The idea for this DMT post came from my good friend and former roommate Kent Owens. Kent, image shmimage.
We’ve all heard someone say something like “Tony is the spitting image of his uncle Frank.” And while most people just dismiss the phrase “spitting image” as one of life’s unsolvable mysteries, there is an actual historical origin for the phrase.
In 1907, independently wealthy British nobleman Sir Clarence Tippington decided he would spend a year in Argentina. While there, Sir Clarence, who was very interested in the study of animals, encountered something strange. While traveling in Argentina, Sir Clarence came across a llama that had unusually shaped head. Sir Clarence asked the man who owned the llama what kind of llama it was. The man, via a translator, responded that it was a “picture llama”. Sir Clarence, unfamiliar with the term “picture llama”, asked the man to explain further. The man grabbed Sir Clarence by the arm and pulled him face to face with the llama. The llama just stared at Sir Clarence for about a minute and turned its head and spit on the ground. At first Sir Clarence was confused. Then he looked down. There on the ground was an almost photographic likeness of himself, outlined entirely in llama spit.
What Sir Clarence had “discovered” was the Argentinean picture llama. The Argentinean picture llama has several unique genetic features that allow it to produce its picture like images. First, the Argentinean picture llama has overdeveloped optic nerves that give it much better eyesight than an average llama. This allows the picture llama to process a great amount of visual detail. Second, the saliva glands of the Argentinean picture llama are tapered towards the end creating a natural ink jet printer effect. This allows the spit of the Argentinean picture llama to be tightly focused into recognizable images.
Sir Clarence was so amazed by the Argentinean picture llama that he bought several dozen and brought them back to England with him. They were the talk of London and were so popular, however, that Sir Clarence had to keep them all under lock and key at his estate for fear that someone would steal them. Unfortunately, a fire at Tippington Manor resulted in the death of the only 2 females that Sir Clarence had which prevented him from breeding them as was his plan.
The Argentinean picture llama became extinct somewhere around 1922 and Sir Clarence never had a chance to return to Argentina. However, due to Sir Clarence’s love of animals, we still use the phrase “the spitting image” to refer to a great likeness.