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The History of Koko
At some point, someone, somewhere, said to herself "If gorillas could speak, we (humanity) could benefit from their wisdom." That person was Dr. Francine Patterson.
Dr. Patterson (also known as "That nutjob", "Wacko-lady", and "Who?") first needed a gorilla. Unfortunately, no one wanted to entrust someone with zero experience in the field of gorilla care ("gorillaology") with a gorilla (gorillas, unlike most African animals, aren't easily available because they're too large for most poachers to bother with them).
However, against all odds and logic, she eventually obtained a gorilla anyway. Although known to her family as "Ook-ugh", Patterson renamed the animal "Koko", after her maid's grandmother. She set herself upon the arduous task of teaching Koko sign language, because, of course, she couldn't teach it to speak (also known as "real language"). That would just be ridiculous.
Although most scientists said that Patterson would either fail in her quest or that it was a waste of time, she did it anyway, and eventually succeeded. For the first time in history, man would be able to speak to another species using man's own language. A momentous occassion.
Wisdom of Another Species
Philosophers and scientists alike wanted to be among the first to speak to Koko. Reporters from all across the world flocked to Patterson's trailer (where she both lived and kept her gorilla collection [not all attempts were as.... successful as Koko]). People from all over the Earth tuned in to hear someone translate aloud Koko's speech because few people actually understand sign language. Seriously. You don't, and you had learn some of it when you were in fourth grade for some shitty "understanding the disabled" thing.
Although Koko was already speaking readily with humans (the scientists who taught her to speak instead of curing cancer), literally thousands of questions were considered to ask her for the first time on international TV. Things ranging from "What is the secret of life?" to "Why does our current model of quantum physics break down when we place it in a situation involving black holes?", but ultimately, one question clearly stood above all others.
Koko was wheeled out in her cage in front of literally several reporters, and asked, for the first time...
"What is your favorite color?" People all over the world stood silent, staring at their TVs and standing in lines for things not involving Koko in any way.
"Like red." The world was agast. Until then, it was commonly believed that gorillas liked green more than red and yellow combined! Needless to say, this became a major issue in the science of colorology.
Since Koko, many gorillas have been taught sign language for reasons vague even to those to came up with the idea in the first place.
Some of the more famous "speaking gorillas" include:
The following are some of the more famous, and some would say wise, of quotes made by gorillas. Following the quotes are the names of the gorillas who said them. Following some of the names are "the Gorilla", just in case you were wondering whether or not they referred to the other Fred who speaks broken sign language.
"Me am gorilla." - Fred the Gorilla
"Like banana." - George the Gorilla
"Bon Jovi is good band. Me like." - Frank the Gorilla
"Kitties are breakable. Me know from empirical study." - Koko
"Me not speak Spanish." - Karel
"Blue is good color for car. Better than not-blue." - Daren
"Pepsi is good." - Britaney the Gorilla presented by Pepsi Cola
"Me am name Franz Ferdinand." - Franz Ferdinand
"Flash's mother is a whore, and so is Green Lantern's." - Grodd
"I am Jean-luc Picard of the USS Enterprise." - Jean-luc Picard of the USS Enterprise
"Koko am not having picture in article about Koko." - Koko
Koko is currently retired from the fast-moving world of teaching animals to speak, having chosen to leave it to younger gorillas. She is, afterall, almost five years old, rather old for a gorilla.
Koko has a son (the father's identity is hotly disputed, as the top two most likely candidates Bob the Monkey and Lewis the Ape, both died and were cremated before a DNA test could be performed) named Sam, who also knows sign language. Sam, while not as famous in America as his mother, is well-known in Europe as the Prime Minister of France and the only non-human primate to learn how to play three games of chess simultaneously (he lost all of them).
- From Savage to Sensible: A Study of Simian Superiority (1970)
- The Autubiography of Grodd: Flash's mother is a whore, and so is Green Lantern's (1982)
- Made in God's Image: A Gorilla's Perspective of Christianity (1990)
- The End of Apedom: Africa, America and Speciest Prejudices (2006)