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Friday, July 31, 2009

Mlcref is Tweeting!

So it’s finally happened. Not only do we have this handy blog, along with the very helpful (and entertaining) Meebo chat function, but now, the Library Commission’s reference department is on Twitter! If you’re on, too, you can find us at mlcreference – but if you’re not, you can see our tweets on the left side of the blog’s screen. Hopefully we won’t be like most of the Twitterers out there who create an account, tweet a couple of times, then disappear forever.

If you’re new to Twitter, I recommend Mashable’s Twitter Guide Book. And if you’re a librarian, check out "Working the Social: Twitter and FriendFeed" from Library Journal.

Speaking of the Meebo chat function, we’re currently working on getting a Meebo box inserted into our online catalog as well, so that patrons who are searching and having trouble can instantly connect with staff to get their problems worked out. Is there any other way that we can make chat reference better for you? If so, leave us a comment or email us at

Monday, July 27, 2009

Put this Blog Post in File 13.

Jesse received a question on Meebo this morning, but after I saw it, I switched questions with him because I thought it was so interesting! (In exchange, Jesse is now compiling demographic data on all 82 Mississippi counties. Pretty fair swap, I'd say.)

The question was: what's the origin of the term "file 13"?

File 13 is the trash can, as in, "Thanks for your memo; I've put it in File 13." Our friend Wikipedia tells us it's military in nature, so that's the direction I headed to find the rest of the story. A Dictionary of Soldier Talk says that the term simply means "wastebasket" and is synonymous with "circular file," which originated during World War II. It also adds that this is "the most useful article in an office" (61). War Slang: American Fighting Words and Phrases Since the Civil War divides its terms by war, and "file 13" is found in the World War II section. Unfortunately, there are no additional clues to its origin, and our other slang dictionaries are no help, either.

However, looking through these books reveals that soldiers apparently give EVERYTHING a nickname; my guess is that "file 13" was just funny enough to make it out of the barracks and into general use. Some of the other slang terms that soldiers used during World War II that unfortunately never got an honorable discharge are the following:

cootie trap: a bed
drag an anchor: to have a blind date with an ugly or dull woman
dream sack: sleeping bag
eagle day: payday
fighting tools: eating utensils
germ: a person with gonorrhea
shivering Liz: Jell-O
spit kit: ashtray
walrus: one who cannot swim

I can't wait to use my fighting tools to eat some shivering Liz later!

Friday, July 24, 2009

"What would happen if you sang a chantey in a shanty? I mean, what would happen?!"

The other day, while I was browsing our collection, I happened upon the book American Sea Songs and Chanteys from the Days of Iron Men and Wooden Ships. Being a lover of all musical expression, I had to pick the book up and take a peek. The first thing that jumped out to me was that “chanteys” were placed in their own category separating them from “ballads” and “songs.” This made me wonder: what makes a chantey a chantey anyways? Further still: what separates a good chantey from a bad chantey?

Well, first things first, according to The Oxford Book of Sea Songs, chanteys were songs “sung to accompany certain specific tasks, and were very much sailor-made” (xxiv). The editor, Roy Palmer, explains that chanteys were basically used to keep the sailors working in unison; think “row row row your boat,” but with whips and shackles.

As it turns out, finding a “good” chantey is a much more difficult task. But I did pick out one example to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.

This cheer em’ up is titled “Hanging Johnny”:

They call me Hanging Johnny,
They say I hang for money,
So hang, boys, hang!
First I hung my mother,
Then I hung my brother.
I’ll hang you all together,
We’ll hang for better weather,
So hang, boys, hang! (Shay, 54)

I would include more, but they all pretty much follow the same structure. I guess hoisting sails and lifting anchors gives one little time to explore complex rhyme schemes. Anyways, if you are ever looking for a few songs for that family road trip, drop by and check out one of our books on the original traveling music: chanteys!

Palmer, Roy (ed). The Oxford Book of Sea Songs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.
Shay, Frank. American Sea Songs and Chanteys from the days of Iron Men and Wooden Ships. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1948.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hello Kitty!

