The Unicorn / The Rhinoceros

Umberto Eco, in Serendipities: Language & Lunacy, has a wonderful story about Marco Polo in China. At the time, there was still an assumption that the unicorn must exist, somewhere. So, when Marco Polo saw a single-horned animal, he wrote to his friends that he hadn't expected the unicorn to have such large, thick legs, such unwieldy weight and clumsiness, and such a hard, hairy body:

"They're scarcely smaller than elephants. They have the hair of a buffalo and feet like an elephant's. They have a single large black horn in the middle of the forehead... They have a head like a wild boar's… They spend their time by preference wallowing in mud and slime. They are very ugly brutes to look at. They are not at all such as we describe them when we relate that they let themselves be captured by virgins, but clean contrary to our notions."

In fact, what Marco Polo had seen was not a unicorn, but a rhinoceros.

Not sure why I am telling this story, but it is illustrative of a lot of things. Some of those things are the wonderful ways in which something can be badly misinterpreted, if you carry preconceived assumptions along with you on your journey in life.

That preamble, whilst entertaining, and potentially undermining of the next phrase in this sentence, is here to point out to you that the NetBeans Team is engaged in gathering (and interpreting!) your opinions & thoughts on NetBeans IDE (7.0 or 7.0.1) and your input is badly needed. If you haven't yet spent the 3 to 5 minutes required for this short process, please spend it now, since this is one very simple & effective way in which you can impact the direction of NetBeans IDE:


Unicorn is in fact the scientific name for a single horned rhinoceros. Use this old webster's dictionary from 1828 and type in the word rhinoceros.

This is why the old King James version of the bible also uses the word unicorn to refer to a rhinoceros with one horn.

Posted by guest on March 20, 2015 at 06:39 PM PDT #

Post a Comment:
  • HTML Syntax: NOT allowed

Geertjan Wielenga (@geertjanw) is a Principal Product Manager in the Oracle Developer Tools group living & working in Amsterdam. He is a Java technology enthusiast, evangelist, trainer, speaker, and writer. He blogs here daily.

The focus of this blog is mostly on NetBeans (a development tool primarily for Java programmers), with an occasional reference to NetBeans, and sometimes diverging to topics relating to NetBeans. And then there are days when NetBeans is mentioned, just for a change.


« July 2016