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Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

Posted April 11, 2017 12:00 AM by Hannes
Pathfinder Tags: hydrography southern ocean

Last week, my 2nd-grade daughter had her first geography test on continents, oceans and compass points. I pulled up a blank world map online and quizzed her, and as I was closing my laptop she stopped me and said I’d missed an ocean. “No I didn’t—which one?” “The Southern Ocean,” she replied, vaguely gesturing toward the area between Australia and Antarctica. I was certain she was making it up, but sure enough her study guide had it labeled, and Wikipedia confirmed that there is indeed a Southern Ocean.

For whatever reason, I never learned about the Southern Ocean’s existence in school. And a cursory Google search proved that I’m not alone. A few news articles revealed that some secondary-school teachers—many of whom have recently been re-educated on hydrography by trainers—never learned about it either. After poking around a few more authoritative sites I began to realize that naming, delineating, and simply accepting bodies of water is more difficult than I’d thought.

According to NOAA, there is one global ocean divided into five geographical regions: the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic and Southern. The former three are the “major” defined oceans. The Southern Ocean was informally named during James Cook’s 1772 circumnavigational voyage, and the UK’s 1834 South Australia Act referred to the waters south of Australia by that name. The 1928 book Limits of Oceans and Seas basically defined it as the waters between Africa, Australia, Antarctica and New Zealand, but later editions of the same book removed the ocean altogether (essentially because it was hard to define) and extended the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans southward to cover the gap.

Contested oceans are disputed for a few different reasons. In the case of the Southern Ocean, Antarctica’s pack ice is constantly in flux, making the ocean’s limits impossible to pin down. Because oceans are also global bodies of water that border multiple countries, not all nations agree on an ocean’s limits or even its existence. The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO), the publisher of Limits of Oceans and Seas, consists of 68 member countries and attempted to nail down the Southern Ocean’s naming and limits in 2000. Its voting members elected to retain the name “Southern Ocean” over “Antarctic Ocean” but could not agree on a northern limit.

The IHO issued the fourth edition of Limits of Oceans and Seas to its members in 2002, but sea naming disputes among member nations have kept it from official publication. The Southern Ocean’s official status remains a toss-up between nations and organizations—the United States and Encyclopaedia Britannica have recognized its existence since 2000 but the National Geographic Society hasn’t until quite recently, for example. The Southern Ocean problem isn’t the main one delaying the IHO’s publication, however: the heated squabbling between South Korea and Japan over the name of the body of water separating them is the primary point of concern for the IHO. Also, around 60 seas have been renamed since 2002 anyway, so even if the IHO agrees on any naming convention they’ll have to redo the edition altogether.

Maybe the IHO should end the madness and just call the whole thing Big Salty Water? That’d be my vote, anyway.

Image credit: Hogweard / CC BY-SA 3.0

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#1

Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 1:08 AM

Not too many in the Northern Hemisphere, evidently.

No worries, some Aussies are not aware that Australia, New Zealand, etc., are collectively called 'Oceania.'

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#13
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 11:43 PM

Oceania is a term that can be quite ambiguous depending on whether the discussion is political or geographical

Whilst Australia and New Zealand are geographically considered as being part of Oceania, and form the largest individual landmasses therein, they are by no means the largest part in such terms.

Australia, being a tad smaller in area than continental USA forms the largest single land mass, but the total geographic area of Oceania is several times larger than both Australia and the USA combined.

Oceania encompasses most of the islands in the South Pacific. The US state of Hawaii is a part of Oceania geographically, although not so if you are considering it politically, hence the ambiguities of the terminology

The geographic Oceania area stretches from Midway Island in the north to Macquarie Island in the south and from Socorro Island (off the coast of South America) in the East to the Cocos Islands in the West, but excludes Indonesian territories.

Australia and New Zealand are more correctly referred to as Australasia as it has a more exact definition than the more ambiguous meaning of Oceania.

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#14
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 12:04 AM

Indeed. However, a dear Aussie friend of mine had never the term 'Oceania' applied to any part of the world, let alone one including Australia and NZ. She did know that Cyprus, Syria, Iraq, Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan are collectively referred-to as the Levant. That's something I didn't know. We all learn something new every day.

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#2

Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 7:07 AM

I've heard the term before, but then, I've enjoyed reading a number of sea stories, like the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian and Joshua Slocum's memoir (he being the first man to sail around the world alone) of his voyage in the late 1800s.

Anyone who has read tales of 'Sailing the Seven Seas' knows their five names. (heh)

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#3

Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 7:49 AM

Maybe the IHO should end the madness and just call the whole thing Big Salty Water?

Or how about "Oceany McOceanface"?

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#32
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 9:30 AM

Or just "The Wets"

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#49
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/14/2017 8:55 AM

Summing all the oceans into one term such as Big Salty Waters would eliminate any geographic location. Saying you have been at the Big Salty Waters would leave open where you have been.

