View previous topic | View next topic

Musing on Mooses

Page 1 of 1

645683.  Sun Dec 13, 2009 1:57 am Reply with quote

On page 139 of the U.S. edition and page 126 of the U.K. printing, it reads:
Moose (Alces alces) are, by a wide margin, the largest living members of the deer family. A bull moose weighs three times as much as a red deer stag.

I don't know that I would say "by a wide margin" like that. I often see moose and elk that are about the same size up in Rocky Mountain National Park; perhaps 1000 pounds. Moose do run larger both on average and at their largest than elk run, but usually it's only around 25% bigger.

I do know that to have a herd of 1000-pound elk pass within a yard of you on both sides is not an experience where you're thinking gee, they sure are a wide margin smaller than moose would be. Elk really do seem gigantic from that distance; you keep hoping none of them falls or even steps on you. So you stand very, very still.

Wikipedia gives these weigh-ins (properly attributed to primary sources in their respective pages):
  • A bull moose, Alces alces, normally weighs 850-1580 pounds, topping out at 1800 pounds.
  • A bull North American elk or wapiti, Cervus canadensis, normally weighs around 700 pounds, topping out 1300 pounds.
  • A red deer stag, Cervus elaphus, normally weighs 350-530 pounds, topping out at 1100 pounds.
So is that a wide margin? I suppose that perhaps it may be, if for that 25% we're talking 300 pounds or more, considering that the difference in their weights would be what one, two, or even three white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) bucks put together would weigh. Any way you look at it, that's a lot of venison.

The more jarring matter is found on U.S. page 141, U.K. page 127:
In Europe moose are called elks, from the Latin alces, and were first described by Julius Caesar in 50 B.C.
Leaving aside whether "in Europe" above was including the British Isles or not, the only people I've ever heard say elks in the plural like that are native speakers of German when they're speaking English. I have never heard a native speaker of English use it: elks sounds as funny as saying *mooses or *deers. Notice all the uses of "elk are" &c in the Wikipedia article on these fine cervids:
  • Elk are almost identical to red deer found in Europe, of which they were long believed to be a subspecies
  • Elk are susceptible to a number of infectious diseases
  • Elk are hunted as a game species.
  • DNA evidence concludes that elk are more closely related to Thorold's deer and even sika deer than they are to the red deer.
  • Elk are more than twice as heavy as mule deer
  • Elk are ruminants and therefore have four chambered stomachs.
  • Elk have a tendency to do most of their feeding in the mornings and evenings
  • Elk consume an average of 20 pounds (9.1 kg) of various foodstuffs daily.
The OED does give citations by Milton and Washington Irving that used elks in the plural, but that is just not the way it is used today here where herds of Cervus canadensis are often found wandering around our towns. You think deer are a problem? Imagine if they were elk instead!

If around here you hear someone speak of Elks, you can be certain they're talking about the OED's second definition for the word:
1b. pl. (With capital initial.) In full: the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, formed in New York City in 1868, orig. a society of actors and writers, later a social and charitable organization; sing. a member of this organization.

Perhaps usage is different in the U.K., but here in Colorado our elk are found in herds but our Elks are found in Lodges. ☺


645775.  Sun Dec 13, 2009 9:33 am Reply with quote

tchrist, I hear you - most North Americans absolutely would normally use elk as both singular and plural.

But the book was originally written for the British market, and I reckon that a lot of British people would indeed expect the plural elks.

American dictionaries generally give the plural as elk, with elks mentioned second if at all; British dictionaries tend to go the other way around.

Spud McLaren
645962.  Sun Dec 13, 2009 5:34 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
But the book was originally written for the British market, and I reckon that a lot of British people would indeed expect the plural elks.

I respectfully beg to differ. Being a (British) member of the Python generation, I've had a lot of conversations mentioning the word elk, and everybody I spoke to referred to [a number of] elk.

646012.  Sun Dec 13, 2009 8:26 pm Reply with quote

I thought members of the Python generation would refer to Anne Elk and her theory on brontosauruses.

