DeathMatch! Update (With bonus CIDU)

Didn’t take long to get started: Saturday, Nathan sent me this Mr. Lovenstein strip (which seems to be designed to make copying the comic impossible; if this becomes a trend, we might be out of business).

So Death drew first blood.

And then Sunday:


Clown Cars would have been on the board if we saw through the window a tiny parked car:

clowns mark

And maybe we should have let Pinocchio compete:

pinocchio rhymes

pinocchio mgg

And okay, while we’re here, let’s hit the second one, the Mother Goose and Grimm, with a CIDU tag. Yes, Jonah and Pinocchio both ended up inside whales (though Jonah a few thousand years earlier, but whatever), but why is Jonah holding a sheet of paper (?) and why is Pinocchio disassembled? Is the whale actually an Ikea popup?

Anyway, after the first weekend, it’s Death 2, Russian Clown Gesundheit 0.

(If you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here)


  1. Personally, I think discussing the “whale vs. fish” issue based on third-party (goy) translations is silly. The fundamental difference is that fish are kosher, and whales (presumably) are not. I have no idea how many stomachs a whale has, but I seriously doubt that they “chew their cud”, and it is definitely certain that they don’t have cloven (or any other sort of) hooves. This of course leads to the inescapable conclusion that the reason the fish spit Jonah back out was that humans are not fit for kosher consumption.

  2. @Kilby, not all fish are kosher. Specifically, even fish as defined by modern biology which are scaleless (such as eels and sharks) are treif. Whales are treif, even if they’re fish.

  3. @ Carl Fink – Perhaps biologists feel that way, but I just can’t think of either one (eels or sharks) as “fish”.
    P.S. One interesting difference between English and German is the way the two languages divide up the animal kingdom. In German, the word “Tier” (“animal”) applies to virtually any non-human (land-based) creature, including (for instance) both birds and insects (I’m not sure whether it would extend to ocean fish). In English, if you asked a kid to name an “animal”, you generally would not expect birds or bugs in the reply, they count as a different class.

  4. P.S. Bill must just have fetched Arthur’s comment from moderation: my comment that is #51 now was #50 when I submitted the comment that is now #53. This also proves that the “recent comments” list will pick up a de-moderated comment (as long as there are not more than 14 newer comment when the comment in question is released).

  5. My mind went right to Doctor Pangloss’s biology lesson.

    “Pray classify: pigeons and camels.”
    “Pigeons can fly, camels are mammals.”

    Which of course is irrelevant to everything previously discussed here.

  6. Kilby: The rules based on “chewing their cud” and having “cloven hooves” are explicitly stated to be rules for land mammals. As Carl Fink alluded the rules for sea animals, but to be explicit: they must have scales and fins.

    I’m also not sure if you were joking? Whales are not kosher, but I don’t see that gives us much of a hint as to what swallowed Jonah.

  7. I assure you that eels and sharks qualify as fish, to the extent that the term means anything. In modern taxonomy, an eel is more closely related to a human being than to a shark, but “fish” is not a formal taxonomic term these days. I have never met anyone who didn’t think birds and insects were animals in the classical “animal, vegentable, mineral” system. Certainly everyone thinks whales and shrimp and starfish are animals. If tier translates as “land animal” then it is not linguistically the same as English “animal”.

  8. Catfish are not kosher because they have no scales.

    Even more technically, the scales on a kosher fish must be easily removed without tearing the skin. So some fish, like sturgeon, are not kosher even though they have scales.

  9. @ WW – My premise that the original author would prefer to have Jonah swallowed by a kosher creature was definitely not serious, although I have read some amusing stories about equally silly theoretical and/or theological arguments, supposedly coming from the Talmud & other similar sources.
    P.S. @ Carl Fink – The dividing lines between the respective kingdoms or genera depends on context, of course. The rules for “20 Questions”(*) allow for only those three groups (Animal, Vegetable, Mineral), but in general descriptive text it is different. In German, it would be normal to see both “pigeons” and “ants” described as “schöne Tiere“ (beautiful animals), but the same passage in English would more likely call them beautiful “birds” or “insects”, rather than “animals”. One could say that the word “Tier” should be more accurately translated as “creature”, but if you need a common German word for “animal”, there just isn’t anything else available.
    P.P.S. (*) – When playing “20 Questions” with my kids, we’ve tripped over the “fish” vs. “cetacean” problem a number of times, such as when one kid included “killer whale” in the category “fish”, whereas the other kid knew that it should count as a “mammal without feet”.

  10. You know, if God created all the animals… instead of issuing these arcane rules that people would still be trying to interpret thousands of years later, why didn’t He just give Moses a printout: HERE’S STUFF YOU CAN EAT, and HERE’S STUFF YOU CANT EAT.

  11. Dad had a theory that it was easier to say “G-d said not to eat that” than explain that undercooked pork (for example) could kill you. Same as mom’s come up with odd reasons why one should not do something.

    On the other hand, the rules do deal with animals that those who wrote the Old Testament would never had seen, so somehow the rules were broad enough to cover animals that might be a health problem on other continents and who would have known to include them in the rules?

