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Playing Dinosaurs

Hers Truly and I played dinosaurs last night. We established that turtles deliver cupcakes. We established that putting dinosaurs into volcanoes makes meat popcorn. We established that putting your prey near the volcano barbeques the prey, and they are especially good with ground-beef flavored bbq sauce. Finally, herbivores have a strange tendency to take naps next to the volcanoes, where they get slow roasted. Free food!

As an adult, I get time to think about dinosaurs when we play dinosaurs. What creatures lived in the highlands and the mountains? Did the big dinosaurs live up there, or did just small ones? Were the highland mammal playgrounds, and attract small predators? Did other archosaurs hunt up there? (I can see four-legged archosaurs having an easier time on the mountains.) What were the other populations that we just don't know about?

This idea of other populations just never occurred to me as a kid.

The definition of dinosaur should start: Dinosaur: 1) Any archosaur. 2) Any member of Dinosauria.

Most folks just don't know what the proper definition of a dinosaur is, but they can (mostly) identify archosaurs. (Those protomammals can be pretty confusing, so I won't blame anyone for getting them wrong.) When most kids say that they love dinosaurs, they mean that they love archosaurs. You get the idea. The word usage is scientifically inaccurate but linguistically sound. Take any sample of people in the English speaking world, and most of 'em will use the word wrong in the exact same way. (Popular consensus is really the way that language works.)


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 18th, 2012 02:04 pm (UTC)
Actually, I strongly suspect pretty much any one without a paleo background totally not being able to ID an archosaur vs. a non-archosaur.

For example, which of the following are archosaurs?


The first three are, the last three are not. (Pleisosaurs and ichthyosaurs may indeed be archosauromorphs, but not archosaurs).

Most non-dinosaurian, non-pterosaurian archosaurs are animals the public simply doesn't know (rauisuchids, poposaurids, aetosaurs, phytosaurs, silesaurids, etc.). And there are plenty of other extinct (mostly Triassic) critters that the general public don't know at all (rhynchosaurs, drepanosaurs, etc.).

Dinosauria has a basic definition, just as Mammalia or Vertebrata or Animalia do. Just because some people don't know it doesn't mean we don't have definitions. We wouldn't change the meaning of "megabyte" or "transistor" because most people don't know computer science or electrical engineering.

Since I actually DO deal with explaining it to the public, I know that it isn't too hard for them to learn some useful definitions. Either the technical one ("all descendants of the most recent common ancestor of Iguanodon and Megalosaurus") or a general one ("a group of reptiles with the limbs directly underneath the body").

To use some definition simply because people are lazy or don't want to explain things to kids misses out on the biggest discovery in the field in the last 50 years: that birds are the living part of the dinosaur family tree.
Jul. 18th, 2012 03:18 pm (UTC)
For parents, it's Thomas, then Diego, then Dinosaurs, then Pokemon, then Soccer, then X-Box, etc. Parents have to learn lots of culture fast, then discard it as fast their kids pick up more popular culture. Lazy has nothing to do with it.

Talk to your local computer person about how to run a database, and see how often you get corrected. Try to define "database" without getting corrected. What about defining the different kinds of databases? Does getting those things wrong mean that you are lazy, or just that databases aren't your expertise?

Anyhow, you are completely wrong about language. Open up the dictionary to "run" and drop you jaw. Dictionary.com lists 179 definitions for the word. That's how language works. It ain't pretty. Language has no problem making up new definitions for existing words. BTW, some disk manufacturers started using 1,000 kb to mean a megabyte. So yes, this shit happens all the time. Language is uglier than sausage making.
Jul. 18th, 2012 08:57 pm (UTC)
See? SEE what happens when you poke an expert with a stick?? :>
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )