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RE: Sheesh



Thomas R. Holtz, Jr. writes:
>> ALL RIGHT!  We GET IT!  We ALL UNDERSTAND that birds are dinosaurs.
>> 
>> Now can we please -- just occasionally -- have a conversation
>> where, when someone uses the word "dinosaur" in a context where is
>> very, very obviously means "non-avian dinosaur", they are allowed
>> to do so without half a dozen people leaping down their throats
>> waving their big cladistic banners?
>> 
>> Please?
> 
> Honestly, to do so is to just be wrong.

I hate to disagree with you, Tom, but -- well -- I disagree.  I don't
see how this is any different from asking "I wonder why no fish
developed the ability to suckle their young".  If someone asked that
question, I wouldn't expect to see responses saying "One subclade
did", referring to Mammalia.

Just like "fish", the word "dinosaur" is an informal term that
everyone understands to represent a paraphyletic group.  Yes, it's
true that "dinosaur" _can_ also be used as the informal version of the
formal name _Dinosauria_, which has in recent times be repurposed to
name the clade.  But even among those who don't find this co-opting of
an existing term perverse (and for the record, I don't) it takes a
truly Spock-like deliberate obtuseness not to recognise which of these
two meanings is being used in a given situation.

I'm reminded of an entry in the classic list of Things That Never
Happen In Star Trek, at
        http://www.st-minutiae.com/humor/neverhappen.xhtml
and many other locations:

        Spock or Data is fired from his high-ranking position
        for not being able to understand the most basic
        nuances of about one in three sentences that anyone
        says to him.

Folks, we don't have to be like that.

> Let's try this a different way:
> 
> Why in their history did dinosaurs never evolve into giant multiton
> long necked herbivores?
> 
> :-)

This is amusing, but only because it _isn't_ a parallel sitation.
There is no precedent for using the informal term "dinosaur" to mean a
group excluding sauropods.  Whereas we have a century and some silver
of the work meaning what I used it to mean.

 _/|_    ___________________________________________________________________
/o ) \/  Mike Taylor    <mike@indexdata.com>    http://www.miketaylor.org.uk
)_v__/\  "Arboreality does not correlate with pelvis shape" is an
         interesting conclusion, but it's hard to get a paper of more
         than seven words out of it.