Stories We Like: Novels For Language Lovers
1839, European name for the babakoto, a lemur-like arboreal primate of Madagascar (Indris Lichanotus); the common story since late 19c. is that the name was given in error by French naturalist Pierre Sonnerat (1748-1814), c.1780, from mistaken use of Malagasy indry! "look! See!" Evidently this was what his native guides said when they spotted the creature and called his attention to it.
However, as Hacking (1981) pointed out, Sonnerat was far too familiar with indris -- he described and figured them in detail, and apparently kept at least one in captivity -- for this story to be plausible. Furthermore, endrina is actually recorded as a native name for the indri (Cousins, 1885), and indri could easily be a variant of this name. Although the word endrina is first recorded in Malagasy only in 1835, there is no evidence that it could be a back-formation from the French indri (Hacking, 1981), and it seems implausible that the Malagasy would adopt an erroneous French name for an animal they were them selves familiar with. [Dunkel, Alexander R., et al., "Giant rabbits, marmosets, and British comedies: etymology of lemur names, part 1," in "Lemur News," vol. 16, 2011-2012, p.67]
slender, long-limbed primate found in the forests of Madagascar. The largest of the lemurs, it is 60-70 cm (24-28 inches) long, with a rudimentary tail and large hands and feet. The round head has a pointed face and round, furry ears. Its fur is black, with white on the head, throat, forearms, and buttocks; the relative proportions of white and black vary geographically. Active during the day and thoroughly arboreal, the indri clings to trees and climbs in an upright position as it feeds on leaves, fruit, flowers, and other vegetation.