JavaScript disabled or chat unavailable.

Have a question?

We have answers!
Chat Monday-Friday, 8 AM - 5 PM (except MS state holidays)
Phone: 601-432-4492 or Toll free: 1-877-KWIK-REF (1-877-594-5733)
Text: 601-208-0868

Friday, February 26, 2010

Judging a Book By Its Cover

I recieved a question from a meebo guest who wanted to know where the phrase "don't judge a book by its cover" came from. I was able to discover in The Consise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs that the popular phrase was first written in the book, Murder in the Glass Room (1946). The meaning, according to The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy is "don't judge the value of a thing simply by its appearance."

Simpson, John. The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs. New York, 1992
Hirsch, E.D. The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. New York, 2002

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Meebo Question Answered

Last night a meebo guest asked how much snow we received here in the great state of Mississippi. According to the Jackson metro area averaged between 4 to 6 inches of the white stuff with the heaviest accumulation occurring between Natchez and Brookhaven (up to 8 inches) Also in weather, I think Megan West is the hottest news anchor in Mississippi (Get it? Hottest, like hot as in weather hot, but you can also read it as the popular term "hot" as in something or someone attractive. I think it's a homonym).

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Little Stripper Music

Do you know what a sexophone is?  Nope, I didn’t misspell it. It’s an actual word. According to, a sexophone is “a short riff on the saxophone used to indicate the arrival of a sexy woman.” A muted trumpet can also be used to create the effect. 

I didn’t know any of this before this week, but that's the beauty of working at the reference desk - I learn something new all the time.  Tuesday, I received a request from a person who wanted to know the name of a certain song often heard in old cartoons.  You know the one - it's the tune that plays whenever a voluptuous woman appears onscreen.  Well, there wasn't a single tune that was used in these cartoons, but after a little digging, my MLC colleagues and I determined that the genre of music our patron described was burlesque. One of the most popular burlesque tunes is “The Stripper” by David Rose, and the song our patron was seeking might have been this one or some variation of it. “The Stripper” isn’t the only tune used for sexophone purposes, but it’s certainly one of the most familiar. 

Most of you would probably recognize it if you heard it.  It's the one that goes like this: Da da da dun dun dun dunnnn dun dunn dun.

Okay, I guess that doesn’t work out too well when you write it out. So try this instead. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Paraguayan Smackdown!

Dear readers,
About twenty minutes ago I received a phone call from Ms. Gloria Montiel from the Embassy of Paraguay (now that's a sentence I never thought I'd write). Ms. Montiel assured me that dueling is in fact illegal in Paraguay regardless of organ or blood donor status. After receiving her phone call I immediately wrote to the publishers of The New York Public Library Desk Reference for comment.
Stay tuned!

An Offical Message From the Reference Staff

On March 18, 2009, Elisabeth wrote a blog in which she quoted The New York Public Library Desk Reference as saying "In Paraguay, dueling is legal provided both parties are registered blood donors." Today, almost a year later, a guest contacted me on meebo and said that information was not true. The guest claimed that dueling was now outlawed in his native country.
In order to find out if indeed a blood donor could duel in Paraguay, I searched our collection, contacted the New York Public Library, and emailed a law librarian. Sadly, none of these sources could answer my question. Instead of giving up, our fearless leader, Tracy, called the Embassy of Paraguay in Washington, D.C. to get some answers. (I guess Senior Fernando Lugo was busy, ha ha) We are currently waiting on a response from Paraguayan officials.
To be continued....

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Unbrewing of...What?

I've written before that I am enamoured with the blog Word Journal; it's posts like these that make my love grow stronger:

Ten Unexpected Collective Nouns

rout • a rout of wolves
clowder • a clowder of cats
descension • a descension of woodpeckers
disworship • a disworship of Scots
mute • a mute of hounds
raft • a raft of ducks
unbrewing • an unbrewing of carvers
neverthriving • a neverthriving of jugglers
drunkenship • a drunkenship of cobblers
shrewdness • a shrewdness of apes

Poor jugglers! And I never knew that cobblers had such a reputation. I think I might have to do a little more research on some of these (unbrewing?) and get back to you.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

So, Snow, When Did You Fall?

