The world is filled with more curiosities than we can collectively explore much less explain. But sometimes a question is so natural and obvious that, upon hearing it for the first time, you wonder why you never thought of it before. Thankfully, we have bright minds like Dartmouth’s RJ Griffin to shine a light on these dark mysteries. This week, he tries unwrapping an etymological enigma:
The first sentence could be the set up to a punch line, but the double question mark indicates that Griffin means business. And he should because, though I’ve never seen a fly without wings, he has a point. His question stems from the philosophy of objects. Do we classify objects by their physical appearance (for instance, a chair can be defined as a flat surface with four legs and a backrest)? Or do we classify them by their function (a chair can be defined as a place where people sit)? Griffin is obviously wrestling with the fact that both methods have flaws (for example, a chair can be a sack filled with beans and people can sit on a fence post just as well). He’d like to redefine the fly by its new function (“walking”), but the double question mark demonstrates the seeming incongruity of this denomination.
Griffin’s tweet might also lead you to speculate on the origin of the fly’s name. Of all the majestic airborne creatures, why did the lowly fly get dibs on “fly”? Why isn’t there a “swim” or a “wriggle” yet? I think this observation has the potential to be groundbreaking, and I hope all of the scientists following Dartmouth basketball on Twitter take Griffin’s point into consideration when naming new breeds of species.