Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Cetophilia - Love For Flipper's Sake

A smiling, laughing dolphin
Dolphins are the only marine animals that smile
(photo by Naotake Murayama)


Noun. Mid-19th century. Also cetaphilia.
[from cetacean, cetology modern Latin Cetacea, from Latin cetus from Greek ketos whale + -philia fondness, from Greek.]

A paraphilia in which a person is attracted to whales, dolphins, and other cetaceans. M19

The belief that one has connected emotionally with such a cetacean. L19

The supposed predilection for humans to do so. E20

A woman in a wedding dress kissing a dolphin
"I am not a pervert."
Sharon Tendler
In January 2006, 41-year-old British woman Sharon Tendler married Cindy, a confusingly-named male bottle-nosed dolphin, in a small ceremony in Eilat, Israel. Tendler had been visiting Cindy for 15 years before finally requesting his flipper in marriage. Although the age-difference raised some eyebrows (Cindy was 35 which, in dolphin years, is very old), the wedding went ahead at the Dolphin Reef Dolphinarium. "It's not a perverted thing," Tendler said afterward. "He's the love of my life."

While it's tempting to roll one's eyes at the sheer lunacy of some people, there has long been a belief that humans are natural cetophiles. In classic art, for example, the Roman match-maker god Cupid is often depicted with a dolphin as he roams the land and sea, bow in hand, forming connections between humans and cetaceans. Such unions were not always well-reported on, however. Centuries earlier, Plato had warned against them saying: "Beware the allure of the dolphin beast, for once a man has looked deeply into its fishy eyes, he will be forever beholden to its heart, just as a woman to an oven."

A painting of cupid riding on a dolphin
Cupid Riding on a Dolphin
Erasmus Quellinus ((1607-1678)
Such cetaceous shenanigans can't be written off as just a quirk of those nutty Greeks. In fact, aquariums and sea parks around the world consistently issue guidelines to their trainers to prevent the forming of inappropriate relationships. Measures have included trainers only working with cetaceans of the same sex and restrictions on staff working overtime at night with dolphins. "It's not just the trainers we have to protect," said Juan Maramor of the Colorado Cetasanctuary. "The dolphins themselves can be left heartbroken if a trainer has to break off a relationship because of pressure from the wife. And these are powerful creatures. Even experienced trainers forget how aggressive dolphins can be when jealous, such as they see their trainer cavorting with another mammal of any species."

The anatomy of a dolphin
The dolphin's larynx is incontrovertible proof it evolved from humans
(image by WikipediaProlific)

That such seemingly human connections are possible in cetaceans is only now being understood by scientists working in the field of cetology. "It's a fallacy that humans are the pinnacle of evolutionary development," wrote Dr Ivor Finn, Head Cerebralist at the Dunsk Underwater Marine Biolab. His 2009 monograph, Cetacean Elation - Why Dolphin Women Are Better, states: "The truth is that dolphins evolved directly from humans, evidenced by the fact that they have a larynx. This proves that at one time dolphins were capable of human speech. Unfortunately, as happens with so many languages, standards of grammar and pronunciation were allowed to slip within the pods, and thus delphinic languages regressed to what is now colloquially known as click speak."

Dr Finn's language-regression hypothesis is controversial, but there is broad consensus among cetologists that delphinic language is incomparably complex. "They say things like 'There are some good fish over here', or 'Watch out for that shark - he's hunting," says Sarah Waller, a bottle-nose dolphin research in California. Dr Finn takes it one stage further: "What you're seeing when you watch dolphins and orcas balance balls on their noses and walk on their tails is a modified mating ritual - these are things they do in the wild when they fall in love. If these incredible, caring, sensual creatures display such behaviour and have the ability to express affection and tenderness (as I know from experience), is it really beyond the realms of possibility that they can fall in love, just as can one simple man of science?"

A pod of dolphins swimming alongside a ship
Dolphins swim alongside ships as they try to find a mate
(photo by Docklands Tony)

Are you a cetophile?

Are you a cetophobe?

Do please leave any comments in the box below.


  1. Ah ed.I've waited all year. Flipping brilliant! ;) I'm glad that finally some well deserved attention is being directed to this important issue. Gay marriage is now legal in the UK. It's just one small step till cetophilian marriages are at long last recognized too. I did some research and saw that Sharon and Cindy celebrated their 8th anniversary this January. Very moving. Chlobo

    1. It's funny you should mention that Chlobo, because initially the marriage was recorded as a same-sex marriage, due to the confusion of the dolphin's name being Cindy (which, even more bizarrely, was short for 'Cinderella').

      Alas, though, I'm afraid your source is a little off, as Cindy died about a year after the marriage, which is very, very sad.

    2. That's what happens when a oldie gets a crazy young chick... he'll flip for good ahahahah

      I seem to be as safe with dolphins as I am around ovens - I'd never want to be touched or kissed by either (I've been on occasion seen looking intently to the oven but that's because that's the only watch that's on time around home)... not even so I could post the pic on facebook and have everyone gushing of how happy the beast looks. People are crazy!

      Now more seriously - because I'm not even sure you didn't invented this for April Fools (and it's too late for me to check all quotes) it takes all kinds of love but I keep thinking of one day the animals ruling the Universe and I'll have to swin, jump through hoops (no small feature for above ten size worldwide ahahah) and then have some whale named Marcus - but happens to be Amanda - snogging me.

      Very disturbing...

    3. You're not even sure that .... ?!

      Why Teresa! I'm appalled at your skepticism.

    4. It was late and that girl kissing the poor dolphin murked the vibes, I believe XD

      You should be appaled... I'm searching "plato"+"oven"+"quotes!" and tired of reading: "What is the cost to install microwave oven in Plato MN?" "What are the prices to install wall oven in Plato MO?" "Bun In The Oven Quotes" "Recipe File: Oven Baked Chicken and Rice - Cooking For Engineers"... I have other things to do, you know?!?! ;)

      I sure hope they put one word you dread about on OED and have everynewspaper gushing about the word of the year - that'll teach you!... and you'll have - honor bound - to do a post about it and have a Kardashian illustrating it - that will teach you tsk tsk tsk ;)

      Have a nice day and stay away from bottlenose and its nubile... I'm sure there are enough crazy people in your path.

  2. Bahahahahaha!!! Have found this post, in equal measures, baffling, ludicrous, entertaining as well as interesting. .perhaps the interesting part is not as equal a feel I felt, as compared to the other three.

    My favourite part has to be the following quote Beware the allure of the dolphin beast, for once a man has looked deeply into its fishy eyes, he will be forever beholden to its heart, just as a woman to an oven." Words are inadequate. ... Snigger.
    -Ms. Juxtaprose

    1. Welcome to Lexicolatry, Ms. Juxtaprose (great name). I'm glad you enjoyed the post!

      And beware indeed - it's good advice, so let us all take note.

  3. Dr. Ivor Finn. Ha! Brilliant. Wasn't his assistant Ms. Ivanna Herring?
    Nice one Ed.

    1. Twas the clearest case of nominative determinism I've ever seen.

  4. Is there a slight whiff of what our French neighbours would call 'April Fools' "poisson d'avril" (April fish) about this 'cetophilia'?

    1. Oh, no.

      No no no.

      There's nothing fishy about cetophilia.

      I can state quite emphatically that there is *literally* nothing fishy about cetophilia.

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