What You Thought You Knew: Pirates were lawless sailors who buried treasure and used it on women, alcohol, and other pleasures.
What You Didn’t Know: Pirates get a bit of a bad rap, especially with the Pirates of the Caribbean series reinforcing some of the stereotypes about buried treasure and unpredictable alliances. Sure, the goal of a pirate is, after all, to pillage (steal things), usually from merchant ships, especially those carrying silk or spices that could be sold at a high price.
However, it’s not fair to assume that pirates didn’t look after each other; most (respected) pirate ships had a constitution that included workman’s comp for sailors who lost limbs in battle. In fact, the treatise was usually very detailed, and the most frequent money allotments went like this:
Loss of a right arm: 600 pieces
Left arm: 500
Right leg: 500
Left leg: 400
Some ships even paid for the replacement of a wooden peg leg, since good ones were more expensive (but worth it). Captains and crew were especially likely to help in the purchase of a new one if the old one was lost in defense of the ship (for example, during an enemy boarding attempt that was thwarted).
Now You Know: that workman’s comp dates back even to pirates.
What You Thought You Knew: Animals may live in packs and have close friendships, but only humans have pets.
What You Didn’t Know: The realm of pet ownership really does extend to the animal kingdom, but it will be easier to explain what examples of animal friendship are not pet-keeping before going on to who actually owns pets.
For example, I personally do not consider Tarra and and Bella, the semi-famous dog & elephant duo, as an example of an elephant keeping a dog as a pet. This is because Tarra (the elephant) did not personally take care of Bella in a way that pet owners do. This type of caregiving behavior can be seen a little more fully in Koko, the famous gorilla used in linguistic experiments to try to teach animals sign language and prove that they had language capabilities.
Koko did have a “pet” cat, and although she was not entirely responsible for the care of the cat, she did play an important part in raising it. Well-documented incidents of her grooming the cat and even showing an understanding of the cat as a “living-partner” by blaming the cat for things gone wrong and destroyed in their shared living space show that Koko viewed the cat not just as a friend but as a partner in life in the same way that humans co-exist with pets. The only qualm I have with calling the cats (either All Ball or Moe) Koko’s “pets” is that Koko was domesticated and somewhat guided in how to treat these animals.
This brings us, then, to the real pet owners of the animal kingdom — otters. Don’t judge; a pet rock still counts as a pet! Otters search far and wide for their perfect, compatible rock, and once they’ve found it, they care deeply for it, protect it, and ensure that it survives as long as possible. Because otters are known for being some of the most intelligent tool-users, it should come as no surprise that an otter’s pet rock is so important — a rock that can crack open shellfish so perfectly is certainly to be cherished! When an otter has finished using its pet rock, it has extra folds of skin that it uses to help hold it and carry it along. When possible, it carries the rock on its stomach when floating. Interestingly, this is also the place where it cradles its young.
Pet rocks = little inanimate baby otters.
Now You Know: That some animals do keep pets, even if they may be pet rocks.
What You Thought You Knew: The English language vocabulary is sufficient for expressing our needs. When we don’t have a word for something, it’s because we haven’t learned the word for it.
What You Didn’t Know: You know you’ve been there — that moment when you’re stuck, mid-sentence, scrounging around for a word, but you just can’t find anything that means what you want. So you have to resort to spelling it out in a long, explanatory phrase because you just can’t find a word for it.
What’s up with that?
You’d think that any language that’s been around for a while would be able to articulate anything that you’d ever need. And truth is, we can. So What You Thought You Knew is actually pretty correct to begin with — our language can function to cover our expressive needs.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that we’ve got a word for everything! Other languages have words that we don’t, so it looks like we’re missing a lot of words. We don’t have a single word to express a person whose face just really needs a fist (literally…a person in need of a face-punch), but German does — backpfeifengesicht. Similarly, Malaysia’s pisan zapra has no parallel in English…unless we were to explain that it’s the amount of time an average person takes to eat a banana.
Now You Know: That foreign languages have a lot of interesting words that we don’t!