While reading a research article I came across a phrase in the acknowledgement section of the article. The author says, "I thank **** for the helpful discussions and especially for the frogs and rats and elephants".

What is meant here by this phrase? I guess "thanks for many other things" but any elaboration will be helpful.

  • 4
    "Thanks for the frogs and rats and elephants" is not a known idiom or saying I've ever heard of. This is probably an inside joke.
    – LawrenceC
    Mar 12, 2015 at 14:30
  • 1
    This may be either a reference to something discussed in the article, or it may be a private joke between the author and ****--that sort of thing is permitted in acknowledgments. Mar 12, 2015 at 14:31
  • Are you able to share more about the article, like its title or content? It seems very likely that this phrase is not meant to be understood by the general public (in line with what others have said), but there may be some publicly accessible aspect we could help you with if we had more information about the context. Mar 12, 2015 at 15:09
  • @ultrasawblade, indeed, seems an inside joke. If you can post this answer, I will accept this as an answer Mar 12, 2015 at 15:28
  • @TylerJamesYoung, Acknowledgement section is pretty much these two lines in the article and the content does not have any relation to "frogs,rats and elephants" for sure. Mar 12, 2015 at 15:29

1 Answer 1


The unusual formation of the list caught my attention. Normally, a three-item list would be formed thus:

x, y(,) and z

Not like this:

x and y and z

It’s also a strange list of creatures that neither have something in common nor form a representative set.

It reminds me of a song my father would sing to me when I was little, called The Unicorn.

Here’s the Wikipedia page and a blog post that has the original poem, a nice little history, and a video of the song. The story is that unicorns played around too long and were left off of Noah’s Ark.

Variations of the following stanza appear throughout the work, functioning poetically as repetition and in the song as a chorus or refrain:

There was green alligators and long-necked geese
Some humpty-backed camels and some chimpanzees
Some cats and rats and elephants, but sure as you’re born
The loveliest of all was the unicorn
Source: The Unicorn, A Poem by Shel Silverstein, Recorded by the Irish Rovers

There is some unconventional grammar throughout, so don’t take that as a good example of formal speaking or writing. This is probably the best clue we’ll get as to the nature of the reference.

There is probably a second layer that explains the frogs, but the rest is at least plausible. This was a very popular song in its time, and could provide material for humor or otherwise meaningful reference.

  • 1
    +1 purely for reminding me about that song! I haven't heard it for years, but it was one of a handful of records constantly played on the ward radiogram when I spent a couple of weeks in hospital as a kid. Until now I always assumed what I'd been hearing was The Bachelors, but they didn't record it until 1968, 3-4 years after my hospital stay. Now I'm on a mission to find out which version I really heard! Mar 12, 2015 at 17:40
  • The unicorn song lyric was the first thing I thought of too, when I read the post title. I suspect that the "frogs and rats and elephants" phrase is an inside joke based on a misremembering of that lyric.
    – mhwombat
    Mar 12, 2015 at 21:48
  • 1
    @mhwombat It would make sense as a substitution if the reference was a biology text - frogs & rats being the first things you get to practise on as a student. Mar 13, 2015 at 9:48

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