Found this jaw-dropping sentence in an otherwise readable Wikipedia article on the American bullfrog (Rana catesbiana). It’s about how bullfrogs catch prey:
Adaptation to target image displacement due to light refraction at the water-air interface consists of the bullfrog’s application of tongue surface comparatively posterior to the perceived location of the prey target.
I’m too awestruck to attempt a translation into mere English. Or to put it another way: “Subject’s response subsequent to analysis of the indicated selection of the specified hypertext document (q.v.) has induced a latency of indefinite duration in potential compensatory generation by subject of superseding character strings through a process of user-agent facilitated authentication, composition, and remote storage.”
This week I’ve been clearing out the cobwebs by taking a break to write a Wikipedia article or three. Since Saturday I’ve added these obscure items to The Free Encyclopedia Anyone Can Edit:
- Georg Schäfer, a German capitalist, erstwhile Nazi official, and art collector. He needed to be distinguished from the globe-trotting, tale-spinning, acid-dropping painter Georg Schafer, who left the little dots off the A.*
- Museum Georg Schäfer, the most acclaimed art museum in the less-than-euphoniously-named city of Schweinfurt.
- Gesellschaft für das Gute und Gemeinnützige, a venerable do-gooder organization from my favorite Swiss city, Basel.
All three are loose translations of the German Wikipedia articles. I stumbled onto the Schafer/Schäfer ambiguity while translating the Wikipedia Commons info on the genre painting “The Bookworm.” Schäfer collected it, but a reader depending on English Wikipedia might have assumed that it was acquired by the painter Schafer, also known as “Oma Ziegenfuss.”
By the way, I’ve enjoyed seeing some of my contributions to the English Wikipedia get translated into German — for example, Poarch Creek Indian Reservation, which was deutsched into Poarch-Creek-Reservat.
Of course, starting a new Wikipedia article, while it can be gratifying, does not entitle one to any kind of ownership, or even to assurance that the piece won’t be deleted tomorrow.
The latter Schafer’s brief Wikipedia biography appears to be mostly fiction, contributed by his widow (who probably believes every word). Note that it has been flagged as unreliable by at least one other editor. ↩
Last August I dashed off a pair of Wikipedia articles, one about the John Harvard Library book series from Harvard University Press, the other about its namesake, a lending library in Southwark.
Today I took a break from other things to spruce up the first article. The John Harvard Library is now fifty years old and is getting a facelift, according to this item at the Harvard press’s P.R. blog. Where the series started out with a heavy emphasis on colonial documents, nowadays it is casting a wider net, taking in the sectional crisis, the Civil War, and the Progressive Era.
The series has just gotten a uniform graphic design, with new author portraits drawn by Robert Carter and posted at his website, crackedhat.com. Quite a change from the old covers, done up in staid Enlightenment-era typefaces.
I like the portraits, but unfortunately can’t give you a direct link to them, as the website is done up entirely in unfriendly Flash. So here are some snapshots.
Frederick Douglass. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Stephen Crane.
Harriet Jacobs. The Federalists (John Jay, Alec Hamilton, Jemmy Madison). Jim Crow.
Nathaniel Hawthorne. Nathaniel Hawthorne. Harriet Beecher Stowe.
To see larger versions of these images, or more of Carter’s work, go to crackedhat.com
Note to Google searchers: These pics are the original work of Robert Carter and must be attributed to him. Instead of copying images from this page, follow this link and select Portraits.
J. Gordon Coogler at work.
For the past few years I’ve thought that one of the most glaring omissions from Wikipedia (that most praised and blamed of websites) was an article on South Carolina bard J. Gordon Coogler, who penned the deathless lines
Alas! for the South, her books have grown fewer—
She never was much given to literature.
Coogler imagined these two lines to be a complete poem. He sent innumerable booklets of his work to literary journals in the 1890s, and before long newspaper editors in the North were quoting his lines with glee. Coogler’s immortality was assured when H.L. Mencken chose this poem as the motto for his gloating essay on southern backwardness, “The Sahara of the Bozart.” *
Coogler’s name still pops up from time to time as the ultimate poetaster. Conservative pundit R. Emmett Tyrell, Jr. has bestowed the Coogler name on an annual booby prize he awards to books he doesn’t like. (The award would be funnier if Tyrell could manage to ridicule his targets without also trying to drown them in buckets of venom. † )
I thought this deficiency at Wikipedia would be remedied in time. But the other day, finding this deplorable gap in knowledge still unfilled, I stole a couple of hours, did some research, and wrote a Coogler article my own self.
* Sadly unavailable online due to copyright.
† In other words, the kind of thing that passes for humor at FreeRepublic.com.