Trivia Teaser

Which actor won an Oscar for playing Lieutenant Colonel Nicholson in a 1957 film?

Gary Cooper
Michael Caine
Alec Guinness
John Wayne

Just a minute!


By Miranda

I started this from the phrase 'for the nonce', an oldish version of 'for the moment'. From this we acquired nonce words, which describe those words made up by a writer for a single use.

Lewis Carroll gave us 'frabjous' and 'mimsy' and James Joyce made up many, one of the shorter of which is 'quark'. But quark was taken up by science to become the name of a subatomic particle one which, unlike the European cheese also called quark, can have many flavours*.

Nonce itself has been corralled into computing security. Here the 'single use' notion continues, a nonce being a randomly generated number intended to be used only once.

Then I wandered slightly from words moving into scientific use to scientific names. A well-wasted morning on the internet revealed that scientists have a habit of introducing tributes and/or jokes into their new species naming. Being rude is apparently a no-no, unless you can disguise the rudeness as a tribute.

So it may be a compliment to have a new species named after you but it's a little back-handed if the species in question is a slime mould.

And no morning could truly be wasted in which one discovers that there's a gorgonian called Pangolinisis cia because it was discovered attached to an underwater intercontinental telecommunications cable, or an Eocene-era fossil parrot named Pulchrapollia which, yes, translates to 'pretty polly'. It is, by the way, definitely dead.

But there's more. I have discovered gene naming. Gene names are broadly based on three-letter codes. If I told you there was a gene named Superman and a gene which suppresses it, called Kryptonite, in one small group of flowering plants, and a Cleopatra mutation in fruit fly which is lethal only when the 'asp' is present, could you be tempted into or to explore further?
*These flavours can be up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom. Definitely not vanilla.



2 Responses to

Just a minute!

May 24, 2011 at 6:54 PM

Oh Miranda! That curioustaxonomy site is absolutely hilarious! The names in the list of Puns are so clever. I couldn't seem to understand the flybase site, but will play with it later. Fancy scientists having such a wicked sense of humour!

Nephets said:
May 31, 2011 at 9:04 AM