Jutting out into the ocean just south of Christchurch, New Zealand, is the Banks Peninsula, a circular mountainous landmass of volcanic origin. When Captain Cook partially circumnavigated it, he failed to see its mainland connection and misnamed it Banks Island in honor of HMS Endeavor’s botanist. Cook described it as having “a very broken uneven surface and more the appearance of barrenness than fertility.” Akaroa Harbour, actually a fiord, extends to near the center of the peninsula. On its shore, the French settled the village of Akaroa in 1840 in an attempt to establish a whaling station. It was later taken over by the British, but local place names reflect French influences. Laetitia and her group explored the village and then enjoyed a hike on one of the peninsula’s excellent trails and a harbor cruise that included excellent views of Hector’s Dolphins, Fur Seals, Little (Blue) Penguins. There were also abundant seabirds including shags, the common name in New Zealand for what many would call cormorants. Historically, cormorant and shag were common names for two closely related birds in Britain. The “shag” appellation refers to the bird’s crest. British shags have crests; British cormorants do not. However, the connection between crest and name is not consistent throughout the zoological family that contains these birds. Laetitia preferred the term, “cormorant,” but decided to let the taxonomists worry about which name to use. She found amusing the myriad of other meanings for the four-letter word, “shag.“ In addition to birds related to the cormorants, the word can refer to rough-cut pipe tobacco, carpet with thick pile, thick tangled hair, the act of chasing and catching fly balls in American baseball, a 1930s dance step, and a euphemism for a more harsh sounding four-letter word that means “have sexual intercourse with.” The sexual slang meaning of “shag” received a great deal of media exposure in the Austin Powers film series of comic spy spoofs starring Michael Myers. One was called The Spy Who Shagged Me and featured a CIA agemt called Felicity Shagwell. The series is also credited with coining the words “shagalicious” and “shagadelic.” The newly minted word meanings inspired Laetitia’s limerick.
Old Charlie proved he was a relic
When he used the quaint old term “angelic”
To refer to young Lexi
Who was very sexy
Instead of the word, shagadelic.