Thursday, April 9, 2015

10 Thoughts on the Return of the Brontosaurus.

We're all very excited that the Brontosaurus is back. We missed him.

The big galoot has always been our favorite dinosaur, and those grumpy old killjoy scientists -- probably the same ones that dissed Pluto -- have been saying for more than a century that there was no such animal. Just three years ago, the Smithsonian was patting us on the head, saying that, yes, your large cuddly friend is important culturally but was just a dinosaur fairy tale. Well, grumpy old killjoy scientists, sucks to be you! Because new evidence says that our big ol' lugosaurus is back, baby, and better than ever.

In fact, here are ten reasons why the return of the Bronto is excellent news.

1. The American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan always had two huge (literally) attractions for us kids on field trips: the life-size blue whale and the skeleton of the Brontosaurus. The latter was vast, it was bony, it was scary, and yet we were told it wouldn't have wanted to eat us if it were alive, preferring to eat the vegetables that we did not want to eat. We could have been pals with Brontosaurus. We were sorry he was dead. But man, was he big.

2. Of course we learned early on that dinosaurs and humans were not contemporaries, but The Flintstones showed us what life could have been like if we were. And if dinosaurs could sometimes talk and make wisecracks, and be domesticated. The Brontosaurus, of course, served as Fred Flintstone's earth mover; Fred slid down its back at quitting time. Then he got a pile of Bronto ribs that flipped over his car. Maybe the modern stone-age era would have been tough on our friend Brontosaurus, but we enjoyed seeing him interact with people.

3. Although Alley Oop's pet dinosaur Dinny was not a Brontosaurus, the one in the comic strip BC is. So once again BC kept the faith.

4. Let's face it: Brontosaurus is an excellent, powerful word. And it's almost better in the English translation: Thunder Lizard. I'm thinking of getting people to call me Thunder Lizard Key. But I'd probably have to get some tattoos.

5. We all remember that the dinosaur mentioned in the Monty Python sketch with John Cleese as Anne Elk was a Brontosaurus. And now we know her theory was right!

6. We know that science is not a popularity contest (in theory, anyway; if Galileo hadn't been a jerk he would have stayed out of trouble), but that doesn't mean scientists should be snotty. The more popular Brontosaurus became, the more the professionals hated him. And that just made us love him all the more. Who's laughing now, hmm?

7. We always saw Brontosaurus as the good brother to Tyrannosaurus Rex's bad brother; the Abel to his Cain; the Edwin to his John Wilkes; the Gallant to his Goofus. It might be fun to pretend to be Rex, roaring and stomping, but we knew he would eat us like a bag of Mammal Chips. All the other dinosaurs were interesting backup characters in the fight, especially Stegosaurus. We had him pegged as the game changer.

8. This Bronto news is a win for Othniel Charles Marsh, who discovered Brontosaurus and gave him his awesome name. There are not too many Othniels in this world, and we should cheer on whatever Othniels we can find.

9. But Othniel also named the Apatosaurus, which is what scientists had been calling all those Bronto remains. Apatosaurus just means "deceptive reptile," which is okay, but no Thunder Lizard. And "Apastosaurus" would never have worked as a name of a dance, the way the Move did (or tried to do, at least) with "Brontosaurus" in 1970:

10. How popular is Bronto? In addition to what I've mentioned, how about the old Sinclair Oil logo, the Land Before Time movies, a Fantasia appearance, a 1989 U.S. Postal stamp... and I've always imagined the Dinosaur in Thornton Wilder's The Skin of Our Teeth as a Brontosaurus. If he were an actor, Brontosaurus would be the hardest working reptile in showbiz. Chew on that, Godzilla!

During that 1989 postage stamp issue, where the post office got a lot of grief for using the name "Brontosaurus" on the stamp, the late Stephen Jay Gould wrote in "Bully for Brontosaurus," "Apatosaurus means 'deceptive lizard'; Brontosaurus means 'thunder lizard'---a far, far better name (but appropriateness, alas, as we have seen, counts for nothing). They have deceived us; we brontophiles have been outmaneuvered.... I retreat, not with a bang of thunder, but with a whimper of hope that rectification may someday arise from the ashes of my stamp album."

That day has now arrived.

So you can understand our enthusiasm. Now, maybe we can get to work on this Pluto thing. As comedian Larry Miller likes to say, "Homer is Homer, and Pluto is a planet." Stick that in your volcanic geyser and smoke it, grumpy old killjoy scientists!

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