Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Reference Roundup 

Image hosted by Photobucket.com A young man approached the reference desk. "I have an infestation of roaches. Remember that movie Joe’s Apartment? It's like that, except the little bastards don't sing and dance, they just die in my cereal boxes. Help."

Whenever a patron asks how to get rid of roaches or some other pest, I always recommend Tiny Game Hunting. I have yet to have a man who is not delighted by the title, which must appeal to his sense of adventure, as if he is going on safari rather than, say, rid prize roses of aphids. I also always print out this article from the Straight Dope.

A Chinese man who bought some greeting cards in bulk called telephone reference. He thought the cards were blank, but when he opened them up he discovered they were inscribed, “From your secret pal.” Since his English was limited he didn’t understand what ‘secret pal’ meant, so I tried to explain that it’s perhaps someone who’s trying anonymously to cheer up a friend or a relative. I hesitated even to get into the creepy and stalker implications of sending cards anonymously as a “secret pal” but suggested that if he must use the cards to only do so with family members.

I had a difficult time trying to explain to a Chinese woman the different pronunciations of Warren Buffet (financial investor), buffet (to strike or beat), and buffet (piece of furniture, smorgasbord).

God, English is a bitch! I told her that since English sometimes comes up short, it will assimilate languages’ words, which accounts for some of the variations in pronunciations. Or, as Booker T. Washington said, “We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

"Is it more sanitary to be peed on or spit on?"
Don't know the reasons for this question, and I didn't care to ask. Spit is teeming with bacteria, but urine is quite sterile, so much so that it was actually used to clean wounds by Aztecs and drunk medicinally by Gandhi and, if you believe his daughter, J.D. Salinger. Licking your own wounds may be beneficial, though. Good old Cecil Adams answers the age old question about whose mouth is cleaner: a dog's or human's.

"Which is higher, the Atlantic or Pacific side of the Panama Canal?"
Tricky question! Because of tidal pull, mean sea level at the Pacific end of the canal is on average about 20 centimetres (8 in) higher than at the Atlantic end.

"How much urine does the average adult male pass a day?"
For a healthy man, 1 - 2 L per day.

The latest news on female circumcision. The patron claims he's a lawyer who’s interested in the subject from a human right’s standpoint, but I bet I have an unpleasant suspicion that he just wants to get a female librarian to talk to him about it and obtain photocopies of pictures of mutilated vaginas for him. I usually transfer him to the men in interlibrary loan to satisfy his research needs.

"What's Star Jones up to nowadays?"

What a lovely batch of questions! I wish the ones I got were as entertaining. :)

--Shelly, posting anonymously until a little beta Blogger glitch is fixed
well.... what IS star jones up to? don't leave us hanging like that.
As E said, "Working hard on her marriage."
I like these questions a lot more than the ones I get all day. "Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? Mommy? and so forth. Delightful.
How can you give people advice on exterminating cockroaches without first enabling them to determine how to tell which cockroaches were once related to them? It's a very popular thing, you know. I mean, if you came back as a cockroach wouldn't you go infest some relative's house?
This anonymous poem has gone the rounds of ESL teachers since at least the early 90s:

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy -
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer.

It goes on for 10 more paragraphs that really illustrate the irregular and seemingly illogical nature of English pronunciation, and ends like this:

Finally, which rhymes with enough -
Though, through, plough, dough or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup...
My advice is to give up!
where art thou foxymama?
Your post reminded me of this conversation from Kingpin

Neighbor: Hey Roy, can you get sick from drinking piss?
Roy: I think you can.
Neighbor: Even if its your own?

Now that's an excellent question.
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