Archive for the ‘Language and animals’ Category


October 20, 2016

… choosing words as trademarks. NOAD2 on trademark:

a symbol, word, or words legally registered or established by use as representing a company or product

Such words often come with associations to existing words, or parts of words, in the language, and sometimes there are official origin stories that invoke these associations, though the official stories often just scratch the surface of the full set of associations.

Which brings me back to my posting of the 16th on the Parisian home furnishing company FLEUX’ (and its mascot, Zwicky le Chat): where does the company name come from? (and why is the cat named Zwicky?)


Dog massage

October 17, 2016

Today’s Bizarro:

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

In case you didn’t know that Shih Tzu is the name of a breed of dog, you can infer that from the cartoon, and you can see that the little dogs are (absurdly) being used to give a massage here. That’s funny in a way, but to really appreciate the cartoon, you have to know that there’s a type of massage known as shiatsu. Cultural knowledge looms again.


Toucan, get what you need

September 12, 2016

Ok, a lame pun on the line from the Rolling Stones’ song “You can’t always get what you want”(from their 1969 album Let It Bleed), here with reference to what we know in my household as the Toucan Bowl:


The Stones song; toucans; and the Toucan Bowl.


Feet in footage, pawns at the pawnshop

September 9, 2016

Two cartoons in my feed yesterday, both turning on ambiguities: a One Big Happy involving foot, a Mother Goose and Grimm involving pawn:




Pink motels, Cadillacs, etc. etc.

August 19, 2016

Today’s Zippy takes us into the land of pink motels, pink fairies, and pink Cadillacs, which then takes us of course into the Forest of Pudendiana and sexual symbolism. There will be innocent drinks, plants, and animals, but mostly this is a world drenched in sex, gender, and sexuality.


We are in scenic Cherokee NC, home of a Pink Motel, with a fairy as its mascot — blue-winged in the cartoon, but pink-winged in older versions of the actual neon sign.

Symbolism I. Both fairies and the color pink have come to be symbols of femininity, and by extension, faggotry. But also, both of them, are symbols of kitsch: fairies and pink stuff are “cute”. Presumably the Pink Motel in Cherokee was designed not to bring in women or gay men, but to project a strong general senses of cuteness, like Tinkerbell and Hello Kitty run amok.


Trapped in the morning duff

August 12, 2016

Morning names from the 9th: a pair you can get stuck in (the Great Grimpen Mire and the La Brea Tar Pits) and the noun duff referring to decaying vegetable matter.


Our playful entomologists

July 25, 2016

In the August 2016 Funny Times, a wonderful piece “The Name Game” by M.K. Wolfe, about binomial nomenclature for living things, but with special reference to the taxonomic names of insects (there are, after all, so very many of them). A copy of the piece (which you should embiggen for easier reading):


An entertaining tour of playful, even silly, names that have been adopted. As far as I can tell, these are all entirely accurate, even the insects  Agra vation, Lalsapa lusa, Pison eu, and Vera peculya.


A profusion of fireflies

July 9, 2016

A delightful piece in Tuesday’s NYT Science Times, “How to Talk to Fireflies” by Joanna Klein, which is about animal communication — between fireflies, by flashing lights — though I was startled by a fact that came up in passing. The first paragraph:

As Earth rotates in the summer, fireflies whisper sweet nothings to each other in the most beautiful language never heard. For millions of years the insects have called to one another secretly, using flashes of light like a romantic morse code. With some rather simple technology — a light and a battery — scientists have been decoding their love notes for years. But recently I learned that you don’t have to be an entomologist to try to talk to fireflies.

Male common Eastern fireflies, flashing


An infestation of flies

June 1, 2016

On Facebook, Max Meredith Vasilatos has been reporting on her wars with fruit flies in her San Francisco condo. Even when there’s no food out for them to feast on, still they persist. Max has tried to eliminate possible breeding places by pouring boiling water and bleach down the bathroom drains, but still there are flies.

Commenters on Facebook suggest that she is facing, not fruit flies (Drosophila species, especially the common D. melanogaster) in search of fruit (rotting if possible), but drain flies (from one of a large number of species, though the moth fly Clogmia albipunctata is especially widespread) in search of sludge.

I am, of course, familiar with common fruit flies, but also with at least one species of drain fly (though not C. albipunctata), a species that’s a minor summertime nuisance around my house.


The snail days of summer

May 28, 2016

On the Comics Kingdom blog on Tuesday, for National Escargot Day (May 24th), ten cartoons on snails, all of them new to this blog. Some turn on the snail cartoon meme (having to do with slowness), many have to do with the slowness of postal services (snail mail, in the rhyming retronym), the rest deal with other gastropodal matters.