or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Do You Copy?

Spellcheckers are fairly wonderful: despite their flaws , they've certainly reduced the number of horrible typographical errors in many people's writing. But sometimes they go one step further and, purely by accident, teach you a word you didn't know.

Yesterday I used the word "mild" and, in a moment of carelessness, typed "mimid" instead. (Don't ask how: I don't even know myself.) I have spellchecking turned on all the time, so when I make an obvious typo it's underlined in red, even though I generally notice it right away, because I hate to let a mistake slip past me. But "mimid" wasn't underlined.

That means the Mac thinks "mimid" is a word! Is it, and if so, what could it mean?

As it turns out, a mimid, from the family Mimidae, is a kind of bird: a mimicking kind of bird, naturally enough, such as a mockingbird. So that's my thing learned for the day! (A mimid isn't a specific species of bird: "mimid" is used to refer to that particular batch of related species of vocalizing birds, in the same way that "mephitid" refers to a skunk, from the family Mephitidae, or "hominid", from Hominidae, refers to a human. More here, and even more here.)

You should definitely go and read this essay about birdsong and mimicking birds, which is fascinating. Then you should go and watch this video clip, which nearly defies belief: a bird called the superb lyrebird (its tail, upright, resembles a lyre) which, as part of its extravagant mating call, can evidently remember and reproduce any sound it hears, including a motor-drive camera and a chainsaw.


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