“These are javalina,” pointed out the zoo tour guide. “Tayassu tajacu, the collared peccary.”
“Pig family,” I commented, in an effort to dazzle the sixth-graders on the tour.
“No,” stated the guide. “A common mistake made by the ill-informed unknowledgeable ranger groupies who cover up their ignorance of the species with self-important and completely wrong pompous pontifications.”
“Well, they look like a pig,” I said defensively.
“Only to amateur wildlife wannabes.” he said with a sneer.
“OK, Bambi Buns,” I challenged, “describe a javalina to me without using the word pig, pork, snout, oink, grunt, root, swine, University of Arkansas, boar blunt or BLT!”
I said, “Kids, what does this javalina look like?”
“A pig!” they shouted in unison. I rested my case.
Several years ago a folklorist type wanted to include some of my writings in a book he was publishing. “You like the poems or the stories?” I asked.
“Those written in rhyming verse,” he said.
“The poems, then,” I clarified.
“Well, officially they are rhyming verse,” he explained.
“You mean if it rhymes it’s not a poem, but if it doesn’t rhyme, it is a poem?” I asked.
“Let me read you the definition from Webster’s,” he offered. “Poem: A composition in verse, characterized by imagination and poetic diction — marked by elevation or beauty.”
“So,” I said, “Longfellow, John Milton, Robert Burns, Frost, Poe, Robert Service, Banjo Patterson and Wallace McRae didn’t write poetry?”
“Only if it didn’t rhyme,” he said.
“I believe the world is leaving you behind,” I said with some compassion, “The practicality of your definition went out with the flat-earth theory. Ask any 3-year-old kid what a poem is. It rhymes, silly!”
We have redefined our language through the ages, to suit ourselves, our fads and ideas of political correctness. A coach used to haul Cinderella; now he’s her personal trainer. For a hoarse whisperer we’d always recommend voice rest. Elvis was an icon. Lego is what you’d hollered when someone grabbed you. My idea of reality programming was Clark Kent. Riding bulls was an extreme sport, not riding bicycles. Rap was how we sent our packages.
In conclusion, javalina will always be described as pig-like, poetry as something that rhymes and the die-hards will have to adjust. After all, a punk used to be a piece of burning cow manure we lit our firecrackers with and a cell phone indicated special privileges in prison.
Baxter Black is a self-described cowboy poet, ex-veterinarian and sorry team roper. He can be contacted at 1-800-654-2550 or by e-mail at: