Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Thu Dec 25 04:19:29 UTC 2008

from Henry Fountain's Observatory feature in the NYT Science Times
12/23, "African Fish Need A Little Electricity For Love to Bloom":

Females of the species Campylomormyrus compressirostris [i am not
making this up], a fish that produces a weak electrical discharge from
an organ near its tail, can distinguish males of their own species by
their electrical signature, scientists at the University of Potsdam in
Germany report in Biology Letters.


sometimes "distinguish X" works just fine without an expression of the
comparison class ("from Y"), but sometimes the reader or hearer has to
work things out.

in this case, the first reading i got was 'distinguish [some] males of
their own species from other males of their own species', which would
certainly be a useful ability for female fish to have.  but the piece
goes on:

The females' ability may effectively serve as a reproductive barrier
that is important in speciation, the divergence of new species from
existing ones.


ah!  the intended reading was 'distinguish [all] males of their own
species from [all] males of other species'.

writing is hard; let's go shopping!


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list