January 19, 2005

Our bird aviary

On the outer wall of the building that houses a big pet store out by the freeway near Santa Cruz I noticed this sign:

Take a Look and See Who's In Our


And yes, my inner pedant — the priggish, prescriptive, Mr Hyde that sometimes tries to emerge from the tolerant and scientific Dr Jekyll that is truly me — did spend a few seconds devising a scathing formulation of the obvious question concerning what other kinds of aviary they thought there might be. But I held my evil side in check: I did not go in and ask them.

The string "bird aviary" gets about 14,600 Google hits, of course. But some of those would not excite the ire of people who hate ignorant redundancy of phraseology ("Omit needless words! Omit needless words!"). For example, "Tropical Bird Aviary" is not redundant: all aviaries are for birds, but not all have tropical birds. And "tropical aviary" might suggest an aviary in tropical latitudes, rather than a place (at any latitude) where tropical birds are housed.

Geraint Jennings tells me he once saw a "bat aviary". That would not please the pedant one bit, of course. It should be called (he would say) a chiropterarium.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at January 19, 2005 12:54 PM