Who put the 'butter' in 'butterfly'?

Vladimir Nabokov

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How charming is the butterfly! Symbol of the soul to the ancient
Egyptians, a symbol of the gentle west wind Psyche to the Greeks
and Romans, a lifelong study of the late Vladimir Nabokov,
and the delight of tourists who watch the masses of monarchs
in springtime on the Monterey peninsula in California, the
butterfly has fascinated humankind for thousands of years.
And it has also generated its share of misinformation.

The English common name did originate from the relatively
simple combination of “butter” and “fly,” there’s an Old English
citation for "buttorfleoge," because butterflies we thought to steal milk.

Where, then, does the "butter" of butterfly come from?
About this there are three theories. One, basing itself on an
archaic Dutch word for butterfly, 'boterschijte' is that this
reflects the color of a butterfly's bowel movements. The
problem with this, of course, is that other than to
void excess water, butterflies do not excrete!

A second explanation, i.e., that males of the common
brimstone butterfly (Gonepteryx rhamni, Pieridae) of England
are a buttery yellow, doesn't make much sense either:
Why name butterflies just for the yellow ones?

A third theory holds that, in medieval folklore, butterflies
were believed to be disguised witches or fairies who stole
butter from pantries and churns. The belief in butter-stealing
fairies still existed in England at the time of Shakespeare,
in whose "Midsummer Night's Dream" a fairy asks Puck:

"Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Call'd Robin Goodfellow: are you not he
That fright the maidens of the villagery;
Skim milk; and sometimes labour in the quern,
And bootless make the breathless housewife churn;
And sometimes make the drink bear no barm;
Misleed night-wanderers, laughing at their harm?
Those that Hobgoblin call you, and sweet Puck,
You do their work, and they shall have good luck."

(... The housewife churns "bootlessly" because Puck has stolen her butter.)

In some cultures the butterfly can symbolize transformation or rebirth
into a new life after being inside a cocoon-like existence for a while.

One Japanese superstition says that if a butterfly enters your guestroom
and perches behind the bamboo screen, the person whom you most
love is coming to see you. In Chinese culture two butterflies flying together
is a symbolism for a loving couple, as related in a famous Chinese folk story
called Butterfly Lovers (a Chinese Romeo and Juliet).
The Taoist philosopher
Chuang Tzu once had a dream of being a butterfly flying around without any
cares about humanity. When he woke up and realized it was just a dream,
he thought to himself "Was I before a man who dreamt about being a
butterfly, or am I now a butterfly who dreams about being a man?"

~From: "More MisInformation" by Tom Burnam and Elsewhere on the Internet

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