We sure need to distinguish where in the world what body of water is. The analogy to that would be to call all continents and any land surface as the 'Big Lands'. That would be going back to Kindergarden age having just one name for a whole category.

E.g. Food for all that is edible, not distinguishing between vegetables, fruits, meets, fish, poultry. Cooking for all kinds of hot food preparation, frying, baking, broiling, steaming, BBQ'ing, etc. Quite overly simplistic, I find. It leaves no room for refined expressions.

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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 9:33 AM

Well it's all The Ocean, those are just the regions and sub-regions........

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#5
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 10:50 AM

Then there is the Mediterranean Sea, and the South China Sea. Don't forget the Gulf of Mexico, either.

Let's not get so nit-picky, we end up calling the Mississippi River part of the Atlantic Ocean,

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#6

Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 12:32 PM

Southern Ocean = where the Penguins say "Y'all"

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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 1:27 PM

Fire and brimstone penguin preacher, found only on the banks of the Southern Ocean....

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#8
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 1:50 PM

Your Honor, I object! Although these little fellows are cute in their cathedral of ice.

Yet another example of mankind's polluting the oceans with our plastic beer rings.

I bet that penguin has more baptisms under his belt than you do. LOL

I have yet to acquire a taste for jokes about Southern Gospel Preachers. It borders on racism, especially in the light of the bombings of the Coptic churches in Egypt last Palm Sunday.

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#12
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 10:03 PM

And "fixin' to."

"I'm fixin' to fetch me some grub fer all y'all's breakfast. You younguns stay home an' mind the shore!"

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#17
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 9:40 AM

Now, that is what I am talking about. I am fixin' to take a break, and have me some black coffee. (no that is nothing racial.)

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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 1:16 PM

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#28
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 2:03 PM

funny thing about coffee, when you look at it pouring it is brown, and looking into the cup appears black (unless you added cream).

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#23
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 12:54 PM

Not quite so, a lot are found in the Atlantic ocean and sound like donkeys braying.

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#9

Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 1:57 PM

There are pretty obvious divisions between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, divided by the Americas and by Europe/Asia/Africa. The Arctic, Indian, and Southern Oceans, on the other hand, are delimited by boundaries that are completely arbitrary.

I think we could get along with just the first two, IMHO.

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#10
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 2:06 PM

If you ever had to navigate through everything it takes to get to the Indian Ocean or the Arctic Ocean, you might adjust that answer just a wee tad bit, laddy.

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#11
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/11/2017 8:42 PM

I reckon you got me there, never had to do that.

Here are the maps showing the five ocean boundaries.

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#15
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 4:55 AM

They better should attribute the Roaring Forties to the Southern Ocean and make it its boundary. Every ship in the area knows when it enters the whirlpool around Antarctica.

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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 10:33 AM

The Roaring Forties and Furious Fifties (Shrieking Sixties not shown). The red line marks typical clipper routes during the Age of Sail.

In the last half-century, the winds on average have intensified and have moved 2 to 5 degrees closer to the south pole.

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#24
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 1:11 PM

I've never been in the southern hemisphere, but have been in the Arctic. It's cold and windy and the Coriolis force makes weather happen much faster as you get closer to the pole. Weather fronts arrive days apart in contrast to weeks in the temperate zone.

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#26
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 1:17 PM

When you get really close to the pole, you can run around the world in seconds rather than days.

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#16
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 7:29 AM

The Pacific, Atlantic, Indian and even Arctic (mostly) oceans have rather distinct physically identifiable boundaries.

While there might be good reasons to have the Southern Ocean as a separate body of water from the other four oceans, it's less clear what it's borders are (other than an imaginary line on a globe/map).

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#36
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 1:17 PM

We look at the Ocean boundaries as static (excepting for sea ice variations), but if you look at the history of the Tectonic plates and all of the shifting, many of the oceans we see now, are quite different than they were in Geologic History. An ocean does has to have boundaries and those boundaries have moved and merged over millennia.

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#38
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 1:40 PM

Is that because the Higher Power has declared it: "You may proceed this far and no further?"

It would be interesting to find that somewhere in Earth's remote past, there was no land found above the waters. I am already pretty clear that virtually every point on the globe has been under the seas at least at some point.

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#39
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 2:18 PM

"...but if you look at the history of the Tectonic plates and all of the shifting, many of the oceans we see now, are quite different than they were in Geologic History."

The same can be said of the land masses. Does it really matter since that was back when there were no humans roaming around to need such information. And now as we look back at how the world was divided up long before we were here and find it useful to name those bodies of water and land masses, there's not reason they have to be the same name as they are today.

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#41
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 4:32 PM

Tectonics seems to keep the cartographers busy in the long run.

