Thursday, November 17, 2011

If you think the way I do, you will inevitably end up super-rich. You'll see why. (Question Of The Day)

How happy are clams, really?

Not very, judging by that. And, yes, I know that Marcel is not a clam, unless he is, in which case, I'm right and you're wrong, but it doesn't matter anyway because seashells can't really talk, and I would know the difference also if I'd followed through on the very first career I ever planned to have -- oceanographer -- but I didn't which is why right now I'm sitting and wearing jeans and a t-shirt and typing on my blog while I wait to drive up to Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to take a deposition and then drive back home, meaning that 90% of my work day will consist of "driving and listening to podcasts," which isn't a bad life because while oceanographers get to be outside in the sun and surf, my worst occupational hazard is carpal tunnel syndrome while oceanographers' is sharks.

The other day, I tucked Mr F into his bin of blankets in his closet (long story)(actually not-- it's pretty self-explanatory) and said "There. Happy as a clam." That made me think two things:

1. Why didn't I go with snug as a bug in a rug? What's wrong with me? and
2. Why do we assume that clams are happy, or edible?

According to the site "The Phrase Finder," which ought to know, the expression "happy as a clam" comes from one of two sources: Either it's because clams look like they are smiling

I suppose, a little, but that could also be a clam being aghast

Or it could be a clam pirating the superfamous emoticon I invented, "Righteous Indignation":

You can see the similarities there, right? The point of that being, I'm going to have to sue clams for copyright infringement. *cracks knuckles, mutters 'let's do this thing'* .

Those people at that phrase site disregard the Smiling Clam idea and instead say that the expression actually comes from the phrase Happy as a clam at high tide, which is when clams are free from predators, they say, and they trace that expression back to 1844, which makes me wonder, then, why a clam? Why opt to talk about clams being happy because they're free from predators? Why wouldn't the expression be happy as fox when the hounds are asleep, which would be perfectly serviceable? Was it because we already assigned foxes slyness in the animal emotions world and all animals only get one emotion?

(E.g.: Dogs: friendly. Chickens: fearful. Pigs: lazy. Cows: inanimate. Wabbits: wascally.)

And, people who investigate phrases, maybe both versions are true: maybe people thought clams looked happy, and asked themselves why clams were so happy, and then decided that it was because of high tide, and the tide coming in made them happy. Who knows? They were very simplistic people back then, not all sophisticated like we are now.

Pioneers, as I've noted, were reputed to have hard lives, what with typhoid and small pox and Indian attacks and railroads, and... um... sod houses. Whatever. They were reputed to have hard lives but in reality they sat around reading magazines about kids being taught stuff by guys in an alley behind a hotel, and now we find out that they had nothing better to do than sit around and discuss the emotional lives of clams, which, it turns out, actually exist: Clams have emotional lives.

Provided, of course, that (a) you mean by "emotional lives" "having nerves" and (b) you are willing to take the word of a bunch of people on a chat room debating whether or not fish and clams have feelings. Everytime I feel as though maybe I'm not living such a productive life, what with the driving and podcasting and all, I remind myself that I didn't spend a bunch of time creating a web forum to debate whether clams have feelings.

(Of course, I did once ask a web forum to tell me what might go wrong with my eating a 100-day-old Twinkie, but the web forum did not respond; also not responding? Doctor and The Medics, who never answered my email asking that same question.)

The web forum answer about The Secret Lives Of Clams that I liked best was this demonstration of scientific rigor:

Clams do respond to stimuli, but that doesn't nessecarily mean that they can "feel" anything. You can build simple robots with good wiring that makes them respond to stimuli in a similar way to clams (having said that, i don't know if anyone's done a wiring diagram of a clam before, they might be more complex than i think - im no expert). I would expect that you'd need something a lot more complex than that, more like a brain, in order to have anything close to sentience (however, clams taste disgusting and are hardly an important part of a diet, so i like to use the excuse of being a vegetarian to just steer away from the things regardless!).

That is the single-most-helpful thing a scientist has done for me all day: declared that clams are disgusting. Now I have science backing me up, so everyone who believes that velociraptors actually existed also has to believe that clams are disgusting. Believe one, believe 'em all. That's my motto.

As always, though, with science, we have to go back to music to answer all the hard questions. So here's "Clams Have Feelings, Too" by NOFX:

A little thrashy for me. I like this better:

That's "Do The Clam" by Elvis Presley. That seems to me to not give a conclusive answer to the question, so I went for a tiebreaker by trying to find the classic song "Surf Clam" by The Mel-Tones. Only I couldn't find it, so I settled for "Kung Fu Saturdays" by that group:

From which I conclude that clams can do kung fu, and that we all probably should be afraid of them because, I also learned, clams can move:

And so it's probably not very much longer until we are all besieged by Happy Ninja Clams, which is the name of the cartoon series I am now going to pitch to the Disney Network and I will be a bajillionaire, which is a real number of dollars to have, and I'm going to have them. See you suckers later!

UPDATE: I realized why that sounds like a bajillion dollar idea: It's because there are already Ninja Turtles. But the pre-existing ninjas are not happy, and they are not bivalves. So, in a way, it's like my idea doesn't infringe on that idea at all. And if it makes you happy, I will change it to
Happy Kung-Fu Clams, which equally rips off the ninja turtles and Hong Kong Fooey, and if I know anything about the law, the rule is that if you rip off everybody equally, you've ripped off nobody. *crosses fingers, hopes nobody sues him for anything written in this post.*

(You can buy that Righteous Indignation t-shirt here


Grumpy Bulldog said...

I love clams, especially fried. Shrimp too. And salmon. One time I made shark nuggets by cutting up a couple of shark stakes, coating them in batter and then putting them in the fryer. Yummy.

Michael Offutt said...

Marcel the Shell with shoes on also has a bestselling book inspired by the video.