I'm still smarting from my recent reminder that not only don't I know everything, even worse; I really don't even know anything much at all.
It all started when I did a piece a while back regarding the nasty messes that the birds we love to hate (I called them sea gulls) leave on our freshly washed cars, windows, and yes, even our heads.
I was reminded that there probably are no such things as sea gulls. They probably were California gulls, or herring gulls, or western gulls, or, or ... and that unless I wanted to incur the wrath of every educated reader of the Gazette, I'd better not ever use the word seagull again.
I do remember seeing a sign in a fishing town in upper Michigan that pointed to the sky and firmly stated that those birds up there are bay gulls, not sea gulls. At the time, I thought it was pretty funny.
I eat bagels, don't you? But, who'd want to eat one of those squawky bay gulls?
I just ask that you humor me. I've got a long way to go. I have gone on a couple of Bob Boekelheide's Wednesday morning bird walks, but I'm just now beginning to distinguish the difference between a raven and a finch.
Knowing the difference between a sea gull, bay gull, bagel, or herring gull is graduate studies for me. I'm kind of hung up in preschool right now, please be patient.
With my aging eyes, I'm lucky to recognize the difference between a mailbox and a pedestrian. Asking me if the gull in question (the one that buried my entire car in one single pass, has blue or yellow eyes is beyond my reach.
All I know, officer, is that I was just walking along totally by myself when, splat - I'm totally covered with sea gull excreta. And yes, I know there is no such word as sea gull, or excreta, but as you can see, I'm real live evidence that both things do indeed exist. Just look at me if you have any doubts.
Certainly I'm embarrassed, but just look at our complicated language and look at who you are dealing with. I have a hard time remembering my grandkids' names. And I've totally given up on getting their ages straight.
I remember laughing at my grandmother when we were kids and she'd go through all the grandkids' names until she finally arrived at mine. "Lin, Nan, Bet, ah shoot. Da, Ga, well for goodness sake, I have a terrible time thinking of your names."
Well, I think I'm her age now. No wonder I can't tell a sea gull from a bluegill.
Besides, I'm a flatlander who doesn't know a blue jay from a jay bird. In fact, I suspect that there is no such thing as a blue jay. I call a Stellar's jay a blue jay. (I'd better not try that in print). Or a swallow is a swallow to me, but to the educated, there are whole books of swallows.
Life is way too complicated for me. Why do some people get offended if you offer them three buck Chuck? Or if you go on a bird watching expedition and don't know the difference between a sea gull and a herring gull? Don't you think us ignorant set should be humored and gradually nurtured into the ranks of the learned?
Just scorning us heathens who don't know what a northern harrier or pileated woodpecker looks like seems shortsighted.
How are we to learn? But then, does it really matter?
I have the same problem with monkeys, peaches and roses. To call something as unique as a orangutan a monkey is wrong -- or a Crenshaw a melon. But we all have our limit of how much information we are able to retain.
I like pointing out the terns (birds I once thought were sea gulls) to Wife Nancy because I want to impress her with my incredible knowledge. But she's pretty smart and will soon discover that my ornithological skills run pretty shallow and that I'm likely to end up in deep sea gull stuff if I continue.
I'll be lucky if this ever goes to print, but if it does, I'm announcing that anything that's entered in the dictionary is fair game to me. I'll bet blue jay and jay bird are even in there.
Sea gull is, and that's proof positive for me that they exist.
Who am I to second guess such a prestigious document. Ignoramuses of the world, unite? The dictionary will be our defining document.
Egads, what am I saying? I don't even know where mine is.
Jim Follis is a retired school administrator, has published two books and currently writes three newspaper columns. Eating, drinking and making merry are his professed hobbies. Traveling, trekking and observing people follow not far behind.
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