This past Friday, the Library Commission and the rest of the state of Mississippi experienced something most unusual for the second time in less than a month. A fierce swath of winter weather swept across the South and forced us to temporarily close our doors. Unheard of!

It seems that some of our patrons have been racking their brains trying to recall old snowstorms from Mississippi's past. One inquiring mind asked, "How many inches of snow fell in the 1990 snow?" Well, not many! After some digging, I found a reference in the Clarion Ledger to "a light blanket of snow and sleet over north and central Mississippi" which fell December 23, 1990. Unable to determine if this was the storm in question and still missing the vital measurement, I turned to our local National Weather Service Forecast Office. The informative staff there was able to inform me that there was no measureable snow in our area in 1990. The closest accumulation occurred December 9, 1989, when 0.1 inches fell. People must have made mighty tiny snowmen!

Tell me, Meebo patron, was this the information you needed? Please feel free to add a comment here, meebo us again, or send us an email at

Cearnal, S. (1990, December 24). 2 killed, 4 injured in accidents on highways covered with ice. The Clarion-Ledger, p. A1.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Story of Chili, Courtesy of MAGNOLIA

For many people, food and football go hand-in-hand, and Super Bowl Sunday is the granddaddy of all football food days. Many a football fan would agree that chili is one of those staple Super Bowl foods. You can never have too much experience using the MAGNOLIA databases, so I decided to get some practice by embarking on a little research project about chili. I love chili. As I have almost zero tolerance for spicy foods, though, my ideal bowl of chili is easy on the spice. To some people, if it isn’t spicy, it’s not chili and might as well be spaghetti sauce. After consulting some wonderful resources in MAGNOLIA, I’ve found that there are many varieties of chili, and each one is just as valid as the stuff that’ll set your mouth on fire.

The chili most people are familiar with is chili con carne (chili with meat). Sources disagree about the geographical origins of this type of chili. The New Food Lover’s Companion says that chile con carne originated in Texas, while the Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia attributes the dish's origins to Mexico. The discrepancies don’t end with origins. Texans, who often refer to chile as a “bowl of red”, supposedly shun the practice of adding beans to the mixture, while beans are a requisite ingredient in many other parts of the country. Other ingredients may include beef, chili peppers, garlic, and spices, but there really is no limit to the multitude of ways there are to prepare this stuff. One issue of the Saturday Evening Post featured recipes for vegetarian chili, white-meat chicken chili, and low-carb chili. Good Housekeeping tested multiple brands of canned supermarket chili in an effort to determine the tastiest. The tested varieties included turkey chili, chili with beef and beans, and chile with beef but no beans. (Bush’s and Campbell's brands were the big winners in the contest, by the way.)

One variety that definitely wasn’t a winner for a Las Vegas woman was chile con finger. Back in 2005, Anna Ayala sued Wendy’s, claiming that she found a human finger in a bowl of chile purchased from a San Jose, California Wendy's location. It turns out that the finger belonged to a co-worker of Ayala’s husband, and Ayala planted the finger in the chili in an attempt to extort money from Wendy’s. The Wendy’s suit was the latest in a long list of lawsuits involving Ayala. According to the San Jose Mercury News, she and her children had been involved in thirteen lawsuits prior to the chili finger debacle. Once authorities discovered the truth about the finger’s origins, Ayala was charged with felony conspiracy and attempted grand theft. She was convicted and sentenced to prison.

I remember hearing about the chili finger story when it first broke, but it never crossed my mind to include it in a blog post about chili until I did some exploring on MAGNOLIA. It just goes to show that you never know what you’ll discover, or rediscover, when you begin researching a topic. You could start out reading about something as innocent as chili and end up reading about mysterious body parts showing up at your favorite burger place!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Weeding: An Example.

I think we’ve mentioned before that we’re currently weeding our collection. In theory, we were done weeding the reference collection last year, but in reality, a few shelves were overlooked, and therefore, I’m making my way through the many, many volumes.

Weeding is a tough business: on the one hand, you want an updated collection. On the other, this means you have to get rid of items that some other long-ago librarian recommended for purchase. At times it is obvious that a book’s tenure has expired (price guides published in the 80s, for example, are shown the door immediately), while other books’ worth is pretty wishy-washy.