646014.  Sun Dec 13, 2009 8:30 pm Reply with quote

On page 139 of the U.S. edition and page 126 of the U.K. printing

The more jarring matter is found on U.S. page 141, U.K. page 127:

Why the disparity in page numbers? What are on those extra 13/14 pages in the US edition?

646027.  Sun Dec 13, 2009 10:31 pm Reply with quote

bobwilson wrote:
On page 139 of the U.S. edition and page 126 of the U.K. printing

The more jarring matter is found on U.S. page 141, U.K. page 127:

Why the disparity in page numbers? What are on those extra 13/14 pages in the US edition?

Oh, drat! I just knew somebody would ask that.

First, here are the stats:
  • UK Version:
    Hardcover: 256 pages
    Publisher: Harmony (September 2, 2008)
    ISBN-13: 978-0307394934
    Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 6.1 x 1"
    Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces

  • US Version:
    Hardcover: 304 pages
    Publisher: Faber and Faber (October 4, 2007)
    ISBN-13: 978-0571233700
    Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 1"
    Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
You can see right there that the US version is a bigger book than the UK version is. They're about the same thickness, but the US version measures 51.24 in², while the UK is only 41.87 in².

There are many other differences.

The UK edition uses a smaller typeface and narrower margins than the US edition, which is easier to read because of its larger typeface and more generous margins.

The text of the US edition is right-justified, whereas the UK edition runs a ragged right. In contrast, the UK paper is cut to a uniformly smooth edge, but the US paper is deckled.

The UK edition has stylish, QI-encircled page numbers centered at the bottom, but the US edition has boring page numbers plus title and authors at the top.

The UK edition has a rather cartoonish (but not bothersomely so) dust-jacket cover featuring a small menagerie, a fairly unrecognizable Stephen accoutred in safari khaki, and a somewhat Satanic Alan wall-mounted after a visit to the taxidermist.

The dust jacket of the US edition is much less busy with a cute and perky little kid on its cover floating all alone in sky-blue nothingness, framed by an attractively contrasting burnt-orange pattern of small shapes.

The marketing blurbs on the inside of the dust jacket are different between editions, and the back of the US edition's dust jacket has testimonials from the New York Times, the Financial Times, The Economist, the Melbourne Age, and the Daily Mail.

Stephen's Nabokovian foreword starts, in the UK edition, with the following paragraph, which has been mysteriously deleted from the US edition:
Animals are the oats in the QI muesli, the basic black frock in our wardrobe, the baseline in our phat phunky dub. If you cannot be entranced, amused and astonished by the animal kingdom then QI has no use for you nor you, no doubt, for us.

Alan's amusing forepaw is sadly absent from the US edition, and for no sound reason that I can guess.

The US edition has a useful index, which is completely missing from the UK edition.

A roman font is used for the main text of both, but where the shaded sidebars in the UK edition are in an oblique sans-serif, those in the US edition are in a normal sans-serif. These may be in Helvetica, although I've not examined them closely. I prefer to read text with seraphim attendant, as this is easier on the eye.

Also, the unshaded sidebars in the UK edition are in a bold but normal, smaller sans-serif, while those in the US edition are in a smaller roman (serifed) font, and some of these are in italics. For example, in the One Blind Cat cartoon, the mice's quoted passage at the bottom right is in italic, the other three in roman. This looks better, but then I seldom much care for unserifed fonts.

There are many other changes in style and sometimes of vocabulary throughout. These are things that most people would never notice let alone care about. I alas am not one of those blissfully inattentive folks, so I'll document these for you when I get back from supper.

Since they changed other words that were much less troubling, I cannot fathom why they left elks as it was, considering it strikes North American speakers as ungrammatical.


646076.  Mon Dec 14, 2009 5:45 am Reply with quote

Here are other differences between the editions.

The tailpiece has grown. Where the UK version reads:
It is the produce of much research by many people, and the only reason we haven't listed this is aesthetic — it would make this book look and feel like a very different kind of book.
the US version reads:
It is the produce of much research by many people, but the core team, led by zookeeper-turned-astrophysicist Chris Gray, were James “Eggshaped” Harkin, Mat Coward, Jenny Doughty, Molly Ollfield, and Justin Gayner. The only reason no sources are listed is aesthetic—it would make this book look and feel like a very different kind of book.

