September 19, 2006

A Journalist Wise as an Elephant

The Associated Press reports that an elephant named Kosik, who resides at an amusement park near Seoul, "can make sounds imitating up to eight Korean words". The article goes on to explain that it isn't clear whether Kosik is merely imitating sounds that he has heard or understands the meaning of the words. You can hear Kosik on this video, brought to my attention by Kyungjoon Lee.

The amazing thing about this article is that it doesn't claim that Kosik can speak. Its author actually understands the difference between making word-like sounds and associating sounds with meanings. Unfortunately, the article isn't signed, so we have to applaud him or her anonymously.

This also shows that at least some of the time it is the editor, not the writer, who is at fault. The article on the AP newswire is headed "South Korean Park Showcases 16-Year-Old Male Asian Elephant Capable of Humanlike Sounds". The same article on Live Science is headed "Elephant Said to Speak". The AP headline is quite accurate; the Live Science headline is wrong. Similarly, the San Jose Mercury News gets it wrong with "S.Korean park features talking pachyderm".

Posted by Bill Poser at September 19, 2006 01:10 AM