Perfectly innocuous, mundane video inspires hyperbole on the internet

I am mystified — the most trivial things get labeled with extravagant labels on the internet, and I’m experiencing hyperbole fatigue (actually, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the annoying ads that are generated for this post are full of this crap). The latest example is this “viral video” that is being described as “bizarre“, “uncomfortable“, “revolting“, and “gross“. It’s none of those things. It’s routine and commonplace. It’s just a razor clam on an Oregon beach.

This copy has the most ordinary title: “clam digs into sand”.

My family used to dig for razor clams, and we knew how fast they could burrow. It wasn’t gross, it was wonderful: they dig by anchoring themselves with that muscular foot and expelling water to fluidize the sand around them, and then contracting muscles to pull themselves deeper into the muck, which then firms up around them. They were so fast at burrowing in that you needed special tools to keep up with them — a clam gun, which was a tube you’d push around the clam and then pull up to remove the clam and all the wet sand around it (that could be heavy work), or these narrow shovels that would let you dig fast. We’d walk along the beach or in the shallows, looking for spurts from their siphons or the little dimples they’d leave on the surface, and then you’d race to excavate them before they got away.

Here’s a video from the Washington state parks department on how to dig for razor clams.

They’re delicious, by the way. That clam is just one big hunk of almost pure muscle.

Also, that video shows what I’ve always thought of as a real beach: gray, cloudy, foggy, and wet, and going to the beach meant putting on denim and flannel and good solid boots, getting cold and damp, and coming home to a seafood feast. It was kind of the opposite of glamorous and weird, internet.


  1. cherbear says

    I’ve seen that. It’s amazing how fast they are! I can imagine digging for them would be a bit of a challenge. I don’t normally think of bivalves as being so mobile.

  2. frog says

    I’m with you, PZ: Beaches are gray. Even when they’re sunny, the water is gray. (I grew up with Long Island beaches.) My favorite time of the year at the beach is winter or autumn.

    I’ve never been clam digging, but I have been clam stomping. Not as barbarous as it sounds: we kids would walk along and then stomp on the surface of the sand to try to get clams to squirt up our friends’ legs!

  3. Snarki, child of Loki says

    OF COURSE those clams are fast!
    How else are they going to get away from those exploding whales?1??

    Well, youtube clams, at least.

  4. jrkrideau says

    Re the hyperbole, most millennials probably have never seen or prepared any food other than what they bought in a grocery store and probably think clams only come in tins.

    Those things are big!

    Beaches should be bright and sunny and about 25-30 degrees in the summer.

  5. cartomancer says

    Honestly PZ, how on earth did you manage to get all the blogging mega-bucks and the Trophy Wife without indulging in pointless hectoring hyperbole? Teaching biology?

  6. springa73 says

    I can see how this might look odd to someone who didn’t know anything about clams (which includes a lot of people), but bizarre and revolting are definitely hyperbolic terms.

  7. gypsymotopilot says

    I’ve dug razor clams many times over at Moclips and Copalis. Since I use the narrow shovels out in the surf, meaning a few quick digs and then plunging my hand into the sand to chase the clam, I am also familiar with why they are called razor clams. Cleaning them is work, but then breading and frying them…. mmmm, good. It’s like a clam steak.
    Can’t imagine why someone would be grossed out by this video.

  8. Raucous Indignation says

    I had the Mediterranean species of razor clams in Venice a few years back. I love razor clams and Venetians served me some of the most sublime seafood I have ever eaten. I prefer them fried. Pure and brilliant, especially paired with an older white from Veneto.

  9. Raucous Indignation says

    I dug for razor clams on Long Island with my Dad when I was a very small child. Dad had to shepherd four small children along the beach carry all the equipment and buckets. We didn’t catch that many. Apparently parenthood cut down on my dad’s clamming prowess.

  10. woozy says

    The only thing gross would be the kid next to you asking the friendly clammer in waders “Are they pissing” when he sees the water spurt and you slap your forehead in a dope-slap.

    Yes, beaches should be grey and and cold with crumbly granite cliffs and bubbly foam residue as the water seeps down into the monster-berry grains of sand with an audible whispery shooosh.

  11. robro says

    …shows what I’ve always thought of as a real beach: gray, cloudy, foggy, and wet…

    That’s a very Left Coast sort of beach, PZ. Go to Florida. Beaches there are bright, white, hot, and humid. You can generally tell the newcomer here in SF when they discover that “Sunny California” is marketing hype when it comes to beaches, and they can’t go in the ocean without a wetsuit and a willingness to risk life-and-limb.

