Thursday, 28 July 2016

Dog days

So there's this news story I came across, 'Rocky the orangutan apes human speech in knockout study'. I noticed the pun of course but it serves a duel purpose in this instance, it's also highly equivocal. A fact that is rather unfortunately demonstrated by the video that accompanies the story. Alas Rocky doesn't speak in the video, he doesn't even ape human vocalisation, what he in fact does, is grunt. Ape grunts, doesn't quite have the same impact does it?

This isn't the only case of attention seeking I've witnessed in the field of animal studies lately. Recently there was a story that could be summarised as goat stares, masquerading as somehow a relevant incident for media attention. It was supposed to be fantastic because the goat in question, wanted something from the person he was staring at. Yeah well domestic animals interact with humans that way a lot, hens will even tug your trousers if they think you have a treat for them, in way not dissimilar to kid pestering a parent for ice cream.

So how come this stuff gets into the media, well I put it down to another story that isn't newsworthy: humans are stupid.


  1. Does it ever get media attention when a human 'apes' an animal - like having a sh*t in the woods for example?

    1. I'm shocked and dismayed Kid, I didn't think you knew words such as this. Allow me to recommend you seek out Deuteronomy 23:13 for terms to express such things within the bounds of decorum.

      And, I don't know, I haven't read any stories like that, perhaps you should try the local press.

  2. So you're not shocked and dismayed at the word itself, only at me knowing it, DSE? And I don't have access to your local press, so if you don't know then I guess nobody does.

    1. I didn't state that the sole cause of shock and dismay is because of the fact of you knowing the word, not the word itself.

      Hey look what a minute spent on google search turns up, alas I can't claim exclusive cognisance of this incident.

  3. You implied it in your phrasing 'though. (And you know what a pedant I am.)

    As for that Evening Times story, what can I say? I was desperate and there were no toilets around. (Incidentally, I'm shocked and dismayed that you'd provide a link to photos of excrement.)

    1. There's no such implication in my statement, the opposite is true. The natural inference is that if one where shocked and dismayed by knowledge, then the same shock and dismay would follow the word's application. The use of a word is predicated upon knowledge of it, ergo shock and dismay follow its use.

  4. 'I'm shocked and dismayed Kid, I didn't think you knew words such as this.' The sentence is perfectly open to the interpretation that you're shocked and dismayed by my knowledge of the word. And the use of a word might be predicated by the PRESUMPTION of knowledge of it, but what one presumes and what IS the case are not always the same thing. If you'd said 'I'm shocked and dismayed by your use of such language, I didn't know you knew words such as this' then your meaning would've been clearer. The implication is there sure enough. After all, is it likely that anyone would be shocked and dismayed by such a mild word with an asterisk to dilute its (feeble) impact?

    1. Firstly, presumption is irrelevant, although I should think it were hardly possible, that anyone could be presumptuous in such circumstance: if a person should err in such a manner then it would be as a consequence of the use of the word. That would be a presumption of knowledge, indicated by the use of the word from which shock and dismay would follow.

      Secondly,there is no presumption either in this instance nor could any likely occur in any similar circumstance while the English language is still in use. Any such a claim to the contrary is not reasonable and beyond the realm of credibility.

      Thirdly, while the previous points address the implications intrinsic to my statement I think it important to point out there is nothing within it, that contradicts the notion that shock and dismay would follow the use of the word in question, either intrinsically or through implication.

      Finally, if I can address your final sentence:-

      "After all, is it likely that anyone would be shocked and dismayed by such a mild word with an asterisk to dilute its (feeble) impact?".

      Actually, thinking about it, it's probably not likely, you may have a point there, perhaps I'm being facetious? Oops.

    2. Well, you're certainly adept at dressing up your package (oo-er, missus) with lots of wrapping paper and string and fancy ribbons, but once they're all discarded (as they inevitably must be) it's the contents that count, and I'm afraid that the content of your argument in this instance is found wanting.

      Language is a flexible tool, and very often, statements can carry more meaning than we mean them to mean. (Know what I mean?) And presumption is seldom irrelevant when its very existence can cast light on why something reads as it does. But we're getting away from ourselves.

