On another crime show the other night (I seem to watch a lot of these), the original suspect told a 911 operator that she had observed blood on her murdered friend's "headboard." This word somehow got transcribed as "forehead," however, and became a major part of the state's case against her. The investigator argued that the witness couldn't possibly have seen the victim's forehead since the body had been completely wrapped in trash bags and blankets. It's hard to know whether he made that error by mistake or on purpose, but if the latter, it was evidently an ingenious, if thoroughly corrupt, move, allowing for a certain plausible deniability. (Oops, typo!) In any case, it underscores the often critical importance of proofreading one's records; it can actually be a matter of life and death. We uncovered evidence of Eveden* twice in OhioLINK, and 57 times in WorldCat.
(Antique oak sleigh bed with high headboard, from Wikimedia Commons.)
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
With regard to some murder mystery or other recently, a commentator commented: "This is an onion that continues to unpeel." Which sounds laughably wrong at first, until you consider the alternative: "This is an onion that continues to be peeled" is arguably even worse. And not to make you hypercorrect grammar nazis cry, but it appears in fact that unpeel may actually be acceptable. (The adjective unpeeled is not in dispute.) It's sort of like ravel/unravel, flammable/inflammable, thaw/unthaw—words that look like total opposites, but in fact mean pretty much the same thing. There was another mystery of sorts in my garden this past summer, in which some plants that looked a little like forgotten garlic, unharvested from the year before, started to turn up as I turned over the soil. I thought perhaps they were stunted garlics with tiny bulbs (which I now know as "field garlic"), though a fellow grower was of the opinion that they were probably wild onions. They're very tasty, but rather hard to peel. I only wish they could "unpeel" themselves! We uncovered just one Oinion* in OhioLINK today, along with 14 in WorldCat.
(Mixed onions, 15 June 2013, from Wikimedia Commons.)
Monday, October 20, 2014
The other night on a TV crime show, the victim was said to have "baby doe eyes." This struck me as another one of those conflated idioms I've written about here before: doe-eyed, baby doll, baby blues, etc. The usage was a bit disconcerting at first, but you got the general idea and in a small way it actually made the sad story just that much more poignant. Speaking of murderers, Jean-Claude ("Baby Doc") Duvalier, the longtime Haitian dictator, passed away earlier this month as well. He succeeded his father, François ("Papa Doc") Duvalier, at age 19, making him the youngest president in the world. He ruled Haiti from 1971 till 1986 when his reign was finally overthrown. After creating a vicious state militia, trafficking in illegal drugs, and selling the body parts of his countrymen in order to support his lavish lifestyle, Baby Doc was accused of the "zombification" of Haiti. Duvalier returned from France in 2011, after a nearly 20-year self-imposed time-out for bad behavior, whereupon he was promptly spanked with charges of embezzlement, abuse of power, and corruption. (The statute of limitations had run out on his most horrific crimes against humanity.) There were a lot of people still hatin' on this Haitian in 2014, though there were only two cases of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 21 in WorldCat.
(Photograph showing the now-deceased Jean-Claude Duvalier and his then wife, Michele, fleeing Haiti, from Wikimedia Commons.)
Monday, October 13, 2014
This got me wondering about the history of Thanksgiving in Canada, and I stumbled across a little document on the Canadian Heritage website.
It turns out, Thanksgiving first occurred here in 1799—before we were even officially a country. There was no set date until 1957, when a proclamation determined it would be the second Monday in October.
What really tickled me, however, was seeing the reasons proclaimed for holding Thanksgiving, which were often thanks for an abundant harvest, but sometimes differed from year to year. On Wednesday, 6 Feb. 1833, it was held for “Cessation of cholera,” and on Monday, 15 April 1872, “For restoration to health of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales.”
And then there’s Thursday, 21 Apr. 1814, when Thanksgiving was held “For glorious victories over our enemies.” Looks like we didn’t always live up to the stereotype of friendly, polite, meek Canadians.
(Wild turkey photo by Gary M. Stoltz, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)
Friday, October 10, 2014
While trying to stay awake during a BIBFRAME webinar recently, my flagging attention was caught by a typo that appeared a couple of times on the monitor: Bibliogrpahic. Some typos are rather fun to sound out, and as I silently rolled this one around on my tongue, I was unaccountably put in mind of the state of New Jersey. It took a few moments, but I soon figured out why: the last part of it sounds a bit like Passaic. And just south of Passaic is Newark, the largest city in the Garden State. (Which demographical distinction further calls to mind the wonderful sister act known as The Roches, who would often trill, "We come from deepest New Jersey..." and who once recorded a song that began: "Didn't you ever feel like the largest Elizabeth in the world?") Wilberforce Eames, a truly formidable force of nature, was born in Newark, New Jersey, on October 12, 1855, and later moved to Brooklyn with his family. Former New York Public Library director Harry Miller Lydenberg, as part of a memorial tribute delivered at the 1956 meeting of the American Antiquarian Society, tells the amazing story of this life-long book collector, bookseller, librarian, and bibliographer, one that I can merely hint at here with the following quote: "Books, books, books, there was no end, bought from auction catalogues, from dealers' lists, wherever they were seen, from home and from the ends of the earth. Fred Morris, that faithful agent and loyal soul, came to me more than once, genuinely distressed because he felt that Eames was buying beyond his means and he felt that 'something must be done.' Equally sympathetic, equally fond of our friend, we could but say finally that the man was prudent enough in other ways, and with such matters we could feel that as he had proven able to meet his other responsibilities with credit, here we could do nothing more than wish him well..." Let us all wish Wilberforce well this weekend, with gratitude for his contributions to all things bibliographic. (Note: I've truncated the original typo for better access; there were 47 in OhioLINK and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat.)
