< Previous
Next >

[Comments] (6) So Long, And Thanks For All The Non-Fish: In high school or college I learned from one or another pedant that you're not supposed to call starfish "starfish"; you're supposed to call them sea stars because they're not fish. Well, they're not stars eithGAH MY EYES! Okay, some of them are stars. Also at some point I learned that octopods used to be called "devilfish". They're not fish either.

When we went to the Monterey Bay aquarium last weekend there was one awesome permanent exhibit with a lot of jellyfish. Also a "The Art of Jellies" exhibit which was pretty gimmicky if you ask me, though it did position a tank of jellyfish in a mirrored room, giving you the impression that they had you surrounded. But apparently the marine biology cartel now wants you to say "jellies" (or, I suppose "sea jellies") instead of "jellyfish", because those things are amazingly not fish.

The only other non-fish with a fishy name I can think of is "cuttlefish". I've never heard anyone saying you should call a cuttlefish something else, but I checked "on the line", as the kids say, and "cuttle" is the hot new name for that beast. How long has this been going on? Did people used to refer to cucumberfish, anenomefish, and urchinfish until someone rewrote the aquarium displays to encourage the biologically correct usage?

In an interesting reverse of this trend, at the aquarium I also noticed that the fish that used to be called a "dolphin" is now called a "dolphinfish". I think chopping "fish" off the names of obvious non-fish is not really worth it, but I'm glad about the "dolphinfish" change because that was really confusing. I'd hear about sport fishermen catching a bazillion dolphin and wonder why nobody was upset about that.

Filed under:


Posted by Rick at Tue Jun 28 2005 20:24

Actually, a lot of people are calling "dolphinfish" "mahi mahi" now. I agree that calling them dolphins was a little confusing. I read Douglas Adams's "Last Chance To See," in which he talked about people eating dolphins & I was horrified to see "dolphin" on a menu in Florida.

Posted by Leonard at Tue Jun 28 2005 20:41

Wow, dolphinfish are mahi mahi? I thought they were totally different fish.

Posted by Frances at Tue Jun 28 2005 20:41

That happened to me in Hawaii. Even after the waiter explained, I still couldn't order it.

Posted by Zack at Tue Jun 28 2005 23:35

Thor Heyerdahl is at pains to point out the difference between dolphin (cetecean) and dolphin (fish) in Kon-Tiki.

Posted by Brian Danger Hicks at Wed Jun 29 2005 00:17

I think they did the right thing in changing slothfish to just sloth, considering they're not even aquatic.

Posted by Adam P. at Wed Jun 29 2005 11:01

See also -berry. I wonder why no botanists have ever insisted we start calling them straws, rasps, blues, crans, and gooses (geese?).

[Main] [Edit]

Unless otherwise noted, all content licensed by Leonard Richardson
under a Creative Commons License.