      The fact is that you did not specifically say that it was the word itself which shocked and dismayed you, although that is certainly implied and can even be inferred - depending on your (starting) point of view. However, language, by dint of being flexible in its use, application, and interpretation, can often suggest more than one thing at a time - and certainly suggest more than the writer intended. You expressed surprise at me even KNOWING the word 'sh*t', so it seems eminently reasonable to suppose that your surprise at me knowing the word prompted your shock and dismay. You may not have meant to suggest that, but that doesn't alter the fact that you DID suggest it, because you were relying on my presumption of what you meant, to KNOW what you meant, rather than precisely and solely stating what you meant and no more.

      What's that? You say you were being facetious? Just as I presumed, hence my facetious response. Oops indeed.

    3. The trouble is Kid, is you're trying to defend a rhetorical assertion, one that you applied with the statement "So you're not shocked and dismayed at the word itself". That assertion being, that my statement is somehow consistent with the notion no shock and dismay would follow from the use of the word in question.

      As a general principle, rhetoric is almost never a suitable foundation for an extended discussion. It is more successfully employed as means to sway opinion in a more febrile context. In this case, your assertion was trivially countered by stating a simply that is in fact not consistent with my statement. I could have won a prize for guessing what would happen next because the, it's implied ruse is almost the default position in such circumstances. In this case though, it's particularly perverse because the normal implication from my statement is in diametric opposition to that claim.

      Where my genuine shock and dismay arise is through the persistence with which you chose to pursue an untenable position with more rhetoric. It's hardly necessary to point out but if we were to draw principles from your assertions, ordinary communication with written or spoken language would be impossible. No one could draw the natural implications from words and any explicit reference would negate all other cases.

      "Hi Sharon, I didn't know you got married, your hair looks nice".

      "Oh so you're not surprised to see the baby in the pram then and you think the boob job looks terrible."

      I feel a bit guilty now because as I've stated, I was being (I think quite obviously) facetious and wasn't the least bit shocked and dismayed as you have correctly implied. This doesn't mean my subsequent statements have been disingenuous though, far from it in fact. I'm quite earnest in my conviction on this point and feel it important to counter, what seems to be your increasing commitment to a nonsensical position.

  5. There you go again, DSE, trying to lose the needle by surrounding it with a haystack. I knew you were kidding about being shocked and dismayed, so I made an obvious jocular 'word-play' remark in return. The fact that it's turned into this extended (and good-natured I trust) discussion on language is really down to you - but, hey, I'm game if you are.

    Now, almost everything you say in your above comment is nonsense. Your Sharon and boob job sentences aren't comparable examples, simply because they don't say what you're trying to suggest they say, so they fall at the first hurdle. If you were to say 'I'm shocked and dismayed, I didn't know that Fred Smith was dead', then yes, the obvious implication is that it's Fred Smith's death which has shocked and dismayed you - but not necessarily so. That depends on the circumstances. Because language can be elastic in meaning, it can also be reasonably assumed that it MIGHT be your realization of something you didn't previously know which has shocked and dismayed you. (For all I know, you might not have liked Fred Smith and your shock and dismay is in finding out the news of his death two years after the event, when you'd have preferred to celebrate at the time.) It was on that legitimate, possible extra meaning that I hung my word-play, expressing it, note, as a question rather than a statement, which makes your response to it needlessly pedantic.

    I'd therefore say that, as we were both joking in our initial comments, your commitment to prolonging this now tortuous exploration in semantics is the position that's nonsensical, not my humorous word-play as you so erroneously state. Let's assume that you use the word sh*t all the time yourself, and that you find nothing shocking about the word. Under such circumstances, to say what you originally said can quite legitimately be interpreted as suggesting that it's your discovery - your knowledge - that I 'knew words such as this' which shocked and dismayed you. See, context is everything, and there's enough space in your original response to allow me to explore, for the purpose of a humorous remark, other possibilities in meaning to the one you specifically intended, but loosely phrased.

    So I stand firmly behind the explanation of my jocular comment. The foundation on which it was erected (hee hee, I said erected) is sound, and no amount of inflexible rationalization can alter that fact.

    Hey, this has been fun - we must do it again some day.