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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 3:08 PM

The Daintree rain forest on Australia's upper east coast has changed little since Antarctica and Australia drifted apart starting around 30-35 million years ago. On the the stretch of Antarctic coast corresponding to Daintree's location you can still find ancient traces of tropical rainforest. They were once the same forest. Very similar species too. Large portions of Antarctica were tropical at one time.

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#42
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 10:39 PM

I would consider the Arctic Ocean to be bound by North America and Eurasia.

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#43
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 10:46 PM

It pretty much is after you throw in Greenland, Iceland and Scandinavia.

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#19

Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 10:44 AM

The Southern may or not be an ocean the same way Pluto may or not be a planet.

Minor oceanoid?

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#21
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 11:40 AM

You do realize there are people who absolutely will not be able to grasp that concept?

Too bad there are no minor hemorrhoids. (Sorry to use that word, and oppress the sensibilities that may or may not be prevailing on this blog today).

I am for making it its own ocean, it is certainly large enough.

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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 11:50 AM

What delineates the Southern ocean from the rest are mainly the winds. The prevailing winds between 40S and 60S are fierce and nearly constant as there are few landmasses to block it in its course around Antarctica, churning the ocean's surface into a bluddy maelstrom. Sailing it is not for weak-hearted. You need balls of steel to sail that region.

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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 11:08 AM

The Southern Ocean up close.

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#27
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 2:01 PM

That looks like what my brother-in-law used to tell me about tugs navigating around the North Sea platform he worked on. They would literally disappear and re-appear.

That, sir, is what we call heavy seas.

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#29
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/12/2017 2:08 PM

Who says sailing in a storm isn't fun? This bloke is having a great time!

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#30

Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 1:51 AM

And not to be forgotten are the SOUTHERN LIGHTS.
http://www.aurora-service.net/aurora-forecast/
The above link will take you to the Southern Lights forecast website.

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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 2:12 AM

Yes, and both poles are affected similarly but the way some aurora-alert sites talk you'd think only the north polar region displayed auroras lol. Ain't so. (some of these sites are blatantly if unconsciously boreal-centric)

Btw, the polar regions might light up a bit this weekend. The Sun ejected a CME on April 9th. The bulk of it will pass by Earth but may deal Earth's magnetic field a glancing blow. If so, expect magnetic disturbances and auroras. I don't know how far south you are but folks in Tas and south NZ might see some action this weekend.

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#33

Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 9:57 AM

For the young geographer, various ''scientific'' sources over the years (mainly marine biologists, I s'pose) have claimed that at least one-fifth of the animal life (again, by mass, I s'pose and including humans) on Planet Earth live in the Southern Ocean, mainly in the form of krill.

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#34
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 11:56 AM

So then, if it rests under the southern lights, and there be mucho krill in the water, it is the Southern Ocean. (And if the compass and sextant say so).

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#35
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 12:01 PM

Not only, but Krill Bill was filmed there on-location.

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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 1:38 PM

Krill Bill and the Samurai Sultans?

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#44

Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/13/2017 11:40 PM

When I was in grammar school many years ago there was no reference to the Southern Ocean, only the Antarctic Ocean.

In the past twenty or thirty years, however, much of the literature that I read DOES refer to a Southern Ocean, probably the same body of water that was referred to as the Antarctic Ocean.

So to answer the question, I have heard about the Southern Ocean.

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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/14/2017 2:58 AM

In 2000, the International Hydrographic Organization created the fifth and newest world ocean - the Southern Ocean. It always was the Antartic Ocean or Austral Ocean.

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#45

Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/14/2017 1:34 AM

The Southern ocean is a myth. I am an Ozzie living in Victoria and near the ocean. As you Northern dwellers know, we are upside down here, so try holding a glass of water upside down without any covering and the water pours out. Well as we are upside down, the water down here has drained from our land and is distributed amongst the upper atmosphere. We are able to walk to any other Southern hemisphere country. Currently, we are pressuring the government to put in some roads so that instead of walking, we might drive.

Yes!! the Southern ocean is a myth.

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#46
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/14/2017 2:25 AM

Q: How does a flat-Earther know he's in Australia?

A: When it's turtles all the way up.

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#47
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/14/2017 2:46 AM

How much can a koala bear? You must be a pommie.

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#50
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/14/2017 9:52 AM

Without the Greeks we wouldn’t have history. They also had myths. A myth is a female moth. One myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the River Stynx until he became intolerable. Achilles appears in The Iliad, by Homer. Homer also wrote The Oddity, in which Penelope was the last hardship that Ulysses endured on his journey. Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name. Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock.

from Anguished English by Richard Lederer.

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#52
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Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/17/2017 9:16 AM

...grinding teeth now. That is almost insurmountably rotten.

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#51

Re: Who's Heard of The Southern Ocean!?

04/15/2017 12:56 AM

Don't worry about, " for whatever reason " . That's one of the nice things, you never stop learning everyday. Your daughter knows this.

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