Friday, March 09, 2012

Yarn Bomb

When I went to one of our local libraries recently, I saw this on the way in:

Since I try to take oddities in stride -- that, or I'm a bit slow -- I said to myself, "Oh, what a nice pole-warmer for that lamp post," and went on my merry way.

But then I saw that there were also tree-trunk warmers. In fact, everything had a warmer. And the book return had a very large hat and scarf. For a moment I wondered whether I was about to be picked up by someone's hijacked Infinite Improbability Drive and turned into a yarn creature.

After the book return was sorted into Ravenclaw, I noticed something intriguing behind it -- something of a slightly higher quality that the simple tubes covering everything in the vicinity that a tube can be made to cover. It was a very impressive feat of knitting.

I later happened upon the library's website and saw that they had been yarn-bombed. I am not clear as to the purpose or advantage of yarn-bombing, particularly when it seems to involve mainly putting tubes on things, but the Alice in Wonderland lamp post cover was so remarkably excellent that I made a special trip back with my camera just so you could all admire it. Well done, knitters!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012


A few years ago, I bought a couple of platters. They are very cheap plastic, coated with silver paint or what you coat plates with. They're extremely plain and rather poor quality. It turned out I didn't need them for the thing I bought them for, and I've never needed them since. Every time I've thought, "Oh, maybe I can use those cheapo silver platters for this," they don't work for some reason. It has happened so often that I've only ever washed one of them, and never inspected the other. Well, I went through this whole process again this week, and I thought I might need both, so I got them down from above the fridge, and finally washed the second one. When I turned it over, I saw this curious statement printed on the back:

Oops! My mistake! When I bought this platter, I thought it was a platter. But apparently it's a plastic silver disc for decorative use only. The kicker is, this helpful warning isn't printed on the back of the other one, so I could have poisoned all of my friends and family by serving them cookies off of something platter-shaped that wasn't really a platter. What would possess a company to manufacture a serving dish that can't be used as a serving dish? Not to mention that I find it hard to believe that eating off of this would hurt you. My desk isn't a serving dish either, but I bet if I ate spaghetti directly off of it, I wouldn't suffer any ill effects. What is this platter made of that makes it so specifically unsuitable for food? Plasticized arsenic?

Fortunately for me, the same thing happened that always happens: I realized in the end that I didn't need them anyway. I think this time I might just throw them out. I have no decorative needs requiring two plastic silver discs.

Monday, March 05, 2012


The reference department has recently resurrected its blog, and a few days ago, a co-worker stopped at my cubicle and asked if I thought a post on the Oxford English Dictionary would be a good idea. I did. Then she asked if I would like to write it. Is the Pope crazy? Of course I would. But before I wrote it, I thought I ought to explore it a little more thoroughly so I would sound like I knew what I was talking about. And that's how this blog post came about. Not the one for work -- I still have no idea what to write for that. But this blog post that you are about to read about obselete insults.

You see, the OED has this magnificent feature called "Categories." They work the same way as the wonderful reverse dictionary my mother gave me many years ago -- you can choose a topic, and then look at hundreds or thousands of words that relate to that topic. You can pick categories by subject, usage, region, or origin. For example, say you want to know what specialized terms might be used in reference to clocks. You go to the Crafts and Trades category, click on Clocks and Watches, and there you are! 482 words about clocks!

It's amazing! It's so useful! Because you can't look up a word when you don't know what it is. Except now you can. Thank you, good people at the OED. I love you.

So, armed with this new method of research, what did I immediately look up? Words relating to Agriculture and Horticulture? Words that came into English from Aleutian? Rare words?

No. I went right for insults. (Naturally, there was a category for it.) And that is where I found about twelve thousand derogatory ways to refer to Whigs. Whigs have been around since the 1600s in various forms, and I don't know much about them. I can't imagine every party that ever called itself Whig held all the same beliefs, and I don't even know what those beliefs would be. What I do know is that it's a word that lends itself beautifully to a variety of delightful endings.

  • Whiggarchy or Whigocracy: government by Whigs
  • Whiggify or Whiggize: to make Whiggish
  • Whiggification: the process of making Whiggish
  • Whiggissimi: extreme or absolute Whigs (coined by Jonathan Swift)
  • Whiggological: relating to Whig principles
  • Whiggery: Whig principles or practices
  • Whiglet or Whigling: a small or petty Whig
  • Whigship: the personality or quality of a Whig
  • Whigster: a Whig

Three centuries this ridiculous word survived in common use. It originally comes (probably) from whiggamaire, from whig (to urge your horse onward) and mere (usually the sea or water, but more likely here, a boundary or border). In the late seventeenth century, a gang of Presbyterians marched across Scotland into Edinburgh and took over the government -- an event referred to as "the Whiggamore raid." Or possibly "road" because you can never tell what vowels Scots are trying to say. So, the word has been derogatory since the beginning. It surprises me a bit that any party wouldn't mind making themselves such easy targets, but I guess that's politics for you.

Friday, March 02, 2012

What Ivan would like you to know about the difference between manatees and dugongs

Manatees drink only billy tea and snack on mudbugs with a side of sweet chilli sauce
True story.
Dugongs eat more refined things
Only a savage would drink billy tea

It's my fault for telling her that she should write a post about dugongs, and that it "need not be factual."