Archive for the ‘Language and animals’ Category


June 29, 2015

Separate animals, sheep and hippo, together (the pair embraced in the portmanteau shippo):


From an old friend (whose birthday is today). The hippo is William, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a present I gave her some years ago. Now she writes:

I always have him someplace I can look at him. Last week I came home from China with this sheep made out of soap, and they seemed made for each other.

Some words about William.


Gay Pride

June 27, 2015

Passed on to me by Paul Foster from a Facebook source:

Rather more adult males than you’d expect in a pride of lions — but then these are gay lions, so they bond with pleasure.

The hunted 95 per cent?

June 4, 2015

Let’s start with:

(1) Hunted for its horns, 95 percent of the population disappeared

This looks like a classic “dangling modifier”. We have a SPAR hunted for its horns (a Subjectless Predicative Adjunct Requiring a referent for the missing subject), but the adjunct doesn’t obey the Subject Rule (doesn’t pick up its referent from the subject of the main clause: (1) doesn’t in fact tell us that 95 percent of the population was hunted for its horns). (On the concepts and terminology, see the material in the Page on “Dangler postings”, especially the “as a SPAR” posting.)

But even without context, (1) is easily understood: 95 percent of the population is a metonymic stand-in for a population of X, and it’s X that was hunted for its horns. But that takes some interpretive work. However, when more discourse context is provided, this work is no longer needed, and I’d expect that readers wouldn’t even notice that (1) is technically a dangling modifier.


A ring-tailed lemur type

May 16, 2015

In the May 18th New Yorker, this lovely Charlie Hankin cartoon:


On the caption: this is a show-business meme: We don’t want X; we want an X type. (We don’t want Whoopi Goldberg; we want a Whoopi Goldberg type.) But then there’s the image of a ring-tailed lemur, looking non-plussed — but this is exactly the way the creatures look in the wild:



In brief: the name of a new dinosaur

May 5, 2015

A cute story from today’s NYT Science News, about a 7-year-old Chilean boy named Diego Suárez, who “has discovered bone fragments of a previously unknown dinosaur” — which has been named Chilesaurus diegosuarezi, after his country and himself.

The creature was approximately turkey-sized and might have looked something like this:

Unfortunately, I have no picture of Diego.

But Diego didn’t just stumble on the bones. He was “accompanying his parents, the geologists Manuel Suarez and Rita de la Cruz, as they studied rocks in Chilean Patagonia”. So he was looking with educated eyes.

Service animals

May 5, 2015

Today’s Bizarro:

We’ve been here before, in a 10/19/14 posting on emotional-support animals (like the bear above). A major point in that posting was the distinction between service animals and emotional-support animals: an emotional-support card for your pet doesn’t allow you to take it into a restaurant, hotel, store, taxi, or train, while service dogs can go all these places.



May 5, 2015

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm, featuring roly polies:


Roly polies the fascinating creatures. Then there’s Jam Roly-Poly, the British sweet; the roly-poly toy; Roly Poly, the chain of sandwich shops; and the adjective roly-poly ‘having a round, plump appearance’, which leads us to the Australian film The Roly Poly Man. All are rooted in the verb roll, in various uses.


The names of birds

May 4, 2015

In the May 2nd issue of New Scientist, a piece “The Impersonators” by Daniel Cossins, about birds mimicking all sorts of sounds. It’s full of wonderful names of birds (mimics and those mimicked) from around the world:

the greater racket-tailed drongo, the forked-tailed drongo, orange-billed warblers, ashy-headed laughing-thrushes, southern pied babblers, the cape glossy starling, the superb fairy wren

The drongos are the stars here.


Underground Mastodon

April 25, 2015

From Sim Aberson, this tile from the NYC subway, at the 81st Street – Museum of Natural History Station:


That’s the American mastodon. And this is a marker for an underground mastodon (note nice double dactyl: Higgledy piggedy / Undergound mastodon …).

A few words about mammoths and mastodons.


Jolly lemurs

April 16, 2015

In the 4/11 New Scientist, a review by Adrian Barnett of Allison Jolly’s Thank You, Madagascar: The conservation diaries of Alison Jolly:

In exploring the female-dominated world of lemurs in Madagascar, Alison Jolly shed a unique light on a world as biologically rich as it is economically poor [Jolly died last year, at the age of 76]



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