02 February 2012

Why mesocricetus.com?

Christopher - a golden (Syrian) hamster
Mesocricetus.com may sound like a rather nincompoopish name for a site about cute little furry critters, but it isn't. Really.

The scientific name for the golden hamster, also known as the Syrian hamster, is Mesocricetus auratus. What does this gobbledygook mean?

Mesocricetus auratus is a Latin name and consists rather obviously of two parts: mesocricetus and auratus.

Mesocricetus is itself composed of two parts: meso and cricetus. Meso is a prefix that means intermediate, mean, middle. Cricetus means hamster in Latin. Mesocricetus therefore means 'middle-sized hamster'.

Auratus means gilded, covered with a layer of gold. As you can see in the picture above, the name is well-chosen, as golden (Syrian) hamsters tend to have a golden glow. It is not difficult to imagine that they would really appear to glow in the setting sun of the desert where they come from.

And now we have the meaning of Mesocricetus auratus: the gilded middle-sized hamster.

Note that the italics and the initial capital are not optional: they are what help make the Latin name from a mere word into a scientific name.

So, this is it: Mesocricetus auratus, the golden hamster or Syrian hamster.

The name of the site, mesocricetus.com, is now a lot easier to understand. But why not MesocricetusAuratus.com, then? I thought about it, but mesocricetus is difficult enough to type as it is. I did not want to make it even longer for no particularly convincing reason.

I had also looked into using meso.com, cricetus.com or auratus.com, but all three names already existed. So, as a result and as a compromise, it became mesocricetus.com.

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