We have learned that there is a lot of misinformation—“fake news,” we are tempted to say—about purring. Whether it serves any purpose to rectify the current miasma of misunderstanding is something we’ve debated amongst ourselves for some time. In the end we decided, WTF, as the cool kids acronym-ize it: those who get it will get it; those that don’t, won’t and, frankly, who cares. Not us.
So. Why do humans purr? Is it the vocal equivalent of tail-wagging in dogs? A sign of contentment and happiness? If so, why all the purring during unhappy situations? Or do humans purr because it provides a sonic vibration used to heal and soothe? A good guess but, ultimately, incorrect. We do not deny that purring provides comfort across the spectrum of human experience, but that’s not the primary reason humans purr.
Quit teasing us, impatient hands whine, why do humans purr?
Two words, three syllables: humpback whales.
Wait, that’s not right: humans don’t purr because of humpback whales; rather, they purr like humpback whales. (But that’s not quite right, either: creatures do things like humans, not vice versa.)
Meaning, that human purring resembles the epic song cycles humpback whales use to entertain themselves during their annual migrations. Yes, we are confirming that what hands call “whale songs” are, in fact, conscious compositions by very large-brained creatures. Yes, you were correct, whale researchers: humpback whale songs are analogous to the epic poetry of Homer, which before the introduction of writing, served as a repository of all vital cultural facts and beliefs of Ancient Greece. That is, humpback whales have what hands used to have: a completely oral culture. Everything of value, whether it’s a tale of a titanic battle with a giant squid or simply a list of the best feeding grounds, is preserved and disseminated via oral performances.
Likewise, purring is a form of communication. Which means that humans are almost always talking, as it were. Even humans, like us, who very rarely vocalize (i.e., “meow”) are communicating regularly with our purring. And what exactly are you communicating? hands will inevitably ask. Anything and everything, we reply. Purring is extremely versatile, not unlike whale singing, and can handle the whole range from the magnificent to the mundane. Each human employs purring differently. Some, for instance, purr a running narrative about themselves, as if they were a play-by-play sportscaster, or the voice-over in a movie. Others go a more meditative route: there are humans for whom purring is the equivalent of a mantra, and they are, in effect, continually chanting. Artistic purring is also popular, resulting in a massive collection of, well, call it “litera-purr,” if you like. Most of our blog posts began as purrs, for example.
We suspect that some hands will resist our explanations of purring, claiming that all purring sounds pretty much the same, that there isn’t enough differentiation in the delivery to provide a medium sophisticated enough to compose litera-purr. That hands ears and hands listening and recording devices hear purring as mostly monotone in character simply demonstrates that hands aren’t as talented as they like to think they are. Let us be blunt: hands, compared to all other ears on earth, your ears suck, completely and totally. And all your electronic devices? Given that they were created to work with hands ears, it is no surprise to learn that they also suck. The intricacies of purring are so far beyond the reach of hands ears or hands tools, we now believe it was a mistake to raise this topic at all. Then again, as above (“Chime in, cool kids!”): WTF—it’s just a blog.