Differentiae

Today’s Bizarro/Wayno collaboration:

(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 3 in this strip — see this Page.)

It all depends on your knowing the classic text, from the introduction to the tv show Adventures of Superman (1952-1958):

Narrator: Faster than a speeding bullet. More powerful than a locomotive. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Man 1: Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird!

Woman 1: It’s a plane!

Man 2: It’s Superman!

Woman 1 contradicts Man 1’s identification, then Man 2 contradicts both of them.

But what are the differentiae distinguishing a bird (here, a gull) from a plane (here, a light aircraft) from Superman? The onlookers in #1 appear to have no clue, and their cluelessness has made Superman decidedly testy.

Lexical note from NOAD:

noun differentia: (plural differentiae) [a] a distinguishing mark or characteristic. [b] chiefly Philosophy an attribute that distinguishes a species of thing from other species of the same genus.

In #1, the genus (from definition [b]) in question is the category (class / taxon) of flying things, of which birds, planes, and the Man of Steel are species. (And then there are pterodactyls, helicopters, mosquitos, gliders, bats, and Santa’s reindeer.)

As for the “It’s a bird” meme, we went there in a 10/22/16 posting “Supercamp penguins”, which looked at the tv source and the 1966 Broadway show that exploited the meme:

(#2) How did his thighs get so big and his head so small?

One Response to “Differentiae”

  1. John Baker Says:

    Not original with me, but: why is Man 1 so stunned at seeing what he takes to be a bird flying?

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