Ernest Inventory Article: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral


Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

Humanity’s aptitude for categorising is an intriguingly unique eccentricity far beyond the capabilities of this planet’s other inhabitants. One can recall the intimate Victorian quests for rare fauna and flora; an endeavour not only to uncover knowledge but to prove oneself against the mutability of the elements. However, our passion for taxonomy seems to be an intrinsic part of being human and may find its genesis in our first great sorting task, language. Owing to research begun by Murray Sidman, a comprehensive model of language called Relational Frame Theory (RFT) indicates that humans develop linguistic understanding through ‘framing’ the relationships between stimuli. Once framed, sets of stimuli can be combined, transferred, reversed and given a function to formulate meaning through a system of relations. To date, ‘RFT’ has identified nine types of ‘stimulus relation’ that allows us to symbolically codify our surroundings. The evolution of this innate response to life is at the heart of Animal Vegetable Mineral. Published by the Welcome Collection, the book undertakes a brief illustrated history of humanity’s journey to classify and frame the natural world, gleaning some important philosophical and cultural insights along the way. Animal Vegetable Mineral presents taxonomy as a ‘building block for understanding biological processes’, rather than an unfashionable branch of the sciences, returning the importance and joy to defining nature (despite its arbitrariness). Pictured below is a ‘Panoramic Plan of the Principal Rivers and Lakes’ of the world, which at once shows the tacit power two-dimensional renderings have to inform or obscure our understanding of the earth’s topography, whilst showing mankind’s ingenuity for depiction and demarcation. Although the book is unlike the popular game show of the 1950’s, it is subtly playful and a pleasantly brisk read for anyone gripped by the strangeness of history’s great organisers.      

Marsh, Bog, Swamp, Quagmire, Bayou


Renowned as a place of abject mystery, the foreboding arboreal boat snares we call ‘swamps’ are defined by their ability to support woody plants (such as mangroves or cypress trees) and are permanently saturated by water.


The smaller and more cumbersome relative of the swamp, the ‘marsh’, although very similar, is built up of none-woody plants and nutrient-rich soil that allows all manner of reeds and sedges to flourish.



Taking many centuries to form, these small patches of spongy freshwater wetland are characterised by the appearance of partially decayed plant matter called peat. They are also home to the illustrious British pastime Bog Snorkelling.



Traditionally known as ground that could not support a man’s weight, the term ‘quagmire’, or ‘mire’, encompasses both bogs and fens. Although similar, ‘fens’ are more nutrient-rich, less acidic and support a higher diversity of life.



Derived from the amalgamation of the Native American word for ‘small stream’ (‘Bayuk’) and 19th century French colonialism, a ‘bayou’ is a slow-moving swamp-like section of a river or lake that is filled with fresh water (or saltwater).


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