So cuttlefish have some kind of rudimentary(?) language that has a gestural component. Or, if you don’t want to call it language, they communicate with each other, in part, through gesturing with their arms. (Not sure how a consistent system of signs isn’t a language but I’m not a linguist).

Anyway, there is a tank of cuttlefish at the New England aquarium. Usually, the animals totally ignore the visitors. Once when I was there with a friend, the cuttlefish were signing to each other. My friend held his hand up to the glass and began to imitate their gestures with his fingers, and then made a sequence of random signs. 

The cuttlefish became extremely agitated and signed furiously at him and rapidly flashed different colors, and we will never know what he accidentally said to them. 

The moral of this story is actually that it’s fucked up how we keep sentient and sensitive beings in a weird little fish jail. 

After knowing a few different swan families for two years, we learned some of the sign language they use for “Hello friend! (You know me)” and “Sorry.” Their vocalizations are a little difficult to mimic, but “Hello friend!” and “sorry” are gestures done with the head. There’s also “Hey! Hey! (come start a fight)” which, in a human, involves hands and arms.

You can actually get into a feedback loop saying “Hello friend” to friendly swans that actually know you, where you say it and then they get excited and say it back, and then you say it again and they feel like they have to respond. And if you meet a strange swan and they behave aggressively towards you, you can get them to calm down and even say “sorry” by telling them that you know them. This is often easy to lie to them about, since swans think all humans look very similar. 

Anyway! It is extremely funny because when humans walking outside encounter a swan, the humans often say “Hey! Hey!” in Swan, and when the swan puffs up and says “Excuse me?” the human says “Come start a fight!” and the swan, particularly if it’s defending a nest, is like “Fine. Okay. I’ll end this.”

And then the human complains that swans are awfully Hostile and Aggressive.

/linguist mode on/ sticking my nose in briefly to say that a consistent system of signs used for communication is definitely a language /linguist mode off/


Or the cuttlefish could just be excited because “those beings” have never spoken to them before…

Just sayin’