This past Tuesday night I was mopping the floor, and the cats were charging around chasing the mop. Something about the way they were moving made my wife say, “Don’t you think they look like slugs?” Actually, she said that mostly in Chinese — “牠們很像 slugs, 你不覺得嗎?” — but with slugs in English, since the corresponding Chinese word (蛞蝓) is rather obscure.
I didn’t quite see it. “Slugs? But slugs are slow.”
“Well, they look like fast slugs.”
She went on to mention their slug-like appearance three or four more times that night and the next morning.
The afternoon after this, I was tutoring one of my students, who has been practicing his English reading comprehension with a simplified version of Treasure Island. I don’t have a copy of the book, but he brings it to our classes with him and we begin each session by talking about the chapter he has just read. This time, I asked him how far he had gotten in the book, and he opened up to chapter 18 — the second paragraph of which reads as follows:
I could not paddle and I saw that I would be drowned or dashed to death on sharp rocks if I came closer to shore. And I saw what looked like giant slugs on the rocks. These, I later learned, were sea lions, barking in the sun.
So that’s twice in less than 24 hours that I encountered carnivorous mammals being rather improbably compared to slugs — and although sea lions are biologically caniform, linguistically they are lions, a kind of cat.