Sunday, January 25, 2009
May he never be reduced to snarge.
Snarge has to be my very favorite new vocabulary word ever, and it soon will be yours, too. Here are a few sentences demonstrating its usage:
1. If a Brown Thrasher flying at 20 MPH hits a Humvee traveling at 50 MPH, its innards will be reduced to snarge.
2. High-quality pate de foie de volaille is made from chicken livers, cream, cognac, and spices. However, low-quality versions contain mostly snarge.
2. Flight 1549 was forced into a water landing on the Hudson River after the plane's engines became clogged with snarge.
In the august words of the New York Times, snarge is defined as "pulverized bird guts."
Of course, the NYT didn't bring this up just to pander to the bored 5th graders in its readership. The term came up in their fascinating article on forensic ornithology—a very cool field I had no idea existed. Forensic ornithologists, among other things, analyze bird remains found after bird-plane collisions to identify the species and number of birds involved. (Identifying the species is important because this information can be used to prevent further accidents--fields near airstrips can be mowed to discourage geese from foraging, for instance.)
And obviously, identifying birds that have been sucked into a jet engine is a very different thing from identifying a living bird on the wing. Analysts typically have to make an ID with nothing more than a handful of feathers and, yes, snarge. Lots of snarge.
Apart from the yuck factor, forensic ornithology sounds like an amazing line of work: imagine getting to be Kenn Kaufman and Nancy Drew simultaneously! You get the mental challenge of solving mysteries while putting your birding knowledge into action. And you get to do something helpful and useful, with a certain geek-chic cachet.
Law & Order: Bird Identification Unit. I like the sound of that.