Wednesday 22 February 2023

In Praise of Gallus Gallus by Peter Lingard, a glass of eggnog

When I first met you I hoped we’d become friends.  Umm, this sautéed platypus is delicious.  Do you know platypi are so rare on earth that if I were caught eating one, I’d probably end up in gaol.  Having said that, ours only have one beak and one tail.  Still, this dish is good and these purple carrot-like things go well with it.  I know I’ve only been on this planet for a week but I’m homesick for my mother’s aji de gallina.  This makes up for it.  Thank you.  Speaking of my mother, she would have a difficult time accepting you at our dinner table.  Don’t take offense but your camouflage-patterned skin and opaque eyes would have her telling my father to grab his shotgun.  I suppose your mother would feel the same about me.  Your race’s bowling-ball heads with the green wattle on top containing your ears and personal radar units shocked me when I first arrived but I don’t think you’re too enthused by my hair and ears, are you?  As I already told you, you don’t need to talk to the sides of my head; I can hear you from anywhere in the room.  Really.

I like your planet with its bubbling water, purple grass and lime-green shrubs, although the pink windless night skies clash horribly with your orange-coloured trees.  Your thirteen blue moons would be a surprise to people on Earth.  We have an expression, once in a blue moon which indicates the scarcity of something.  We’d have to rethink that.  Your dappled dogs, feathered cats, yellow unicorns, multi-coloured cows and three-legged geese also surprised me.  I may have the wrong names for your flora and fauna but these are the names I use for similar looking plants and animals on earth.  I know your piebald ducks, or what I assume are ducks, are not chickens because Gallus gallus would never take to the water.  Back home, Gallus gallus is a very near and dear to just about everyone. 

Gallus gallus?  I wondered if you’d ask.  Gallus gallus is the scientific name for a fowl found on Earth and that people like me call a chicken. While the chicken is very useful to humans, its shit isn’t.  Hence the phrase ‘chickenshit’ which means useless or insignificant.  You have your piebald ducks here and, as I imagine duck shit is as useless as chicken shit.  Can I coin the phrase ‘duckshit’, or is it already in use?

Talking of ducks…do you play cricket?  I guess not, or we Australians would have sent our team here to defeat you.  Batsmen score runs in cricket.  Or not.  If one fails to score runs, one is said to be out for a duck, i e a duck means nothing and that would emphasise the phrase duckshit.  Can I take out a patent on that?  Whilst on sport, I am reminded of a major manufacturer of sportswear who use a rooster (a male chicken) as their motif and whose brand name is Coq D’Or.  If they opened an outlet here, their name would be useless.  You might say it’s a chickenshit name.  Unfortunately, Canard D’Or doesn’t work – or is that merely because I’m a stranger here.  Does Canard D’Or sound right to you?  You can be certain teams of highly paid lawyers and marketers will ponder on that for a long time.

The last I heard, someone estimated that there are more than seventeen billion chickens on earth.  Earthlings, or humans as we call ourselves, eat chicken in great quantities.  We are particularly fond of chicken eggs which are not unlike duck eggs.  We crack the shells, empty the raw egg into a pan with melted butter and fry it.  Then we put it on toast and eat it.  The yolk runs everywhere.  Sometimes we put the uncracked egg in water and boil it so it changes consistency and then eat it with strips of toast we call soldiers – well, some of us do.  As I said, we’re a strange people.

Speaking of eggs, there’s another expression I bring you from earth: goose egg.  If a rock hits your head and the wound takes the form of a lump, humans call it a goose egg.  This is not to be confused with goose bumps.  Do you know of these things?  It might be different here because your geese have three legs – though I’m not sure why that matters.  You probably think it strange our geese have only two legs but I imagine you’d think everything about our planet is strange.

Earthlings cook Gallus gallus meat with spices to make a dish called chicken curry.  Don’t ask.  We like chicken livers on toast and if that isn’t the sign of a degenerate society, I don’t know what is.  We make soups, broths and stock out of chicken.  One sect of people believes chicken is a miraculous health food.