(Wilberforce Eames, painted for the Society by Mr. DeWitt M. Lockman, 1931, from Wikimedia Commons.)
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Shhhh. Librarians are famous for saying it. Along with its onomatopoetic cousins Hush and Shush, as well as the similarly sibilant Shut up (or Shutty, Shut your mouth, Shut your face, etc.), it means "Be quiet" or "Keep still." (Generally, those variants that include the word shut are not always considered the nicest ones, but they certainly have their place. I even thought of a new one: Shutten your lip. Feel free to use it!) Every language has its ways of conveying this command and an understanding of those ways could prove useful while traveling abroad. Romance languages employ a sound that's rather akin to Shh: in Spanish it's chis or chito; in French it's chut; in Italian it's sst or zitto. German and Dutch librarians hiss Pst! or Sch! at unruly patrons who fail to observe the peace and quiet. I seem to recall hearing Ferme la bouche used in French class, but have since learned that that's incorrect and is rarely said by the natives. The polite form, it appears, is Tais-toi, whereas Ferme ta gueule is downright gauche. A commenter on Wordreference writes: "It's a kid's way of telling someone to shut up." Another one says: "Sometimes you will hear Ferme la bouche! for Ferme ta gueule! from people who try not to use rude words." Often (and perhaps it's to obscure le différence?) the phrase gets shortened to Ferme-la. So when visiting France, before you open your mouth to ask where the library is ("Où est la bibliothèque?" being one of the few other phrases en français I can remember from school), make sure you know the proper way to request that your fellow bibliophiles please keep it down. Given that we have already blogged here about silence, our typo for the day is French + Franch (for, in most cases, French). We found 21 of these in OhioLINK, and 392 in WorldCat.
(An Asian woman wearing headphones and putting a finger over her lips, 19 January 2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)
(An Asian woman wearing headphones and putting a finger over her lips, 19 January 2008, from Wikimedia Commons.)
Monday, October 6, 2014
Librarianship is often remarked upon, or even flat-out ribbed, over its vast array of acronyms, one of the first and foremost, of course, being "ALA." The American Library Association was founded in Philadelphia 138 years ago today by an impressive group of men, including Justin Winsor, Charles Ammi Cutter, Samuel S. Green, James L. Whitney, Fred B. Perkins, Charles Evans, Thomas W. Bicknell, and Melvil Dewey. Its first female president was Theresa West Elmendorf, who served in that role from 1911 to 1912 (she had also presided over NYLA in 1903 and 1904). ALA's second female president, Mary Wright Plummer, quickly followed in her footsteps and the position has been trending toward the distaff side ever since. Plummer was a young Indiana Quaker when she moved with her family to Chicago in 1873. She studied at Wellesley College and took the first library class taught by Mr. Dewey at Columbia University. In 1890, she began training new librarians at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, and created a library school there in 1895. She published Hints to Small Libraries and Training for Librarianship, along with a work of poetry called Verses; she also wrote several books for children, such as Stories from the Chronicle of the Cid. In addition to heading ALA in 1915–16, Plummer had also been the president of the New York Library Association, the New York Library Club, and the Long Island Library Club. She invented the idea of "library ethics," which she outlined in a speech to the Illinois Library Association called "The Pros and Cons of Librarianship." I was so curious what these might have been, and to compare them to our current gripes and glory, that I went and fetched a copy from my own library's basement stacks. She didn't use bullet points, but her point was eloquently made in twelve pages of single-spaced text. I was particularly struck by this relevant passage: "Let us take the case of a catalog card. It may be beautifully and legibly written or printed; it may have its words and sentences separated by the proper number of millimeters; its construction may be according to the A.L.A. rules or the Cutter rules or the Library school rules, and it may yet contain some blunder of ignorance that would make a librarian blush to find it in his catalog. And that kind of cataloging is what is going to tell against librarianship as a profession..." Upon her untimely death from cancer in 1916 (three years, I might note, before American women got the right to vote), in a memorial at the New York Public Library, Caroline Weeks Barrett recalled the time that Plummer had asked her, "Do you really believe in personal immortality?" When Barrett replied in the affirmative, Plummer continued, "What to you is the 'unanswerable argument' for such a belief?" And Barrett, who had just before that "been thinking of her tremendous vitality," told her simply: "You are." It was a touching tribute to a remarkable woman who would clearly live on in the hearts and minds of her grieving colleagues, and whose influence is still felt in the library profession today, especially the American Library Association. There were 22 examples of today's typo in OhioLINK, and 496 in WorldCat.
(Portrait of Mary Wright Plummer, from Wikimedia Commons.)