I’m annoyed…

Ok. Here’s another popular culture version of prehistory, this one the movie 10K BC. With trepedation, I checked out the NYTimes review and immediately a word I’d never seen before jumped out at me. Was this an archaeology term I’d missed (and how?)? Or popular culture I’d missed—maybe a insurance commercial or two?

Ah, Google informed me—the latter. A.O. Scott’s word snuffleupagus is a lower-case corruption of the name of a character on Sesame Street, Aloysius Snuffleupagus—a superhuman sized puppet that looks something like a tuskless mammoth/mastodon.

And, yet, Scott uses the word as if it is a synonym for mammoth/mastodon, or as if it is a real species term:

…the Yagahl, a tribe of snuffleupagus hunters…


…the big, climactic fight, complete with an epic snuffleupagus rampage…

FYI NYT and A.O. Scott: mammoth≠mastodon≠ snuffleupagus (or even Snuffleupagus).

Note: this etymological snafu bothered me so much I was distracted from the other prehistoric misinformation I’m sure the movie dispenses….


  1. jcb says:

    We former PBS people know him by the affectionate name “Snuffy.” I didn’t realize until I read your Wikipedia link that they had transitioned him from semi-imaginary friend to more “real” critter—and why they made that change.

    My favorite thing about him…he always referred to “Big Bird” as simply “Bird.”

  2. Pooh says:

    Just watching the teasers on TV had me grumbling to Dan that I didn’t think there were civilizations in 10,000 BC that had gotten to the huge walled city state, especially not the ones that were hunting large mammals with spears.

    He went googling to wikipedia. I hadn’t made the effort to back up my argument with facts — what fun is that? However, I will yield to your expertise.

  3. Sammy says:

    Yes, no walled city states in 10K BC, even if you count Atlantis.

  4. Maureen says:

    I’m more annoyed that I have to spend the next few years unteaching this claptrap out of freshmen who think that’s prehistory. I envision many baaaad papers trying to prove this was true.