Who’s eating who?

The cartilaginous fish, the stingray, is not an aggressive creature.

Tell that to Steve Irwin the self-styled Crocodile hunter. It’s just over four years ago that the over-confident wildlife expert was speared in the chest by a stingray barb, killing him. Irwin exhibited all the negative characteristics of your chummy Australian: porky, cocksure, idiotic gestures. He was colourless, humourless and ultimately reckless.

Just as Steve Wright in the Afternoon begat the transforming of DJ’s from spinners into all-round irritating personalities, Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter, spawned many copycat followers. The wildlife expert was now an adventurer. Suddenly it wasn’t enough to show nature in the raw, there had to be interaction. Irwin would get up close and personal with his favoured reptile inviting them to have a bite. This was what the TV executives craved. Exciting, reality television with dangerous animals; peril sells.

Poor Irwin isn’t even top of the most famous list of baby-danglers. His self-seeking publicity stunt of precariously holding his one month old baby near the jaws of a crocodile backfired on him. His irresponsible action while landing him in trouble still wasn’t as controversial as Michael Jackson’s baby juggling over a balcony in Berlin.

Contrast Irwin’s in your face approach to the whispering, almost invisible, humble style of television programming of Sir David Frederick Attenborough. The respected British naturalist’s love for nature shines through in every broadcast. He is a neutral observer, never interfering and his knowledge is more informative than “Crikey! Look at the size of those teeth!”

Monitoring the activities of the species and the planet, in the great circle of life, Attenborough plays the part of Uatu, The Watcher. Irwin thought he was Galactus. In the end though, the world devoured Irwin.

37 thoughts on “Who’s eating who?”

  1. I couldn’t agree more – and Irwin’s American wife is even worse…

    I don’t know all the details, but as I understand it Steve’s father, Bob, founded the Australia zoo which was more or less taken over by Steve. Bob was forced to resign by the said wife after Steve’s death.

    It would appear that the zoo is facing problems.

    Couldn’t happen to a nicer woman…

    I’m appalled that part of a main highway in Queensland has been named after this idiot.

    The only thing I might disagree with is that he was a ‘chummy Australian’ …

    I won’t express my opinion of the man because what I want to say would offend just about everyone on this site…


  2. You are absolutely right, JW. A right prat.
    And the zoo’s going broke since his American wife threw his rather pleasant dad out.
    David any day! 🙂

  3. I agree too, though speaking with some Oz friends I have the impression that Irwin was highly regarded and respected for his approach. Seems odd.

    This is a great clip. Thank you

  4. Boadicea/Bearsy, I didn’t know where you stood Irwin-wise so this was a risky one. What with all those negative Aussie inferences. 🙂

    Thanks for tidying up the HTML. I tried to hyperlink Steve Wright and The Watcher but they’re not really interesting subjects so it doesn’t matter.

  5. Ha. When I read the post, I thought, my goodness, you are brave. I am glad for your sake that the the Antipodean Charioteers share your sentiments.

    I recall when I first came across Steve, before he hit the headlines, I thought that he made a refreshing change from the rest of the wildlife presenters. But then his shows became progressively OTT and the ‘crikeys, what a beaut’ got a bit tedious. Of course there was always a tiny little bit of prejudice against him on my part when he presumed to come to Africa to tell the world about this continent’s fauna. Heck, what did he know that our fundis did not?

    I suppose the ultimate test of whether he was worth it, though, is whether he has created a love of nature amongst those who do not have the temperament for the more soporific style of David Attenborough

  6. Pseu #4- I thought you crikey people were friends. 🙂

    Sipu #6- First paragraph. Well, you gotta live dangerously sometimes.

    Sipu #7- You could be right you know. In my defence there is an Aretha Franklin song called “Who’s zoomin’ who?” so there is a bit of precedence out there.

  7. JW – and Sipu

    This wasn’t ‘a risky on’e at all! I do wish people would understand that there isn’t a ‘party’ line to follow…

  8. Yes, Irwin was always a right prat. It didn’t surprise me in the least that he had died. One can only provoke crocodiles, sharks, and Australian jelly fish for so long before something unpleasant happens. Ironically, it was a generally passive, docile creature that did him in for no other reason that a physical reaction to how he had handled it. The fuss over hid death was too much. As I recall, Australia even issued stamps commemorating his life.