I’m currently examining the New York Times Directory of the Theater. It reprints articles from the Times having to do with theater awards and reviews, and indexes actors and actresses. For instance, if you look up Emeline Roach, a costume designer, you get a list of all the shows she designed for, as well as the dates that articles pertaining to the shows ran in the paper. What a great resource!

Here comes the bad news: it was published in 1973. While not every resource from 1973 should automatically be tossed out the window (I should hope not--I was born in 1973!), a print reference resource with a 1973 cutoff date is hard to justify keeping. If this were a university with a theater studies program, I would run back over to the shelf with this book in my arms and apologize for ever doubting it. (Although I would probably use a book truck, and maybe just saunter over; this book has 1009 pages, after all.) There’s also the fact that The New York Times also has its complete archives online now; these articles are just a search away, and so I must say goodbye to the Directory of the Theater.

A useful tool for weeding guidance is the acronym MUSTY:

M is for misleading. This means the book contains factually inaccurate information (such as How Y2K Will Kill Us All).

U is for ugly, as in the cover of this book in hanging on by a thread and it appeared someone has been ill on its pages.

S is for superceded. There may be a newer edition of the same title available for purchase, or a better, newer title already in the collection.

T is for trivial. This is the hardest one for me! Sometimes silly, trivial books with absolutely no merit are fun to look at. But then again, the Hippie’s Guide to Living in Your VW Van has had its moment in the sun. (Note: while that title is made up, when I first started here six years ago, I weeded a similar title!)

Y is for your collection has no use. Sometimes a great book is just in the wrong library. (For instance, the Library Commission’s general resource collection does not contain fiction.) We offer our weeded materials to public libraries, so this helps assuage my guilt.

Writing this blog post has been a nice respite from the stacks, but I better get back to it. I think I hear some musty books calling my name.

Friday, February 5, 2010


One of our most overlooked and underused resources here at MLC is MAGNOLIA. I love MAGNOLIA. I mean, I really love MAGNOLIA because you can find an article on almost any topic. I don’t mean just a brief, poorly written article you can find through a basic online search. I mean an in-depth, scholarly piece of writing.

Let’s take an example: I love old music and I especially love Jimmie Rodgers. The other day I was on MAGNOLIA and decided to do a quick search on Jimmie Rodgers in Academic Search Premier and found about seven good articles on The Yodeling Brakeman. Then I started to think about two of my favorite Jimmie Rodgers songs: "T for Texas" and "Frankie and Johnny." I love both of these songs because they’re about the two great themes in early music: cheating and murder. (I know that doesn’t sound too nice, but it is true.) Anyway, I searched MAGNOLIA for “murder ballads” and, yep, you guessed it, found several articles on murder in early music.

I was especially impressed by Kenneth Tunnell’s article “99 Years is Almost for Life: Punishment for Violent Crime in Bluegrass Music,” (Journal of Popular Culture) a beautifully written 17-page article on murder in bluegrass music. And that’s the beauty of MAGNOLIA; you can find an article on almost any topic you can imagine. Why don’t you come in to MLC or go to your local library and see what you can find?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dashing Your Hopes, Crushing Your Dreams.

If someone asked you, "What's a vomitorium?" you would probably answer with one of the following options:

a. A what?
b. A who?
c. Oh, that's the place where the ancient Romans would eat and eat and eat until they puked.

However, I recently learned that this is untrue. And I am very sad about it.


The vomitorium myth

The ancient Roman vomitorium, or vomitoria, were supposedly places where diners could go and void their stomachs during a meal, in order to make room for more delicacies. There are even detailed descriptions of the rooms, stating that they had large slabs or pillars to lean over that would better facilitate voiding the stomach. Though it might come as a disappointment to preteen boys studying Latin, the vomitorium of such lore is a myth. A true vomitoria is actually a well-designed passage within an ampitheater that allowed large numbers of Romans to file in and out of large spaces quickly. The root of the word, vomere, translates to "spew out," which makes sense when applied to hurried exits.

If you need anything else clarified or ruined for you, just contact the Mississippi Library Commission Reference Department.

(Hey, and you RSS users: don't forget that we have LIVE CHAT REFERENCE every day from 8-5 Central time! Just visit the actual blog and ask your questions!)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...