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Darwin Correspondence Project

From J. V. Carus   31 October 1872


Oct 31st. 1872

My dear Sir,

Many thanks for your kind,—almost too kind letter.1 There is another etymological point, on which I beg to draw your attention. p. 104 you say: “This action (viz. the inflation of the body with toads”) must have been observed during the most ancient times, as, according to Mr. H. Wedgwood, the word toad expresses in all(!) the languages of Europe the habit of swelling” Now looking to the old languages “φρύνη’ refers to colour and has nothing to do with swelling the same is the case with “rubeta”, akin to ruber. Bufo is doubtful, but cannot be brought into genetic connection with any other word, meaning to swell or inflate. The other greek word φύσαλος or φύσαλις does not occur before the second century after Chr. (Lukianos).2 Again, all the Germanic or Teutonic languages have words, (meaning a toad), which are derived from a root signifying to tread, (the latin gradi) or walk clumsily: so in German Kröte, so in Swedish, Danish and Dutch (padde).3 The dialectic form “Protze” (for Kröte) reminds of the Italian botta;4 and in the same way ‘toad’ may be connected with the danish ‘tudse’ and the dialectical form ‘trote’. As far as I can see there is only the French ‘crapaud’ which leads to ‘crepare’.5 I think therefore it might be safer to say in the above passage: ‘in some languages of Europe’ instead of “in all”. Unluckily I did not notice it while I was translating the sheet containing the passage   Now I have it before me in proof, so that I cannot ask you for permission to alter it. However I beg your pardon for having done so. I corrected: “in some languages.”6

Just now I got the 8th. sheet in proof, so that I hope to get the book out in the middle of November.

Pray don’t trouble yourself by writing expressly for this. Perhaps some other occasion will come where you might give me absolution. | Believe me | My dear Sir | Yours ever sincerely | J. Victor Carus


φρύνη: toad; φυσαλέος: windy; φυσαλλίς: bladder, bubble (Greek). The Latin word rubeta is derived from the word rubus (bramble; a reference to the habitat of the poisonous toad to which rubeta referred); bufo is the more common Latin term for toad. Ruber: red (Latin). Carus also refers to Lucian of Samosata.
Kröte: toad (German). The word for toad is padda in Swedish, tudse in Danish, and pad in Dutch. It is padde in Norwegian.
In Bavarian German, Protz is a dialect word for Kröte; botta is a Tuscan dialect word for the Italian rospo (toad).
The French word crapaud is of Germanic origin, from the Old High German krapo (hook; because of the appearance of the feet). The Latin crepare is a verb meaning to crack or burst.
Carus was translating Expression into German; in his translation ‘all’ has been replaced with viele (many; Carus trans. 1872b, p. 105). In CD’s own copy of Expression in the Rare Books Collection–CUL, the word ‘all’ has been circled and ‘some of’ pencilled in the lower margin. In Expression 2d ed., p. 110, ‘all’ has been changed to ‘several of’.


Expression 2d ed.: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. 2d edition. Edited by Francis Darwin. London: John Murray. 1890.

Expression: The expression of the emotions in man and animals. By Charles Darwin. London: John Murray. 1872.


JVC questions accuracy of Hensleigh Wedgwood’s statement that the word for a toad in all European languages expresses the habit of swelling [see Expression, p. 104]. Has changed "all" to "some".

Letter details

Letter no.
Julius Victor Carus
Charles Robert Darwin
Sent from
Source of text
DAR 161: 87
Physical description

Please cite as

Darwin Correspondence Project, “Letter no. 8587,” accessed on 30 October 2020,

Also published in The Correspondence of Charles Darwin, vol. 20