If your kids are as caught up in the present round of Pokemon madness as mine are, then Christmas will have been one big Poke-fest, as it was at our house. Pokemon cards, Pokemon books, Pokemon figures, Pokemon video games — Pokemon have secret powers of marketing. Fortunately, my irritation at all the poke-ness eased when I noticed that Pokemon are largely embellishments of real animals. The whole deal is just a taxonomy game, just like real scientists play, complete with elements of pedantry, obsessive-compulsiveness, and covetness for the rare and undiscovered.
Pokemon have species; all the many hundreds are classified into types, the types have patterns of relatedness; they even evolve! For instance, one of the cards that produced holiday joy in my kids was for a Pokemon called Dewgong. The name is a (no-doubt copyrightable) take off on Dugong (a name not copyrightable, except for by the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, and they don’t do licensing deals). A Dugong is an actual marine mammal so improbably comical that it SHOULD have been invented for a trading card. Dewgong is a water and ice type Pokemon that looks vaguely like a seal with a fish’s tail. A Dugong is a slow-moving, plant-eating aquatic animal related to the manatee, which looks a lot like Jimmy Durante would have if he’d been obese:
Photograph by OSF/D. Fleetham/Animals Animals—Earth Scenes
So the next time you are swearing softly to yourself because your offspring is nagging you for another palm-sized pack of Pokemon cards, just remember…. they could be collecting 8 foot long, half-ton mammals. Or bugs.