My long-held suspicion of the animal kingdom appears to be justified.
It’s not enough that cats can play the piano, birds can fly without having to check luggage and starfish can regenerate limbs. Now we know that animals are learning how to speak.
Yeah. And this isn’t about a dog begging for food or a gorilla learning sign language. This is about whales and elephants talking.
You read that right. And they may be talking about me. Or you. They’ve got to be talking about something, right?
Start with the whale. According to a story in National Geographic – yeah, this story was in National Geographic, not the National Enquirer – a whale that died in captivity in 1999 at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego was capable of speech.
A speaking whale. And it wasn’t Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey!
The whale’s name was NOC (apparently spelled with all capital letters as part of a tradeoff with human singer will.i.am) and its “speech-like sounds” allowed it to drop its voice several octaves lower than the normal whale sounds. NOC could say words like “out,” “yes” and “extra pepperoni, but go a little light on the sauce.”
It’s interesting that scientists refer to NOC’s words as “speech-like sounds” rather than admit that the whale could talk. They even compared NOC to Hoover, a harbor seal that lived in the 1970s and was raised by a family in Maine. Hoover could “mimic human sounds” (talk) and “even had a Maine accent,” according to a marine biologist quoted in the story.
The marine mammals are talking.
And just as we were recovering from that news came word that an elephant in a South Korean zoo is using his trunk to “reproduce words.”
In other words, talk. That’s how I learned, at least. I reproduced words. I mimicked human sounds. I made speech-like sounds.
The elephant, named Koshick, can say the Korean words for hello, sit down, no, lie down and good. Which will come in handy when he wants to talk to his lazy roommate (“Sit down or lie down? You’re no good.”)
The newspaper story on the speaking elephant mentioned other animals who can talk: Mockingbirds, parrots and mynahs.
So, to summarize, elephants, whales, harbor seals and a bunch of birds can speak.
If you’ve been paying attention and have watched any of the “Planet of the Apes” movies, you see where this is going. The animals are starting their inexorable climb to dominance.
Soon, we’ll be in cages and they’ll be standing around, talking to each other and ordering us to do their bidding.
The time is coming when we’ll fondly remember when we would chuckle at the sight of a YouTube video of a dog appearing to sing or a gorilla using sign language to declare, “We will dominate you and make you our slaves.”
That’s when we’ll realize the big mistake we made, one that I recognized years ago and one that is still worth considering: We should speak Pig Latin whenever we’re around animals.
And just in case you read this column aloud with a pet in the earshot, on’t-day ust-tray e-they animals-yay.
Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.