Areas of Unrest
1 December 1999 - The Harpy Index
QOTD: "There is no shortcut to longevity; to achieve it is the work of a lifetime." - James Crichten-Brown
Reading: Katy Munger, Out of Time
Listening to: Christine Lavin, Future Fossils
Harper's Magazine has (or, at least, used to have; it's been years since I read it with any regularity) a feature called "The Harper's Index" which is a collection of odd statistics. I once read that compiling this monthly feature is one of the tasks they use their unpaid interns for. Despite that exploitation, I still found that this was often one of the more interesting things in the magazine. So I thought it would be interesting to attempt my own version.
In case anybody didn't know, a harpy is a (Greek) mythological creature with the head of a woman and the body of an eagle and particularly sharp, vicious talons. However, I suspect they just got a bad rap. In her wonderful book, A Comprehensive Dictionary of the Gods, Anne S. Baumgartner's entry for harpies defines them as "Goddesses of storms. Principal among them are Podarge the Swiftfooted, Aello the Stormswift, Ocepete the Swiftwing and Celeano the Dark. They have been depicted as hideous beasts by mortals who are afraid of thunder and lightning. Actually, they are winged women of an ethereal beauty." I don't really identify all that strongly with harpies, but I can never resist a pun. I supposed I could have titled this "harper's index" because I do play the psaltery a bit, but my puns on that subject have been worn out by the psalty-nuts mailing list.
Okay - I will get to the point. Here goes:
I should expand on that last item. Lance sent me email the other day. A friend of his back east knows a seventh grader who was doing a class project involving word play. Apparently, this child had specifically asked for bad puns. While I did pass along the URL for the International Save the Pun Foundation and throw in a very old, very bad shaggy dog story, I also commented that I felt I should be slightly offended by the request. I mentioned this to Milo and his response was, "face it, you're a unique corporate resource." I double-checked and was relieved that he didn't mention this under "communications skills" on my last performance review.
Copyright 1999 Miriam H. Nadel
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