I read an article in Forbes, where I saw the following lines:

I’ve been blogging since 2002 (which is after the dinosaurs, but before the giant armored sloths), and some variant of the philosophy argument comes around every year or so.

Initially I considered it as an idiomatic expression, but I could not find the exact meaning of this phrase.

My questions are:

  1. What is a meaning of this phrase in given context?
  2. Is it an idiomatic expression?

Thank you in advance.

  • 2
    I think it's just a hyperbole. – Damkerng T. May 12 '15 at 12:55
  • 2
    The author is apparently referring to periods in the development of the internet. The early days (1990s) would be the days of the dinosaurs; the latter (2010 onward I suppose) would be the days of the giant armored sloths. Dinosaurs are used often enough to refer to "prehistory", but the armored sloths reference is novel. Not sure what or who is the referent there, or if there is one. It could just be a later period of development on the planet (pleisticine). It's an ANALOGY. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 12 '15 at 12:55
  • 4
    It's not only an ANALOGY (after the rise of extinct reptiles, before the rise of extinct mammals), it's a JOKE. – StoneyB May 12 '15 at 13:07
  • Not to those of us for whom the internet is sacred. e-terra sacra. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 12 '15 at 14:35
  • For reference, "giant armored sloths" is probably referring to animals such as Mylodon or Megatherium, who coexisted with humans (up to 10.000 or so years ago), while most large dinosaurs died out around 65.000.000 years ago (with some dinosaurs, the birds, surviving until the present day). Literally, the author is saying he's been blogging for at least 7.000 or so years. – jona May 12 '15 at 20:00

According to evolutionary theory, dinosaurs lived tens of millions of years ago, while giant sloths lived merely millions of years ago. So the writer is speaking whimsically of the history of the Internet, placing it on an evolutionary timescale. He's trying to say that he got involved a long time ago, but not at the very beginning. That is, long enough ago that he was before the giant sloths, but not so long ago that he was in the time of dinosaurs.

It's sort of kind of an idiom to use dinosaurs as a symbol or metaphor for something that is very old and out of date. People will fairly often say things like, "Wow, your cell phone is a dinosaur", meaning that your cell phone is very old and obsolete. Not specifically cell phones, but anything that could be old and obsolete, from electronic devices to business practices to political or social ideas.

It's not common to use giant sloths in such an analogy, but in this case the writer needed something else to put on the time scale.

  • 8
    Using "mythology" to describe the fact that dinosaurs lived tens of millions of years ago is needlessly misleading. It could give a student the incorrect impression that "mythology" in English is commonly used for well-established scientific theories backed up by evidence. Also, the field that states when particular pre-historic species lived is palaeontology, not evolutionary theory. Pegasus = mythology, stegosaurus/giant sloth = palaeontology. – user56reinstatemonica8 May 12 '15 at 17:35
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    Let's keep the discussion relevant to English language learning. There's no correct usage of "mythology" in English which means "theory I disagree with", except in hyperbole. You could say, "According to palaeontology (which is a discipline I have disagreements with), ...", which would be accurate (though I'd expect the comment to be modded out as being off topic). Why not just say "According to palaeontology, ..."? People say "According to [thing I disagree with], ..." all the time. It's not "conceding" anything, and stays on topic. – user56reinstatemonica8 May 12 '15 at 17:45
  • 1
    @user568458 Umm, I think people pretty routinely refer to ideas that they disagree with as "fiction" or "mythology". If you're concerned that an English language learner might be confused about my use of the term here as being more literal than I intended, fair point, and worthy of clarification. – Jay May 12 '15 at 17:53
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    Evolution does not make claims about when creatures lived. It presents a theory for a mechanism by which new species emerge from existing species, and paleontology provides evidence in support of this theory, in the form of "it appears species X lived in this time period". You appear to have some serious misconceptions about these fields. The existence of dinosaurs, and when they existed, is not an evolutionary question at all. – Chris Hayes May 12 '15 at 18:08
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    @Jay - Whenever a "way off topic" conversation is flagged, the mod team has to decide what should happen to the conversation – whether to delete some, all, or none of it. This post had 3 flags (I've seen very few posts get that many), so something had to be done. We didn't want to delete a comment that had received several upvotes, but had to pick a place where the conversation veered off-topic. It's a judgment call. – J.R. May 13 '15 at 21:25

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