Geek Trivia

Which Cartoonist Coined The Name For Stegosaurus Tail Spikes?

Charles Schultz
Bill Watterson
Gary Larson
Bill Ward
Which Of These Technology Terms Is Made Up And Not A Cultural Reference Or Portmanteau?
Gary Larson

Answer: Gary Larson

Gary Larson, the beloved cartoonist behind the quirky single-panel comic The Far Side, is, to this day, popular in geeky and scientific circles. So popular in fact, that jokes and references from his collections often work their way into scientific lingo and discourse.

One example of this trend comes from a 1982 panel that he penned wherein a caveman professor is giving a lecture to his caveman pupils about the dangers of a stegosaurus’s tail, explaining, “Now this end is called the Thagomizer after the late Thag Simmons.” The term was picked up by Ken Carpenter, a paleontologist working at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, who used the term when describing a fossil at the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology Annual Meeting in 1993.

Since then, it has taken hold as the informal but most widely used name for the spikes on a stegosaurus’s tail and is used by the Smithsonian Institution, the BBC documentary series Planet Dinosaur, and in other museums and bodies of work—firmly cementing it in the lexicon and immortalizing poor Thag Simmons.