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Trevally, trevalla

These fish names originate from one and the same word, according to the earliest Southern Hemisphere records published in Morris’s Dictionary of Austral English (1898). At the entry for trevally,Morris gives the alternative spellings trevalli, trevalla and travale,and suggests they were corruptions of cavally,the Northern Hemisphere name for the “horse mackerel” and the name Cook noted in his 1769 diary. Morris lists no less than seven species of fish from different parts of Australia and New Zealand under the entry for trevally,five of which do indeed belong to the horse mackerel family worldwide. Trevally are still caught by sports fishermen in the warmer estuarine and coastal waters of eastern and southern Australia. But the name trevalla is now distinguished by association with a deep-sea fish of the Southern Ocean – also marketed as the “Antarctic butterfish”, “big-eye”, “bluenose warehou”, “blue-eye(d) cod” and even “deep-sea trevally”. Fishy confusion goes further in the menus of Australian-Japanese restaurants, where (blue-eye) trevalla is sometimes dressed up as “miso cod”. Trevalla isn’t any kind of cod, and that loosely applied name hardly turns it into a gourmet dish. Perhaps fish names are the ultimate codswallop.

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