My plans to retrace Captain Cook's unfinished voyage have been postponed a year while I work on the next Marine Diesel Basics book and get my new boat SV Oceandrifter ready for sea.
Staying with friends at their cottage by the lake north of Toronto last weekend, we were all amused at dinner by a story published in National Geographic in October 1978 about Koko, a gorilla who is said to understand 2000 words of spoken English.
I laughed so hard I thought Koko’s conversation worth repeating. She’s intelligent, playful, witty and assertive through her language. TV comedy writers should take note of this argument between Koko and one of her attendants as reported by Francine Patterson:“The dispute began when Koko was shown a poster of herself that had been used during a fund-raising benefit. Manipulating hands and fingers. Cathy (the attendant) had asked Koko, “What’s this?”
“Gorilla,” signed Koko.
“Whu gorilla?” asked Cathy.
“Bird,” responded a bratty Koko, and things went downhill from there.
“You bird?” asked Cathy.
“You,” countered Koko.
“Not me, you are bird,” rejoined Cathy, mindful that “bird” can be an insult in Koko’s lexicon.
“Me gorilla,” asserted Koko.
“Whu bird?” asked Cathy.
“You nut,” replied Koko, resorting to another of her insults. (For Koko, ‘bird’ and ‘nut’ switch from descriptive to pejorative by changing the position in which the sign is made.”
“Why me nut?” asked Cathy.
“Nut, nut,” signed Koko.
“You not, not me, ” Cathy replied.
Finally Koko gave up. Plaintively she signed, “Damn me good,” and walked away signing, “Bad”.
Koko was born in 1971 and still lives at the San Francisco Zoo. Francine Patterson has written that Koko can understand about 1000 signedwords and about 2000 spoken words in English.
Koko was the subject of the 1978 documentary Koko: A Talking Gorilla, directed by Barbet Schroeder.
Learn more about Koko on wikipedia.