Archive for the ‘Language and animals’ Category

Pearls POP

November 28, 2015

Alerted by Andy Sleeper, two recent Pearls Before Swine cartoons:



The Worrywarthog: a phrasal overlap portmanteau (POP): worrywart + warthog. The first is new on this blog; the second has come up in passing several times, but without an actual look at the animal.


big game

November 22, 2015

Yesterday was the Big Game, between Stanford and Cal (the University of California at Berkeley), the Stanford Cardinal and the Cal Bears, in football:


(Stanford over Cal 28-16, at Stanford Stadium; much celebration)

Linguistic point 1: the usage of the expression The Big Game.

Linguistic point 2: the expression big game used to refer to animals.

Bonus: the movie Big Game.


The water frog, the ground squirrel, and the little thrush

November 11, 2015

From Xopher Walker, back in the spring, a Colonial Williamsburg Foundation greeting card with a reproduction of a charming 1754 etching by Mark Catesby showing a “water frog” (billed as Rana aquatica) together with a purple pitcher plant:



Moving pest news

November 4, 2015

In yesterday’s NYT Science Times, this brief report by Sindhya N. Bhanoo, on the website under the title “A Rooftop View of Insect Migration in a Warming Climate”, on the nut weevil in Denmark:

The Natural History Museum of Denmark has studied the insect population on its rooftop for 18 years, tracking 1,543 species of moths and beetles and more than 250,000 individuals. In a study appearing in The Journal of Animal Ecology, museum researchers conclude that warming temperatures are affecting specialized insects that rely on a single food source. The nut weevil, for example, feeds only on hazelnuts; it appeared on the roof during the first half of the study but not the second. Scientists at the museum suspect that the nut weevil and other specialists are moving north, where the climate is cooler.

Adult weevils eat plant parts. Their larvae do too, but from the inside out.


Morning silverfish

October 24, 2015

My morning name two days ago was silverfish (yesterday’s was toe jam, and I’ve posted on that). A perfect example of a morning name, since I had no idea why the little insect should have popped into my mind. This morning there were two, but they were entirely explicable: howler monkey (I read about them in the NYT yesterday, fascinating story) and dermestid beetle (prominently mentioned in a CSI: NY episode I watched yesterday). Brief words about them, and then on to the silverfish.


Morning: monotreme, marsupial

October 18, 2015

The morning names a little while back came as a pair (monotreme, marsupial) — with related referents (both are taxonomically eccentric mammals) and names that are somewhat similar phonologically. And in sequence they made a nicely metrical line.

And that led me into a certain amount of silly language play.


That’s a moray

October 17, 2015

Yesterday I posted about (among other things) the song “That’s Amore”, as made famous by Dean Martin. Immediately friends began providing plays on the title: That’s a Moray”. Eels! It turns out that there is a small industry in this bit of linguistic playfulness. On to the parodies, and then some words about morays.



October 2, 2015

On September 28th, Ken Callicott posted on Facebook about the appearance of horse lubbers in Tucson AZ — huge, incredibly showy, chemically armed grasshoppers:


Western horse lubber grasshopper, San Luis Obispo County CA


Vicious wombats

September 27, 2015

From Gail Collins’s NYT column yesterday, “Bye, Bye, John Boehner”:

under normal circumstances, [Speaker of the House John Boehner] would have used the Democratic votes to keep the government funded. Then the right wing would have descended on him like a band of vicious wombats.

I was taken aback by the vicious wombats. In my experience, wombats are seen as stupid and ridiculous, rather than dangerous. From Wikipedia:

In general, wombats are seen by many as being fat, slow, lazy animals, and are often mocked.

But wombats have powerful claws and sharp teeth, and they don’t like to be handled. So, from Wikipedia:

Humans can receive puncture wounds from wombat claws, as well as bites. Startled wombats can also charge humans and bowl them over, with the attendant risks of broken bones from the fall.

If you mess with a wombat, you might well see them as vicious, as some people seem to. (But they don’t travel in bands.)


Chaste trees and jumping spiders

September 12, 2015

Yesterday at the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, a plant note and an animal note: chaste trees and jumping spiders.



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