Thursday, December 29, 2005

Arg! Bugs everywhere!

One of my relatives got a taxonomic nightmare for a present: a bug vacuum. Considering that I had just written about problems surrounding use of the word "bug" (see this post), I had to get a picture of the packaging:

Front of bug vacuum box Back of bug vacuum box
"Bug" everywhere, yet not a bug to be found

The primary problem with this product's name is that users will most likely not be using it to catch bugs: they'll instead be using it to catch arthropods. Since bugs are a specific type of insect, I was at least hoping that the box would have pictures of insects being caught. But no, the box is adorned with three pictures of spiders (which look suspiciously like plastic toy spiders) being "caught" by the device. So not only does Sharper Image not have a single bug on the packaging, but they don't even have an insect. Sigh.

Since the "bug" vacuum was a hit with the present-opening crowd, I couldn't pass up an opportunity to educate a few folks about the taxonomic errors of the packaging. I received mostly sighs, rolled eyes, and desperate attempts to change the subject (as usual), but the best response came from my 12-year-old cousin: "Okay. Whatever." Not more than 15 minutes later, however, she was aggressively correcting everyone else on their use of taxonomic terms; it was a glorious end to the evening.

I will say that this vacuum does have one good characteristic: unlike many "bug" vacuums that are designed to kill their prey, this vacuum is designed to keep whatever it catches alive, so it can be observed and released (though how this is different from a cup and stiff piece of paper is rather beyond me).

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