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….