22 Comments

  1. Dolphins die when they get caught in a fishing net and can’t surface to breathe. So the net is a thing of horror to them.

  2. Performing in (or over) “water” would be far too easy for a dolphin (almost like shooting fish in a barrel). What dolphins are really scared of are “nets”, so doing the act over a net is especially “dangerous”.

  3. That’s NOT a fish. It’s either a dolphin or a porpoise (there is a difference, and it IS possible to tell the difference with a real animal or even just a good photo of a real animal. But to tell the diffference between a cartoon dolphin and a cartoon porpoise? good luck.)
    Anyways, a leading cause of mortality for dolphins is being caught in fishing nets, specifically nets belonging to fishermen who want to catch tuna. That’s why you should look for cans of tuna marked “dolphin-safe”, because if the fishermen aren’t being careful to avoid catching dolphins with their intended (tuna) catch, then their tuna fish harvest will (oopsie!) also contain some not-tuna-not=even-fish.
    To a human performer, a net indicates safety, a way of avoiding a painful-at-minimum collision with the ground in the event of a mistake while performing, but to a dolphin, a net just adds another element of danger.

  4. James, I figure the title was set up to use the expression “something fishy” in full knowledge that our fave marine mammals are of course not fish, narrowly construed.

    (BTW the editors have been freer about picking titles that do not perfectly fit the cartoon or our interpretation of it, following some pretty well-founded complaints that when a title is too spot-on, it spoils the discussion of the CIDU element.)

  5. @James, IMHO “something cetacean here…” probably wouldn’t have worked as a headline. But far be it from me not to accept the word of a pollock in fishy matters. Plus my mentor Codswallop McPike concurs with you.

  6. Mitch was well-advised to say “narrowly construed”. Since broadly construed, “rfish” has had a variety of applications, often including any vertebrates in the sea. Note that the KJV has Jonah being swallowed by a fish.

  7. Colourist error?
    There’s a horizontal line, which I think is the tightrope. But the colourist has interpreted it as a border between different colour backgrounds. They put green on one side, and red on the other, which makes no sense.

  8. I concur that that horizontal line was intended to be a tightrope, but as interpreted by the colorist, it also works as the top of the grandstands.

  9. Agreed re colorist error! If it was the top of the grandstands, there wouldn’t be beaks behind it.

  10. I get this comic, and see it as the rest of the commenters here do, but the ringmaster says he’s going to do it ‘again’. But wouldn’t it be more dangerous without a net, even given the fact that nets are a leading cause of death of these creatures?

    Seems to me that given the choice between being tangled up or made into dolphin street pizza isn’t much of a choice at all. At least with the former, there’s a chance of escape, however small it may be.

  11. Stan, YOU see falling into the net as a preferable outcome because you either have seen or can readily imagine a person falling from a tightrope into a net, and then emerging from the net unharmed. Bottom line, nets work (for people). But a dolphin has not seen and cannot imagine a dolphin falling into a net and emerging from the net unharmed, so no, they won’t see falling into a net as particularly preferable to falling without one. Consider, if you will, if you were offered a choice between falling into a dumpster full of rusty metal or a dumpster full of broken glass. The broken glass won’t impale you and run completely through your body, so that’s the obviously better choice, right? No? You don’t find either proposed option to be better than the other, or better than just falling on the cold, hard ground?

  12. Dolphins and whales were classified as “fish” until the early 19th century. Johnson’s Dictionary defines “fish” as “An animal that inhabits the water”, “dolphin” as “The name of a fish”, and “whale” as “The largest of fish; the largest of the animals that inhabit this globe.”

    Johnson classified five kinds of animal: beasts, birds, fishes, insects, and man. Even Herman Melville resisted the modern scientific taxonomy, insisting that whales were a kind of fish.

  13. @James, assuming that the cartoonist knows the difference and will admit to it, it’s easy to tell the difference between a cartoon dolphin and a cartoon porpoise. The dolphin has a melon, i.e. the bulging forehead, as shown in this cartoon.

  14. To confuse the name situation a bit, there is an actual fish that is sometimes called “dolphin”, but is more commonly called “mahi-mahi” these days. I suspect that people didn’t want to get it or even complained when they thought it was “Flipper”.

  15. @ MiB – There is an interesting difference between English and German, in that English makes a strong distinction between “insects”, “birds”, and “animals”, whereas in German, even an ant (“die Ameise“) counts as an “animal” (“ein Tier“).

