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10 Things You Might Not Know About Anne of Green Gables

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Lucy Maud (without an e, thanks) Montgomery’s classic bildungsroman, Anne of Green Gables, was published to massive—Harry Potter levels—success in 1908, spawning a whole series of sequels, a bustling tourism industry for the Canadian island where the books were set, and a worldwide enduring love affair with the feisty Anne “with an ‘e’” Shirley.

Montgomery finished Anne in 1905, and it took her six tries to find the novel a publisher. That sixth publisher, the Page Company of Boston, Mass., was very lucky: The original book was a runaway bestseller, selling 19,000 copies in the first five months and sprinting through 10 printings in its first year alone. The following year, it was translated into Swedish, the first of at least 20 different languages Anne would be published in. More than 50 million copies of the book have been sold worldwide, and it is probably still the most widely read Canadian novel in the world. 

The story of how the independent, flame-topped 11-year-old orphan Anne comes to live at the Cuthberts’ farm on Prince Edward Island is by now a well-worn classic, especially—but not solely—if you’re a woman. Anne is clever, spirited, loyal, and imaginative, but prone to dramatic flights of fancy and getting herself into situations; her transformation into the beloved adopted daughter of the elderly brother and sister Cuthbert, the Island’s brightest student, a pretty woman whose carrot-colored locks deepen into a handsome auburn, and a mature caretaker who is willing to put her own dreams on hold for the good of others is at times mawkish, but on the whole deeply satisfying. Even now, the books retain the charm that first set young imaginations alight, as evidenced by how much people continue to celebrate them, more than 100 years after their first printing. 

But even if you’ve read the whole series—the seven sequels and the two related books by Montgomery, all about Anne—there might be a few things about Anne with an e that you don’t know.

1. Anne has fans—and many of them are writers.

Famous curmudgeon Mark Twain loved her, saying she was "the dearest and most lovable child in fiction" since Lewis Carroll's Alice. Margaret Atwood, in an essay that appeared in The Guardian in 2008—the 100th anniversary of the book’s publication—wrote about her love of reading the book as a child and then again, when her own daughter was of Anne-age. Atwood also makes a compelling case that in Anne of Green Gables, the story isn’t so much about Anne’s transformation—or lack thereof, because notwithstanding her new thoughtfulness and auburn locks, she’s still the same girl inside—but about cold spinster Marilla Cuthbert’s. “Anne is the catalyst,” wrote Atwood, “who allows the crisp, rigid Marilla to finally express her long-buried softer human emotions.” 

2. Anne is big in Japan.

In 1939, a missionary from New Brunswick left her copy of Anne with a friend, respected translator Hanako Muraoka. Muraoka secretly translated the book into Japanese, renaming it Akage No Anne (Anne of the Red Hair), but held on to it through the war. In 1952, when Japanese officials were looking for translations of enriching, inspirational Western literature to teach in schools, she brought out her translation and Anne of Green Gables became part of the Japanese curriculum. Japan fell in love with Anne overnight, finding her red hair exotic, her hardworking attitude and kind nature endearing, and her story of winning over the town—not to mention Marilla Cuthbert, the seemingly hard-hearted matron—inspirational. 

National obsession might not even begin to cover it: In 1986, a Japanese businessman made news when he signed a contract to import more than $1.4 million worth of potatoes from Prince Edward Island, solely on the realization that the potatoes came from Anne’s island. There is an Anne Academy in Fukuoka, which teaches Japanese students how to speak English with a Prince Edward Island accent; a nursing school called the School of Green Gables that tries to instill Anne-like qualities in its students; and several national fan clubs. People get married in Anne-themed weddings, thousands of Japanese tourists—many of them adult women with their hair dyed red and tied up in pigtails—visit Prince Edward Island each year, and surveys consistently find that the character is still one of the most beloved of young women across Japan. In 2008, the Canadian and Japanese post jointly sold a sheet of stamps featuring scenes from the 1979 Nippon Animation Anne cartoon; the stamps proved so popular in Japan that they sold 10 million of the 15 million run in the first month of their release.