  12. On the other hand, the rules do deal with animals that those who wrote the Old Testament would never had seen, so somehow the rules were broad enough to cover animals that might be a health problem on other continents and who would have known to include them in the rules?

    Basically none of those things are true. The rules aren’t about health, Maimonides got that wrong. They don’t cover animals or plants that the Hebrews hadn’t at least heard of. Right now, rabbis don’t agree on what’s kosher. For instance, can you have maize in the house during Passover? Answer: who is your rabbi? Some Jews require kosher foods to be (historically) found in the Land of Israel for this very reason–they don’t want to apply the Law to things the Law doesn’t talk about.

  13. Kilby, in general in English – not just when playing “20 Questions” – I would expect kids (and adults) to consider birds and bugs as “animals.” e.g. if I said “what was the most interesting animal at the zoo today?,” I wouldn’t be surprised to hear “shrimp” or “parrot” as the answer.

  14. Yet it sounds very odd whenever my (non-native speaker) mother goes on about some “animal” that got into the house, when she means some bug, or that she was bitten by an “animal”, when again she means some bug. It’s one thing to be presented with the question is an insect an animal, it’s quite another to actually use it colloquially, and as a native speaker, it is distinctly odd to use “animal” when referring to a bug (though not quite wrong enough that you feel justified in correcting it, because you end up asking yourself, is not a bug an animal, and when you go, yeah, then you go, so why can’t you say what she just said?

  15. Our intuition about terms like this can be very odd. A mouse is an animal no matter what size it is. I would also have no trouble referring to a lobster or crab as an animal – it seems completely colloquial to me as a native English speaker. On the other hand, some insects are microscopic (e.g., some wasps are amoeba-sized). While microscopic insects are technically animals, I would never expect them to be referred to that way in colloquial usage.

    While historically fish and sometimes even birds were not necessarily considered animals, I would say that today all vertebrates are automatically animals. But, in colloquial usage, arthropods’ status as animals seems much more conditional.

  16. Re: Carl Funk

    As you may know, maize (i.e., corn) is a problem on Passover for some Ashkenazic Jews because it is unclear whether the rabbinical ban on kitnoyos, (certain foods that can be made into flour that can be mistaken for grain flour that can become leavened) extends to foods the European rabbis never saw, like potatoes (which had not been brought over to Europe from the New World at the time of the kitniyos ban). There is a disagreement as to whether maize (or an variation) existed in the Old World at the time the ban was set in place, and if it was therefore included in the ban, or not).

    This is a nonissue for Sephardic Jews since they did not live in the same countries (and sometimes in the same continent) as the countries that were under the “jurisdiction” of tne Ashkenazic rabbis, and they therefore never accepted the ban on themeselves. Sephardic Jews eat all kotniyos (or as they pronounce it, “kitnoyot”) on Passover.

  17. Carl *Fink*, I apologize profusely for the typo of your name. (I hate typing on my phone because there are million “fat finger” mistakes. It took forever to fix all the rest of the typos, and I missed that one and, I see now, also the “kotniyos” (s/b “kitniyos”) in the last sentence.)

  18. @Carl Fink: Once I’m here again, I add another comment on your post. The only “animals” that require a tradition in order to be considered kosher are birds, since the forbidden ones are listed by name in the Torah. And since, for many of them, it has since become unclear what nonkosher bird is being specified, only (species of) birds that have a tradition of being considered kosher are eaten.

  19. lark/UsualJohn: Yeah, I agree. I think for most English-speakers (although apparently not for Kilby) birds and fish are clearly “animals” [*]. But insects are more borderline, particularly as they get smaller.

    [*] Although I was unaware that this was historically not the case, so perhaps I’m overestimating the level of usage consensus on this.

  20. @Pinny: I promise, after having the name “Fink” for so long, it’s hard to offend me with my name. 🙂

    There’s also controversy about other things due to lost or drifted vocabulary. For instance, some people think “locust” (which it’s legal to eat) means the insects, the grasshoppers. Others think it’s the name of a plant.

  21. And what is a “beast”?

    “Ein Mensch ist kein Tier!” — Bertolt Brecht

    That’s a great song. Because of the “treading upon” parts, when I used to have functional playlists, that was on one for “spite and malice” songs, along with for instance “Positively 4th Street”.

  22. @ Winter Wallaby – Put it this way: say a kid reports to you, “I went for a walk down to the pier, and I saw an animal swimming in the water!“, would you expect the creature the kid observed to be a:
    a) jellyfish?
    b) dog?
    c) salmon?
    d) tadpole?
    e) otter?
    f) human?
    g) spider?
    Among native English speakers, most people would expect the answer to be “dog” or “otter”, and not “salmon” or “spider”.

  23. @Kilby, is it worth mentioning that both the Wallaby and myself are, in fact, native English speakers? I would rule out dogs, humans and spiders because we aren’t aquatic (and spiders can’t in general swim, though there are water-walking spiders). If a kid saw a dog in the water she’d would probably say, “A dog.” Normal language would be to only say, “an animal,” if one could not identify it.

