National Security & Defense

Sweden Renames a Bunch of Birds to Make Sure No One Thinks They’re Racist

Blue teal hottentot (Mirkorosenau/Dreamstime)
Bird enthusiasts shocked no one seems to care.

Sweden’s Ornithological Society has changed the names of a bunch of birds because they were concerned that the old names sounded racist.

For example: Any bird whose name contained the word “neger” (negro) had that word changed to the word “svart” (black), according to an article in The Local.

“We kept getting more and more questions from translators of Swedish TV programs and books wanting to know what exactly different bird names were or meant, so we decided to compile a list and while we were doing that we decided to change the names of any birds that could have stirred up a debate,” said Anders Wirdheim, information officer at Sweden’s Ornothological Society.

The bird previously known as “Zigenarfågel” which means “gypsy bird” will now be called “hoatzin,” even though that English word is already used to describe a type of tropical pheasant found in swamps and forests.

This is the first official list ever made of official Swedish terms for different birds, and bird enthusiast/researcher Erling Jirle said he is surprised that no one seems to care.

“I thought it would be a few reactions, but there have not been so many,” Jirle told Swedish newspaper Sydvenskan.

Pretty surprising. After all, this is the first list of bird names in Swedish ever made. Really, I have no idea how we’ve even managed to go so long without one.

— Katherine Timpf is a reporter for National Review Online. 

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