Archive for the ‘Language and animals’ Category

The bristly brute

February 24, 2021

On Reddit on 2/22, posted by u/Tom7454:

“On the anniversary of Arthur Schopenhauer’s birth, David Bather Woods, a Schopenhauer expert at the University of Warwick, recommends five books on Schopenhauser.”

The typo was quoted on Facebook on 2/22  by Wendy Thrash, who explained the intervention of Schopenhauser:

“Because nobody wants to read about Schopenhauer.”

The pointer is to Five Books, a site with book recommendations from authorities; each recommendation is for five books on a specific subject, in this case David Bather Woods on Arthur Schopenhauer:

(#1)

Which inspired me to light verse:

Schopenhauser
Was a schnauzer
A bristly brute that
Played the flute

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The gigantic toad

February 22, 2021

The Zippy for today (2/22), in which Mr. Toad, reflecting on the Gigantic Toad of Yasothon, Thailand, observes that “not all amphibians are good amphibians” — which will take us to Rhinella marina, the giant cane toad:

(#1)

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Three remarkably named men’s fragrances

February 20, 2021

First, to announce a new Page on this blog listing my postings about men’s fragrance. Then, to continue some recent postings on notable names for men’s fragrances, a look at Fucking Fabulous and two nomenclatural celebrations of testosterone, Testosterone Original Fragrance Paris and Testostérone (from Zurich).

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Taming the bull

February 13, 2021

In the New Yorker issue of 2/15&22/21, the winning caption to a drawing by Joe Dator:


(#1) ‘Twas commissions tamed the bull

Well, yes, the cartoon has the bull talking and taking orders and handling money and all that, but this is CartoonWorld, where animals routinely do such things. What’s remarkable is that the bull has given up a core aspect of his bull nature: aggressiveness (an especially troublesome characteristic in a creature of such size).

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Celebrating Valentine’s Day 1: the baleen whales

February 12, 2021

Chacun à son goût on Valentine’s Day. Here’s cartoonist Lars Kenseth’s take on sentimental gift-giving among the baleen whales (from the 2/15&22/21 issue of the New Yorker):


A swarm of krill! How did you know?”

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The allusive shark shack

February 11, 2021

Today’s Zippy has Zippy and Claude strolling in a fantasy city not unlike San Francisco (note the analogue of the Transamerica Tower) and remarking on an advertising display, a shark fin extolling “Joe’s seafood shack [or possibly Joe’s Seafood Shack] on the waterfront”, a fantasy eating establishment:

(#1)

Now, Zippy strips are often about/in specific diners (and motels and fast food restaurants and casual dining places and bowling alleys etc.), places that (with some work) can be tracked down (from their names and/or locations) and depicted (there’s a Page on this blog on my postings about these strips.

But #1 is different. Pretty clearly, it’s not about some actual seafood shack (or Seafood Shack) that advertises with a shark fin, but spins a little fantasy on such eating places as a type.

However, it might still be a (suggestive) allusion to one such specifc place, especially if there’s (just) one that’s well-known over a wide area. An allusion doesn’t have to be exact in detail; close will do.

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The octocrat

February 9, 2021

Yesterday’s (2/8) Wayno/Piraro Bizarro, with a pun on autocrat: octocrat, itself a portmanteau of octopus and autocrat:


(#1) (If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

To come: notes on the words involved; some facts about octopuses that make them symbolically powerful; the octopus in political cartoons; and Wayno’s title for this cartoon, “Eight Arms to Oppress You”, with its allusion to the Ring verse from Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.

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Two from the 2/8/21 New Yorker

February 4, 2021

… both about N + N compounds: about weather bar in a Roz Chast cartoon, (implicitly) about bear hug in a wordless Will McPhail cartoon.

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Two reflections on rats

January 18, 2021

Reflection 1: fury at the roof rats that have taken up residence on my patio and are now devastating the plants there.

Reflection 2: a recent Economist story about Cambodian farmers trapping rats to sell for food in Vietnam.

(Some may see a possible thematic connection between the two reflections.)

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Mating strategies

January 12, 2021

(Retrieved from my “to post” files from some considerable time ago.)

From the Economist issue of 11/28/19 (on-line), in the Science & technology section, header “Mating strategies”, title “A new theory argues same-sex sexual behaviour is an evolutionary norm: Unless it is essential to know a partner’s sex, why bother?”:

When it comes to sexual behaviour, the animal kingdom is a broad church. Its members indulge in a wide variety of activities, including with creatures of the same sex. Flying foxes gather in all-male clusters to lick each other’s erect penises. Male Humboldt squid have been found with sperm-containing sacs implanted in and around their sexual organs in similar quantities to female squid. Female snow macaques often pair off to form temporary sexual relationships that includes mounting and pelvic thrusting. Same-sex sexual behaviour has been recorded in some 1,500 animal species.

The mainstream explanations in evolutionary biology for these behaviours are many and varied. Yet they all contain a common assumption: that sexual behaviours involving members of the same sex are a paradox that does indeed need explaining. Reproduction requires mating with a creature of the opposite sex, so why does same-sex mating happen at all?

A paper just published in Nature Ecology and Evolution offers a different approach. Instead of regarding same-sex behaviour as an evolutionary oddity emerging from a normal baseline of different-sex behaviour, the authors suggest that it has been a norm since the first animals came into being. The common ancestor of all animals alive today, humans included, did not, they posit, have the biological equipment needed to discern the sex of others of its species. Rather, it would have exhibited indiscriminate sexual behaviour — and this would have been good enough to transmit its genes to the next generation.

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