3. Anne was a hero of the Polish Resistance.

Anne of Green Gables was translated, although not officially, into Polish in 1912. This pirated copy, under the spurious author name “Anne Montgomery,” would become hugely popular and deeply important to Poland over the next 40 years and beyond. During World War II, the Polish resistance issued copies of Anne of Green Gables to its fighters as a reminder of what they were fighting for and to emphasize the values of family, loyalty, and selflessness—all of the things that plucky Anne seemed to embody. After the War and during the Communist occupation, the book was suppressed as subversive, largely due to its themes of resisting authority and the importance and value of the individual. The book was big on the black market; the copies sold there were often patched together from personal copies that hadn’t been confiscated.

Just as Anne herself became a kind of emblem of individualism and hope, so too did the author, whose works were celebrated well beyond the Anne canon. In 1982, Montgomery's only book set entirely outside of Prince Edward Island and one of the few to be pitched to an adult audience, The Blue Castle, was turned into a musical in Krakow, no mean feat during the Communist privations.

4. Anne is big business.

While the sales of the books may have slowed somewhat with age, Anne is still big business to all those kindred spirits who love her so. Cavendish, which Montgomery re-imagined as Avonlea in the books, sees more than 125,000 Anne fans on pilgrimage each year (an estimated 20 percent of them are from Japan), and Green Gables, a farmhouse that had actually belonged to Montgomery’s cousin but certainly looks the part, is a National Historic Site (it abuts an 18-hole golf course; such is the course of modernity). Prince Edward Island, which jointly owns the trademarked term “Anne of Green Gables” with Montgomery's heirs, remains a veritable wonderland of Anne-themed tchochkes. Anne fans can buy Anne tea sets and Anne candies; Anne tea towels and potholders, cookbooks and aprons; Anne note cards and pencils; CDs featuring music from the several Anne musicals; and Anne light switches. There are Anne buttons and magnets, Anne bookmarks, Anne puzzles, Anne stained glass night lights; for the kids, an Anne straw hat to wear just like their favorite heroine, Anne porcelain dolls to be creeped out by, and Anne plush dolls to cuddle. Carry it all home in your new Anne tote bags, just because you can. Virtually anything that you could put Anne on, someone has. 

5. Anne is who LM wished she could be.

In some senses, Montgomery was rewriting her own past in Anne of Green Gables. Montgomery wasn’t exactly an orphan in the strictest sense of the word—her mother died when she wasn’t even 2 years old, and her father left her to be raised by her severe, Presbyterian maternal grandparents in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. But she felt like one in the spiritual, emotional sense: Sensitive and book-loving, Montgomery did not find a lot of love with her grandparents, nor did she find it when she was later sent to live with her father’s new family after he remarried. When Anne declares, "Nobody ever did want me," it’s not hard to hear Montgomery’s voice. 

Despite her fame, success, and rich inner life, at least part of Montgomery’s life was a series of misadventures in love and unhappiness, including refusing to marry the farmer she loved because she believed he wasn’t educated enough for her, and eventually marrying a Presbyterian minister who sank into a debilitating depression. When she died in 1942, her family gave it out that it was heart failure that killed her. In 2008, however, her granddaughter disclosed that the 67-year-old writer had deliberately overdosed on drugs, leaving behind a note asking for forgiveness. (For more about Montgomery’s complicated life, check out this.) 

6. Montgomery dreaded the Anne sequels.

The success of Anne of Green Gables was, as they say, a blessing and a curse for Montgomery. Even as early as 1908, a year before the first Anne sequel, Anne of Avonlea, came out, Montgomery wrote to a friend that she dreaded the thought of revisiting Anne and that the whole idea of a sequel was her publisher’s: “I’m awfully afraid if the thing takes, they’ll want me to write her through college. The idea makes me sick. I feel like the magician in the Eastern story who became the slave of the ‘jinn’ he had conjured out of a bottle.”

College?! Montgomery continued to write Anne well through college, marriage, childbirth, and beyond, and it seems that by Anne of Ingleside, the sixth book, at least, she was more or less all right with it—she wrote that it was like “going home.” 

7. Anne Shirley played Anne Shirley.

Anne has been reinvented dozens of times over. In 1919, the book was adapted to the screen in a now-lost silent film; in 1934, Hollywood tried again, this time with a 16-year-old girl called “Anne Shirley” in the title role. Shirley was actually born Dawn Paris—a pretty good stage name already —but film studio RKO was never one to pass up a publicity stunt, so they asked the contract player to change her name to her character’s. Funnily enough, her name had already been changed once before, by her stage parents: She went from Dawn Paris to Dawn O’Day by the age of three.