To our meebo guest who wanted to know the origins of everyone’s favorite ubiquitous cat, Hello Kitty, here is a link that will provide your answer:
Hello Kitty was not, sadly, based on a historical figure but rather created by a Japanese company named Sanrio as a means to sell anything from vacuums to toaster ovens. Hello Kitty also has her own amusement park in Puroland, Japan. And if you are still reading this post, you may as well click on this link to learn more.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tie Bars, Fashion Advice, And More!

There are few arguments in the fashion world that can bring up more hurtful language than a question concerning how, when, or if to wear a tie bar/clip. With so many options, what’s a fashion-conscious young man to do? Ask a librarian, of course. I recently received a question on Meebo from a person who wanted to know if he should wear his grandfather’s tie bar even though the bar did not fit across the entire tie. After viewing several different pictures I discovered that, like many other questions in fashion, there is no universal answer. Here are a few of the suggestions that I was able to find.

First, the fashion writer for offers this confusing answer: “A tie bar must be worn entirely across the tie, from one end to the other. However this is not strictly so, and a tie bar may have its end flushed with the edge of the tie, and the extent to which it happens largely depends on the width of the tie and the length of the tie bar.” Does this make any sense to you? Me neither.

Secondly, our good friends at recommend this rule of thumb: “To have your tie clip look balanced, it should measure 3/4ths the width of your tie. When placing your tie clip, try to place it just above your top jacket button so that it can be seen, but so it doesn’t look overly close to the knot of the tie.” This suggestion seems to be followed closely, for the most part. From the pictures I’ve seen, it would be appropriate to wear the clip even if it did not cross the entire tie. It does seem, though, that the bar should cover at least half of the tie, if not more.

The Esquire’s Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men’s Fashions explains that the fashionable tis of the 1950-60s were “extremely narrow, and tie bars became shorter as a result.” Keeping in mind that our friend’s grandfather probably purchased his tie clip during this era, we can say that it was made specifically for the narrow tie of the time. Perhaps our patron could find a narrower tie—-a vintage tie, perhaps?—-that accommodates the smaller tie clip. And while we librarians are not exactly known for our sartorial wisdom, if you want to wear that tie clip, do it!

Schoeffler, O.E. and William Gale. Esquire’s Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men’s Fashions. New York: McGraw Hill, Inc., 1973. p. 265.

Monday, July 13, 2009

With a Baseball Bat.

To the meebo guest who asked who wrote the song "Peanut Butter Jelly Time," the answer is DJ Chipman of the Buckwheat Boyz.

Thanks for your question.

(For everyone else, here's a link to the video of the banana dancing to this song. There's no accounting for what becomes popular on the internet.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Izzall Rizzight.

Someone recently used the Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip Hop Culture and it was sitting at the reference desk waiting to be reshelved. Elisabeth picked it up and started reading some tidbits at random--a brief biography of Kid ‘N Play, a full explanation of a mash-up--when she came to the entry on “Izzle.”

She read this aloud:

“Izzle as a suffix or infix added to or inserted into any existing word was popularized by Snoop Dogg. The origin of the infix (added to the middle of a word) is the 1985 U.T.F.O. song, 'Roxanne, Roxanne,' where the izz infix is used: 'The izzi is the grizzeat Kizzangizzo'" (Bynoe 183).

“Wait a minute,” I said. “What about ‘Double Dutch Bus’? There’s all kinds of iz-ing in that song and I’m pretty sure it came out before 1984.”

So to the internet we turned, and lo, I discovered that "Double Dutch Bus" by Frankie Smith came out in 1981. I then found it on YouTube. You're welcome to enjoy the entire song, but be sure and pay attention around 1:39:

That's completely in the same family as izzle. But what the heck are they saying? I found the lyrics online and after 28 long years of singing along and having no idea what I was saying, I was pleased to discover that the izzle-heavy section of the song goes like this (complete with translation!):

FRANKIE: Hilzi, gilzirls! Yilzall hilzave t' milzove ilzout the wilzay silzo the gilzuys can plilzay bilzasket-bilzall
(Hey girls! Y'all have to move out the way so the guys can play basketball)

GIRLS: I say wizzat? Nizzo-izzo wizzay!
(Say what? No way!)

