Posts Tagged ‘illiteracy’


Friday, July 2nd, 2010

Any recent visitor to my “expert” forum on the Marine Depot site may have noticed a new posted note about feeding – and about the language.  More to the point, not just about the language, but about the use of words that seem on their way to becoming ubiquitous amongst reef aquarists.  These are  the “invented” words that form from unfamiliar terms, such as “algae,” giving rise to algaes (sic) by itself, or in the combined forms:  micro- and macro-algaes (sic).  The case that pushed me over the edge this particular time was zooplanktons (sic), supposedly – I think – as a plural word for a zooplankter, a single zooplankton entity.   However, I will point out, I couldn’t discern from the sentence where it was used, what the writer meant.   Arrgh!!!

Ah, isn’t illiteracy wonderful? 

The marine aquarium hobby is an expensive undertaking, this generally means that two types of people become hobbyists:  those who can easily afford it, and those whose interest in the animals/hobby is so great that they make all sorts of sacrifices to participate.  As one might expect there are relatively few of the latter folks, although in many cases, when one can identify them, they often are amongst the more knowledgeable of hobbyists.  The point of this statement is that to be able to afford such a hobby, one often has to have a well-paying job, and following this train of thought to full derailment, such jobs are often domain of people that have a so-called “good” education. 

So… why are so many of these people illiterate?   

For that is what the misuse of the these simple terms implies.  Either the people have not been exposed to fact that the plurals of many words are not made by simply plopping an “s” down at the end of the word, or they are not aware of such strange tools as “dictionaries.”   I suppose the problem is that these folks read or hear the term and become aware of some sort of meaning for it from the context wherein they find it.  And, away we gooooo……

Probably the word in this regard that captures most people is “algae.”  People see the word and kinda, sorta, somehow get a warm, fuzzy, or cold, slimy, idea of what algae means; all the time not realizing that algae is a plural term.  More than likely this is because the original user of the word, hasn’t a clue about the word, either. 

It is really interesting, and more than a little disheartening, to read something one of these people writes and to realize that they don’t have a frigging clue as to what any single alga is.  Let alone what many algae are.  They have no conception that algae are not plants – but, hey, don’t try to pin them down on what a plant is, either.   You really don’t want to know what they think it is.

The marine coral reef aquarium hobby is by some sort of necessity technical.  It has to be, there are no common names for many of the organisms, and most of the techniques for maintain the organisms verge on being complicated culture methods requiring more than a little bit of scientific or technical background.  While there are many aquarists who are very well versed in the sciences or engineering, there are unfortunately quite a large number of wannabes who just don’t have a clue about what they need to do to keep their organisms alive, or for that matter what their organisms even are (oh, they may use a name, they just don’t realize what the name implies).  The sad part of all of this is that they, in most cases, already have the organisms as they have purchased some critters and some equipment because of some smooth-talking salesperson.   Generally, the budding aquarist seems to think they have something like a gold fish (hey, the fish they have is golden… that make it a gold fish, right?).  And the equipment they purchase, instead of being a set of expensive devices specifically tailored toward keeping these strange creatures alive, is simply a series of “black boxes” of unknown and unknowable function.  All our aquarist has to do is to follow some simple instructions, and their animals will be thriving.

Sigh.  It is hard to tell who is more to blame here;  the clueless individual or the mercenary salesman.

One would like to think that people don’t view these beautiful living things as disposable, but all too many of them have the asinine  philosophy that animals are put on Earth for man’s benefit, another unfortunate piece of garbage thought spawned by our dominant religions superstitions.  In this case,  who cares if one doesn’t know how to take care of the animals properly, it is no big deal.  One would like to think that people would try to learn about keeping these organisms before they purchase them – and to the credit of many, they do.  But far too many don’t.  These are the people who can’t read enough to know that they don’t know what one alga does, let alone what many algae mean in the context of a marine aquarium. 

And so it goes, and questions will arise about microalgaes, and phytoplanktons, and…

I will beat my head against the wall, ’cause it will feel SOOOO good when I stop.

Until later,