    We may well have entered the Hyperbolic Age. I avoid reading or watching anything that’s titled “[ some comedian, politician, blogger ] Totally Destroys [ someone else ].”

  12. rabbitbrush says

    In Warshington state, you dig up those clams with kids?? How does that work? Do you need to sharpen their edges? Do you have to starch them to make them rigid enough so they don’t slump?

  13. Knabb says

    @5 jrkrideu

    Yeah, that’s us millennials all right. We’ve never seen so much as a corn field, let alone wild berries. We’ve never seen whole fish anywhere, even if they do make it to the supermarket. The idea that food doesn’t come in packages is strange and foreign, and we’re still working on understanding this whole “hunting” concept, and have never seen deer except for as meat on a plate. This is obviously a matter of how your generation is just better than us, and not something like clams being more unfamiliar to people further inland or a distaste for slime in a small chunk of the population.

  14. robro says

    Knabb — You yungin’s ain’t got no good learnin’. It’s an old saw, dull and worn. When I was 6 or 7 years old in the mid-50s, I brought home a few cornstalks, a peanut bunch still on the vine, and a cotton plant cutting with open bowls from my grandparents’s farm in Georgia. I took these to school to show all the kids growing up in the “city” (Jacksonville, Fl) who had never been on a farm and didn’t know where things come from. Not only were we not millennials, but we hadn’t even coined the word yet.

  15. Rich Woods says

    Peanuts on the vine? That’s peanuts. When I were a lad my granddad taught me how to dress a rabbit. A few years later I went camping with a couple of mates and, stupidly, more to show off than anything, I set a snare on a rabbit run. Unluckily it trapped a rabbit and obviously I couldn’t let it go to waste, so I laid a fire and then I skinned and gutted the rabbit. Both my mates threw up.

    Fortunately, they recovered once they smelled the roasting meat.

  16. jrkrideau says

    @17 Knabb

    No, I just know a lot of people who have never cleaned a fish or helped buther a steer etc, walked in a corn field and so on. As robbo @ 18 says a lot of people have never really dealt with food-in–the-raw.

    <We’ve never seen whole fish anywhere, even if they do make [sic] it to the supermarket.

    I did not say “seen”; I said “cleaned”. I’ve never been fond of cleaning fish so I almost always buy my fish already cleaned. But I did get forced into cleaning “too” many as a boy.

    I assumed millennials but that was the language plus we are much more urbanized now than 40 or 50 years ago. I would expect a slightly different vocabulary or no comment, perhaps a grimace at from older people .

  17. says

    Having lived in Oregon for over 50 years, I definitely agree about beaches. Gray, etc. Oh, and windy. You forgot windy. And the ocean, of course, is horribly dangerous. You’ll want to stay well away from that.

  18. Ed Seedhouse says

    Personally, I thought the video was beautiful rather than revolting.

  19. jazzlet says

    The only bizzare thing about that video is that there are two razor clams on the sand. I’ve only ever seen the shells on the sand, when alive the clams have always been safely dug in.

  20. wzrd1 says

    Wow, bag limit of 15 clams. That makes for some good eating!

    As I’m quite far inland and I don’t trust the Red River’s purity, I’ll e stuck buying bivalves. :/
    But, I’m feeling an urge for mussels for my pasta sauce! Dad and I used to go through a solid five pounds between us.

  21. archangelospumoni says

    Don’t get on the aeroplane just yet to fly out here for razor clams. Right this minute all Washington ocean beaches are closed to the taking of razor clams due to high levels of domoic acid. Bad deal.
    BUT–razor clams are still one of the coolest critters anywhere.
    Archangelo Spumoni, proud resident of Washington state since mid ’60s.

  22. wzrd1 says

    I’d have thought that it’d be a bit early for algal blooms in the region!
    At least, so far, the GOP hasn’t stopped testing for the toxin.

  23. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    Not only were we not millennials, but we hadn’t even coined the word yet.

    I bet you had to rely on a literal goat for scaping!

  24. Matrim says


    Still really condescending the way you worded it. Incidentally, I know WAY more millenials into hunting and home farming than baby boomers or gen-Xers.

  25. blf says

    My family used to dig for razor clams…

    Poopyhead’s origins revealed! This also explains his fascination with squids, zebrafish, and hidden undersea tunneled-out volcano bases.