A few weeks ago, I saw a trench of photos on facebook that was posted with comical names for animals. Most of them were unbelievably silly, like calling a skunk a “fart squirrel” and a ferret a “cat snake” (a name that is already being used, I should mention!).
But it called a raccoon a “trash panda.”
It fits. A raccoon looks an awful lot like a red panda. A red panda is not actually a procyonid (the raccoon family). It’s actually the last survivor of Ailuridae family, but it looks so much like a raccoon that it was often thought of as the only procyonid native to the New World. And if the red panda is a procyonid, then so is the giant panda. They both have the sesamoid “thumb,” but we now know that this adaptation evolved separately in the two lineage. Giant pandas are bears. Red pandas aren’t specialized raccoons.
But I didn’t think anything would be made of this name until I just Googled it. This is the new name for the northern raccoon!
This isn’t the first time this has happened. Some prankster Wikipedia editor once gave “Brazilian aardvark” as an alternative name for the coati, and that name is still being used, even though no one ever used that name for them until the Wikipedia edit!
The effect that the internet is having upon our language is really fascinating.
Maybe my attempts to get people to stop using the term “gray fox” for the Urocyon will have an effect.
They probably won’t. “Colishay” isn’t nearly as cute as “trash panda.”