Anyone ever had this conversation at work by the water cooler?
You: What are you going to do this weekend?
Colleague: I think me and the wife might take a nice trip to the coast, get out of the car and jump off a 200 foot cliff.
You: Sounds like a good idea. Think I'll jump off a cliff too.
Colleague: Actually my cousins are visiting. They'll certainly want to jump off a cliff this weekend.
So might go the typical work water cooler conversation of a lemming, one of the most curious of rodents.
Lemmings are small rodents that live in tundra biomes near the Arctic. They are most famous for their acts of mass suicide, although it's not clear if this is down to suffering SAD due to the lack of light in the Norwegian winters, or just for the hell of it.
Lemmings see wild population fluctuations. The Norway lemming and the brown lemming reproduce so rapidly they suffer sudden populations fluctuations, going from population explosions to near extinction.
The near extinction problem is not helped by the mass suicides, although there's some evidence this is an urban, or rather a treeless wilderness myth.
Those good old lemming misconceptions date back to the 1530s when the Swiss geographer Zeigler of Strasbourg proposed the theory the lemmings fell from the sky in stormy weather. By all accounts he would stroke his long beard and proclaim: "It's raining cats, dogs and lemmings."
A similar theory was proposed in the folklore of the Inupiat/Yupik at Norton Sound. Later this theory was modified to that of mass suicide. When one lemming jumped off a cliff, the others follow, the theory went. However, the reality is more about mass migration than depression.
When the lemming population goes nuts there's a major urge to get out of Dodge City. During these crazed migrations they may attempt to swim across water that's too wide and drown en masse in the process.
Disney is much to blame for the mass suicide myth. The 1955 adventure comic "The Lemming with the Locket" showed the creature jumping in large numbers off cliffs in Norway, while the 1958 film White Wilderness features staged footage of lemmings jumping off cliffs. It turns out they were being flicked into the air via a turntable by the kindly lemming lovers at Disney.
Lemming behavior is now associated with people who go along unquestioning with a dumb decision or idea which is detrimental to them.
Useless Fact About the Lemming
Although they are depicted as being passive the brightly colored lemmings can behave aggressively toward predators and even humans.
What Not to Say to a Lemming
Fancy a Cliff bar?