8. More Annes on screen.

Anne of Green Gables has been adapted for the screen—both small and large—many other times since 1934, including the 1979 Nippon Animation anime version of Anne of Green Gables, hugely popular in its own right. But it’s the 1985 Canadian-produced TV mini-series starring Megan Follows as the red-haired orphan and Colleen Dewhurst as stern Marilla Cuthbert that is probably the most famous. The film broke Canadian broadcast history when it premiered, establishing a record viewership that wouldn’t be broken until Canadian Idol in 2003, and the program has since been translated in 30 different languages and broadcast in more than 140 countries. The last Anne film came in 2008; the made-for-TV Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning starred Barbara Hershey as a middle-aged Anne reeling from the death of husband Gilbert in World War II and lost in her troubled memories of her childhood.

9. Canada’s longest running musical

A musical based on Anne of Green Gables—titled, obviously, Anne of Green Gables: The Musical—was first staged in 1965, as part of the very first Charlottetown Festival, and has been every year since. Now in its 51st season, the producers claim that the musical is the longest running annual musical in the world; at least 2.3 million people have seen it in Charlottetown, and even more have seen Anne and Gilbert dance across stages in London, New York, and Japan. 

10. Anne with an e—but without the red hair?

So, Anne’s face has been on everything from the small screen to tea towels to stamps, and each incarnation of the red-haired orphan seems to have a similar look: Straw-hatted child or Gibson girl young woman. Except this one: In 2013, a self-publishing firm, taking advantage of the fact that the books are in the public domain, put out a boxed set of the first three Anne books. On the cover, however, was not a red-haired orphan or even a red-haired “modern gal”, but a sexy blond farm girl. Fans are, understandably, not pleased. 

Why a Major Error in 'A Wrinkle in Time' Was Never Corrected

Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle in Time was published in 1962, and thanks to the recent release of a big-budget Disney adaptation, the book is just as popular as ever. The book has earned its status as a modern classic, but according to the Daily Beast, there's something hiding in the text of every copy that is rarely seen in titles that have enjoyed such a long print run. The book features an error that's been reprinted millions of times, and unless you read Greek, you would likely never notice it.

The mistake falls on page 59 of the new Square Fish edition that was published to tie in with the new film. On that page you'll find a quote from Mrs Who, one of the three mystical beings that guide the protagonist Meg and her companions across the universe. Because verbalizing in her own words takes a lot of energy, Mrs Who communicates strictly by quoting great writers and thinkers from history. In this case, she's quoting the playwright Euripides in his original ancient Greek. She follows it with the English translation, "Nothing is hopeless; we must hope for everything," but Greek speakers will notice that the two quotes don't match up. The original line in Greek includes words that don't make sense together or don't exist at all.

How was such a glaring error able to go unnoticed in a major work for so long? The answer is that it didn't: L'Engle was made aware of it by a friend of Greek heritage in the 1990s. According to L'Engle's granddaughter, the writer could trace the typo back to the Dictionary of Foreign Phrases and Classical Quotations, the book she pulled all of Mrs Who's quotes from. While transcribing the Euripides quote by hand she must have omitted a letter by accident. The quote was further removed from the original when the typesetter chose the Greek characters from her manuscript.

Even after hearing about the mistake, L'Engle didn't make fixing it her top priority. Instead she invested her energy into tackling other copyediting issues for the 1993 reprint, like removing all the periods from Mrs Who's, Mrs Which's, and Mrs Whatsit's names. When L'Engle died in 2007, the mangled quote was still standard in new copies of A Wrinkle in Time.

To date, only one English-language edition of the book contains the corrected quotation: the 1994 audiobook narrated by L'Engle herself. But the publishers of A Wrinkle in Time at Macmillan are apparently aware of the error, so the next printing may finally be the one that gets it right.

[h/t Daily Beast]

iStock // Heinrich Hoffmann/Keystone Features/Getty Images // collage by Jen Pinkowski
When German Scientists Tried to Rename Bats and Shrews, Hitler Threatened to Send Them to War
iStock // Heinrich Hoffmann/Keystone Features/Getty Images // collage by Jen Pinkowski
iStock // Heinrich Hoffmann/Keystone Features/Getty Images // collage by Jen Pinkowski

In The Art of Naming (The MIT Press), Michael Ohl, a biologist at the Natural History Museum of Berlin, delves into the art, science, language, and history of taxonomy. There are some 1.8 million known species—and scientists estimate that 100 million more await discovery. Every one will need a name. How does the process work? 