I understand you love pork here.  On earth, people call pork ‘the other white meat’ but, without chicken, the saying is senseless – another kind of chickenshit.  Here, your pork is the only white meat.  Some back home enjoy eating frogs’ legs which, they say, tastes like chicken.  Are you partial to the odd leg now and then?  How do you describe the taste?  Is it like pork?

Do you know of a television program for children called The Muppets?  Perhaps not.  Perhaps it would be too difficult for the directors to explain Gonzo’s girlfriend, Henrietta.  She is a chicken.  Not a real one but a puppet.  Yes, a Muppet puppet.  Do you have puppets here, or is this piece of information too obscure?

Do you ask the quintessential question?  What came first?  The chicken or the egg?  Of course not!  Your chickens never arrived, let alone hatched.  (Have I just answered the question?)  Earthlings are keen on not counting said chickens before they hatch.  I suppose you could ask whether the duck or the egg came first and you could counsel others here not to count their ducks before they hatch but, to me, it doesn’t have the same ring.

I noticed you have movies here.  Have you ever heard of John Wayne?  He was an American actor much beloved by his countrymen.  American?  The United States of America is a large country on earth.  Citizens of the U S of A call themselves Americans and they think they rule the earth but…I digress.  John Wayne attained the highest acting honour when he played the part of a man named Rooster Cogburn.  It’s fortunate for him that he was not born here.  Drake Cogburn does not carry the same weight and his peers would surely have awarded the Oscar to someone else.  Old Rooster was a one-eyed hero whilst most of the bad guys were two-eyed cowards.  What do you call cowards here?  On earth, they’re called chicken but I don’t think the connotation is transferable to ducks.  Perhaps you already have a word. 

Do you have foxes?  I haven’t seen any.  What do they chase?  Ducks?  I suppose that would work, but the expression ‘a fox in the duck house’ loses something.

I was going to ask about Easter baskets but I suppose I need to know if you celebrate Easter.  If you don’t, keep it to yourselves.  If the Christians ever find out that you’re what they call heathens, they will arrive in flocks and try to convert you to their beliefs.  The Muslims will be close behind them, as will a horde of other religious entities.  A religious entity? They are sects that believe in a supernatural being they call their god. There are more than one-hundred-and twenty recognised religions on earth. 

I would tell you you can’t have hen parties and cockfights but you can’t miss something you never had.  Do your young contract chicken pox?  How would you know?  Do you know it as duck pox or swan pox?  Do your societal forms have pecking orders and, if so, what words do you use for that expression?  Did the story ‘Roots’ reach this planet?  Did you question the name of Chicken George, or did you accept it as merely an unusual name?  Then there’s Chicken Little.  He’s a character used to teach children about courage.  Do you have similar stories here?

I can’t believe I’ve rambled on this long about something as insignificant as Gallus gallus.  You must think of me as strange (I did tell you).  However, when you think about how different we are, the chicken is probably a good a way as any to demonstrate our differences.

I’ve written a poem which everyone can sing to the tune of an American anthem to themselves called America The Beautiful (they needed an Englishman to write the music for them and so I feel no shame).  I know you don’t know Americans from a chattering of chicks or a paddling of ducks but I will download the music from iTunes and give it to you.  Australians?  Englishman?  iTunes?  Yeah, I know.  It’s a lot to explain over one dinner.  Maybe another day?  Anyhow, the song.  You must excuse my voice; the music teacher at school said I sounded like hoarse chicken.


O chicken you are wonderful, as tasty as can be

your eggs are good for breakfast, your wings for afternoon tea

your thighs are cooked by KFC, your breasts by Burger King

your feathers fill my eiderdown (and that makes all ducks sing)

Asians eat your testicles and the Chinese eat your feet

O chicken you are wonderful, your every part a treat.


About the author

Peter Lingard, born a Brit, a ManCity follower, served in the Royal Marines, was an accountant, a barman and a farm worker. He lived in the US where he owned a freight forwarding business. He's an Aussie now because the sun frequently shines there. 


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