Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/293

This page has been validated.
281
POPULAR MISCELLANY.

wife's parents, though on a friendly footing, to speak to or look at one another, or the converse custom of the wife and her husband's relatives being obliged ceremonially to cut one another, is practiced by some seventy peoples. A marked distinction is found to lie between those peoples whose custom is for the husband to reside with his wife's family, and those where he removes her to his own home. It appears that the avoidance custom between the husband and the wife's family belongs preponderantly to the group of cases where the husband goes to live with his wife's family. This implies a casual connection between the customs of avoidance and residence, suggesting as a reason that the husband, being an interloper in the wife's family, must be treated as a stranger, or not "recognized." Other varieties of the custom show similar preponderant adhesions.

 

The American Badger.—The mammalian fauna of the United States includes two species of badgers—the American badger (Taxidea americana americana) and the Mexican badger (T. a. berlandieri), the latter being found on our southwestern border. Dr. R. W. Shufeldt, U. S. A., says that many writers have confounded our species with the European badger (Meles), though in reality they are very distinct animals. The American badger is found in this country from Texas, Iowa, and Wisconsin westward, and used to occur much further east. Dr. Shufeldt had a fine one in captivity for a long time at Fort Wingate, and has seen a number of others there, among them being the largest that he ever saw or read about. It was an adult male, and measured from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail thirty-two inches. Badgers take a varied diet of fruit, birds' eggs, insects, frogs, small mammals, nuts, and roots. It has not been proved that the American badger is as fond of honey as the European species is, and generally its tastes are far more carnivorous. They drink a great deal of water. They spend most of the daytime in the extensive burrows which their enormous fore-claws enable them to excavate, coming out to feed chiefly at night. It is very rare to find a pair of them together. When one has been chased into its burrow it sometimes reappears in a moment or two at the entrance to inspect its pursuer. Dr. Shufeldt has seen Indians take advantage of this habit by running up to the hole and killing the animal with a pistol-shot as it showed its head. Few animals prey upon or molest the badger; it is a strong and determined fighter, and even the wolf and the coyote do not care to attack it. Prof. Elliott Coues, in his "Fur-bearing Animals," says that "the flesh of the badger, like that of the skunk, is eatable, and doubtless often eaten by savage tribes, though not to be recommended to a cultivated palate." Dr. Shufeldt found that the specimens which he skinned emitted during the process a most rank odor. The badger yields a valuable fur. Thousands of shaving-brushes are said to be made annually from the long hairs, from which also the "badger blender" used by artists is made. The colors of the badger pelt are blended gray, tawny, black, and white, the colors ringed in alternation on individual hairs. The gray predominates. Much remains to be observed in regard to the more obscure habits of the badger.

 

A Phonetic Alphabet for Indian Languages.Mr. Garrick Mallery, in preparing the phonetic alphabet used by the Bureau of Ethnology in recording Indian languages, while seeking for a distinct character for every sound, made it a fundamental rule that the characters should be limited to those in an ordinary font of English type—including with the Roman alphabet other characters and diacritical marks common in newspaper printers' cases. The range of characters is extended by reversing those letters of the Roman alphabet which look markedly different when reversed. This is entirely convenient to the printer, and does not occasion awkwardness in the current script to the recorder or writer for the press, as he has only to mark the letter intended to be reversed, after writing it in the normal manner, and to notify the printer accordingly. In practice, the letters intended to be reversed are marked by a cross beneath them. The result of this scheme in practice has solved one part of the problem of a universal phonetic alphabet. Vocabularies and chrestomathies of unwritten languages have been recorded and printed, on which