Ohl takes us into the field with the explorers and scientists at the forefront of naming the natural world, including Father Armand David, a French priest who was the first to describe the panda to the Western world; American paleontologists Edward Dinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh, who bitterly battled in the Bone Wars; and Polish biologist Benedykt Dybowski, whose unique naming system for crustaceans called gammarids (a.k.a. "scuds") resulted in tongue-twisters such as Cancelloidokytodermogammarus (Loveninsuskytodermogammarus) loveni.

In the excerpt below, Ohl tells the story of one of the little-known footnotes to World War II: When Adolf Hitler threatened the German biologists who wanted to rename bats and shrews. And, read on for the best bat nickname of all time: "bacon mouse."

—Jen Pinkowski


On March 3, 1942, a brief item with a rather peculiar headline appeared tucked away in the Berliner Morgenpost newspaper. "Fledermaus No Longer!" the bold letters proclaimed. The following short text was printed underneath:

"At its 15th General Assembly, the German Society for Mammalogy passed a resolution to change the zoologically misleading names 'Spitzmaus' [shrew] and 'Fledermaus' [bat] to 'Spitzer' and 'Fleder.' Fleder is an old form for Flatterer [one that flutters]. The Spitzmaus, as it happens, has borne a variety of names: Spitzer [one that is pointed], Spitzlein, Spitzwicht, Spitzling. Over the course of the conference, several important lectures were held in the auditorium of the Zoologisches Museum […]."

To this day, despite the problems announced by Germany's leading specialists on mammals on the pages of one of the capital's daily papers, fledermaus and spitzmaus remain the common German names for bats and shrews. Neither dictionaries nor specialized nature guides contain entries for fleder or spitzer (provided one disregards the primary definition of spitzer, which is a "small implement used for the sharpening of pencils").

Indeed, a swift response to the item in question arrived from an unexpected source. Martin Bormann, Adolf Hitler's private secretary, sent a message on March 4, 1942, to Hans Heinrich Lammers, head of the Reich Chancellery. The missive contained remarkably unambiguous instructions from Hitler:

"In yesterday's newspapers, the Führer read an item regarding the changes of name ratified by the German Society for Mammalogy on the occasion of its 15th General Assembly. The Führer subsequently instructed me to communicate to the responsible parties, in no uncertain terms, that these changes of name are to be reversed immediately. Should members of the Society for Mammalogy have nothing more essential to the war effort or smarter to do, perhaps an extended stint in the construction battalion on the Russian front could be arranged. Should such asinine renamings occur once more, the Führer will unquestionably take appropriate measures; under no circumstance should terms that have become established over the course of many years be altered in this fashion."

There's no question that the "responsible parties" understood and responded to the injunction, which could hardly have been misinterpreted. On July 1, 1942, at least, a notice was printed in the Zoologischer Anzeiger—at that time, the "organ of the German Zoological Society"—that comprised a scant five lines. The notice has no byline and can most likely be attributed to the journal's publishers:

"Regarding the discussion [in earlier issues of the Zoologischer Anzeiger] about potential changes to the names 'Fledermaus' and 'Spitzmaus,' the Editors wish to make public that terms that have become established over the course of many years are not to be altered, following an announcement by the Reich Minister of Science, Education, and National Culture, as per the Führer's directive."

It's conceivable that Lammers forwarded Hitler's instructions (which had reached him by way of Bormann) to Bernhard Rust, the Reich Minister of Science, Education, and National Culture. Rust will then likely have ordered one of the "parties responsible" for the unpopular initiative to publish the retraction in the appropriate platform. The Zoologischer Anzeiger fit the bill, considering the fact that by 1941 it had already featured two articles debating whether the name spitzmaus should be changed.

What is the problem, though, that veteran scientists have with spitzmaus and fledermaus, those innocuous terms for the shrew and the bat? And how could it come to pass that Adolf Hitler—preoccupied as he was in 1942— should personally join in the campaign for the correct classification of these small mammals?


The common thread in these two unremarkable and familiar terms is of course the second word component, maus, or "mouse."

