Monday, October 22, 2012

Two Fish That Sound Like Strippers (And Two That Totally Don’t)

I like names that evoke strong feelings. They’re doing their job, these names. But I will say that the connotations of unicorn tang skew seedier than pure-minded fish lovers would probably want.

I wonder if that’s why the fish seems to be known outside the Aquarium of the Pacific as the Bluespine unicornfish.

Same deal with the harlequin sweetlips, which sounds like it’s asking for the wrong kind of attention.

The less said about the spotted scat, the better.

Well, actually, no: It’s probably worth bringing up that the fish’s genus name, scatophagus, literally means “shit-eating.” (Note the creature’s lack of a grin.)

There’s actually a fourth fish I saw at the aquarium, the sarcastic fringehead, whose name deserves a shout-out even if I forgot to take a photo of its placard. Hell, it deserves a freaking band: “Ladies and gentleman, put your hands together for The Sarcastic Fringeheads!” But it made me wonder how an animal lacking a human understanding of irony and caustic humor could get to be sarcastic. Etymonline explains: sarcasm comes from the Greek sarkazein, which was used to mean “to speak bitterly, sneer” but which literally meant “to strip off the flesh.” So yeah, the sarcastic fringehead isn’t unpleasant on account of its negative sense of humor. It’s just a big-mouthed, ferocious little monster.

“Ha Ha — This Species’ Name,” previously:


  1. OMG! Sarcastic Fringehead, you are TERRIFYING. Btw, I love my Drewcyclopedia!!!

    1. Or Encyclopedia Drew, as he was known in the bestselling series of young adult mysteries.