February 25, 2004

Relating to the cougar in your life

Our occasional contributor Arnold Zwicky (currently recuperating after a brush with a rogue strain of bacteria that reached quorum and tried to kill him in December) sent me a quote from the regular Saturday column of pets miscellanea in the Palo Alto Daily News for February 21, 2004, responding to a letter about mountain lions (cougars) in Santa Clara County:

Unlike your instinct to curl into a ball if attacked by a dog, the best way to survive a mountain lion attack is to fight the animal off... Anything that will assist you in battling the animal off if it comes to that, will be helpful to you. Most importantly, never hike alone. Hike as a pair or a group and always keep children close. Did you spend Valentines Day alone this year? If so, a feline companion might be what you need in your life!

Unh? I don't think so. Feline companions in the back country may not be what you need. In fact if they're hungry, you might look like something that they need (which, we were recently reminded, might be true for domestic cats as well).

Anyway, the moral here is: don't ever say "Yadda yadda yadda" or "Whatever" when your English teacher or some grammarian on Language Log is trying to explain to you that decisions about where to put your paragraph breaks are really important stuff.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at February 25, 2004 02:39 PM