Tag Archives: NPR

dolphins v. jellyfish

I recently heard a report on NPR that said dolphins like to use their flippers in an effort to propel jellyfish through the air in what seemed to be an act of play. Soccer, except with jellyfish as the ball.

 

Unfortunately, jellyfish don’t generally survive the humiliation.

Researchers in Wales discovered this surprising, never-before seen behavior.

The story made me wonder a few things. First off, is Wales its own country? Second, are there other animals that engage in what we as humans might think of as sport? And, finally, don’t jellyfish stings hurt dolphins?

Here’s what I found out:

  • Yes, Wales is its own country. In fact, after reading about its history in Wikipedia, I began to suspect that Wales may have been Tolkien’s inspiration for the setting of Lord of the Rings. At least the historical names sound suspiciously Elvish.
  • When I googled “are there animals that play sports,” the results were either about animal sports movies (one person’s Amazon list on the topic featured Soccer Dog: The Movie and Soccer Dog: European Cup numbers one and two, respectively) or animals capable of playing human sports. I’ll keep researching this one.
  • I could not find an answer to my third question. Though I did come upon this passage at the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources website:

Stings usually paralyze or kill only small creatures (fish, small crustaceans), but some jellyfish are harmful to humans. Although jellyfish do not “attack” humans, swimmers and beachcombers can be stung when they come into contact with the jellyfish tentacles with functional nematocysts. The severity of the sting depends on the species of jellyfish, the penetrating power of the nematocyst, the thickness of exposed skin of the victim and the sensitivity of the victim to the venom. The majority of stings from jellyfish occur in tropical and warm temperate waters. Most species off the southeastern coast are capable of inflicting only mild stings that result in minor discomfort.

I’m guessing that they do sting dolphins, and that the stings must hurt. But, clearly, these bottlenose dolphins off the coast of Wales are too in the game to care.

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soup to nuts (redux)

According to an NPR piece that came across my news feed, there’s a fascinating dictionary of American Regional English that has been published in sections over the past 50 years. The final volume, S-Z, will be available next year.

The story begins with an anecdote about Bill Clinton:

In 1993, President Clinton was giving a news conference when someone mentioned that a certain Air Force official had criticized him. “How could he say that about me?” Clinton responded. “He doesn’t know me from Adam’s off ox.”

The piece goes on to wonder if regional phrases are dying off as we become more twitter-ized and therefore more uniform in our online, web-based writing patterns. This seemed to be borne out in the story:

But when this reporter tested out some words from the DARE at a Starbucks in suburban Detroit, none of the patrons seemed familiar with a “monkey’s wedding” (a chaotic, messy situation in Maine); “cockroach killers” (pointy shoes in New Jersey) or “mumble squibbles” (noogies, North Carolina-style).

(Her first mistake, it seems to me, was going to a suburban Detroit Starbucks to see if people were aware of regional phrases.)

One of the benefits of my job is that I get to meet teachers from all over the country. So I’ve definitely heard my share of regional expressions, which I love. “Rode hard and put up wet” is probably my favorite, said by Amy from Louisville one night describing the way Britney Spears looked as her image flashed across a tv screen. Apparently, it’s a horse-riding expression, so it makes sense that it comes from the land of the Kentucky Derby. And I’m sure you can guess that it ain’t complimentary.

Championing regional sayings is the equivalent to me of buying local to prevent the overrunning of our communities by look-alike chain stores and restaurants.

In fact, more than archiving these expressions in dictionaries, we should be figuring out ways they can be used in everyday speech. A facebook app, perhaps, that flashes and beeps you when your status updates are too regionally bland.

Not for nothin, I think that’s a good idea.

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