    Royalist: although my English is hardly perfect, you made a mistake in your title. Who’s eating whom. It’s one of my main pet peeves.

  9. This was one of those events that, when I read the headline, gave me a right good chuckle. A small human tragedy or not, it struck me as another right prat getting an entirely appropriate come- uppance. I has exactly the same reaction to the news that Jim Fixx suffered a heart attack while put jogging :- D

  10. Boadicea :

    JW – and Sipu

    This wasn’t ‘a risky on’e at all! I do wish people would understand that there isn’t a ‘party’ line to follow…

    Sorry Boadicea, it is just that sometimes Bearsy comes across a tad jingoistic and though it is all a reflection of his sense of humour, occasionally it is taken at face value by some of us. I only included you so as not to appear divisive.

  11. Good post, JW.

    Couldn’t stand the man. Now, David Attenborough has long been my hero, although I was a tad disappointed to hear he didn’t like rats. However, no-one is perfect.

    I heard a nasty story about Steve Irvin chucking his pig dogs out of his ute, at speed, for a ‘fake’ action shot on location. Don’t know if it’s true, but I wouldn’t put it past him.

  12. “you made a mistake in your title. Who’s eating whom. It’s one of my main pet peeves.”

    Pet peeve it may be, Christopher, but it is common parlance and generally accepted, though not grammatically correct….

  13. Super post, JW.

    I really enjoyed the Polar Bear clip and I am very much in favour of the Attenborough approach, and not too keen on the Irwin method. Idiotic posturing, in my opinion, and he got it wrong.

    With regard to the title, tricky I think. ” Who’s who” for example is fairly common usage, and they should know! But on the other hand?

  14. The difference between “who” and “whom” always causes problems. The word “whom” is always the accusative case, the object of a transitive verb, or used after a preposition. The verb “to be” never has an object of course, so “who is who” is correct.

  15. Take the linguist’s approach –

    “Who’s eating whom” may be grammatically correct in historical English, but it’s not what English speakers say in 2011. So it’s wrong!

    Or the poet’s approach –

    “”Who’s eating who” plays a pretty sound pattern, whereas “whom” destroys the essential counterpoint.”

    Or Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s approach –

    “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’


  16. Sheona – there is considerable contemporary argument about the correctness of the verb “to be” not taking an object.

    “It is I” or “It’s me”?

    Anyway, ‘eating’ is a transitive verb in this context and does take an object.

    I was researching this just the other day. 🙂

  17. “Whom” is still used in 2011 English, believe it or not, Bearsy. It is still grammatically correct. The verb “to be” usually has a complement. “It” and “I/me” refer to the same thing. “I am a cherished author” – both the subject and complement are the same. I was referring to Araminta’s “Who’s who” not the “eating”.

  18. In this context, Bearsy, I would think that the dative case is not relevant: well not with respect to the English language anyway.

    Well, I can’t see it is, but please elucidate.

  19. Oh dear.

    My #18 was intended to be humorous, not serious. Of course ‘whom’ is still in use – I use it myself.

    My #20 is serious. There is learned dispute about the appropriateness of the verb ‘to be’ taking a complement. “It is he” is grammatically correct according to those rules, but you will find that “It is him” is used by everyone and his dog.

    Wrt #21 – Dative and ablative both take -m. “To whom” and “By whom” are the correct forms.

  20. Oh, OK, I think I’ve got it, but eating by or to?

    I’m now very confused, but that’s fairly normal, so I will retire. I’ll check back tomorrow, because I’m interested. 🙂

  21. Oops, I fear I’m now so confused I can’t tell the difference between the active and the passive, so it’s getting worse. 😦

    Goodnight all.

  22. I was only using Latin grammatical terms because Sheona used ‘the accusative’. In English terms, “who” is subjective, “whom” is objective (and, as Sheona rightly observed, that’s what prepositions [which are now sometimes called something else] take, and “whose” is the possessive.

    “Who has been eaten by whom?” is the correct passive construction, which employs the ablative phrase ‘by whom’, which is formed by a preposition followed by the objective case.