Captions with full sentences now always have a full stop at the end of them.

Em dashes — like this — are no longer surrounded by a space. They abut directly—like this—to the text on either side of them.

Throughout the book, ‘single’ quotations marks were swapped with “double” quotation marks.

Quite often, single quotation marks are deleted altogther, such as with ‘aardvark cucumber’ and ‘too technical’ on page 3/2.

In North America, we're sticklers about using commas and independent clauses. We don't allow a mere comma alone to connect just two of them (although it's ok in a series) nor usually a bare conjunction alone either. We require either a comma plus a conjunction or else a semicolon or a colon. These have been fixed.

Common names for species have their first word capitalized in the UK edition, but in the US edition are in lower-case. So Sooty is sooty, Wandering albatross is wandering albatross, and Golden poison dart frog is golden poison dart frog. But Przwalski's horse stays as is.

The error of claiming that Cortez arrived in 1492 on page 97 of the UK edition is corrected to 1519 on page 106 of the US edition.

USA becomes United States throughout.

The bare figure of 191 sextillion frogs remains untranslated, which is a shame considering the sexy subject matter. Then again, so do those 40 octodecillion nematodes. Oh, well.

Logical quoting has been thrown out in favor of, um, illogical quoting. Any non-quoted comma or full stop following a quote now becomes a quoted one whether this makes any sense or not. This is “logical quoting”, and this is “illogical quoting.” I despise the American publishing standard in this and refuse to use it myself.

The serial comma (a.k.a Oxford comma) is now rigorously followed instead of being mostly neglected but sometimes included.

Most small numbers are converted from figures into English, but this isn't done in a completely consistent or sensible fashion.

Temperatures in Celsius are converted to Fahrenheit. Remember when Stephen remarked that in the UK one uses Celsius for cold temperatures but Fahrenheit for hot ones? That was pretty amusing.

Many hyphenated words lose their hyphens; sometimes it's deleted to make a compound word, and sometimes it becomes a space to separate two words.

Many words get new spellings: odour, apologise, patronise, fervour, faeces, diarrhoea, and mouldy become odor, apologize, patronize, fervor, feces, diarrhea, and moldy. There are many others.

Under Ant, “like bees and termites, their success” becomes “as with bees and termites, their success”.

Hoover becomes vacuum, further becomes farther (huh?), and the rugby forward mentioned under Aardvark becomes a defensive tackle (ick!). SAS-mode becomes commando-mode.

The Club 18-30 holiday mentioned under Walrus changes to a Club Med holiday. I tend to think if you're going to bother to do that, you might as well turn your holiday into a real vacation: in for a penny, in for a pound. Or a dollar.

Speaking of which, figures in sterling are converted to dollars at a 1:2 exchange rate. Distance figures are left alone, as is mass except that stone is converted into pounds. Volume, however, is a problem, because volume measurements given in (British Imperial) pints and gallons are left intact, despite this being “wrong” for US measurements. Although under both systems, it takes 8 pints to make a gallon, after that things are different:
    1 BI gallon = 8 BI pints
    1 BI gallon = 160 BI liquid ounces
    1 BI gallon = ~4.54 L
    1 US liquid gallon = 8 US liquid pints
    1 US liquid gallon = 128 US liquid ounces
    1 US liquid gallon = ~3.8 L
    1 BI pint = ~1.03206 US dry pints
    1 BI pint = ~1.20095 US liquid pints
    1 BI pint = 20 BI liquid ounces
    1 BI pint = ~568 mL
    1 US liquid pint = ~0.832 BI pints
    1 US liquid pint = ~0.859 US dry pints
    1 US liquid pint = 16 US liquid ounces
    1 US liquid pint = ~473 mL
    1 US dry pint = ~0.9689 BI pints
    1 US dry pint = ~1.1636 US liquid pints
    1 US dry pint = ~550.6 mL
    1 BI liquid ounce = ~0.9608 US liquid ounces
    1 US liquid ounce = ~1.0408 BI liquid ounces
    1 BI liquid ounce = ~28.4 mL
    1 US liquid ounce = ~29.6 mL
(Remind me to tell you what an American thinks the opposite of English is sometime. You won't be able to guess.)

