A Far-Side Cartoon led to the naming of the Stegosaurus’s tail.

If I was someone who actually posted on Reddit.com as opposed to just skimming the front page every so often, I may have posted this under the TIL section and I dare say it would get a few upvotes. Hell for all I know this has already been discussed there, whatever…it’s new to me.

I grew up reading and laughing at Gary Larson’s The Far Side comic. I didn’t know until yesterday just how influential a joke can be.

According to Wikipedia:

thagomizer is the distinctive arrangement of four to ten spikes on the tails of stegosaurid dinosaurs. These spikes are believed to have been a defensive measure against predators.[1]

The arrangement of spikes originally had no distinct name; the term Thagomizer was coined in 1982 by cartoonist Gary Larson in his comic The Far Side, and thereafter became gradually adopted as an informal term within scientific circles, research, and education.


The term “thagomizer” was coined by Gary Larson in jest, in a 1982 The Far Side comic in which a group of cavemen in a faux-modern lecture hall are taught by their caveman professor that the spikes on a stegosaur’s tail are so named “after the late Thag Simmons”.

The term was picked up initially by Ken Carpenter, a paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, who used the term when describing a fossil at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting in 1993.[9] Thagomizer has since been adopted as an informal anatomical term,[10] and is used by the Smithsonian Institution,[9][dead link][11] the Dinosaur National Monument, the book The Complete Dinosaur[12] and the BBC documentary series Planet Dinosaur.[13]

The cartoon fate of Thag Simmons notwithstanding, stegosaurs and humans did not exist in the same era; humans evolved around 60 million years after the event that killed all non-avian dinosaurs, and some 120 million years after stegosaurids went extinct. In The Prehistory of the Far Side, Gary Larson suggests that “there should be cartoon confessionals where we could go and say things like, ‘Father, I have sinned – I have drawn dinosaurs and hominids together in the same cartoon.'”[14]

Thag Simmons might be the most METAL name I’ve ever heard, and this is one of the better “word-origin” stories I’ve heard in a long while. Are there anymore unnamed dinosaur parts?

Screen Shot 2018-07-30 at 6.16.04 PM

I’d like to give a dino part a name, how about those things that flair out from the Dilophosaurus before it spits it’s venom and eats Dennis Nedry? I want to name those Dodgsons. After this Classic Scene….

Hope you enjoyed today’s TIL – ATRAIN OUT!

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