    Tee hee! 😆

  23. Oh my. My English is absolute rubbish, innit? The problem is that my German’s even worse. Perhaps I should join a strict observance order of Trappists? Nah, I like talking too much. Never mind…

  24. While the verb, to be, never has an object, the use of subject or object depends on what is implied.

    It all depends on what is missing.
    Is it me ………you are looking for? (‘it’ is the subject of the verb ‘to be’. ‘Me’ is the object (or dative) of the verb ‘to look’)

    Is it I ………who will be going with you? (Again, ‘it’ is the subject of the verb ‘to be’. I is the subject of the verb ‘to go’.)

    Who is making the noise?
    It is he!

    Whom are you going to marry?
    It is her.

    Poetic licence aside, normal rules of grammar apply! Colloquialisms should not be encouraged in the written form.

    Think of the Little Red Hen.
    Once upon a time there was a little red hen who lived in a big farm-yard.
    She had three fluffy yellow chicks.
    One morning as they were busily scratching about the yard, looking for something to eat, the little red hen found a grain of wheat.

    “Look!” she said.
    “See what I have found. Who will help me to plant this grain of wheat?”

    “Not I,” said the duck. “I must go down to the pond for a swim.”
    “Not I,” said the cat. “I have some visitors coming in a few minutes.”

    “Very well, I will then”, said the little red hen, and she did.

    Imagine if the duck and cat had said, ‘not me!’ It would not sound right.

    If those who have a sound knowledge of grammar do not correct those who do not, then standards will fall. The consequences of that are that English as we know it will cease to be relevant. Multiple dialects will emerge and society will collapse like the Tower of Babel. – He said portentously.

    Here is another version of Gresham’s law: ‘Bad grammar drives out good!’
    (See my comment on Janus’s post ‘Stop the World’.)

  25. If those who have a sound knowledge of grammar do not correct those who do not, then standards will fall. The consequences of that are that English as we know it will cease to be relevant. Multiple dialects will emerge and society will collapse like the Tower of Babel.

    Nope! It’s far more complicated (and interesting) than that. 🙂

    I’m not going to challenge any of your assertions or examples, except to ask you to consider the following, very specifically selected case –

    “Who was making that noise?” “It was her”.

    You will never hear, or read, “It was she”, which grates on all English speakers. Nicht wahr?

    But to turn to the main point. There are already many dialects of English recognised by those who deal with such things. Some only vary in word choice, while others have grammatical distinctions. Some are fully mutually comprehensible, whilst others are not.

    Language is not fixed. It grows and changes, sometimes quite quickly. What is ungrammatical one day may be considered to be refined speech a decade later. No amount of protesting by those who would adhere to the old form is going to affect those who naturally speak the new.

    Yes, it is preferable to use today’s accepted grammar. The Chariot deprecates bad grammar, bad punctuation and poor spelling – as you know. But even here we recognise that blog English is not as formal as other written English, it is far closer to spoken English where some grammatical rules are regularly broken. It is quite noticeable that when Charioteers write long serious posts on a non-trivial subject, their English usually moves closer to ‘good’ written English.

    But rigid adherence to out-of-date structures is pointless, particularly when the old rules were established on false principles – such as the stricture against splitting infinitives, a furphy if ever there was one.


    PS – Christopher, your English is fine, even excellent.

  26. Sorry to be picky, Bearsy, but “nicht war” = “was not”. I expect you mean “nicht wahr”. I think it’s the beginning of a new school year that gets my red pen out, figuratively!

  27. Bearsy, I agree with most of what you say, though I am not convinced by your assertion, “You will never hear, or read, “It was she””. However, it is not worth pursuing that particular line.

    An engineer such as you, will appreciate more than most the significance of grammar and punctuation in determining the meaning of a sentence. Just as a misplaced decimal point can have disastrous consequences for an engineering project, so a misplaced comma can vastly alter the intention of the writer. I submit that even though a language evolves, it is important to ensure that rules the govern it are logical and consistent.

  28. Sheona – yes, of course that’s what I meant. I shall take 5 demerits and stand in the corner. Bad Bear. 😳

    Sipu – Of course it is – agree entirely. But them there rules are a function of t. 🙂

  29. Sipu – just to continue for the fun of it, I will concede that if extra words are allowed, you might possibly read (but not hear) “It was she who did it”. But far more likely to find the pronoun repeated, “It was her; she did it.”

    One cannot escape the fact that the English template built into our wetware considers that all transitive English verbs take the objective case. Pundits may argue ad nauseam that the verb ‘to be’ should logically take a subjective complement, but the template will take control unless you consciously fight against it.

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