There are also some bugs that should be fixed:
  • Just as elks didn't become elk but should have for the US edition, so too should shrimps have become shrimp but didn't.
  • Under Flea on page 70/76, two errors remain uncorrected in both editions. “Plague bacteria reproduces” must be “Plague bacteria reproduce” because the subject is plural.
  • And “the only consistent requirement for fleas is that an animal sleeps in a den or nest” should be “the only consistent requirement for fleas is that an animal sleep in a den or nest” because we're a lot pickier about the mandative subjunctive in the US than you are in the UK.
  • Under Donkey on page 59/63, the UK version reads “Only 1 in 10,000 of these hybrids are fertile.” and the US version reads “Only one in ten thousand of these hybrids are fertile.” Both should read is not are, because the subject is singular.
That's all for now.


EDIT: Set second GPD frog in minuscules.

Last edited by tchrist on Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:38 pm; edited 1 time in total

646173.  Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:18 am Reply with quote

'For now,' he says.... <feels faint>

The UK edition does list the researchers though - on the page before the Contents. I have a personal interest in this.

646215.  Mon Dec 14, 2009 1:44 pm Reply with quote

Jenny wrote:
'For now,' he says.... <feels faint>

Please don't take it badly. Apart from the systemic problem of volume measurements silently left in Imperial, I found very few real errors—something like a half-dozen or fewer. You should see what I do to most books; this was nearly unnoticeable.

It's a delightful book that I intend to give as a Christmas gift or two. You should feel proud to have been a part of its creation.


646284.  Mon Dec 14, 2009 6:09 pm Reply with quote

tchrist, I've met people like you! And this is by no means a criticism!

Being a Canadian, I fear that I struggle to get excited about differences between British and American usage - my lot happily use both versions of the language, and wouldn't always be able to tell you which is which! Accordingly, I shall only comment specifically on a couple of your points.

You're by no means the only person who doesn't like bacteria being used as singular, but I fear it's a losing battle. The NYT and the WSJ have both used it as such; the Chicago Tribune has even used bacterias. The OED doesn't sanction it yet, but that may only be a matter of time - it does by now allow agenda and dice as singular.

As I'm sure you know, the subjunctive is little used in Britain - only in set phrases such as "If I were you" and "God save the Queen" (not an imperative; one cannot give orders to God) is it by now the norm. For sure, it's used more in North America than in Britain, but even there would you consider it wrong to use the indicative in lieu of the subjunctive?

A fair number of American books, especially non-fiction, are utterly unchanged for publication in Britain. Would you actually prefer that the work had been left entirely in the British English of the authors, rather than translated imperfectly into American?

646319.  Mon Dec 14, 2009 9:54 pm Reply with quote

suze wrote:
tchrist, I've met people like you! And this is by no means a criticism!

In some fields, corrigitis is a liability; in others, an asset. In all, it's incorrigible.

suze wrote:
You're by no means the only person who doesn't like bacteria being used as singular, but I fear it's a losing battle. The NYT and the WSJ have both used it as such; the Chicago Tribune has even used bacterias.

To borrow a fine line from Stephen, well then they should go to school. ☻

suze wrote:
The OED doesn't sanction it yet, but that may only be a matter of time - it does by now allow agenda and dice as singular.

To be perfectly frank, it never occurred to me that it was deliberate; I thought it an inadvertent error and flagged it as such. Honest!

suze wrote:
As I'm sure you know, the subjunctive is little used in Britain

Yes, I'm quite aware; as I mentioned, we're pickier about it than they are. However, I can also cite examples from the book in which the subjunctive was used perfectly correctly. This then sets a certain expectation level, as I'm sure you can see.

suze wrote:
For sure, it's used more in North America than in Britain, but even there would you consider it wrong to use the indicative in lieu of the subjunctive?

