Pointless Musings

By Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated December 11, 1997

Such as ...

What is the most inappropriately named animal?

How about the European Hare? The Latin, I mean: Lepus capensis europaeus. This means the hare belonging to the Cape (of South Africa) found in Europe.

Or the tapir family, which all come under the suborder Ceratomorpha: "the horned kind". Tapirs have no horns, though their cousins, the rhinos, do.

Or how about the Serval, which name means "deer-wolf" - the serval is a type of cat.

The Blue Whale is certainly a strong contender - the Latin name for the blue whale is Balaenoptera musculus. I have no problem with balaenoptera, which means "finned whale", but musculus? That means "little mouse"! Nice name for the largest living animal, extant or extinct ...

But actually, the champion of all mis-named species has to be Homo Sapiens. Sapiens means "wise, sensible" - and frankly, neither of those adjectives describe the top thousand things we are. Oh, we occasionally act sensibly, and everyone probably knows at least one wise person, but these are definitely not the norm for our race - look at our tendency to destroy our planet, for example. We may be smart, but we've a long way to go towards wisdom. My cats have more wisdom than is found in the entire human population of the state I live in - the state which elected John Sununu for governor, for example, or believes what Nacky Loeb writes in the Union Misleader ...

No, a far better name for our species would Homo Querulus: complaining humans. I'm not being facetious - it really is one of the things we universally do best, in every age, race, and culture. And it also is one of the major goads that drives our destiny. Most scientific and technological developments occur because somebody complains about how hard it is to do something. To shut this whining up is a great incentive to create such things as clothing, houses, agriculture, pottery, indoor plumbing, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, computers, electric pencil sharpeners, instant pototoes, microwave ovens, etc., etc.

Other musings to come ...

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