    I’d also not expect jellyfish, again because they aren’t usually spoken of as swimming.

  24. @ Carl Fink – That “native speaker” was in reference to larK’s mother, not to you or WW. And whenever I’ve seen dogs walking along the beach, they were almost always soaking wet.

  25. Mitch4, I hope you follow it in your playlist with the ending of Dreigroschenoper, to the tune of Mack the Knife:

    For the ones live in the darkness,
    and the others in the light,
    and we see the ones in brightness,
    those in darkness drop from sight.

    Much better in German of course.

  26. P.S. Alternatively, if the kid says, “Mom, the cat just brought an ‘animal’ into the living room!“, it would be more natural to expect a mouse or chipmunk, rather than a spider or sparrow. For the latter two cases, the kid would be more likely to report a “bug” or “bird”, respectively.

  27. Kilby: In your swimming example, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was a salmon or a tadpole. Actually, I would expect those over dog because, as Carl said, when the kid says “animal” I expect it to be an animal that they have trouble identifying.

    Similarly, if the cat brings a bird in the house, I expect the kid to say “bird,” not because they don’t think of birds as animals, but because it’s easy to tell that it’s a bird, and so I expect them to be use the more specific term. I would be surprised if my kid said that they met their friend’s “sibling” today, rather than “brother” or “sister,” but that doesn’t go to show that “brothers” and “sisters” aren’t specific types of siblings.

    More generally though, I do agree there are many situations in which, when we hear the word “animal,” we’re more likely to think of mammals and vertebrates. But the fact that mammals and vertebrates are the “canonical” cases people are likely to think of, doesn’t show that they think of that as part of the definition. If you ask native English speakers to picture a nurse, they most likely picture a woman – but no one would say that being a woman is part of the definition of nurse.

  28. Carl Fink – Bears, there are no bears in middle east (as I understand it) and bears are not kosher, well not kosher to eat. (I don’t know if any in my little bear village eat in kosher manner since though they don’t eat meat, I know most of them like a good lobster for a holiday dinner.)

    My dad told me many things when I was a child – I have learned in life that not all of them are true.

    Apparently in the Ashkenazi areas all grains were kept mixed together including maize (which I am not sure how they had same back then) with “corn” being a term for general grain. Therefore one could not maize separate from other Passover forbidden grains. In the Sephardic areas the different grains were stored separately, hence allowing for one to eat corn for same without eating the grains forbidden for Passover. (Okay, this idea of the separate storage of grains comes from Robert who has read about same.) Since the changes to allow corn during Passover, I have not been able to bring myself to do and still do not eat it then. I do little enough to respect the holiday so I continue to avoid corn during it.

  29. I have learned from doing crossword puzzles that an eel is a fish – I never considered it to be same, but found that it fit the letters and spaces – several times. I mentioned this to Robert and he said to me “of course an eel is a fish – did you think it a snake?” Well, yeah, I sort of did. I did not know it had gills (which he claims) as I have never been near either one – and don’t plan to be.

  30. Eel I’ve swum with . . . altho these aren’t the kind one eats.

    What’s that gleam in a da reef?
    With the bright shiny teef?
    That’s a moray.

  31. I learned about ‘corn’ as “predominant local grain” while getting an explanation of the beautiful lines from Ruth (in probably KJV) about “laboring in the alien corn”.

    (Or also studying Middlemarch with no prior knowledge of British Political Economy history and trying to understand who were the good guys or bad guys for riding hard to get to Parliament to vote for or against the Reform Laws and Corn Laws.)

  32. “Like all other fish, moray eel breathe using the gills. They are located behind the head, in the form of the two circular openings. Moray eel keeps its mouth open (not because they are ready to bite any second, but) because it needs to provide constant circulation of the water toward the gills.”

  33. I was once at a class session given by a (computer) graphics guy, who was talking about backgrounds and textures. He mentioned Moiré patterns and misinformed the class that they were called that from resemblance to the skin of a Moray Eel.

    I had a grudge against this guy and was going to interrupt and haughtily correct him. Good thing I didn’t get the opportunity, as my “correction” would have been equally wrong. I thought it was from a personal name, some Monsieur Moiré or Dr. Moiré.

    Later when I went to look up his first name and backstory, I found out it was just a common noun or adjective, with a middling-interesting history (including a relationship to English “mohair”).

  34. Just to add two more data points for the expansive definition of “animal”, here are two articles about the recent discovery of a specific creature does not need oxygen to live.

    The first article has the headline:
    “Scientists discover the first-known animal that doesn’t need oxygen to survive”

    Reading the article one finds out that said “animal” is the (presumably microscopic) “parasite Henneguya salminicola,”

    The 2nd article has a headline that describes these creatures as a “Microscopic parasite” and the first sentence of the article describes this creature as an “animal” [twice!]:

    “Henneguya salminicola: Microscopic parasite has no mitochondrial DNA

    An international team of researchers has found a multicellular animal with no mitochondrial DNA, making it the only known animal to exist without the need to breathe oxygen.”

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