Archive for the ‘Language and animals’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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):

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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Joe Orlando: a cartoonist and his sea-monkeys

April 22, 2016

The cartoonist’s art in a somewhat unexpected place: an ad for Sea-Monkeys from the 1960s, showing a Sea-Monkey family of three:

The ad turned up in the midst of a fascinating, intricate NYT Magazine piece by Jack Hitt on Sunday the 17th, “The Battle Over the Sea-Monkey Fortune: A former 1960s bondage-film actress is waging legal combat with a toy company for ownership of her husband’s mail-order aquatic-pet empire”. There’s a lot here, but some highlights:

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Morning name: domoic acid (plus Dungeness crab)

March 30, 2016

Yesterday’s morning name, domoic acid, was no great surprise, given recent local news about the late opening of the Dungeness crab season. From a story on ABC tv station KGO’s site yesterday:

Officials announced today Dungeness crab season officially opened after the price for local crab was set at $2.90.

Officials said crab fishermen are rushing out to set their traps. However, the trip is a four-hour journey, so they will not be able to bring any crabs back to the Bay Area right away.

The earliest crab may be for sale is on Friday.

Earlier today, crab fisherman took part in a closed-door meeting where officials set the price for crab.

A dangerous neurotoxin [domoic acid] in the crab was to blame for California’s crab season delay. Even after samples were below alert levels in recent weeks, public health agencies recommended people not eat the internal organs of the crab known as butter or guts.

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A Dungeness crab

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The invasive starling

March 24, 2016

Yesterday’s Rhymes With Orange::

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Two things here. One, the fact that English has both riffle through and rifle through, with different histories, but with very similar pronunciations (riffle with /ɪ/, rifle with /aj/) and very similar meanings. But both endure. In the case of the cartoon, I would have said riffle, but it all turns on the starling’s intentions in going through that underwear drawer.

And two, how we are to understand invasive. And that takes us into a great morass of uses for this word and for the word alien, the starling being an alien species in North America, in the technical sense that it is not a species native to the continent, but was introduced from abroad.

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Morning name: javelina

March 17, 2016

The morning name from 2/10/16: javelina, the animal. Which then led to javelin, the weapon and equipment in a track and field event. No, they have absolutely nothing to do with one another, etymologically, phonologically, or semantically.

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