Friday, May 18, 2018

Conch or Whelk

When I was a young boy nearly everyone on Ocracoke called the following seashell a "conch":

Nowadays, we're told, this is a whelk, not a conch. In fact, in 2015 Terri Hathaway wrote an informative article in Coastwatch Currents explaining the difference (and bemoaning the confusion). You can read it here:

Wikipedia includes this photo of a conch:

Photo by cheesy42

Wikipedia explains that a conch "is a common name that is applied to a number of different medium to large-sized shells. The term generally applies to large snails whose shell has a high spire and a noticeable siphonal canal.... The group of conchs that are sometimes referred to as "true conchs" are marine gastropod molluscs in the family Strombidae, specifically in the genus Strombus and other closely related genera."

A whelk, on the other hand, "is a common name that is applied to various kinds of sea snail [that] are relatively large and are in the family Buccinidae (the true whelks)...."

It's all a little bit confusing to me. But since I am a big fan of Humpty Dumpty, I will let him speak for me. “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.” (From Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carroll.)

This month's Ocracoke Newsletter is the story of Ocracoke Lodge No. 194, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. You can read the Newsletter here:

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