Ginger Factor

What we say to dogs

Okay, Ginger! I've had it! You stay out of the garbage! understand, Ginger? Stay out of the garbage, or else!

What they hear
blah blah GINGER blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah GINGER blah blah blah blah...

FarSide by GaryLarson, 1983

When what you are reading starts to sound like "blah blah blah blah blah" to you, due either to your inability to understand, or the writer's inability to be clear, then it has a high GingerFactor. When in doubt, blame the writer. Much such writing is like a cheap milk shake -- puffed up with air and thickeners to give the appearance of a delicious treat, but ultimately unsatisfying.

Wiki is cool because it gives the chance to annotate things which would normally have a very high GingerFactor.

Say the same thing to a cat, and they hear

blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah...

I have a cat who recognises his name ('Bramble'). He turns his head to look at me whenever I say it, but he ignores any other two-syllable word said in the same tone of voice.

And I have two cats that recognise their names, and certain words like "no", "down", "mine" (ie I'm not giving you any of my food), "out" (which one of them actually says to request that a door be opened), "get in the shade" (only said to the white one, who's prone to sunburn)... Of course, being cats, they treat everything as a suggestion, but they understand a lot. They recognise at least their names regardless of tone of voice, too.

Regarding the intelligence of animals, it helps to be aware of the CleverHansEffect?: -- The horse could do math, read multiple languages, etc. and give correct numeric answers by tapping hoof. (...but only when the horse could see the trainer, and the trainer knew the answer. ;-)

True, but also consider "Proof of Crow Intelligence" video at this site: (50 seconds) -- crow bends a stick to get food.

Two more minutes on smart ravens: -- crows pull up and step on a string, to get the food at the end of the string.

Or the (in)famous Alex (Avian Language/Learning EXperiment), who could understand and converse in a small but functional subset of English. He knew his name, many colors, the names of several fruits and nuts (which he would demand in exchange for good behavior), how to apologize (unknown whether he meant it), and the numbers zero through seven. He also often got bored and faked a weak form of the GingerFactor to mess with his handlers, e.g. naming every color he knew except the correct one, refusing to answer, demanding food, etc.

See: BlahBlahBlah, OnlySayThingsThatCanBeHeard


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