Wrong? That depends on meaning. To me, "It's important that she is here" and "It's important that she be here" are both perfectly valid productions. They just mean two altogether different things to me—and I suspect to you, too. So for me to say one but mean the other would indeed be "wrong"—for me. It's like "I've got" versus "I've gotten". Neither is wrong, but for me each has its own sense: the first means "I possess"; the second, "I received".

suze wrote:
Would you actually prefer that the work had been left entirely in the British English of the authors, rather than translated imperfectly into American [English]?

Would you actually prefer to read—oh, let's say The Lord of the Rings, in some American "translation" instead of in the original? Tell me true, now.

Oops, sorry, suze; common courtesy demands that one answer your question not with a question but with an answer. So yes, suze, quite possibly I would have preferred reading it in its original, British English. After all, I do own both editions, eh? ☺

But that wasn't at all my point. I was asked what the differences were, so I listed some (but hardly all) of the many differences I'd noticed. I did not mean to imply any sort of judgement call—none at all!

Given the opportunity, I prefer to read in the original when possible; it lends the author a more authentic voice, as it were. I'd much rather ponder a new and different word or turn of phrase than come upon whatever the lexical equivalent of an anachronism would be.
    (Hm, can we coin a fitting word for one of those sticks-out-like-a-sore-thumb words from the "wrong" culture? Anybody have any ideas? Unless they're already used, maybe a cacologous word, or simply a cacologue? Those seem more general than I'm looking for. Help?)
I realize that I'm unlikely to fit the profile of the typical reader—in general I mean; QI aficionados may well be different. That's because I rather enjoy looking things up, and I enjoy words, including and perhaps especially words I've not seen before. Many people seem to enjoy neither.

Several of my favorite writers are from England and Scotland. I regularly order books from the UK to avoid shock at inauthentic or inaccurate "translations" for the US market. I've read far too many instances of misspellings like "surprize" or misconversions to US measures to trust I'll always get a quality "translation".

I've numerous other personal habits and historical artifacts that likely disqualify me as your typical American reader. I've lived and worked in England for what I reckon to be the better part of a year if laid end on end, most recently in Bristol. For twenty years I've weekly read The Economist cover to cover, and when asked why I don't read the cheaper Time, I've even been known to snipe that I prefer reading complete sentences, or coverage that spans the globe instead of the cabbage patch. ☹ As a kid I ate up all the Susan Cooper and Mary Stewart that I could. I read The Lord of the Rings thirteen times before I turned thirteen, and still have long bits of its poetry committed to memory. I've co-written books with speakers of Commonwealth English. I grew up next door to Canada, and our family routinely travelled there for camping. During the year I spent going back and forth between Ottawa and Montréal on one side and Dallas and Austin on the other, I was much more at home with the culture in Ottawa than I ever was with the one in Texas. Texas never felt like home, but Ottawa did—perhaps the more so for the juxtaposition.

All this means that despite originating in the "right" part of the country, I might no longer count as a wholly natural speaker (and writer) of General American English. Little written in contemporary English by a native speaker ever seems truly foreign to me. As you may perhaps have noticed, my own stylistic choices mark me neither fish nor fowl, here selecting one orthographic convention or vocabulary choice but there selecting another, and doing so not haphazardly but with an internal consistency that makes sense to me but perhaps to few others.

Don't get me wrong: I'm no anti-American Anglophile. There is a great deal about the United States that I hold in highest esteem. Oh, not the government so much, but the land and the people, the discoveries and the exploration. I can say as much about many other countries, but my own will forever be special to me. I've only ever lived abroad—for more than a couple of weeks at a time, I mean—in England and Spain, so these two countries more than any other (Canada hardly counts as "abroad" in my mind :) are for me my home away from home. I've for work or pleasure also visited dozens and dozens of other countries on all continents save Antarctica, and everywhere I've gone I've found many, many wonderful people and places. I don't knock those places, so I certainly wouldn't knock England. There's too much that's just plain nifty to focus on what is not. Plus my mom's side of the family came over from England, and I'd not care to get on their bad side.