  16. @ Mitch – German has a cognate with roughly the same meaning (“die Kreatur“), but it lacks a term with the specificity of the English word “animal”.

  17. James…

    Well, I’m probably overthinking this, but here goes.

    “YOU see falling into the net as a preferable outcome because you either have seen or can readily imagine a person falling from a tightrope into a net, and then emerging from the net unharmed.”

    I don’t think that was my point exactly. Unless it was unclear, I was trying to point out there’s a difference between certain death, and near-certain death. For dolphins, no net, the former, net, the latter. It seems to me that no net is the more dangerous option.

    “But a dolphin has not seen and cannot imagine a dolphin falling into a net and emerging from the net unharmed”

    Although it may not be as common as we would like, dolphins and whales have been freed from fishing nets when they become entangled. Surely word of these incidents would have spread throughout the dolphin community, so emerging from a net unharmed is not something they have ‘not seen’ nor ‘cannot imagine’.

    “Consider, if you will, if you were offered a choice between falling into a dumpster full of rusty metal or a dumpster full of broken glass.”

    I think this may be a false equivalency. In both scenarios you provide, death is guaranteed, as would be falling to the ground. You offer no “near-certain death” option. Perhaps a choice between falling into a deep swimming pool full of Jello or onto the ground would be more comparable. Hitting the ground would be a death sentence, but it’s only very likely that I’d be killed in the Jello. Given the depth my velocity would carry me into the Jello and the difficulty I’d have reaching the surface, I would certainly suffocate. However, I could escape if I was offered assistance by being scooped out by onlookers.

    Wouldn’t the same apply to the net/dolphin scenario? I mean, they’ve got enough dexterity to climb up masts and hold on to balancing poles. How much more difficult would it be for them to wield a pike or even attach a sharp edge to the balancing pole itself to cut through the net? And perhaps overthinking this some more, the net in this picture is secured to four posts making it look quite taut, unlike the nets that kill dolphins which are often free floating and surround them easily. If our tightrope-walker were to fall on this net, it would just be a matter of rolling to the side and slinking off to the dressing room red-faced.

    In any case, as I said, I do see the point of this comic and do believe you and others are correct in your assessment of the joke; that dolphins fear nets and falling into one is a terrifying prospect to them. However, my issue with this is that using a net doesn’t seem to be the more “dangerous stunt” as the ringmaster states.

  18. “my issue with this is that using a net doesn’t seem to be the more ‘dangerous stunt’ as the ringmaster states.”

    Start with a task that is difficult to do, and then add a distraction which is liekly to affect the concentration the performer can bring to accomplishing the task. Doesn’t that seem like a “more dangerous stunt” than just doing the basic task with not distraction applied. I suppose the human equivalent would be doing the tightrope walk at 5 feet up vs. doing it at 5,000 feet up. It’s not about the “certain death” angle, it’s about how aware the performer is of the danger they’re in.

    Near my old home, in Hillsboro, OR, there is an establishment called “tree to tree adventure park” It’s basically an obstacle course that is hanging from tall trees. You become very aware of how far from the ground you are, and that awareness begins to affect your ability to perform tasks as simple as walking (despite the extensive work done to ensure that you stay in the treetops rather than succumbing to gravity’s eventual embrace. Recommended if you happen to find yourself in or near Hillsboro, OR https://tree2treeadventurepark.com/

  19. (Last comment in this thread from me, I promise. Sorry everyone.)

    First off, thanks for the recommendation. I enjoy unusual places like this, and if I’m ever lucky enough to find myself in Hillsboro, I’ll definitely stop by.

    However, I think the point you’re making is a bit off topic. It’s not about how much danger the dolphin perceives its in, but how much danger it’s actually in. This is what creates the gasps from the crowd and is the bread and butter of circuses everywhere. The ‘distraction’ here is quite literally a safety net and reduces, however slightly to a dolphin, the risk of harm.

    “It’s not about the “certain death” angle, it’s about how aware the performer is of the danger they’re in.”

    And that’s the point. Taking into account the issues I outlined in my earlier screed, the dolphin should be well aware that it is in less danger, not more. If anything, the net should give the dolphin more confidence to get across and be far less of a distraction than the first time it did it where the cold, hard floor guaranteed its death. I don’t know about you, but certain death would be a great distraction to me.

    In any case, animals in circuses is inhumane and should be stopped. That’s the real crime here.

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