Sunday, February 13, 2005

It's interesting to note a general resistance to the word "copulating"

2/13/05 – Yesterday I sent off the following note to John Blakeman:

Dear John,

It's interesting to note a general resistance to the word "copulating" .

Everybody now says eyasses, as per John Blakeman, but I see that your instructions to drop the use of the word "mating" for the avian sex act are being universally ignored. I myself feel a reluctance to use the "c" word. I notice Lincoln's website today uses "mating" and just generally -- that's what people seem to be solidly hooked on. Wonder why, in this particularly case? All the hawkwatchers are very eager to learn, and want to be more scientific. Yet none of us seem to be able to make this simple change.

Must be something deep in the mammalian brain...


That evening, Blakeman responded:

I, too, noticed the acceptance use of the word "eyass" in reference to hawk babies. Very good. But I also noticed the nearly universal rejection of "copulation" when referring to the avian sex act.

This is unfortunate, as both mating and copulating are very significant but different events in the lives of these birds. Properly, to "mate" is to form a pair bond, to allow another member of the same species to occupy the same, shared territory, etc. Mating involves a host of behaviors and environmental conditions, etc. Copulating, however, is quite straightforward. It's the avian sex act, period. Copulation will not occur unless mating has previously occurred. Copulation is a consequence of the social act of mating.

Some might cringe at the utterance of "copulation," as is sounds a bit coarse or raw. "Mating" is nicely euphemistic, but very inaccurate. Mated hawks copulate. They don't mate. That happened long before they could possibly copulate.

We can be honestly frank here. Let's get it right, for the record. If Pale Male loses Lola, he will first mate with a new female, forming a new pair bond. Later, the pair will then copulate.


John A. Blakeman