I sincerely did not mean to come across as critical of The Book of Animal Ignorance, and I'm sorry if I somehow did so. As I said to Jenny, I find it a delightful book, one I plan to give to others as a gift. The Americans on my list though I'll probably give the US edition, even though I mildly prefer the text of the UK edition. That's because the index is reasonably useful and because the more generous format is easier on the eye.

It's too bad that for the US market, virtually all explicit QI aspects were excised, probably because the show has never been broadcast here.

Assuming that to be the reason, then I understand why it was done, even though for me it wasn't necessary. I further acknowledge that it quite possibly was necessary for many and perhaps even most others.

Thank you for your time.


646427.  Tue Dec 15, 2009 8:47 am Reply with quote

Talking of Mooses, have there ever been any other confirmed sightings of a Moose wearing spats and singing "embracable you" apart from Woody Allen?

658188.  Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:44 pm Reply with quote

This article is provided as a public service by the Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, in cooperation with the UAF research community. Carla Helfferich is a science writer at the Institute.

Science isn't moving nearly fast enough to keep up with politics. That, at least, is the conclusion I came to after reading a technical paper in the journal Ecology.

Written by Francois Messier, a member of the biology department at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, the paper reviews a great many publications on and near the subject of its title: "Ungulate population models with predation: a case study with the North American moose."

You can probably figure out why the title made me think of politics. Just in case you've been in Bora Bora or Tashkent for the past few years, let's say simply that predator control has been a subject of heated debate in Alaska's political circles. A bill recently signed into law---Senate Bill 77---codifies one aspect of predator control, by formally adopting the opinion that human consumption is the highest and best use of game animals.

That assumption of what constitutes best use is a political one. It represents a societal decision and a value judgment, one outside the present realm of the natural sciences. However, biologists and ecologists should be ready to set forth the actions required in order to provide maximum sustainable and huntable numbers of game animals. Those should be straightforward matters of wildlife management, and we've been managing wildlife for decades.

But to do it right, we might need several more decades of study. Messier's report on moose, for example, points out as many questions as answers on what affects moose numbers, though quite a lot is known. The quantity and quality of available food comprise the first control; even with no predators and no human hunters, moose numbers can't keep growing forever because the animals would run out of food.

And predation by wolves surely affects the moose population. Messier found that if the food supply is adequate, the moose population theoretically would achieve a maximum of two animals on each square kilometer of range if no wolves were present, while it would stabilize at the equivalent of 1.3 moose per square kilometer if wolves were present.

Add bears as an additional predator, and the moose population could stabilize at a much lower density, perhaps one animal for every 5 square kilometers. It turns out that bears are extremely effective at keeping moose numbers down because they are skilled at catching and killing calves, even when moose are found at relatively low densities. Yet, in general, "predator control" has been presented in the media as if it were synonymous with "wolf control." Maybe I've been inattentive to the details, but I haven't seen any suggestion for aerial hunting of grizzlies. How come bears with a taste for moosemeat have escaped the public assault that's fallen on wolves?

I suspect bear eradication would annoy the tourism industry even more than wolf control has, but the so-far imperfect evidence does suggest that removing bears may be necessary for maximizing moose numbers, as the law evidently requires. (I read somewhere that chief predators on young mountain sheep are golden eagles. I would not envy any game manager who had to put up with the hue and cry that would arise if declining sheep numbers made eagle control a priority.)

A way around the unpleasant necessity of killing predators might lie in distracting them with different prey. Research that Messier cites indicates that sometimes the presence of tasty but more easily caught animals, such as deer or wapiti, enables the coexistence of wolves with more moose than usual. Sometimes that doesn't work out so well for the moose, however. Increasing numbers of wood bison in the Northwest Territories have permitted an increased number of wolves--but the wolves find moose easier to hunt, and so moose numbers are going down.

Food, bears, alternative prey: a lot remains to be learned before moose management becomes a straightforward matter---if it ever does.


Page 1 of 1

All times are GMT - 5 Hours

Display posts from previous:   

Search Search Forums

Powered by phpBB © 2001, 2002 phpBB Group