Saturday, April 16, 2005

Macrobe and counting

What's in a name?

“Speech is a form of human activity and, like every other human activity, is subject to change and modification. It is not more surprising to find changes in our speech than, let us say, in our fashions in dress or our method of dancing, which we can see developing new features from year to year. Speech, which reflects life, has to keep pace with life...." - Henry Alexander, liguist (from The Story of Our Language, 1969)

Names are part of our language. They serve as identifiers. We all have a name, maybe more than one name. Our name was given to us by our parents or similar persons serving in that capacity. Names hold power: they may be a connection to a family member or treasured friend. The name given to a child may be in honor of a well-respected person. Whatever it is, we all have names.

All objects have names. Even 'things' have names, although they may elude us for the moment. Hence the common usage of 'thing':
"You know, that 'thing'".
Sure, I know what you mean, but I called that thing over there 'thing' yesterday and they aren't the same thing, so are you stealing my name or making fun of me?

My name, here in this reality, is 'Macrobe.' Why 'Macrobe'? Because 'Mircobe' is already taken.

No, I am not a new-age earthling who eats a macrobiotics diet or hugs trees. But I am an earthling. I'm not the smallest, and certainly not the biggest.

One of the smallest earthlings is called a microbe. In case you haven't met microbe, allow me to introduce you to Hilaire Belloc's description of the Microbe:

The Microbe
The Microbe is so very small
You cannot make him out at all
But many sanguine people hope
To see him through a microscope.
His jointed tongue that lies beneath
A hundred curious rows of teeth;
His seven tufted tails with lots
Of lovely pink and purple spots,
On each of which a pattern stands,
Composed of forty separate bands;
His eyebrows of a tender green;
All these have never yet been seen --
But Scientists, who ought to know,
Assure us that they must be so...
Oh! let us never, never doubt
What nobody is sure about!

- The Bad Child's Book of Beasts, verses, 1897

I'm much bigger than a microbe. I am unaware of the threshold size that delineates a microbe from a macrobe, but it must be smaller than I.

Size is relative. "Larger than a bacteria, I am, but smaller than an elephant I be." (in my best Yoda voice). The parameter of size is body mass.

Now, let's look at position on the evolutionary food chain. I can eat a microbe, I can eat an elephant (not that I want to), and I can eat the largest mammal on this Earth, a whale. In that context, I am *the* macrobe.

If we classify all living things according to these criteria, with an arbitrary threshold body mass size of 5 feet and position on the evolutionary food chain, any living entity over 5 feet that can eat any other living entity (without gagging) is a 'macrobe.' This is, of course, relevant to my own reality.

So I assume the name of the classification in which I belong: "Macrobe."

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