14. great fun. Kidder in 1842 repeats the Grk comparison. vague memory says Caswall repeated it. the 1842 etymology is vintage phelps.

    Comment by smb — July 15, 2009 @ 10:48 pm

  15. Yay, Edje. Great job.

    Comment by Ben Pratt — July 16, 2009 @ 12:46 am

  16. The word Mormon in Chinese has a homonym that means “Devil’s Door” or sometimes translated as the “Gates of Hell.” [Hello, what do you know about the church of the Devil’s Door?] It is written differently, but the similarity is monopolized upon by the Anti-Mormons in Chinese speaking areas. Most unfortunate.

    When written it clearly means “touch door”, so the Book of Mormon translates as “Touch Door Scripture.” Not as bad but still an unfortunate choice.

    Comment by Bruce Crow — July 16, 2009 @ 8:18 am

  17. Once again I am in awe at another of your literary masterpieces.

    Comment by Researcher — July 16, 2009 @ 8:26 am

  18. Ardis: noted.

    Thanks, smb, Ben, Bruce, and Researcher.

    smb: thanks for the refs; I found the Kidder cite and your paper on JS/Phelps; I couldn’t find a Caswall mormo/mormon cite mixed in with all his Greek-psalter stuff.

    Bruce: In every instance I’ve come upon—which all had English-speaking authors and audiences—the homonymy is used in an occultist sense (i.e., the etymology demonstrates some mystic evil influence). Among Chinese speakers, is the tack more nationalist/culturalist? i.e., look how stupid/insensitive/un-Chinese this American church is?

    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 16, 2009 @ 11:50 am

  19. A post worthy of a 2009 Niblet. Well done, Edje. I am reminded here of G. Thomasson’s rather unusual musings regarding the name Mormon:

    The Greek “pre-historic” word Mormo (which is to say it is a loan word into Greek, probably from some other Mediterranean culture) refers to the sound made by wild animals, a growl or a murmur, and is an example of onomatopoeia. If the place name Mormon has the same root as Mormo, it is quite appropriately used, based upon this etymology, to refer to the wilderness area where Alma’s young Church began, a place characterized by the text as being “infested, by times, or at seasons, by wild beasts” (Mosiah 18:4). The word Mormon almost immediately took on other associations, however, linked with the covenants entered into by the members of the new Church. It may also have good Egyptian meanings, including associations with wild animals and even with the concept of “more good.” The prophet Mormon’s name might make perfectly good sense in describing him as a successful military commander (the Lion of Judah, Richard the Lionhearted, etc.), but is much better understood for its link to the covenants made by Alma’s flock, and may well have been given to him by his parents because of its didactic/metonymic associations.

    Comment by Justin — July 16, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

  20. Bravo! Good job!

    To complete your info on “Le parasite mormon”, Leonard Hinds at Indiana studied in it detail. If you google hinds + “le parasite mormon”, you’ll find more. Add “paratext and framing narrative”, and you’ll find the chapter in

    Comment by Wilfried — July 16, 2009 @ 3:00 pm

  21. Thanks, Justin. Thomasson makes an interesting conjecture.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 16, 2009 @ 3:13 pm

  22. What good timing that I read this post recently. I’ve just returned from a visit to the zoo where we saw the butterfly exhibit which included the Scarlet Mormon. Too funny.

    Comment by Misty — July 16, 2009 @ 3:15 pm

  23. #12 Edje–Sure! You can quote my source on Mormon flies. Wow, 1846 for the name Mormon flies! That’s quite early and has nothing to do with tourism like it does today!

    Comment by David Howlett — July 16, 2009 @ 4:24 pm

  24. Wilfried: Thanks. And thanks for the ref. I’m interested to see what Hinds has to say.

    Misty: Thanks. I love it when a plan comes together.

    David: Thanks; and, actually, the logic behind the tourism connection is similar to one of the early explanations—it’s not the individual pest but the large number all in one place.

    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 16, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  25. The Hinds article is available for free download here. ( cuts out some pages).

    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 16, 2009 @ 6:46 pm

  26. Wow – Now this is a truly classic post for the “Mormonacle”. Kudos on the research, photos and humor. Footnote #1 = belly-laugh!

    PS Congrats on being featured in today’s Mormon Times BackBench

    Comment by MoSop — July 17, 2009 @ 1:58 pm

  27. […] Think You Know Where the Word Mormon Comes From? […]

    Pingback by Notes From All Over For Week Ended July 18 | Times & Seasons, An Onymous Mormon Blog — July 18, 2009 @ 6:36 pm

  28. […] David Howlett, comment at blog The Juvenile Instructor, 2009 Jul 15. Another behavioral attribution is: “They call […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » What Put the “Mormon” in “Mormon Fly” Might Not Go Well with Breakfast — July 21, 2009 @ 11:09 am

  29. Hey Edje,

    I have a couple things that may be of interest to you:

    I have somewhere in my files an advertisement from early 1900s for a jackass stud named Brigham Young. And on that note, there is a reference in Willa Cather’s My Antonia to a Bull named BY.

    Speaking of Cather, she also makes reference, in MA, to sunflowers as Mormon flowers, along with some legend about Mormons planting them during the exodus, thus representing the way to freedom. I also found a reference to yellow Mormon flowers in the writings of Helen Hunt Jackson.

    I can see if I can dredge the stuff up if it would be of interest to you.

    Comment by stan — July 23, 2009 @ 10:01 pm

  30. Stan,

    That’d be great. I’m familiar with the MA stuff.

    The Helen Hunt Jackson and that jackass Brigham Young stuff are new to me and I’d like a ref.


    Comment by Edje Jeter — July 24, 2009 @ 12:08 am

  31. […] What Put the “Mormon” in “Mormon Fly” Might Not Go Well with Breakfast All God’s Creatures—Including Mormos, the Other Mormons A Preliminary History of the Phrase “Happy Valley” [1] Benjamin D Walsh, “The […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Twin Barbarians 2: Mormon Lice — July 28, 2009 @ 3:44 pm

  32. […] [17] RB Neal, “Anti-Mormon Tracts, — No. 5. The Stick of Ephraim vs. The Bible of the Western Continent; or The Manuscript Found, vs The Book of Mormon. Part II” (pamphlet; Grayson, KY, 1899), 4. The specific demon Mormo and the generic demons called mormos were explicitly female and attacked children. The specific demon, Mormo, started out human but killed and ate her own children. There is, thus, a degree of analogy between Mormo and Bluebeard, but I think Neal overplays his etymology; see my earlier post on Mormo. […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » Blue-bearded Mormons — August 1, 2009 @ 12:06 am

  33. […] Some Links I’ve Liked Lately Matt at JI discussing what conversion means, in both LDS and Protestant theology. Sheryl at Segullah on wanting to be married. Edje at JI on creatures named after Mormons. […]

    Pingback by Some Links I’ve Liked Lately « Seeking for Righteousness — August 24, 2009 @ 2:46 pm


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