May 16th, 2006


the anti-almanac -- lists of things I don't know

I sat with Alvin the librarian on the bus to campus this morning. Alvin is a charming, very gay older man who is also the librarian who is (among other things) the linguistics librarian.

He recruited me to help him with a crossword clue; "1-down: some leporids" (which we were able to work out was "HARES", when I remembered the French word for "rabbit").

We talked some more about crossword puzzles, and he pulled the most marvelous book out of his bag:

Alvin keeps a list of all the things he learns in crosswords ("not the ones I just couldn't think of," he said, "when I really didn't know the fact").

"It's an Alvin's-complement almanac," I said, and he laughed, and flipped to the back of his little hand-printed book, to show me the "unverified" section. It was a long list of words like "essling: baby salmon", where, Alvin said, "they seem reasonable, but I just haven't been able to find it anywhere -- internet, reference books, whatever."

I looked over the list over his shoulder, and pointed out that "chile: grape basket of South America" was likely wordplay rather than an actual basket, which caused us both to crack up -- "I've been trying obscure Spanish dictionaries trying to figure that one out," he said.

How cool is that almanac? I'm tempted to start one myself. It's like an A database project that might make a cool web application for a bored developer: doesn't seem to be taken...