• Thomas A. Wilson

Rat Beaver

I recently learned something from an episode of Jeopardy!. Host Alex Trebek posed an answer concerning rodents of unusual size devastating southern marshlands. The correct question was, “What is nutria?” Nutria? Really? Sounds like a sweetener. You’d think somebody could come up with a better name for a two-foot long rodent. Originally from South America, the critter was imported into the US, and released into the wild, by furriers. The burrowing mammal is considered invasive, and some jurisdictions even offer a bounty for its pelt.

The scientific name for nutria is Myocastor coypus. Derived from two Greek words, Myocastor literally means rat beaver. Yep, after seeing a picture, I agree. It’s a rat beaver.

For some reason, that name makes me smile. Rat beaver.

Tom Carlson, of Boredom Therapy, recently posted an article suggesting more appropriate, and hilarious, names for animals. Here’s a partial list:

Llama: A Giraffe Sheep

Cobra: A Danger Noodle

Zebra: A Prison Pony

Seagull: A Sand Chicken

Killer Whale: A Panda Shark

Fox: A Forrest Corgi

Platypus: A Duck Puppy

I howled when I read Carlson’s article! Tom includes pictures which make the jokes funnier that my written recap, but even this short list makes me chuckle out loud. Words, names, have the power to elicit powerful emotions—laughter for sure, but also sorrow. For instance, here are some names that are a real buzzkill: Adolph Hitler, Charles Manson, Judas Iscariot, and Martin Shkreli.

Nobody with any sense names their kid Adolph Hitler Doe, or Charles Manson Smith, or Judas Iscariot Jones, or Martin Shkreli Miller. I know people are free to do what they want, and the news has a couple of stories where people did, in fact, pick infamous names for their children—but it isn’t helpful.

Texas, Montana, Florida, Oregon, and Michigan all have offenders in their correctional systems named Jesse James (after the notorious outlaw). There are probably more, but I quit looking after discovering five states. I didn’t find any inmates named Thomas Jefferson or Abraham Lincoln. I admit I didn’t look very hard, just a quick Google search (so, there probably are some), but my search for Jesse James produced immediate results! Get the point? Names matter.

And it works both ways. A name can influence the character of the namesake, and the bearer of the name can influence how the name is perceived. Have you ever disliked someone just because they had the same name as a difficult person from your past?

So, what does your name elicit? Mostly, the impact of your name will depend on emotional intelligence—how you make people feel.

Concerning intentional training in emotional intelligence, behavioral scientist Daniel Goleman said, “This has been trialed in over 100 schools and there was a reduction of anti-social behavior, an increase of pro-social behavior, and academic scores rose.” That’s a pretty good outcome for simply paying attention and not being a jerk.

Knowing the above is a good start. But knowing isn’t doing. I recently took a trip where I passed through a road construction zone. I was traveling at the very top of the allowed speed limit, and a line of cars formed about a hundred yards ahead. I hit the cruise control and looked forward to getting back to the 80 mph Montana speed limit that I love. I noticed a commercial truck behind me that seemed too close. Then the driver backed off. Then he tailgated again. Suddenly, the driver floored his accelerator and passed me on the right shoulder. I was startled and alarmed, gravel sprayed over the right side of my Camry as I hit the brakes. When I stopped to inspect, yep, the paint on the passenger side door was chipped all the way down to the primer. As fate would have it, I had just gotten my rig out of the body shop that very morning. After an unfortunate encounter with a suicidal deer, my car was sporting a brand-new paint job—which lasted less than six hours.

I called the trucking company, and they refused to do anything about my damage. Now, I don’t know the specific driver’s name, but Safety Care Trucking will always be a moniker representing hilarious hypocrisy to me! They weren’t safe and they didn’t care.

Authentic people not only know about emotional intelligence, they emotionally invest in proficiency, and they do something about what they know and feel.

Dr. Henry Cloud suggests that we all ask ourselves this question, “What’s it like to be on the other side of me?’ Good question.

So, how about it?


Behavior is a choice. It’s the result of cognitive processes; thinking drives behavior. Instead of being enslaved to negative or unhelpful mindsets, ethical men replace thinking patterns that are impediments to progress.

Affirmation of the Week: I quickly let go of mindsets that don’t help me toward my goals.

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