FRANKIE: Yizzall bizzetter mizzove!
(Y'all better move!)

GIRLS: I say wizzat? Willze illzain't millzovin'...
(Say what? We ain't movin!)

FRANKIE: Shillzu-gillzar! ....., bilzzaby!

GIRLS: Willze illzare plizzayin' dizzouble dizzutch!
(We are playin' double dutch)

FRANKIE: Millze cillzan sillzome ....plilzay dilzzouble dilzutch!
( double dutch!)

GIRL: Hilzzoo?

FRANKIE: My gizzirl!
(My girl!)

GIRL: Brillzing her izzin!
(Bring her in!)

FRANKIE: Izzo kizzay!

GIRL: Izzall rizzight...
(All right...)

FRANKIE: Izzo kizzay!

GIRL: Izzall rizzight! Nizzow wizzee wilzzo-izzo-zee!
(All right! Now we will see!)

I don't know about you, but I'm going to sleep better tonight not only knowing that the code has been cracked, but that I've given Frankie Smith credit for the izzle phenomenon. As for the Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip Hop Culture, I will be writing a letter to the author post-haste. I can only hope that the second edition corrects this wrong.

Bynoe, Yvonne. Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip Hop Culture. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

And the First Question is...Vampires!

When I first started working as a reference librarian here at the Mississippi Library Commission (my first day was last Monday), I gave a great deal of thought towards the importance of the position. I’m a provider of information, I thought, a critical link between the public and much needed information. This position allowed me to utilize my razor-sharp analytical skills to help the greater good and when my first question arrived I have to admit I was excited—nay, downright giddy. What important information would this person need: insight into the national health care debate? Strategies for online job searching? Advice on staying cool this summer?

Of course not. My first inquisitor wanted to know how a vampire might react if he/she were doused with holy water. At first I was a bit deflated by this question: a vampire? Quickly though, I decided that this person deserves the best answer that I could provide. So, after a short search on our online catalog I found something I did not know existed: J. Gordon Melton’s The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. That’s right, a 919 page encyclopedia on anything you would ever want to know about vampires.

After looking though Melton’s book, which is an excellent resource, by the way, I found out that holy water only burns vampires; it does not kill them (who knew?). I also learned the following: some of cinema’s best auteurs have directed movies about vampires. Mel Brooks, Werner Herzog, and Francis Ford Coppola are three popular directors who were fascinated with the subject. Also, vampires have appeared in two Star Trek novels, but, sadly, they never made it onto the television series. Lastly, Vlad the Impaler, the man Bram Stoker used to help create his Dracula character, has a statue built in his likeness in Tirgoviste, Romania (for those of you looking for a summer trip).
I wrote up the answer and delivered it to a (hopefully) happy customer. It just goes to show that for every question there is an answer and it’s the reference librarian’s job to find it.
Melton, J. Gordon. The Vampire Book: The Encyclopedia of the Undead. Detroit, MI: Visible Ink Press, 1999.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

We're Number One! We're Number One! Oh, Wait.

Yesterday, the Trust for America's Health released their annual report regarding obesity, and once again, Mississippi is number one! The report states that we have "the highest rate of adult obesity in the nation, at 32.5 percent and the highest of overweight youths (ages 10-17) at 44.4 percent." Our numbers, like our waistlines, increased since last year. In fact, "adult obesity rates increased in 23 states and did not decrease in a single state in the past year."

While it's nice to be first place in something, obesity obviously won't do. Here are a few state-sponsored links to help you get healthy!

The State Department of Health has a Healthy Living page with information on acceptable targets for blood pressure, cholesterol, body mass index, and more.

There is also a state initiative to get folks outside and moving called Let's Go Walkin', Mississippi. The website lets you track your progress, has information on walking trails in the state, and has a calendar with upcoming 5Ks and other races.

The State Department of Health also has a Nutrition site with information on how to eat better, recipes, and links to the USDA's MyPyramid feature, which creates a customized food pyramid for your lifestyle.

Come on, Mississippi. Let's try to come in second place next year!
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