Fledermaus and spitzmaus … are (linguistically) first and foremost mice. By referencing certain characteristics in these compound words (fleder comes from flattern, "to flap"; spitz, or "point," refers to the shrew's pointy nose or rather head shape), it becomes possible to provide a clear name—or almost clear, at least, because there are many bat and shrew species, but more on that later.

Both names, of course, imply affiliation with mice, and that's the sticking point. In zoological terms, mice are a group of rodents known at the higher level of classification as Muroidea, "muroids" or the "mouse-like." The group includes quite the mix of animal groups, with occasionally curious names like zokor, blind mole-rat, spiny tree mouse, and Chinese pygmy dormouse, not to mention our pet hamsters and those domestic but unwelcome mice and rats. Common to all muroids are sundry and complex structural features in the skull, coupled of course with the oversized, continually growing incisors typical of rodents. Beyond that, although endless evolutionary gimmickry can revolve around this mouse theme (long or short legs, different fur colors and tail lengths, and much more), and even without biological expertise, most muroids tend to be identifiable as mice, if only vaguely.

Zoologically speaking, a mere mouse-like appearance is insufficient to denote a muroid. Instead, the specific anatomical features of the skull must be in evidence.

Field, house, and deer mice are familiar to many North Americans, although they typically live hidden away, and we don't often encounter them. These animals with the "mouse" base in their name are truly mice in the zoological sense.

The same cannot exactly be said for the bat and shrew—the fledermaus and spitzmaus—despite their names. Neither of them is even a rodent or, consequently, a muroid. Then what are they?

In the classification of mammals, a whole series of groupings is traditionally distinguished, usually assigned the rank of order within the class of mammals. Depending on scientific opinion, there are 25 to 30 of these orders of mammals. Rodents comprise one of these orders, to which muroids and several other groups of mammals belong.

Bats, meanwhile, are typical representatives of the order of flying mammals. Their scientific name is Chiroptera, from the Greek words chiros (hand) and pteros (wings). Chiroptera, then, means "hand-flier," which is a fitting name for bats and their closest relatives, flying foxes.

The systematic placement of the shrew, or spitzmaus, is determined in much the same way. They, too, fail to possess the mouse characteristics in question, although they do share traits with moles and hedgehogs, as well as with the solenodon (meaning "slotted tooth"), which is a venomous critter native exclusively to the Caribbean islands. They are now situated under the wondrous designation Eulipotyphla, but only since 1999. How they are related—along with ties to an array of other mammal families, such as tenrecs, desmans, and golden moles—has not been conclusively explained.

Experts have known for a long time—since Linnaeus's Systema Naturae at the latest—that neither bats nor shrews are related to mice, to which common parlance pays no heed. The fledermaus and spitzmaus comfortably maintain their spots in the lexicon.


One of the first mammal biologists to campaign for the standardization of German mammal names was Hermann Pohle. Born in Berlin in 1892, Pohle remained faithful to the city until his death and spent a large part of his life working at the natural history museum there. His career as a mammal biologist started early, when as a university student he worked as an unpaid hireling in the museum's famed mammal collection. Through diligence, endurance, and scientific acumen, he worked his way up to head curator of mammals. He thus held one of the most influential positions, of both national and international significance, in the field of systematic mammal research.

In 1926, Pohle—along with Ludwig Heck, the former director of the Berlin Zoo, and a number of other colleagues—founded the German Society for Mammalogy, of which he was the first head. Pohle thus had his finger on the pulse of mammal research, as it were, and he followed the history of the society over the next five decades "with keen interest," as one biographer noted.

In addition to his work as a researcher and curator of the mammal collection at Berlin's Museum für Naturkunde (Museum of Natural History), Pohle's interests also lay with German mammal names. Not only did he push for standardization of names, Pohle also campaigned to have existing names assessed for scientific plausibility and changed, should they not pass (his) zoological muster.

In 1942, Pohle published a summary article addressing the question, "How many species of mammals live in Germany?" He appended a comprehensive list of all German mammals, each with its correct "technical name," as Pohle called it, as well as its corresponding German name. When it came to the various species of spitzmaus (of which the Germans have eight, incidentally, despite the long-standing impression that there is "the" one and only shrew) and the 16 species of bats that have the base word "fledermaus" in their name, Pohle consistently uses alternative terms. The eight shrew species thus became waldspitzer, zwergspitzer, alpenspitzer, wasserspitzer, mittelspitzer, feldspitzer, gartenspitzer, and hausspitzer. For the bats, the base of their compound name was changed to fleder: teichfleder, langfußfleder, wasserfleder, and so on, all the way to a term of particular elegance, wimperfleder.

