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    Re: Language and communication.
    From: Frank Reed CT
    Date: 2007 Mar 22, 14:19 -0700

    George H, you wrote:
    ""I went through the trauma of the sea monkey kit being brine shrimp
    in my youth."
    Bill's contributions are lively, intelligent, colourful, and
    idiomatic, and it would be a pity to lose any of that. But in a
    technical forum such as ours is, clarity of understanding should take
    priority. So I ask Bill, and others, to go back and re-read their
    before pressing the send button, to ensure that it's going to be
    understandable to those who are not native-speakers of American, such
    as me. "
    Yes, this is a popular culture issue. I don't think Bill's post lost
    even a drop of meaning for its 'sea monkey' reference. But I agree
    that we should all be a little sensitive to the fact that pop culture
    references are necessarily local, both geographically and
    generationally [yeah, sometimes age matters]. When in doubt, you can
    always throw in a PS at the end of a message. Myself, I recently
    included a slightly obscure pop culture reference in a message, but it
    was in Morse code. I was surprised no one complained about *that*!
    And now, George, it's time for a lesson in sea monkeys. There's
    nothing like a little googling to explain any odd cultural reference
    that puzzles you. If you search on "sea monkeys brine shrimp", you
    will learn all about this particular bit of Americana. I discovered
    just now that they still sell these "amazing" creatures. They have a
    web site. Ya see, they used to sell "sea monkey" kits to credulous
    children at carnivals and fairs. The box art showed a frolicking
    family of little animalcules with big smiles, humanoid arms and legs,
    and cute little antennae on their heads. They looked like magical
    underwater friends, and they would be *your* friends for only two
    dollars. When you took the sea monkey kit home and followed the
    instructions, dumping the various envelopes of powder into a fishbowl,
    a day later you discovered that you had some feebly swimming "bugs".
    It turns out that they were brine shrimp. In other words, the kid
    "buys a family" and gets fish food. Most children who grew up on that
    experience count it as the first time that they were swindled
    (conveniently forgetting that whole "Santa Claus" debacle. Don't get
    me started!!). Myself, super-geek that I am, I remember my first bowl
    of brine shrimp as the time that I discovered the wonders of
    Because of this common memory for many American adults of the "first
    swindle", sea monkeys turn up in pop culture-heavy comedy on a regular
    basis. On an episode of the raunchy, adult animated tv show "South
    Park", the kids discover that the secret ingredient missing in their
    sea monkey aquarium is "seamen". Comedy ensues. I'm waiting for their
    episode on "cocked hats".
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