On classifications


Claire of The Captive Reader has written a great review of Naming Nature: the Clash between Instinct and Science by Carol Kaesuk Yoon. I have yet to read Yoon’s book, but Claire’s text made me think of a beautiful work by J. L. Borges called “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins”. Here Borges describes ‘a certain Chinese Encyclopedia,’ the Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, in which it is written that animals are divided into:

  1. those that belong to the Emperor,
  2. embalmed ones,
  3. those that are trained,
  4. suckling pigs,
  5. mermaids,
  6. fabulous ones,
  7. stray dogs,
  8. those included in the present classification,
  9. those that tremble as if they were mad,
  10. innumerable ones,
  11. those drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,
  12. others,
  13. those that have just broken a flower vase,
  14. those that from a long way off look like flies.
Rather odd & fascinating – isn’t it?!


2 Comments Add yours

  1. Dorothy W. says:

    I love that list. I should read some more Borges!

  2. aafke7 says:

    Perhaps you will like the absolute fascinating world of ‘Insectopedia’ from Hugh Raffles http://insectopedia.org/press.html

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