Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Golberg* + Goldberg*, Goldbert* (for Goldberg*)

Rube Goldberg (born on the Fourth of July in 1883) was a popular cartoonist, in addition to being a sculptor, author, engineer, and inventor. He was very goal-oriented, but efficiency was not really his game. His name, however, was rather neatly transformed into a "household word" when it was first introduced into the lexicon in 1931. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defined the adjective Rube Goldberg as: "accomplishing by complex means what seemingly could be done simply." (In Bengali, this sort of thing is known as an "Uncle's contraption.") As Goldberg himself put it, his machines were a "symbol of man's capacity for exerting maximum effort to achieve minimal results." He felt that most people truly preferred doing things the hard way! Purdue University holds an annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest for students nationwide; the "2012 National Task Is to Inflate a Balloon and Pop It!" The children's board game Mousetrap is based on the Rube Goldberg model, but perhaps my favorite example is the "Breakfast Machine" in the movie Pee-wee's Big Adventure. With two simple steps, we found today's complex typo 15 times in OhioLINK and 188 times in WorldCat. (And, since I repeatedly kept making this misstep myself, I also searched on Goldbert*, which got me five hits in OhioLINK, only one of which seemed to be the correct spelling of somebody's surname.) Your library catalog should not be forcing patrons to find what they're looking for in an overly complicated and roundabout way. Correct this typo today and make things easy for them.

(Rube Goldberg & family, April 4, 1929, by the National Photo Company, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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