Pohle's article, which predates the society's 15th General Assembly and Hitler's emotional veto by more than a year, is a particularly interesting source because he also shares his actual motivations for the suggested changes. His emphatic objective is to see "the term 'Maus' disappear, responsible as it is for laypersons' wont to lump the animals together with actual mice."

In the estimation of these laypersons, mice are something "ugly and destructive that must be fought, or ideally exterminated." Shrews and bats, harmless as they are to humans, are thus subject to the same brutal fate. Pohle hopes for a "shift in perspective" to occur, once the endangered animals are no longer referred to as mice.

What to do, then? Pohle would prefer the term spitz for spitzmaus, but it's already been assigned to a dog breed. Rüssler could also work, only it already applies to some other insectivore. That leaves spitzer, a name that emphasizes the pointy head as a distinguishing characteristic and is still available.

Pohle wants a name for bats without "maus" but happily with a nod to the animals' flying ability. Most names of this kind are already employed for birds, and "flatterer" or "flutterer" could only logically be used for a certain population of bats, namely, those bad at flying. "Flieger" or "flyer," another hot candidate, is also in use by various other animal groups.

But why, Pohle asks the reader, would one even need to say "fledermaus," when "fleder" actually makes perfect sense? Pohle mentions that the original meaning of "fleder" was different, but few people were aware of this fact anymore.

On the off chance that he was correct in this assessment, let it be noted that fledermaus can be traced back to the 10th century, to the Old High German "vledern" or "flattern" (the infinitive form of "flatterer"). The image of the bat as a "fluttering mouse" has existed since this time in many languages, including "flittermouse" in English. A number of other German terms exist for bats. In some regions of Germany, such as Rhineland-Palatinate and Southern Hesse, the Old High German "fledarmus" is said to have been used to describe nocturnal creatures, such as moths. There, bats were apparently called "speckmaus," instead of fledermaus, because while hibernating, they could be seen hanging like pieces of bacon (speck) in the smoke.

Pohle's dedication to promoting the protection of bats and shrews through a bold name change reached its temporary culmination a year later, when—at the 15th General Assembly of the German Society for Mammalogy in Berlin—a resolution was passed on a universal and binding adoption of the spitzer- and fleder-based names Pohle had suggested. The results are known: Hitler was not amused.


We can only guess at what Hitler's actual motive was in issuing such drastic threats to prevent the name alterations proposed by the German Society for Mammalogy. It could have been his outrage that in 1942—hard times because of the war—leading German intellectuals were concerned with something so unimportant and banal as the appropriateness of animal names. Perhaps this anecdote is just a further example of Hitler's hostility toward intellectuals.

It is ultimately unclear, even, to what extent Hitler was the driving force behind this directive or whether this is a case of subordinates "working towards the Führer," as historian Ian Kershaw describes it. Conceivably, after reading the Berliner Morgenpost, Hitler may have remarked negatively regarding the zoologists' plans. His circle—in this case, Bormann—may have immediately interpreted this as "the Führer's will" and sprung to action accordingly. As for Pohle and his colleagues, it can't have mattered much whether the "invitation" to the Eastern Front came directly from Hitler or was communicated in an act of premature obedience.

Whatever the case may be, Pohle's suggested name changes did not fail because of Hitler's intervention, which presumably resonated as little with the German-speaking public as the original notice. Pohle failed because he wanted to take the basic idea of a standardized naming system out of the scientific context and transfer it into the realm of vernacular. Everyday German is not formally and officially regulated, and like every other vernacular, it follows different rules than scientific speech. It is shaped by a multitude of factors and influences that have their own unpredictable dynamic, which leads to some word usages changing while others stabilize.

In kindergarten, we learn that small, furry four-legged animals with a tail are "mice." This act of naming fulfills the exact function expected of it. It "tags" specific linguistic content—a meaning—that is generally understood. The difference between muroids and insectivores, which is important to zoologists, has no application in everyday confrontations with "mouse-like" animals and makes no difference to most people. A mouse is a mouse, whether a striped field mouse or a shrew.


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