World O’ Words: A new meaning to the term ‘Walking Dead’

World O’ Words: A new meaning to the term ‘Walking Dead’

Barry Coulter

“They can bring long dead animals back from extinction, but they can’t grow hair on the top of a bald man’s head.” Barry Coulter

The word of the week is necrofauna — a brand new addition to the word hoard, with immense implications and potential for the future, yet with deep roots in the past, in so many ways I don’t know where to begin.

Necrofauna are animals that were extinct, but have been brought back into the world of the living, through human actions like cloning, genetic reconstruction, cross-breeding, or other fascinating developments on the animal husbandry front. De-extinction, this process is called; another groovy new word.

While its significance is modern, necrofauna’s roots are Greek — the same way we’ve been putting together words for centuries. “Necrofauna” is a portmanteau word (two words jammed together to make a new one) consisting of two morphemes: “Necro,” from the Greek prefix for death, and “Fauna,” Greek for animals of a particular time and place, which also became the name of a Roman goddess for the Earth and fertility.

Woolly mammoths have long been considered the best candidate for de-extinction, and in fact we’re all muttering “necrofauna” to ourselves because we’re on the verge of actually rekindling these pachydermous, with which we humanoids shared the earth for a bit. Mammothus primigenius vanished thousands of years ago, but scientists are now say ing they are on the verge of bringing him back, through a magnificent feat of genetic engineering. Perhaps even within a decade.

Critics are calling out the dangers of de-extinction. Introducing necrofauna, however genetically modified, into an environment profoundly changed since last time, may introduce curious new diseases, causing who knows what widespread havoc.

And there’s a moral issue as well. It’s been determined that we’re on the verge, or even undergoing the sixth mass extinction in earth’s history, in which three quarters of earth’s species could vanish, leaving us to lord it over the Planet of the Weeds. So should we not be using our de-extinction science to protect and help species like the mountain caribou to prosper once more?

I’ve heard the criticism that we humans are actually building an ark — we understand that Siberian tigers, leopard frogs, rhinocerii, blue whales are going the way of the passenger pigeon, while we’ll probably end up trying to save the lions, the bees, bears, elk, and perhaps wolves. So if we’re building an ark, wouldn’t it be unfair to let some species go extinct — the eventual fate of us all — while adding to the population of our ark with “the walking dead,” to coin a phrase?

And really, what’s the point of re-introducing mammoths back into our local biogeoclimatic zones, unless we’re going to hunt them with stone spears and make flutes out of their bones.

We could debate these questions for decades. Personally, I’m a fan of the Upper Paleolithic Period. I think it was a golden age for human species, of which there were several. Once the great ice receded, the climate was great. Food was plentiful. Diseases were relatively few. Our brains were emerging into full power. You could even make the case that humans were more intelligent back then.

Bringing back that time would add a certain frisson to our current time — the late Holocene epoch, or Anthropocene, as some have proposed calling the period dating from the commencement of significant human impact on the Earth’s geology and ecosystems.

I imagine walking out my back door at dawn and instead of shooing away the deer or tripping over the skunks, I am sprung upon by Smilodon Fatalis — a saber-toothed tiger. What an epic way to go!

But enough about digging up the buried past. As a word, Necrofauna has great potential for colloquial usage. “You still here? You some kind of Necrofauna?”

Plus, this word passes another key test with an A-plus — how well it works as the name of a rock band.

“Tonight, on stage at the Old Supervalu Auditorium in downtown Cranbrook — Johnny Morpheme and the Portmanteaux. With special guests Necrofauna.

* * *

Yes, the Word o’ the Day is really paraskevidekatriaphobia , the fear of Friday the 13, which is today. So happy Paraskevidekatriaphobia, everyone. What could possibly go wrong?

* * *

A world-wide Word O’ the Day recently was Dotard. Kim Jung Un’s use of ‘dotard’ to describe President Donald Trump, in response to Trump’s calling Kim “Rocket Man,” certainly had us all chuckling at the use of this ancient word dating back to the Middle English of the 14th Century. It’s now generally considered archaic, not to mention a deadly insult. You don’t refer to anyone as a dotard anymore, you describe them as having dementia, and instead of “dotage” we now use the word “retirement.”

Actually, Kim Jong Un referred to President Trump as “neukdari,” a Korean word which translates better as ‘Old Lunatic.” I thank CNN for this information. I do not know why the English speaking world decided to go with “dotard” instead. Translation is a wonderful science.

Barry Coulter is Editor of the Cranbrook Townsman

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

City hall. Black Press file photo.
OPINION: Cranbrook needs a homeless shelter

Whether at 209 16th Ave. N or in another location, the city is in desperate need of a year-round shelter

A juvenile sturgeon in a B.C. rearing facility. The wild population in the Upper Columbia is estimated at 1,100 individuals, enhanced with roughly 5,500 hatchery fish. (file photo)
B.C.’s Upper Columbia sturgeon endure long battle with local extinction

Decades of monitoring and intervention is ongoing to save the prehistoric fish

Interior Health update. File photo.
86 new COVID-19 cases, two more deaths in Interior Health

The new deaths are from Heritage Square, a long-term care facility in Vernon

Wolf photo by Brian Hay
2020 hunting season review and wildlife update: Part III

This is Part III of a three-part series by F.J. Hurtak, looking at the issues of the 2020 hunting and wildlife management season

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

A 17-year-old snowmobiler used his backcountry survival sense in preparation to spend the night on the mountain near 100 Mile House Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021 after getting lost. (South Cariboo Search and Rescue Facebook photo)
Teen praised for backcountry survival skills after getting lost in B.C.’s Cariboo mountains

“This young man did everything right after things went wrong.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
COVID-19: Provinces work on revised plans as Pfizer-BioNTech shipments to slow down

Anita Anand said she understands and shares Canadians’ concerns about the drug company’s decision

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Tourists take photographs outside the British Columbia Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Friday August 26, 2011. A coalition of British Columbia tourism industry groups is urging the provincial government to not pursue plans to ban domestic travel to fight the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. travel ban will harm struggling tourism sector, says industry coalition

B.C. government would have to show evidence a travel ban is necessary

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Most Read