Whence Ocelot?

By Mike / On / In Technology

Out of nowhere, Apple announces OSX 10.8 Mountain Lion, and I must say, right off the bat, that I am disappointed.

No, the feature list is fine. It’s the name that disappoints me. I get that there’s a new pattern with iPhone 3G giving way to iPhone 3GS, and Leopard giving way to Snow Leopard. But Mountain Lion?

Right off the bat, there’s a problem with that name, as “Mountain Lion” (10.8), “Panther” (10.3), and “Puma” (10.1) all refer to the same cat: the common cougar, Puma concolor. It’s bad enough that 3 of the now 9 “big cats” are the same cat, but cougars are not even big cats!

Oh, they’re large, certainly, but the distinction is not actually made based on size, but on laryngeal physiology. The big cats, all members of genus Panthera, roar*. Small cats meow. Mountain Lions are actually the largest of the small cats—a group that notably also includes the oddball Cheetah (10.0).

Of course, if you actually research this, you will find that definition is far from universal. Many people just go by size. It turns out cat taxonomy is a surprisingly messy field. In fact, that whole Linnean classification system you learned in school has been turned on its ear by molecular genetics. But I digress.

I might as well just admit that, back in 10.5 days, I called “Ocelot” as the name for 10.8. That’s a long time to let a bowl of Claim Chowder sit before having to sup on one’s predictions.

*Snow Leopards being the exception. They are large cats and have the physiology to roar, but are apparently too polite to actually do so.