What does Homo Erectus mean and how did Paleontologists coin the term?

All we know is that we giggle like school kids whenever we have the occasion to say “Homo Erectus.”

Even knowing that it means “upright man” doesn’t dampen our exuberant mirth. In fact, it only seems to add to it. But we don’t get out much, and we aren’t paleontologists, so we suspect they’re a little more serious than we are.

Homo erectus got his name, of course, for walking straighter than some of his earlier ancestors.

He could have also been called something else, since other early-human names are more descriptive of their accomplishments than their physical characteristics, like his early work with taming fire, perhaps.

For example, Homo habitus, which means “handy man,” in honor of their being the first to make stone tools. Or Homo sapiens, which means, despite the overwhelming evidence around you proving otherwise, “wise man.”

Now if that doesn’t get paleontologists snickering, what will?

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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